Shamans have always been activists.

December 27, 2016

For as long as time remembers, shamans have worked to negotiate life-giving harmony in the world.

When a person in the clan fell ill, it was the shaman’s job to confront the spirit of the sickness, restore the patient’s life force and call on the intelligence of plant allies to help the person get well. If a disharmony occurred within the clan, the shaman would be called upon to work with the spirits of the ancestors to renew alliances, to heal wounds and support a restoration of cooperation for the good of the whole. If the clan fell out of harmony with their environment, the shaman would be responsible for taking point to reestablish a balanced and harmonious relationship between all parties and so doing, restore the flow of Life.

Shamanism has also always been connected to our survival. By being in reverent participatory relationship with all beings, shamans are able to access the powers of the elements, of landscape features, of the animals, plants and birds; and the ancestors—for healing, gaining insight, getting guidance, and generally making life better.

While our living situations have changed a great deal over the millennia, the shaman’s role remains the same. However, now we find ourselves at a juncture when achieving balance, harmony and a restoration of our collective soul has never been more critical or urgent.

We are experiencing an enormous threat in our human society. The tyranny of patriarchal culture has created enormous divides, whereby a small group of individuals and corporations control wealth and power at the expense of the natural world, other species, women, children and the majority of men, as well. It is a social structure with a fear of loss at its foundation. This fear generates a desire for wealth and power at the expense of other beings, cultures and the environment.

So what can we do to preserve our biosphere and all the beings who inhabit it?

First, we need to understand that those who dominate the power structure do these things because they erroneously believe that they are somehow separate from the rest of the human family and from the Earth. In their ignorance, they subjugate people and despoil the environment with a greedy arrogance that is ghastly. The rest of us are disempowered and more easily controlled because of our own perceived disconnections. We may experience a disconnection of our bodies, minds and spirits. We may feel disconnected from other groups of people and focus on our perceived “differences.” We may also have fallen out of relationship with the natural world. The constant rhetoric from those in power tells us that we have a reason to be afraid and also influences us to revile “others” as the source of our discontent to further fuel the destructive fires of discord. This is designed to keep us from seeing the truth– that we are actually one human family of enormously creative and powerful individuals.

To change our collective trajectory, we need to heal our own individual wounding and recognize that coming together to uplift each other and to defend the environment is the only way to provide a safe future for us all.

And this healing can begin with you.

To do your part, you need to experience your own soul’s healing and learn how to assist in the global healing. In this way, we can collectively shed the illusionary partitions that separate us from each other.

The shamanic rituals, healings, and journeys that the shaman performs are grounded in methods that have endured because they are effective. In living a more powerful, healthier, and more loving life, you can affect the other people whom your life touches. Your positive shifts will become healing ripples throughout the entire web of life. And the renewal you feel will support you to take positive actions that are in alignment with your soul’s brilliance. In my decades of doing this work and helping many people find their way along this path, I have come to believe that this is how the world can and will be healed.

We need to relearn the art of living in reverent participatory relationship with the spirits, our human family, the Earth, and all of her creatures, so that this relationship will become the dominant way of being for all people.

I believe that we have a responsibility to help bring our world back from the brink so we can deliver it safely into the loving care of all future generations of human beings. I want you to join me in being a part of shape-shifting our world in a more positive direction.

©2017 Evelyn C. Rysdyk

With warm blessings,

5 books Evie SIllhoutte
Evelyn C. Rysdyk is the author of several noted books on shamanism including, The Norse Shaman, Spirit Walking: A Course In Shamanic Power and A Spirit Walker’s Guide to Shamanic Tools. Along with her writings, Evelyn is an impassioned shamanic teacher. She was featured on The Shift Network’s Global Shamanism Summit and is a presenter for the innovative, international program, A Year Of Ceremony.

Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion for opening people’s hearts and inspiring them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives. Her website is


Sisters of Cosmic Cycles

August 23, 2016

Goddess tree
One of a shaman’s roles is to intercede with the spirits. It may be to ask the master spirits of game animals to give some of their children to the hunters, it may be to ask the spirits of the rain to swell the rivers or it may be to ask the plants to provide medicine to the sick. The shaman works with the spirits of the Earth to make life harmonious not only for the people but to preserve life for all beings. The shaman does this with the understanding that all time, all places and all lives are interwoven.

Mythology and folklore may be seen as a way a culture explains the nature of their cosmos. Several key features of Norse myths seem to preserve remnants of the earlier shamanic culture. Firstly, the cosmological landscape of Norse mythology is multi-leveled. Secondly, altering consciousness and undertaking a spiritual journey to seek wisdom are pivotal elements for the role of Viking seers and to their Seeker-God, Óðinn. Lastly, female figures have a particularly primal significance—especially in terms of time, cycles and prophesy.

In her role as the Goddess of Prophesy, Freyja visits the Norns to discover the patterns that weave the nature of reality. The Norns are mentioned in medieval Icelandic texts. The following lines are from the collection of Old Norse poems known as the Poetic Edda. These poems, which were most likely originally part of an oral tradition, were preserved in a thirteenth-century Icelandic manuscript known as the Konungsbók or Codex Regius. The section below is verse nineteen and twenty from the Völuspá or Prophesy of the Seeress.

Volspa(This translation is my own that is based on the work done by Paul C. Bauschatz in his The Well and the Tree, World and Time in Early Germanic Culture. (Amherst, MA; University of Massachusetts Press, 1982.) and Henry Adams Bellows’ version in The Poetic Edda, [1936], found at

The maidens that are referred to in the text are the three Norns. These beings are said to be incredibly wise sisters residing at the base of the Norse World Tree, Yggdrssil. They are so powerful that even the gods fear them. Urð is the eldest, Verðandi the younger and Skuld the youngest. They reside near a well, a spring or a fresh water sea named Urðarbrunnr. They are responsible for nurturing the Great Tree that supports and contains all of the realms of spirit and matter.

Joined in action at the foundation that unites and holds all the realms of reality, the Norns exist outside the influence of the gods, as they are jötunn. By describing the Norns as jötunn or giantesses, it means that they were perceived to be primordial beings who predate all others and so are more powerful that the gods and goddesses. In other words, while a deity like Freyja held sway over the sky, landscape, nature and the world of men as the seasons or cycles of Life, the Norns were responsible for larger patterns that influenced the lives of the gods. They perceive the patterns that lie beyond both divine and human awareness. Their status above gods and humans suggests that those that created these mythic stories perceived the paramount importance of cosmic cycles. By that I mean, those cycles of events that are beyond the range human memory or calculations.

Indeed, most of the changes that we experience as sudden and unexpected are not actually anomalous or abnormal. More often that not, we have the evidence that they are either so unpredictably irregular in their occurrence or repeated in cycles that are so long they are beyond the collective memory range of the people who experience them.(1)

Given the scope of the cataclysms that our ancestors experienced this makes complete sense. In order to come to terms with such catastrophes, it would have been important to believe that some form of universal order existed. How else could large-scale and chaos-producing events like wild swings in climate, earthquakes, tsunamis and other cosmic events such as comet or meteoric collisions be explained? These events would have to be part of a larger reality that lies beyond the vision of human beings and even that of the gods.

