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Exploring Shamanism: Using Ancient Rites to Discover the Unlimited Healing Powers of Cosmos and Consciousness

"This is one of the best books on shamanism I've ever read, and it is sure to influence future books on the subject."


Table of Contents

Foreword by Evelyn C. Rysdyk, author of Modern Shamanic Living


Chapter 1: Mapping the Cosmos: Axis Mundi and the Shamanic Worldview

This chapter describes the cosmology of the shamanic worldview, including descriptions of the three worlds (Upper, Middle and Lower), the significance of the four directions, and the axis mundi, the center of the world. Also included within this chapter is a discussion of the shaman’s view of good versus evil. The chapter concludes with a series of exercises used to help the individual explore the landscape of the shaman.

Chapter 2: Embracing the Shadow, Illuminating the Divine: The Shaman’s Initiation Ordeal

This chapter explores the role of the initiation ordeal and its importance within the context of shamanic practice. Discussed are the “Five Stages of Mergence” that the shaman must go through in order to fully prepare for his or her role as mediator between the spiritual and physical worlds. The chapter concludes with exercises aimed at facilitating an individual’s own process of self-discovery.

Chapter 3: The Shaman’s Doorway: Journeys into Ecstasy

This chapter delves into the shaman’s spiritual, psychological, and physical experience of leaving “ordinary” reality and entering into the “non-ordinary” reality of the spirit realms. The chapter discusses the many different ways in which shamans enter into these states of ecstasy and includes the results of scientific research studies into how the brain changes while entering into these states. The chapter concludes with some guided journeys that the reader can use in order to access each of the different worlds through shamanic journeying.

Chapter 4: Demi-Gods and Demons: The Shaman’s Pantheon of Spirit Allies

This chapter discusses the spirit beings, both helping and harmful, that the shaman encounters in his or her trips into non-ordinary reality and their importance to the shaman in his or her work. A main focus is the idea that the shaman experiences a kind of mergence with his spirit allies, a shift in consciousness that allows him or her to enter into sympathetic resonance with any number of spirit allies. The exercises at the end of the chapter give the reader hints on how to establish relationships with one’s spirit allies.

Chapter 5: Dialogue with the Sacred: Ritual and Magic

This chapter breaks down the basic structure of ritual into its main components and discusses the function behind each particular aspect as well as the mythological and psychological impact of the process. The author discusses the shaman’s unique ability within ritual to step out of linear time and into “sacred time”—a place in which magical transformation is able to take place and inspire amazing results within the physical world. The exercises at the end of this chapter are geared towards helping the individual create a sacred space where this work can take place.

Chapter 6: In Praise of the Rainmaker: Shamanic Healing

According to shamanic philosophy, all illness is a result of some spiritual imbalance within an individual. In this chapter, the author discusses the ways in which the shaman uses ritual and ecstasy in order to heal conditions often considered “incurable” by modern medicine. Included in this chapter is the description of a healing given by Gershon Winkler of the Jewish shamanic tradition. The exercises in this chapter focus on helping an individual become aware of his or her personal spiritual power, which must be maintained in order for health to occur.

Chapter 7: Open Your Ears to the Song of the Universe: Perception and Awareness

This chapter takes a look at the physical, psychological, and spiritual role of perception in creating the reality we see around us. It discusses how the shaman in his or her training learns how to step out of the box of “consensual perception” in order to engage with the physical world in a more expanded way. A series of exercises at the end of the chapter gives readers an opportunity to increase their sensory perception of the world in order to move beyond the commonly accepted five senses.

Afterword: Shamanism: The Path of the Heart

According to the author, “As far as I am concerned, the Afterword is the most important section of the book. Shamanism is called by many traditions ‘The Path of the Heart’ as it involves a set of skills used to help each individual reconnect to the voice of their own heart. Instead of proselytizing, any good spiritual teacher must bring us back to our hearts, our own innate source of spiritual power and wisdom.” In this final section of the book, the author addresses the insecurities and challenges that one may encounter while following this spiritual path.