A special offering.

April 2, 2014

Greenman © Evelyn Rysdyk

Now that Spring has arrived and the energies of the north are finally awakening, I have decided to offer my painting of The Greenman for sale. I have enjoyed having him in my private collection for a number of years but it is time to have him bring his energy to the larger world. We need to see expressions of renewal to give us hope and to spur us to continue our work of healing our planet.

May my representative of the vitality of Nature go to those who connect with his energy!


The Greenman
This is a giclée, museum and archival-quality, full-color limited-edition print from an original painting by visionary artist, Evelyn C. Rysdyk.
The image depicts the Greenman–a Middleworld spirit of regeneration
and consort/protector of Mother Nature–at the crossroad of Spring.
With Raven looking on, we see the Greenman as he is about to coax the trees back to life with his faerie flute…or perhaps this ethereal music

is meant to lure us back to into relationship with Nature!

The print image is approximately 12″ x 141/2″ and every print in the very limited edition of 60 pieces is hand-signed by the artist. (unframed)

Greenman prints are $500. plus $12. shipping/handling.

______________________________________________________
A very special opportunity for one individual.
If you are one who is especially discerning,
the original painting is available for $10,000. plus $30. shipping/handling.
The painting is acrylic on archival-quality, 100% cotton rag
illustration board and has been museum matted and framed.
Original painting image size: 14″ x 173/4″ overall size ~28″x 34″
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Order the print or original painting now!


© 2014 Evelyn C. Rysdyk

Nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of Spirit Walking a Course in Shamanic PowerModern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path, and contributor toSpirited 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 http://www.evelynrysdyk.com.

 

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Trance and the shaman

March 13, 2014

past-life-regression-therapy

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

Trance states and shamanism are intimately connected. James L. Pearson does and excellent job of connecting these dots in his book, Shamanism and the Ancient Mind when he writes about the etymology of the words “trance” and “shaman.” He stated, “The word “trance” derives from the Latin transitus, a passage. The verb root is transive, meaning “to pass over,” Trance is literally defined, then, as an entrance to another world. The term shaman, in turn is a transliteration of the Tungus-Mongol word šaman…and functions as both a noun and a verb. The noun-word šaman comes from the Indo-European verb root ša-, which means “to know”…As a noun it refers to “one who is excited, moved raised”; used as a verb it means, “To know in an ecstatic manner”…. Thus the shaman is, by definition, one who attains an ecstatic state. …[so we] therefore consider trance to be a prerequisite for any kind of true shamanism.”(1)

Michael Winkleman suggests that shamanism is endemic to nomadic hunting and gathering cultures. Indeed, evidence in the form of both portable objects and paintings on cave walls does support the idea that shamanism was prevalent across Europe during this time period. The abstract patterns from Upper Paleolithic cave walls–such as dots, wavy lines, spirals and concentric circles–are consistent with entopic imagery (2) or visions that one sees during the early stages of a trance state.(3) In his book, Shamanism and the Ancient Mind James L. Pearson agrees in stating, “…neuropsychological universals that result from altered states experiences do afford insights into … art that was created to portray shamanic dream experience” (4) that is, the shamanic trance state.

Apparently, we are wired for altered consciousness experiences. A study published in 1973, found that altered states of consciousness are “virtually universal in their distribution across human societies. In a sample of 488 societies… [it was] found that fully 90% exhibit institutionalized, culturally patterned forms of altered states of consciousness.” The study also concluded that the capacity to experience an altered state of consciousness seems to be “a part of the psychobiological heritage of our species.”(5)

Mike Williams, PhD in his book, Prehistoric Belief is even more straightforward in his clarity about our ancestors’ spiritual worldview stating, “Unlike people today, those in prehistory were adept at entering trance; what we now call shamanism. This gave access to alternative realms where people met and befriended entities that they thought of as spirits. To the people of the past, the otherworld of trance, and the spirits that resided there, were as real to them as anything else they encountered.”(6) In other words, our ancestors were comfortable with the knowing that there were other worlds beyond our own.

It is his belief that experiencing trance states was not an activity that was only limited to shamans. Our Homo sapiens sapiens ancestors had fully modern brains. As such they were capable of a “higher order consciousness,” which is the ability to conceive ideas of past, present and future, of the dreaming and waking states and of altering consciousness. Like us, these people also were able of holding onto the memories of dream and altered consciousness experiences. As a result, this higher order consciousness allows us to remember and relate different experiences of consciousness to our everyday existence. Directly because we humans have this ability, ideas that are born in dreams and visionary states can be used to inform and transform everyday reality.