Weaving reality
Based upon an etymological examination of their names, author Paul C. Bauschatz suggests that the Norns’ individual roles are aspects of one task; with Urðr reflecting actions that are full, clear and observable. In other words, actions that have come to fruition and are accomplished. Verðandi may be seen as the process that produces what Urðr completes. It is as if Verðandi is the mechanism or active principle of Urðr’s creativity. As Skuld is involved with necessary or obligatory action—that which must become–she is different from the other two Norns.(2)

While I agree that their tasks seem to flow from one to the next, I believe that Bauschatz may have misinterpreted the direction of their actions. With this in mind, Urð may be seen as the moment of manifestation—when a quantum vibration becomes physical matter. Verðandi is the progression or unfolding of that matter’s existence and Skuld represents the structures or requirements that define the course of that progression. From this perspective, the last few lines of this section of the Völuspá, “Þær lög lögðu, þær líf kuru alda börnum, ørlög seggja” would be better translated as, “Layers of reality they brought forth, describing the cycles of Time and speaking the primal patterns of the Cosmos.”(3)

Scholars suggest that the line of the Völuspá, “skáru á skíði” (“on the wood they scored”) refers to carving runes. This is one way to suggest that the Norns transform intangible energies into the physical reality in the same way the vibrations of speech are captured in a written alphabet. However, since our ancestors saw the world in terms of cycles, the flow of the Norns’ creative energies were most likely circular or multidirectional. They have an ability to continuously manifest and unravel the nature of our reality.(4) In that interpretation, the “wood” they score may actually be referring to the tree of Life, Yggdrasil. This would be a perfect metaphor for how Life is always being rewritten or remolded into new forms.

The Three may be One
Among the Norns, Urð appears to hold a more prominent place. It is she who is spoken about most often in Norse/Germanic mythic texts. Her name is the same as the word used to describe the action of the Norns. Urð is also referred to as Urðr. The word Urð or Urðr in Old Norse, wyrd in Old English and wurd in Old Saxon all have a common etymological origin. The Proto-Indo-European root word is wert, which means, “to turn, rotate.” It is she who is the cycle that takes the quantum vibrations of all possibility and transforms them into reality. This process that is continually making and remaking our reality is Urð’s domain. She is the point between formless and matter–the fulcrum on which creation depends.

©2016 Evelyn C. Rysdyk

5 books Evie SIllhoutteEvelyn C. Rysdyk is the author of several noted books on shamanism including, The Norse Shaman, Spirit Walking: A Course In Shamanic Power and A Spirit Walker’s Guide to Shamanic Tools. Along with her writings, Evelyn is an impassioned shamanic teacher. She was featured on The Shift Network’s, 2016 Global Shamanism Summit, and is a presenter for the innovative, international program, A Year Of Ceremony.

Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives. Her website is

1. Jordi Estévez, “Catastrophes or sudden changes. The need to review our time perspective in Prehistory” Vers une anthropologie des catastrophes Actes des 9e journées d’anthropologie de Valbonne Sous la direction de Luc Buchet, Catherine Rigeade, Isabelle Séguy et Michel Signoli – Éditions apdca, Antibes, 2008. 22.

2.Paul C. Bauschatz. The Well and the Tree, World and Time in Early Germanic Culture. (Amherst, MA; University of Massachusetts Press, 1982.) 14.

3. This translation of “Þær lög lögðu, þær líf kuru alda börnum, ørlög seggja” is far closer to the intent of the Old Norse as described by Bauschatz and by Ralph Metzner in his book, The Well of Remembrance.

4. I believe that this idea is reflected in the way runic messages were inscribed. They were sometimes written left to right, other times right to left and occasionally by having each line of writing alternate directions.

Creating meaning in conscious connection

July 24, 2016


It is a scientific truth that we are inexorably connected to the entirety of life on Earth. For instance, every human alive today is a descendant of one particular woman who lived in Africa about 200,000 years ago. She wasn’t the only woman living at that time, but only her line continued. We know this because the mitochondrial DNA in our cells has its origin with her.
On a broader scale, we are related to every creature with a backbone. We are related to creatures as diverse as snakes, fish, elephants and polar bears. If we stretch further back in time, we share a common ancestor with sea urchins and starfish. Inside of our bodies, our own cells are outnumbered by a myriad of other beings. Bacteria, viruses, yeasts and naturally occurring microscopic parasites are a part of our internal ecosystem. And the mitochondrial DNA we inherited from our many times great-grandmother is housed in an organelle that was originally a bacteria living 3.5 billion years ago in the primordial sea.
Despite all this remarkable connectivity, our senses continually spin the illusion that we are separate and alone in the universe. Living with that misperception, we have done great harm to each other, other species and to the planet as a whole.
It is only when we expand our awareness that we can perceive how well we are held in the embrace of life. In shamanic journeys, visions and entheogenic voyages we can see hear and feel the threads that weave everything together. These experiences change our perceptions of our place in the Cosmos. Yet, even this extraordinary shift of perception only provides us with knowledge. Creating meaning comes from transforming knowledge into wisdom.
For me, meaning evolves from taking my understanding of connectedness and choosing to allow it influence how I move through my daily existence. When I choose to make my connections more conscious and more thoughtful, I have visceral experiences of the way all beings are connected and I recognize that how I am in the world affects the whole. This provides me with a rich overlay for my everyday interactions with people, animals, the birds at my feeder and the trees that shade my walk. With this richness comes the awareness that our connections are actually relationships that can be fostered through being evermore aware and respectful.
When we choose to be in reverent participatory relationship, we not only benefit the beings around us but also contribute to our own wellbeing. Human beings are wired for connection. We are social primates who are nurtured and sustained through relationship. Interconnection is as important to our mental and emotional health as water and food are to our body. When we treat our relationships with others as nourishment, we can more easily recognize the preciousness of them. We cannot survive without the air the trees create or the waters that flow from rain. In the same fashion, we cannot live well without the laughter of a friend or the touch of a loved one. All of the threads that hold us are necessary and worthy of our gratitude.
And it is in being grateful that we fill with a sense of meaning beyond words.

©2016 Evelyn C. Rysdyk

(This post was originally written for Excellence Reporter)

5 books Evie SIllhoutteEvelyn C. Rysdyk is the author of several noted books on shamanism including, The Norse Shaman, Spirit Walking: A Course In Shamanic Power and A Spirit Walker’s Guide to Shamanic Tools. Along with her writings, Evelyn is an impassioned shamanic teacher. She was featured on The Shift Network’s, 2016 Global Shamanism Summit, and is a presenter for the innovative, international program, A Year Of Ceremony.

Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives. Her website is

Útiseta: The Norse Shaman’s Wilderness Quest

May 16, 2016

útiseta color

Shamans have always functioned as intermediaries between our ordinary human world and other beings. These could include the denizens of nature as well as the many other spirits. This work was accomplished by traveling between these worlds in a state of trance. A shaman’s work benefits the human community while keeping harmony with the environment, the ancestors, and other beings. It is humankind’s oldest spiritual tradition.

One ancient European shamanic practice that was fairly well documented in the Icelandic sagas is seiðr. The Icelandic sagas, written down in the twelfth to fourteenth centuries have been given more credence by archeological finds such as the Oseberg ship burial. This Viking longboat was buried under a large mound in the year 834 CE in Vestfold, Norway. Buried inside were two women, one in her fifties and the other in her seventies, who were surrounded by lavish grave goods. Their high-status burial accouterments included unusual ritual objects such as staffs with iron rattle heads, which made it clear that these women were not royalty as early twentieth-century investigators once thought. These women were Viking Age shamans. Women in ancient Norse society were the ones who primarily practiced shamanism or seiðr. A woman who practiced with art was known as a seiðkona or völva.

