Several of the tribal shamans with whom I’ve studied began their journey toward becoming a healer while they were still very young children. For instance, the Quechua-speaking Peruvian shaman Puma Quispe Singona, began his training when he was just a child. As a six-year-old boy, he was playing in the river and was struck by lightning. Fortunately, Puma survived. His grandfather, Maximo Quispe recognized that this meant the spirits of the mountains–known there as apus–were calling Puma to be a paqo.
My Nepalese teacher, Bhola Banstola has a similar personal history. He received his calling at a very early age and was taught traditional shamanic healing methods by his family elders. While many tribal shamans have had the benefit of beginning early, there are those who found their lives taking new turns much later in life. I was fortunate to meet several of those people while visiting Nepal.
The Tamang shaman Buddhi Maya Lama, who is better known as Aama Bombo or “Mother Shaman,” began life in Nepal’s North-central hill country. Aama’s people are the indigenous inhabitants of the Himalayan regions of Nepal. Her people are the largest ethnic group found there. They are a Tibeto-Burmese speaking people who trace their ancient ancestry to the Tibetan plateau.
Aama wanted to be a shaman from as early as five-years-old since her beloved father was famous for his gifts as a shamanic healer. Unfortunately, traditional Tamang culture prohibits women from practicing shamanism and so her father discouraged her desire to follow in his footsteps.
When Aama was sixteen, she moved with her husband to his military residence in Kathmandu. While she was in the city, her father grew ill and before she was able to return home, her father died. This was a terrible blow to her as she lost both her father and her connections to his spiritual world.
At age twenty-five, Aama suddenly began shaking uncontrollably. Her family took her to the hospital as she was thought to be mentally unstable but soon the convulsions ended. A while later, her shaking began again and continued off and on for fourteen months. However, this time Aama was fortunate to have been taken to a Buddhist lama who determined that her problem was spiritual in nature. The lama told her that the spirit of her late father was trying to work through her. Aama’s father had died without finding a suitable person who could receive his shamanic power. Apparently, his spirit believed that, in spite of the Tamang cultural prohibitions, it was only his daughter Aama who had a pure enough heart to work with the power of the gods and his other healing spirits.
Since that time, Aama has continued her work of healing people. Each morning, she starts her day with prayers to Shiva, the deity that is most sacred to Nepalese shamans, and then proceeds back to her home. There, she sees up to one hundred clients a day from all walks of life for healing, divination and blessing. Now seventy three-years old, Aama is widely recognized as a powerful shaman, healer and member of the Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers.
Hari Bahadur Khadka or Guruji began his shamanic career at an even later age. Known as the “egg shaman,” due to his unusual form of shamanic extraction work that is accomplished with eggs, Guruji resides in Durwakot a rural village in the Bhaktapur District of Nepal. He is known all over that country for his ability as a spiritual healer and diviner. His method has been proven effective for a variety of mental and physical diseases and conditions. He has helped people suffering from AIDS, cancer, paralysis, tuberculosis, infertility and ulcers.
While he began his spiritual life at the age of eleven, Guruji did not initially pursue a shamanic calling. He served in the military, became a police officer and worked as an administrator for the Ministry of Finance. It wasn’t until much later that Guruji finally began his shamanic practice. The egg shaman was then fifty-eight-years-old.
Sometimes the life of an established shaman takes a dramatic turn that forces her or him to start over in a new way or a new place. The last Tibetan shaman or lhapa, Pau Nyima Dhondup is one such person. Pau Nyima was born in the Bungpa, Kepyand part of Tibet. When Pau Nyima entered puberty, he was spontaneously chosen by the spirits to continue his family’s healing tradition. At that time, the powerful mountain deity, Nyenchen Thanglha entered his body and the young lhapa began having the visual and auditory initiatory experiences that signaled his calling. Unfortunately, this is the time that people were fleeing Tibet and so he was unable to receive training he needed to master the power.
Finally, when he was in his late twenties, he was able to apprentice with two other lhapas. Like many other Tibetan people, Nyima was forced to flee his homeland. Since that time, he has resided in the Tarshi Palkhiel Tibetan Refugee Settlement on the outskirts of Pokhara, Nepal. There, Nyima performs healings in his modest home. While working, he merges with Nyenchen Thanglha and other spirits including a fierce wild canine that bites and sucks out illness from the lhapa’s patients’ bodies. During these healings, the entranced shaman reveals actual objects to show the patient the sources of their illness. People from around the world have found their way down the grassy lane to his home to receive healings by his spirits.
My partner Allie’s shamanic calling didn’t begin until her very early fifties. She had a severe infection that was treated by a medical center. The provider there also told her that while her illness would be cleared up by medicine, it may also have some underlying message. The practitioner sent Allie to a well-known psychic to get a reading about her illness. There, it was revealed that Allie was being called to be a shaman. While she had always been a spiritual person, this was shocking news! Yet, some part of Allie knew the truth of what the psychic told her. From that point forward, Allie began her shamanic path. She learned the shamanic journey process, which she practiced daily until she was able to begin more formal training.
My own journey along this path formally began in my early thirties. Initially experienced upheaval in every aspect of my existence from where I lived to how I made a living. Initially these changes felt somewhat disorienting, however since I was terribly depressed and in an unfulfilling job I continued my explorations. I soon realized that developing relationships with benevolent spirits and traveling along the shamanic path led me to something far better than anything that had gone before. Today, I am far more fulfilled than at any other time in my life!
Indeed, this sort of calling is becoming more common today. People all over the world are awakening to the path of shamanism. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, executives and other people are discovering that their lives are taking a sharp turn toward the spiritual. They are drawn to work with the spirits. They learn to journey and take our shamanic training programs to develop their relationships with the numinous world. While a few become healers, all of them bring their new connections with the spirits into their ordinary experiences. They find themselves enriched, changed and often make incredible transformations in their own lives as well as the lives of those that they know and love.
While starting something new can feel disorienting or even disturbing, it can lead you to a life of wonder, beauty and service. I believe that those who have stepped into deep relationships with the spirits and with nature are the ones who will make the changes in our culture that will heal our people and our planet. This happens by getting trained to work with spirits safely, learning how to be in heart coherence with those spirits that are around you, and developing shamanic skills that support all aspects of your life to be sacred work. It doesn’t matter if you are very young or well-seasoned, there has never been a better time to take up the shaman’s drum!
© 2013 Evelyn C. Rysdyk
Nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of Spirit Walking a Course in Shamanic Power, 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. In joint practice with Allie Knowlton as Spirit Passages, her web site is www.spiritpassages.com.
The author’s new Two-Year Training in Advanced Shamanism and Shamanic Healing begins this April.
Printable brochure: http://www.spiritpassages.com/pdfs/2YearGradFlyer.pdf