Fire was 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 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.(7) 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. (8) 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.(9)

Trance is also an excellent problem-solving tool. Indeed, this is so clear that anthropologist, Michael Harner, PhD suggests that voluntary entrance into a shamanic trance (shamanic state of consciousness) in a counseling context is a proven concrete “problem-solving” method.(10) 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 earned 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.

© 2014 Evelyn C. Rysdyk

Nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of Spirit Walking a Course in Shamanic PowerModern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path, and contributor toSpirited 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 http://www.evelynrysdyk.com.

[1] James L. Pearson, Shamanism and the Ancient Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Archaeology, (Walnut Creek, CA; Altamira Press, 2002) p.74

[2] Visual experiences arising from anywhere within the optic system, which includes the eyes, the occipital lobe of the brain, and the many other portions of the neural cortex that process visual stimuli.

[3] Jean Clottes. “Shamanism in Prehistory”. Bradshaw foundation. Retrieved 2013-01-21.

[4] James L. Pearson, Shamanism and the Ancient Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Archaeology, (Walnut Creek, CA; Altamira Press, 2002) p.157

[5] Bourguignon, E. 1973 “Introduction: A Framework for the Comparative Study of Altered States of Consciousness”. In Religion, Altered States of Consciousness and Social Change. E. Bourguignon. ed. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University,1973

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

[7] Timothy C. Thomason, “The Role of Altered States of Consciousness in Native American Healing,” Journal of Rural Community Psychology, Vol. E13:1 http://www.marshall.edu/jrcp/VE13%20N1/jrcp%2013%201%20thomason.pdf (Accessed 2/17/13)

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

[9] 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

[10] Description of Harner Method Shamanic Counseling course, http://www.shamanism.org/workshops/calendar.php?Wkshp_ID=27

Spirit Walker’s Guide to Spiritual Preparedness

January 9, 2014

Having a spiritual practice is not protection against having “bad things” happening in your life. Even deeply spiritual people experience difficult situations. Storms, floods, fire or a medical emergency can happen to anyone.

Having a strong spiritual practice gives you a powerful inner rudder. It supports you to go through all that Life provides with a deeper sense of peace and resilience than would be possible without it. I liken it to driving over a stretch of really bump road. Without a spiritual rudder, it is like driving over the rough road in an old off-road vehicle. The experience is extra jarring and painful. A spiritual practice supports you to move through the bumpy stretch like you were in a vehicle with luxury suspension. It still requires skill, patience and good decision-making, but it is a whole lot less miserable!

Since this year’s Winter season is expected to be more extreme, I thought it would be a good time to review how to remain resilient and be more prepared for life’s unexpected surprises!

The first thing is to learning how to get out of fear and back into gratitude—even in tough situations. Maintaining inner emotional balance is critical to thriving in all circumstances. Fear disrupts your ability to think clearly, to stay in balance and will cause you to become sick at times you most need to be strong and clear-headed.

Remember fear has many faces. It can present itself as anxiety, anger, jealousy, envy, doubt, judgment, blame, shame, depression/shutting down, bitterness, holding yourself back, resentment, feelings of being a “victim” or “inferior,” power abuse, impatience, emptiness, cowardice, suspicion, and . . . more fear. Learning to recognize fear’s many faces is vitally important as it helps you to understand how often you need to be transforming it.

Next strengthen you connections to your primary teacher, power animal angels or guides. You want the connection to be so strong that you can access their support when you are most stressed. Practice is really important to that kind of connection. If you are a shamanic practitioner, make sure to ask your teachers or power animal the best ways to do this so that you can really rely on the relationships when the going gets rough. Remember too, that these relationships are reciprocal! Ask how you can give back to them.

Prepare resources BEFORE you will need them. I think of these preparations like insurance policies. I don’t ever plan on using them, but have them in place “just in case.” Feeling prepared also frees me up to be able to assist others.

What follows is the Spirit Walker’s Guide to Spiritual Preparedness Checklist. If you start gathering what you need now, practicing gratitude and strengthening your connections to spirit, you’ll be ready when a storm hits!

1. Develop a gratitude list

2. Practice the “Relieving a DNA Cramp” exercise until it becomes second nature.
• Practice with our “Becoming the New Human” CD!
• This practice protects your immune system and helps you to think well in a difficult situation!