The seið worker is one who is adept at entering trance. She, or in some cases he, was able to alter consciousness for the purpose of gaining information, to seek council with the spirits of nature or the ancestors, to work magic on behalf of the people, and to generally attend to the spiritual wellbeing of the community. For these reasons, a Viking Age seiðr practitioner may be considered that culture’s shamanic equivalent.
For the Norse shaman, one method of gaining spiritual wisdom involved útiseta, or “sitting out,” which involved a time of introspection in nature to receive a vision or to perform divination. During this vision-questing ritual the völva would sit with her staff and sing in concert with the elements, animals, birds, and transcendent nature spirits that were called landvættir. These land wights or spirits of nature were thought to protect and promote the vitality of the places where they live and were a source of wisdom. Sitting out and immersing oneself in the world of nature to receive inspiration and wisdom may have provided the original seed for the völva’s songs. The Finnish epic poem, The Kalevala has a passage that speaks beautifully to this connection:

Many runes the cold has taught me,
Many lays the rain has brought me,
Other songs the winds have sung me.
Many birds from many forests,
Oft have sung me lays in concord
Waves of sea, and ocean billows,
Music from the many waters,
Music from the whole creation,
Oft have been my guide and master.

The word útiseta is derived from a thirteenth-century Icelandic law that outlawed “útiseta at vekja tröll upp ok fremja heiðni,” which translates to, “the act of sitting out to provoke/wake up trolls and practice paganism,” in other words those spiritual beliefs that lie outside of the Christian paradigm. This practice has many parallels to shamanic traditions of spending time isolated from other human beings in nature for the purpose of connecting with spiritual resources or to receive a vision.
Wilderness vision questing is an ancient, cross-cultural practice that involves spending time alone in nature while fasting. It is a spiritual tradition that has been practiced for millennia by people seeking to receive revelation and to reconnect to nature, to the spirits—especially ancestral spirits—and with their deeper selves. This time of deep introspection in nature has many beneficial effects on the psyche and the spirit.
During the Viking Age, the útiseta, or “sitting out,” ritual was specifically used by those who practiced shamanic magic to commune with the spirits of the natural world and the spirits of the dead for divinatory purposes.

However, this ritual is especially vital for the twenty-first-century shamanic practitioner as we experience a deep cultural separation from nature. This disconnection weakens our individual connection to power. Without making intentional, undistracted forays into the natural world, we become like rechargeable devices that have spent too long without being plugged into an electrical outlet. We become weak and ineffective, not only in our spiritual practice, but also in our ordinary lives.
Spending time alone in nature allows us to be replenished. We refresh our passion for living and consciously reconnect ourselves to the larger web of life. Since most of our species’ time on the Earth was spent outside, we also reconnect ourselves to the thousands of generations that have gone before us. When we immerse ourselves back into the natural world, we experience awe. As we become reacquainted with the beauty of the world, we simultaneously feel a profound connectedness with All That Is and develop humility about our tiny place within it. This in turn nurtures a sense of reverence for the natural world and sparks a desire to protect Mother Earth from our collective desire to exploit her resources.

Wilderness questing provides several layers of benefits. They include connections to Self, personal empowerment, and connection to others. These “others” will include other humans, but more importantly, the quester experiences a much deeper connection to the natural world and its spirits. Increasing degrees of connection to the Self can include self-discovery and a deeper sense of purpose. In addition, a stronger sense of clarity, awareness, and self-acceptance may begin to unfold.

The stronger connection with Self generates a sense of empowerment. In facing any fears that may arise during the time in nature, a trust grows in the Self, in nature, as well as in the quester’s spiritual resources. Confidence at having performed the ritual generates powerful feelings of inner strength.
As a person gains confidence with the Self, the spirits, and with nature, a profound feeling of connectedness often blossoms. The quester feels a palpable sense of connection to nature and the other beings who share the planet. Deep healings can occur and a desire to work in community for the greater good may also be stimulated.
These benefits occur even in those people who do not practice any form of shamanism. This is because we are all a part of the natural world. It is only an illusion that we are in any way separate from other beings or nature as a whole. When we reintroduce ourselves to our original context, we begin to feel more enlivened, awake, and aware than ever before. For the person with a strong spiritual practice, the effects can be even more powerful.

An útiseta would entail siting outside overnight while holding the magical staff or seiðstafr and wearing the cloak and hood. To be safe, the quester would also be merged with their protective spirits to remain protected from any unbeneficial wandering souls. The quester’s protectors might be a fylgia (power animal), a dis (female protector spirit), or a familiar ancestral spirit. The seið worker would sing and chant in concert with the elements, animals, birds, and transcendent nature spirits or landvættir. If the sitting out ritual was being performed in the forest, the skogsrå (female forest keeper) would also be contacted and the practitioner would provide an offering to the land wights’ willingness to participate. Our ancestors understood that these beings were guardians of the land and were also capable of sharing a great deal of wisdom so caring for them would have been seen as a way to insure a good life.
During útiseta, the seið worker or völva would use their shamanic songs, or varðlokur for awakening the staff, gathering the helpful spirits, and for entering into the shamanic state of consciousness. During the course of the útiseta, the quester would continue to sing their experiences and offer galdr (incantations or poetic songs) to the spirits. These periods of singing and chanting would be alternated with long periods of silence to receive the spirits’ wisdom and to feel the connections being woven with the unseen and the natural worlds.
To prepare for this time of sitting out in nature, it is important to clarify your purpose. This ritual can be used to spiritually prepare for a transition, ritual or event, to regain clarity when life has become confusing, to connect with an ancestor to gain their insight, to inspirit yourself after a long illness or traumatic situation, to reconnect to your home spirits after traveling, or to strengthen your ties with your power animals, teachers, and nature. While vision-questing ceremonies like útiseta can last over the course of several days, with proper preparation and a strong intention it is possible to have a powerful experience over the course of one night.
When preparing for útiseta the practitioner finds a place in nature where she or he will be safe. The wilder the space in which you experience your útiseta the better, but working within the parameters that one’s life and physical abilities require is always best. The idea is to find a place where you can safely experience nature’s vitality.
Over the course of the night, the seið worker offers songs, prayers and allows experiences of inner and outer vision to unfold. These visions from guides and ancestors and the physical aspects of nature all collude to inform and infuse the practitioner with wisdom.
You will likely experience some discomfort during your sitting out time, but it is not necessary to suffer! For instance, while most folks can easily sit on a folded wool blanket or ground cloth during an útiseta, I have mobility limitations that interfere with me getting down on the ground. For this reason, I have a folding camp chair that ritually I set up for útiseta. I alternate being seated and standing over the course of the night. My body is still uncomfortable but I am not suffering. Another concern in my area is the many deer ticks infected with Lyme diseases. For this reason, I use an insect repellent as a part of my preparation. Since you may need to relieve yourself during the night bring what you need for that purpose, as well.
The idea is to find a kind of balance. You need to be uncomfortable enough that you won’t drop off to sleep but not so uncomfortable or anxious that you can’t remain in ceremony all night. Útiseta begins just before sunset and ends with the sun’s rise over the horizon. In the morning, eat lightly and drink plenty of water to rehydrate yourself. You also want to have time to record and assimilate your experience afterwards. Make sure you can have a few hours of uninterrupted time to allow the experience to be fully anchored in your being.
© 2016 Evelyn C. Rysdyk
This post is an excerpt from Evelyn’s new book, The Norse Shaman.

4 book EVIE books NORSE SIllhoutte
Internationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of The Norse Shaman, Spirit Walking a Course in Shamanic Power, A Spirit Walker’s Guide to Shamanic Tools, Modern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path, and contributor to Spirited Medicine: Shamanism in Contemporary Healthcare; Evelyn C. Rysdyk delights in supporting people to remember their sacred place in All That Is. Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives. Her web site is

She who dreamed the rest…

November 13, 2015

First Grandmother

You dreamed me into life as you sang
Shaping grey mists of a time yet to be
You called me into being
Forming a feeling into flesh
You sang Life into me. Here.
A wandering child, Home again.

Shaper of bones and blood!
Dissatisfied with singular memories
You relinquished dusty anonymity
For Continuance.
A laughing Creatrix in her creation,
Breathing now in this body.

Working my sinew, scratching my skull
Incising whorls like fingerprints
Is this a code for me to break?
Or do they awaken songs
In this sacred bundle,
Uncovering what you secreted within.

I am eager to remember.

© 2015 Evelyn C. Rysdyk

196Nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of Spirit Walking a Course in Shamanic Power,A Spirit Walker’s Guide to Shamanic Tools, Modern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path, and contributor to Spirited Medicine: Shamanism in Contemporary Healthcare; Evelyn C. Rysdyk delights in supporting people to remember their sacred place in All That Is. Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives. Her web site is

How are you using your shamanic training?

August 9, 2015

Space drumYou’ve taken a shamanic training program and have learned a lot of amazing skills.

Now what?

The role of the shaman has always been to benefit their community or tribe. Transforming, creating harmony, educating and supporting the people around you can help to provide you with a stronger sense of your worth, boost your confidence, relieve feelings of isolation, help you gain your true voice, find a personal passion and provide a sense of belonging that you may have never experienced.

Our graduate training is designed to deepen your personal transformation and also mentor you to expand your gifts to better serve the transformation of your local community, town, school or workplace.

One of the ways we mentor is to assist our graduate students to create and implement projects in their local area.

Some individual projects have included:

  • Working with municipalities to change green space use
  • Creating marked trails and plant identification guides for a small city park
  • Volunteering to create outdoor programs for local schools
  • Organizing community garden projects
  • Working with developers to create greener projects that have saved mature trees.
  • Bringing the tenants of Reverent Participatory Relationship into corporate trainings
  • Working with a community to found a church–specifically to address homeless issues
  • Developing a odd-job business with the focus on spreading positive energy as service
  • Learning effective herbal medicine practices to assist in underserved communities
  • Mobilizing community to protect a local water source
  • Using shamanic skills for animal communication at wildlife rehabilitation center
  • Being trained to become an Advance Directive Facilitator
  • …and many others

In addition, our graduate students are supported to deepen their personal transformations, to work with the elements, to engage with fellow students in creating support and much, much more.

Graduates of our program have been very diverse. We’ve mentored business people, nurses, physicians, teachers, tech workers, financial planners, lawyers, laborers, artists, counselors, engineers, mothers, fathers and many others from all across New England, New York, Virginia, the Mid-West, Florida, Georgia and California. Each of them is continuing to make a powerful difference where they live and work.

Our eighth graduate program begins in 2017 and will meet for a total of four intensive, long weekends at a lakeside location in coastal Maine. You will be bringing the work home by doing journeywork, specific exercises and ceremony on your land or near to where you live.

More details and registration information may be found here underneath the text about our next two-year training program:

© 2015 Evelyn C. Rysdyk 

Nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of Spirit Walking a Course in Shamanic Power,A Spirit Walker’s Guide to Shamanic Tools, Modern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path, and contributor to Spirited Medicine: Shamanism in Contemporary Healthcare; Evelyn C. Rysdyk delights in supporting people to remember their sacred place in All That Is. Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives. Her web site is

Green guerrilla actions you can make now!

March 18, 2015


There are times when the state of the world—especially the condition of your local water, soil and air– can make you feel helpless. Truth is, the little changes we make together can add up to an enormous shift in our collective wellbeing and doing them can be a part of our spiritual practice! I consider the actions I take everyday to take care of the natural world to be part of keeping good faith with those spirits who support my life, with the spirits of my ancestors and also on behalf of my descendants.

What follows here is a list of a few things you can do to make a difference. You may already be doing some of them. If so, look for other ways you can take a stand for sustaining your family while giving back. (I’ve included resource links whenever possible to make your changes that much easier!)

Shedding light on savings:

If every household in the United States swapped out even ONE of their incandescent lights with a compact fluorescent bulb, or better yet an LED bulb, the pollution reduction would be equivalent to removing one million cars from the road. LED bulbs last up to 25 times longer than their incandescent bulb forbearers. Just make sure to recycle CFL and LED bulbs at your local recycling facility or hardware store.

TIP: LEDs have come down in price! This site offers comparison shopping and tips including wattage equivalents and how to buy the right color temperature bulb for different purposes in your home:

TIP: If you prefer CFL bulbs and want better illumination, use OttLite true-color bulbs. These are the same bulbs used by artists and crafters for decades in situations where good lighting really matters. OttLite’s new CFLs are brighter and more like real sunlight. They’re a bit more expensive but the true-color lighting is worth it!

Tuck in your electronics:

Many electronic devices suck power even when asleep. At night, power down to save your self some money on the electric bill and do something good for the environment in one fell swoop!

TIP: Turn on the computer on the way to making your morning coffee or tea. By the time your morning cuppa is ready, you’ll be all set to read your daily e-newspaper!

Hang ‘em high:

Did you know your drier contributes to the demise of your clothes? Not only does your clothes dryer use a significant amount of energy, it can actually shorten the life of your clothes because of wear and tear on the fabric. Hang your duds on a clothesline outside or drying rack indoors to save a bundle on clothes.

TIP: During the heating season, the extra humidity in the air from drying clothes can benefit you and your wooden furniture!

Colder is better:

…at least in terms of your laundry! If all the households in the United States switched to using warm or cold water cycles for clothes washing, we could save energy comparable to 100,000 barrels of oil every day!

TIP: Use a peroxide-based bleach to safely sanitize clothes as well as keeping them whiter and brighter. Peroxide is much safer than chorine for your septic system BUT even safer bleach can actually kill off the bacteria that are responsible for breaking down the waste in your cesspool if you use a lot! That means you’ll be paying to have it pumped out more often.


According to the World Wildlife Fund, Americans went through about 50,000,000,000 (that’s fifty billion) plastic water bottles just during last year! Fill up a reusable water bottle at home and bring it with you. If you don’t like the taste of your tap water, buy a quality water filter but remember, your household tap water actually has to meet higher quality and safety standards than bottled water!

TIP: We use stainless steel water bottles by Kleen Kanteen for everyday. They’re made from #304 food-grade stainless steel, are pretty indestructible (one survived freezing with water in it!) and don’t leave an aftertaste in the water.

If you prefer using glass check out these amazing and beautiful miron violet glass bottles: Miron Violet glass blocks visible light with the exception of the violet part of the spectrum. At the same time it allows in radiation in the spectral range of UV-A, and infrared light. The unique combination offers optimal protection against the aging processes that are released by visible light, thus lengthening durability and potency of products. This kind of bottle is especially good if you’re somebody that adds medicinal tinctures to your drinking water!

Shorten your shower:

According to Stanford University, 
every two minutes you save on your shower can conserve more than ten gallons of water. This is critical as fresh water is a scarce resource. (If you don’t think so, ask folks in California who have only one year of drinking water left in reservoirs or residents of towns in Texas and New Mexico where their drinking water sources have completely dried up!) If everyone in our country saved just one gallon from their daily shower, over the course of the year it would equal twice the amount of freshwater withdrawn from the Great Lakes every day.

TIP: A five-minute shower uses 10-25 gallons of water. (Energy efficient showerheads use the lesser amount.) Shut the water off while you lather up. Even a 20-second pause can save nearly two gallons of water!

Local is better:

There is often a considerable amount of pollution created when transporting your food from the farm to your table. To offset the carbon load this creates, whenever possible, buy from local farmers, fishermen and ethical foragers of wild foods. This supports your local economy and reduces the amount of greenhouse gas created when products are flown or trucked in. Here in Maine, we can access locally raised vegetable produce, meats, eggs, dairy products (from cows, goats and sheep), poultry, locally sourced fish and game, foraged vegetables, mushrooms and other treats too numerous to mention. Tap into the local food scene in your area to

TIP: Local Harvest can help you to tap into local resources for food: as can Local Dirt: You can also contact

For an even better positive impact, remember to buy mostly organic! Organic farms don’t use chemical pesticides, herbicides or fungicides, which are often made from petroleum products. They also refrain from sterile GMO seeds. Organically raised animals are more humanely treated and their meat, milk or eggs are not laden with unbeneficial antibiotics or hormones. Your body and your planet will thank you!

Bag it!

Never mind the “paper or plastic” conundrum as neither are good choices. Keep reusable shopping bags in your car for your trips to the market. Washable bags are best as they can be sanitized easily. Bags are a great second-hand store purchase! We keep our market bags folded up inside one bag. The handles of that outer bag are clipped together with a super-size karabiner. This assures that all the folded bags stay neatly inside. When we get into the market, we just clip the karabiner containing all of our bags to the shopping cart handle. That way they’re handy but not taking up room in the cart.

TIP: Bags are a valuable second-hand store purchase! If you’re handy and want a personal touch, you might want to make your own beautiful bags: Here is a link to purchase the oversized karabiner clip:

Recycle–everything you can!

Most everyone is getting on the recycling bandwagon, but do you know you may have some things that are easily recycled and can bring you a few dollars, to boot? Your electronics (mp3 players, computers, cell phones, etc.) can make you money or be used to benefit a worthy cause.

TIP: My old, iPhone 3 earned me a $120 Amazon gift certificate, which made this book-aholic very happy. I used Gizelle who also will pay cash for old iPads and Mac computers. It pays to do an online search as there are other reputable firms who will buy back your old phone and even a broken one can net you a few bucks. Some charities also take old electronics. Here is a list from Mashable:

Save a back!

Get off catalog and other junk mailing lists to help relieve your postal carrier’s daily burden, reduce your household waste and contribute to saving a whole lot of trees. In addition, you’ll be contributing to reducing the amount of energy savings used to print these unwanted things.

TIP: Here is a site with tips to reducing your unwanted junk mail:

Let your fingers to the walking–on your keyboard!

Stop your phone directory delivery. Now. It is estimated that up to 10% of all waste at municipal dump sites is comprised of old telephone books! Not only are they cumbersome to use and impossible for middle-aged eyes to read, in most cases they are far less accurate than online sources.

TIP: Recycle your old phonebooks or shred them for garden mulch. Use online telephone directories to search for numbers such as

Become a part-time vegetarian:

Just one less meat-based meal a week helps the planet and your diet. (For example: It requires approximately 2,500 gallons of fresh water to produce one pound of beef.) Adding veggies to the diet also boosts the amount of phytonutrients you ingest which are beneficial for good health.

TIP: Here are a few vegetarian burger recipes you can experiment with:

Lose the lawn:

The typical American suburban lawn is a toxic monoculture that is detrimental to the environment. Indeed, A new study from the University of California at Irvine has determined that maintaining grass lawns produce four times the amount of carbon naturally collected and store by the lawn itself.  Lawn mowing, leaf blowing, irrigation, lawn fertilizer manufacturing, and the nitrous oxide released from soil after fertilization all contribute to an overall degradation of the environment. Not only that, the monoculture of grass is detrimental to healthy biodiversity.

TIP: Let weeds grow in the lawn. We have edible plantain, dandelion, clover, chives and other yummy “weeds” that look very nice when cut! The benefit of these plants is we can harvest them for salads or other treats. Our local beneficial insects, birds and animals are nourished by the natural browse, too. Another option is to invest in easy-care native plants or carve out a part of the yard for an organic vegetable or herb garden! 

Go native!

Help to sustain the birds, animals and beneficial insects around your neighborhood by sowing organic, native seeds. We sowed over 100 native milkweed seeds last Autumn to benefit the endangered Monarch Butterfly by using seed bombs/balls. These are small balls of clay, compost and vermiculite with two or three native seeds inside. In some cities, the same “technology” is being used to turn abandoned urban lots into organic, edible plant gardens. They are a blast to make and fun to toss. Work with your neighbors and property owners to “adopt” a growing site and then do a community seed bombing of that area! By seed bombing empty fields, along roadsides, the islands in parking lots and your own backyard you will help to create healthy, native wildflower meadows for you and other critters to enjoy.

TIP: Here is a site with great seed ball info: They offer kits and supplies to arm your family, school class, scout troop or neighborhood with plenty of seed ball ammo!

Don’t want to get your hands dirty? This site offers 100% NON GMO seed ball packs that have been premade for your region of the USA: gclid=CjwKEAjwxKSoBRCZ5oyy87DimEcSJADiWsvgDuVlt4mk3dK-9nZlBpo7MSdG_k5jzz_22wsea3sHURoC66jw_wcB

Give away and trade!

Before you toss something that is still useable, think if someone else might need it. You can donate to Goodwill or other charities to get a tax deduction. Another option is to post it on the web as a trade or give-away.

TIP: This web-based community organization is a terrific resource for getting goods into the hands of people who can use them! 


If you have other great environmental ideas, use the comment section to share them with our readers. Together we can keep working to save this marvelous world for future generations of her inhabitants. And bless you for ALL that you already do!

Blessings to you, Evelyn

© 2015 Evelyn C. Rysdyk 

Nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of Spirit Walking a Course in Shamanic Power,A Spirit Walker’s Guide to Shamanic Tools, Modern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path, and contributor to Spirited Medicine: Shamanism in Contemporary Healthcare; Evelyn C. Rysdyk delights in supporting people to remember their sacred place in All That Is. Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives. Her web site is

Sharing the gifts of shamanic spirituality.

December 29, 2014

Psychedelic AiChureck JourneyingSMALLA shaman is someone who intentionally traverses the boundary of physical reality. This intentional journey between the realms of the ordinary and non-ordinary realms is what defines a shaman and is the source of strength, power and ability to solve personal and community problems. The process itself also changes your brain to improve memory, enhance creativity, boost the ability to synthesize information and problem solve, heighten intuition and lower stress. In other words, it improves your wellbeing emotionally, mentally, and physically.

Journeying assists you to better interact with the numinous beings that enliven nature. While spirits are nearly impossible to see or hear with your ordinary senses a person who is trained to expand consciousness at will is able to interact with these beings easily by moving beyond their ordinary way of perceiving the world.

Having the ability to gain a deeper perspective and get the guidance and support from spirit allies changed my life in many ways. It healed my depression, helped me to find my true calling, turbo-boosted my creativity and even led me to my beloved. Through my journey experiences into the parallel realms of consciousness/spirit, I developed relationships with the beings of nature, protective power animals and my ancestors. With their steady and loving guidance, I was much more able to move through my life with more wisdom, clarity and joy.

It is for these reasons and so many more that I am grateful to be able share the incredible worlds of the shaman with you. It is why I write my books and also why I teach advanced trainings.

In my Spirit Passages Two-year Initiatory Apprenticeship in Advanced Shamanism, I am able to guide you and assist you in perfecting your abilities to connect deeply with the beings in higher realms who are eager to help you live a richer and more fulfilling life. Through this program, you can be more resilient, more effective and open up beautiful new possibilities for your life.

In addition, the program will give you the tools to be able to assist other people, animals and even land that have become spiritually ill. All of the classic methods shamans use for healing others will be covered in the program. You will also have opportunities to experience initiatory ceremonies that will strengthen your trust in yourself and the loving support of the spirits.

I am truly excited to provide you with the spiritual tools to help you live a truly empowered life and to be a positive influence in the world. As you change, you will create ripples through out the web of life. As each of us makes our own shifts, we exponentially increase our ability to heal ourselves and our planet. Now more than ever before, we need to have people like you who are ready to heed the call of their own souls.

Are you ready to shrug off your small self to become the powerful being you were meant to be?

Blessings to you, Evelyn

© 2015 Evelyn C. Rysdyk

Nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of Spirit Walking a Course in Shamanic Power,A Spirit Walker’s Guide to Shamanic Tools, Modern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path, and contributor to Spirited Medicine: Shamanism in Contemporary Healthcare; Evelyn C. Rysdyk delights in supporting people to remember their sacred place in All That Is. Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives. Her web site is



Fire of spirit.

November 1, 2014


(This piece is excerpted from the author’s manuscript exploring northern European shamanism.)

Fire has always been critical to life in the north. A central fire was a pivot point around which life revolved once the Sun’s rays vanished into evening. Our distant ancestors spent their nights clustered around it to draw warmth, light and comfort from its marvelous flickering. In our contemporary world, it is difficult to imagine the extraordinary darkness of an ancient night. We are so used to artificially illuminating our world. For us, day and night have become blended into each other. It is only in places far from civilization that it is still possible to get a taste of the true darkness. I had such an experience in the hours before dawn while hunting in upstate New York. It was a night without a moon and the sky was so full of stars that it was impossible to discern any familiar constellations. In that darkness the old expression of not being able to see your hand in front of your face suddenly became a reality. The darkness was so complete that it was both physically disorienting and emotionally unsettling.

How comforting a fire is in such a circumstance! A fire creates a space where we can see and interact with each other. The small illuminated region around the fire becomes our whole world. The edges of the firelight also create a visual boundary. The space that lies beyond the firelight seems even darker. When gazing out to that darkness, our known world seems completely enfolded by another place.

When you sit in front of a fire in that deep darkness the objects and people around you seem to shimmer and move in the flickering light. Firelight produces a stroboscopic effect where darkness and light alternate rapidly back and forth. The rhythmic rate at which this occurs approximates low alpha and theta wave brain states. This brain activity is consistent with the experience of the shamanic state of consciousness.[1] Since life revolved around the fire, our ancestors were exposed to the trance-inducing, photic driving of firelight every evening of their lives. Altered consciousness is not only natural to our species we have been doing it for hundreds of thousands of years.

This state assists in creating new connections between neurons. In other words, trance assists the brain in producing new connections. If this is true, it is not so much that shamanism is a part of our ancient way of relating to the world around us, it is what helped us to understand ourselves (self awareness), our relationship with the world, enabled us to remember the past and ponder our future. In other worlds, trance contributed in creating us as a species.[2] In addition, there are physiologically and psychologically benefits that occur when individuals enter trance that have been observed by scientists not the least of which includes a better immune response.[3]

Trance is also an excellent problem-solving tool. Indeed, this is so clear that anthropologist; Michael Harner suggests that voluntary entrance into a shamanic trance (shamanic state of consciousness) in a counseling context is a proven concrete “problem-solving” method.[4] Certainly, most people have experienced the spontaneous shift of consciousness that accompanies a “mind-less” repetitive task such as spinning wool, or listening to a repetitive sound. While this can be disconcerting when it happens unbidden, it can also be very beneficial. When I was a young illustrator, I rode a diesel commuter train into New York City every weekday. Every morning and evening the clickity-clack of the train would lull me into a dreamy trance. During these experiences I would often receive sudden insight about a current challenge. This method became so useful to me that I learned to use my hours on the train to help me solve creative problems, especially when I was on a tight deadline.

Being able to voluntarily enter a trance state would have been an invaluable tool for locating game to a community that relied upon seasonal arrivals of migrating animals, birds and fish. The same would have been true in locating a lost member of the group, finding the reasons for illness or to discover the right plant remedy to cure it. Indeed, finding any critical information that was hidden from ordinary sight, hearing or touch could have meant the difference between thriving and perishing.

Technicians of ecstasy

During the days of our earliest ancestors, every individual was required to participate in the survival of the community. People of all ages and of both sexes gathered plants, bird eggs, fished, picked berries, made cordage, created shelters and gathered firewood to sustain the tribal group.[5] Of course, as is the case today, there would have been individuals within the group who were better at certain tasks. Some people would have been more skilled at stalking game, making cordage, kindling a fire, weaving fishing nets or other tasks and so would have become “specialists” in their communities. This specialization would have been efficacious for the community as those with better skills could accomplish essential tasks more rapidly and more consistently. This would have made group survival more certain. Even as we made our cultural transition from hunting and gathering into subsistence agricultural and pastoral lifestyles, skill specialization would have been beneficial for survival success.

While entering trance state is a common human ability, as with any other human skill, some individuals are more able to achieve a trance state than others. Indeed, it is most likely that there is a genetic component affecting a person’s ability to more easily enter the shamanic state of consciousness.[6] Just as the more nimble-fingered people would have been better at making cordage, weaving nets and preparing snares, the people either psychologically or physiologically predisposed to enter trance states at will would have become the community shamans.

In experiencing trance states with regularity, our ancestors would have experienced a blurring of what we would delineate as natural and supernatural realities. In other words, their environment would have contained both physical and spiritual beings. In the same way that all physical aspects of the environment were viewed as participants in daily survival, these spiritual beings would have certainly been perceived in a similar light. Since these beings were not usually visible in this plane of existence, the shaman’s skill of willfully entering trance would have been essential for communication with them. For this reason, the shaman would have been an invaluable member of a community.

A shaman’s role in any society is to act as a facilitator between the human realm and that of the other beings and spirits that inhabit the environment. Through interaction with them, our shaman ancestors came to understand that our intrinsic interdependencies sustain life. In a shamanic culture, individuals value harmony with their environment as they have an intimate understanding of their dependence upon it. There is a value placed upon cooperation and cohesiveness rather than mastery of and control over the environment, as there tends to be a deeper sense of the value of all aspects of life.[7]

This is certainly a way of being that is sorely needed today.

© 2014 Evelyn C. Rysdyk

Nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of Spirit Walking a Course in Shamanic Power,A Spirit Walker’s Guide to Shamanic Tools, Modern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path, and contributor to Spirited Medicine: Shamanism in Contemporary Healthcare; Evelyn C. Rysdyk delights in supporting people to remember their sacred place in All That Is. Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives. Her web site is

[1] Timothy C. Thomason, “The Role of Altered States of Consciousness in Native American Healing,” Journal of Rural Community Psychology, Vol. E13:1 (Accessed 2/17/13)

[2] Mike Williams, PhD, Prehistoric Belief, (Gloucestershire, UK; The History Press, 2011) p.20

[3] Sandra Harner PhD and Warren W. Tryon “Psychological and Immunological Responses to Shamanic Journeying with Drumming’, Published in Vol. 4, Nos. 1-2 of the journal, SHAMAN, 1996

[4] Description of Harner Method Shamanic Counseling course,

[5] Pringle, Heather. “New Women of the Ice Age,” Discover Magazine, Vol. 19, Number 4, April 1998.

[6] Wright PA. “The nature of the shamanic state of consciousness: a review”. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. 1989 Jan-Mar;21(1):25-33. Review. PubMed PMID: 2656950.

[7] Ashvind N. Singh, “Shamans, Healing, and Mental Health,” Journal of Child and Family Studies, Vol. 8, No. 2, 1999, pp. 131-134

Power in the Female Body

July 5, 2014


(This piece is excerpted from the author’s manuscript exploring northern European shamanism.)

“The roots of shamanic activity extend deep into the past and so too do signs that women have been important, active participants…. The skeleton [found in] Dolni Věstonice…is convincing evidence of prehistoric women shamans.”[1]

Dolni Věstonice is an Upper Paleolithic archeological site in the Czech Republic about one hundred miles north of Vienna, Austria. First discovered in the early twentieth century, the site was radiocarbon dated to approximately 28,000 years ago. While this place is now arguably near the geographic center of Europe, during the Upper Paleolithic period, the area was on the edge of the glacial ice. The grave mentioned above was of a woman in her forties–old enough to have been a grandparent.As an elder, she would have been important to her people. Rachel Caspari argues[2] that elderly people were highly influential in prehistoric society. Grandparents assisted in childcare, perpetuated cultural transmission through storytelling and contributed to the increased complexity of stone tools through their practiced experience. In other words, during the Stone Age an elder was a vital repository of all the collected knowledge, history and wisdom of her or his people.

Not simply set apart by her advanced years, the woman of Dolni Věstonice also had a marked facial asymmetry. Her high-status burial and facial deformity suggests that she was a shaman. According to Simon Fraser University archaeologist, Brian Hayden it was “not uncommon that people with disabilities, …[were thought to have]… unusual supernatural powers”[3] This special woman was buried under two engraved mammoth shoulder blades. She and the contents of her grave had been painted with red ochre after her death. Over her head was a flint spearhead and in one hand she held the body of a fox.

12,000 years ago in another part of Eurasia, a shaman in northern Israel was afforded similar honors[4] when she was buried. Relatively old for her time, the nearly 5-foot-tall, 45-year-old woman was placed in a mud-plastered and rock-lined pit in a cave and was buried beneath a large stone slab. She was buried with fifty carefully arranged tortoise shells, parts of wild pigs, an eagle wing, a cow tail, a leopard’s pelvis, two marten skulls, the forearm of a wild boar, which was laid in alignment with her upper left arm and other artifacts, including a human foot.[5]

Approximately 9,000 years ago, a younger female shaman was interred in a foot-thick layer of red ochre in what is now Bad Dürrenberg, Germany. Like her predecessors, she was interred with many extraordinary grave goods including crane, beaver and deer bones as well as antlers and shells. She was also accompanied by a year-old-child. Entering the spirit realms for the final time, she wore her shamanic costume. A spray of feathers was attached to her right shoulder. Over her leather dress, she wore a deerskin cape with the face of the deer drawn up on her head as a hood. Antlers were affixed to the top. A breastplate of leather and split boar tusks hung on her chest and the area above her eyes and around her face was lavishly decorated with suspended slices of boar tusks and other animal bones and teeth. Along her brow, a fringe mask or “eye curtain” of beads and ruminant incisors dangled in front of her eyes.[6] This toothy mask was very similar to the fringe masks that are still worn by the shamans of Siberia and Central Asia.

Throughout Northern Eurasian cultures, shamans were frequently women.[7] The shaman’s grave of Dolni Věstonice has many similarities to others found across the region that range in dates from the Upper Paleolithic to a much more recent past. In the far-eastern Russian Arctic, a grave from only 2,000 years ago and dating from the Old Bering Sea culture held the skeleton of an elderly woman with a wooden mask at her knees. Her grave had been constructed so that she appeared to have been laid to rest in the body of a whale. Many of the artifacts found in this grave are objects would have been used in women’s activities, however her grave also held objects related to healing, rituals, and dance, indicating that this woman was most probably a shaman. From the wide varieties of burial offerings in her grave, it was also clear that her people revered her.

During the early 20th century prior to the Soviet Revolution, the cultural anthropologist M.A. Czaplicka gathered together much of the remaining shamanic knowledge of Siberia tribes. In her 1914 book, Aboriginal Siberia, A Study in Social Anthropology she quotes a Chukchee proverb, “Woman is by nature a shaman.” Indeed, hunter-gatherer tribes across the Arctic, Siberia, Central and Eastern Asia preserved the tradition that the prototypical “first shaman” was female. It is for that reason that both male and female shamans’ ceremonial costumes reflect traditional woman’s garments such as aprons, skirts and caps. Czaplicka said it this way, “Taking into account the present prominent position of female shamans among many Siberian tribes and their place in traditions, together with certain feminine attributes of the male shaman (such as dress, habits, privileges) and certain linguistic similarities between the names for male and female shamans…in former days, only female shamans existed, and..the male shaman is a later development.…”[8]

This information is not meant to suggest in any way that men cannot be shamans or that male shamans didn’t exist in prehistory! Rather it is to suggest that a primeval female archetype is central to the deepest roots of the tradition. In venerating the feminine as a source of power, perhaps the people of prehistory were acknowledging that we have all come into this world from a womb and that our species–indeed all species–were born from the body of Mother Earth. Her elements make our physical life possible and a deep connection with the natural world–with Mother Nature in all her magnificence and abundance–is at the heart of shamanic spirituality.

Within the Earth’s sacred embrace the masculine and feminine energies of life dance together for continuance. New generations of human beings and other creatures are born from this dance. Each new being is then nurtured by the Earth’s air, her water, her plants and animals. When our physical lives are over, we return again to her body. She is pivotal to the sacred circle of existence.

An assurance of abundance.

Evidence suggests that the Upper Paleolithic shaman from Dolni Věstonice was also a potter. This shaman was fashioning and firing clay over twelve to fifteen thousand years before any other pottery vessels were made.She created many ceramic[9] figurines of animals and one particular figure that resembled other so-called “Venus” statues of the time period. These prehistoric statuettes of women portrayed with similar robust physical attributes have been found in Europe and as far east as Irkutsk Oblast, Siberia, near Lake Baikal. The earliest figure found in Hohle Fels near Schelklingen, Germany was dated to approximately 40,000 years ago. These figures continued to be made all across Eurasia. More recent finds in northern France and Romania[10](6,000 years old) and from the Old Being Sea culture[11](2,000 years old) reveal that our ancestors continued creating these mother/grandmother images in bone, ivory, stone and clay for over 38,000 years. That equates over 380 centuries and at least 1,900 generations! For any cultural idea to be transmitted so accurately from one generation to the next for so many thousands of years, it had to have been considered vitally essential to the culture.

A recent study published in the Journal of Anthropology suggests that the figures constitute evidence that a shared cultural tradition existed across northern Eurasia from the time period of the Upper Paleolithic cave painters and persisted into the period when the first megalithic structures were being constructed in the region.[12] Given that most of the figures were created during the extremely challenging climatic conditions that prevailed at this time, it seems likely that only a very few women survived to become corpulent elders as depicted by many of the figurines. Therefore, these portable images of very well nourished, multiparous mature females may have been talismans for success in the very difficult struggle to survive and reproduce.[13] In this way, the figures can be seen as related to shamanic doll-like effigies used by Siberian tribes until the 20th century that were used to protect the people from calamities such as disease, famine or injury. Like those effigies, these female figures may have functioned as spiritual containers that held the essence or spirit of the symbolic mother/grandmother—a symbol of bounty, fertility and nourishment. In other words, these figures were may well have been talismans to assure survival, longevity and tribal continuance.

The spiritual image of elder females lasted for nearly four hundred centuries. Shaman graves tell us that particularly gifted women were also honored. Since these ideas persisted for so long, one can imagine that even after a few generations, they would have formed part of the culture’s primordial past. In other words, a female holy image and the female shaman would have been concepts that had “always been so.”

Stepping back from the brink.

Our ancestors had to endure tremendous climactic changes that involved the destruction of land and the familiar ways of life they supported. Today, we are facing similar a cataclysm only this time on a global scale. Great changes in the climate are changing weather patterns and in turn negatively affecting ecosystems, food production and health. Rising sea levels jeopardize global coastlines and the enormous numbers of people who live there. This time it isn’t the ending of an Ice Age or other natural disaster that is disrupting our way of life and threatening the future of all species. This time, we are facing a life-ending cataclysm or Ragnarök of our own creation.

We have been brought here by the tyranny of patriarchal culture. This ideology has created an small group of individuals and corporations who have sought to control wealth and power at the expense of the natural world, other species, women, children and the majority of men, as well. So what can we do to preserve the biosphere and all the beings who inhabit it—including us?

Since our destructive culture is a reflection of the conflicts that exist inside of us, we need to transform ourselves to shift our patriarchal culture and so correct our cataclysmic trajectory.

Firstly, it means learning to live as powerful shamans of the past have lived. That is, to work in harmony and stay in communication with the other beings around us. We can do this through journeying, ritual, and respectful interactions. Human beings need to remember that we are intimately connected to all beings. We cannot live without healthy ecosystems. All that is necessary for our survival exists on this one tiny world floating in the vast cold vacuum of space. This is the only home that our species knows. We have nowhere to run or hide. No amount of money or power will save us from the demise of our planet. We need to work in harmony with her, NOW.

Secondly, we need to intentionally return sacred feminine to the forefront. Not to supplant men but to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with each other to heal the wounds created through a little over six centuries of patriarchal culture.

Anthropological evidence suggests that most prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies were relatively egalitarian, and that patriarchal social structures did not develop until many years after the end of the Pleistocene era, following social and technological innovations such as agriculture and domestication of animals. Agrarian lifestyles depend upon controlling “good” arable or grazing land and also promote the need to control other resources such as water. This gives birth ideas of ownership that differ from the sharing lifestyle of hunter-gatherers. The ideas of “mine/yours” and “us/them” developed into the creation of “haves” and have-nots.” Patriarchy promotes success through domination rather than cooperation and creates a small powerful class that controls the larger population. This in turn creates scenarios in which those in the dominated group seek to gain status by fighting other members of the same strata. The dominant group encourages this behavior so that the larger populace remains disjointed and so incapable of overthrowing those who are oppressing them.

Jungian psychology perceives patriarchy as an expression of a stunted, immature form of masculinity and thus as an attack on masculinity in its fullness as well as on femininity in its fullness. To save our world, this immaturity must end. To change our dire situation, we need to each bring forth our individual brilliance and work collectively. To do this we need to rid ourselves of the poisons of division. We do this by working with shamanic methods of journeying, ritual and communion with nature to heal the places in ourselves that hold onto weakness, jealousy, powerlessness, greed, fear and anger.

As we heal, we then must reenter into a harmonious relationship with the natural world. When we remember that humans and all other species are one family–one large, interconnected organism–then we can pull together to take back our planet from those people, industries and corporations that are destroying all that we need to survive.

As the American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and science communicator Carl Sagan once said, “As the ancient mythmakers knew, we are children equally of the earth and the sky. In our tenure on this planet we’ve accumulated dangerous evolutionary baggage: propensities for aggression and ritual, submission to leaders, hostility to outsiders, all of which puts our survival in some doubt. But we’ve also acquired passion for others, love for our children, desire to learn from history and experience, and a great, soaring, passionate intelligence, the clear tools for our continued survival and prosperity. Which aspects of our nature will prevail is uncertain.”

What is certain is that if we continue the path we are on or chose to do nothing, our fate and the fate of all other species on our world is sealed. It is time to take up the drum, to dance with the Earth Mother and enter the World Tree to relearn the heart and soul of who we are. That is how we can emerge as new humans to bring forth a verdant, new world.

© 2014 Evelyn C. Rysdyk

Nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of Spirit Walking a Course in Shamanic Power, A Spirit Walker’s Guide to Shamanic Tools, Modern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path, and contributor to Spirited Medicine: Shamanism in Contemporary Healthcare; Evelyn C. Rysdyk delights in supporting people to remember their sacred place in All That Is. Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives. Her web site is

[1] Barbara Tedlock, PhD. The Woman in the Shaman’s Body. (New York, NY; Bantam/Dell, 2005.) p. 28

[2] Rachel Caspari, “The Evolution of Grandparents” Scientific American, August 2011. Accessed March 4th, 2013


[4] Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “Skeleton Of 12,000-Year-Old Shaman Discovered Buried With Leopard, 50 Tortoises And Human Foot.” ScienceDaily, 5 Nov. 2008. Web. 5 Mar.2013. with

[5] This last inclusion is especially interesting as the woman would have limped and dragged one of her own feet as she walked due to a spinal deformity.

[6] Svend Hansen, “Archaeological Finds from Germany.” (Booklet to the Photographic Exhibition) Institutum Archaeologicum Germanicum, 2010

[7] The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s Arctic Studies Center.

[8] M.A. Czaplicka, Aboriginal Siberia, A Study in Social Anthropology. London: Oxford University Press, 1969 reprint of the original 1914 edition. pp. 243-256.

[9] The fired-clay figures at this site pre-date any other ceramic technology by more than 14,000 years. (Vandiver P, Soffer O, Klima B, Svoboda J. 1989. “The Origins of Ceramic Technology at Dolni Vestonice, Czechoslovakia”. Science. Vol. 246, No. 4933:1002-1008.)

[10] The artifact was from the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture, also known as Cucuteni culture (from Romanian), Trypillian culture (from Ukrainian) or Tripolye culture (from Russian), is a Neolithic/Copper Age archaeological culture which existed from approximately 4800 to 3000 BC, from the Carpathian Mountains to what is now modern-day Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine.

[11] An Ekven ritual ladle handle carved from walrus ivory (circa 1000 B.C.-1000.A.D.) Bering Strait, Chukotka, Russia may be seen here:

[12] Martin Furholt, Friedrich Lüth and Johannes Müller, editors. Megaliths and Identities. The earliest monuments in Europe – architecture and social structures (5000-3000 cal BC). Journal from the 3rd European Megalithic Studies Group Meeting 13th – 15th of May 2010 at Kiel University. Bonn: Dr. Rudolf Habelt GmbH, 2011. ( Accessed October 22, 2013.

[13] Alan F. Dixson and Barnaby J. Dixson, “Venus Figurines of the European Paleolithic: Symbols of Fertility or Attractiveness?,” Journal of Anthropology, vol. 2011, Article ID 569120, 11 pages, 2011. doi:10.1155/2011/569120