3. Develop a strong relationship with your helping spirits
• Make the bonds strong so that it is easier to connect when you are in a stressful situation
• A strong connection allows the helping spirits to have easier access to you for “early warnings”
• Spiritual connection provides solace and stress relief to make thinking easier during times of duress.

FOR THE CAR:
4. EVERY TIME you drive during cold weather and storms
• Blankets and sleeping bags
• Warm coat, hat, gloves, extra warm socks and boots
• A mylar survival blanket
• Your CHARGED cell phone
• A shovel
• A working flashlight
• Water in an unbreakable container, preferably stainless steel
• Snacks
• Emergency flares
• Bright cloth or reflector to attach to the vehicle if you become stranded
• Jumper cables

FOR HOME:
5. Develop a family house escape plan and agree on a meeting location.
• Practice this with your family—especially if you have small children

6. Learn how to access resources close to home.
• Learn about water sources, wild edibles and other useful resources that are close to your home.

7. Scan ALL of your vital documents onto a thumb drive (to reconstruct your life!)
• Insurances (life, home, car, medical)
• Car title
• Medical information including allergies for ALL family members
• Prescriptions
• Eyeglass/contact prescription
• Passports/ID

8. Create a preparedness kit in a backpack–ideally one for each family member
Refresh the perishable contents twice year
• Your thumb drive with scanned vital information AND hard copies in zipper bag!
• Water purification method (A microfilter water purifier and/or water purification tablets)
• Stainless steel water bottle
• Flashlight and three weeks of extra batteries
• Portable CRANK/solar radio with USB charging port for your cell phone
• First aid materials and guides for use (Ideally, take a course with the family!)
• A good pair of tweezers
• Prescription medication (At least a week’s worth in case supplies are disrupted)
• Space pair of eyeglasses or contacts
• Extra car keys & house keys
• Freeze-dried foods AND/OR nutrition bars (for 3 days for each family member)
• Special treats such as hard candies
• Extra (wool) socks and underwear (for 3 days for each family member)
• Sanitary supplies such as 2 rolls of toilet paper, baby diapers, sanitary napkins, etc.
• Waterproof matches, magnesium fire starter & safety candles
• Warm wool or fleece blankets AND a survival “space blanket”
(Choose the survival “space blanket” that has a colored side and a foil side with grommets on each corner.)
• Alternative cooking device (portable Vital Stove/Grill (www.vitalgrill.com)
• A large stainless steel mug & pot to boil water (If you have a family include a stainless steel cup for each member)
• A set of metal camping cutlery for each person
• Instant coffee, tea or hot cocoa & instant soup/bouillon
• A few cotton bandannas
• Four or five gallon zipper bags
• A good multi-tool with pliers, knife and saw
• A fixed blade knife
• Folding saw
• A camping ax
• A coil of parachute cord
• A sewing kit –with a extra large needle that will handle parachute cord inner core threads
• Warm jacket & folding rain poncho for each person
• Four large plastic trash bags
• A roll of duct tape
(Small camping-sized rolls are perfect. You can also make your own mini roll by carefully coiling tape around a tall prescription bottle. This way, you can place other supplies inside the bottle!)
• A good book you haven’t read, playing cards or a portable board game
• Plastic sheeting & staple gun for covering broken windows—or to create an emergency shelter

9. Stored next to the backpack
• Water (2 gallons a day for 3 days for each member of the family – refresh often)
• Folding water bags for use in the home during expected storms (These may be filled up in advance of a storm to supply drinking water if the power goes out.)
• A few crank-powered lanterns for safe illumination

10. Important extras
• An alternative SAFE source of heat for your home
• Extra, easily accessible wool or fleece blankets
• Kelly Kettle for boiling water & cooking (Kelly Kettle Base Camp Stainless Steel Kit)

© 2014 Evelyn C. Rysdyk

Nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of Spirit Walking a Course in Shamanic PowerModern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path, and contributor toSpirited 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 http://www.evelynrysdyk.com.

A shamanic reflection on Jesus’ message for the New Year.

December 31, 2013

Jesus

Abraham is considered the father of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He was a pious man who had his faith tested on many occasions. Perhaps his largest test was when Abraham was asked by God to sacrifice his beloved only son, Isaac. In Genesis 22, obedient Abraham takes Isaac to the place of sacrifice. He prepares the fire and binds his son. Just as he is about to take the life of Isaac, God stops Abraham as his actions have proven the depth of his belief and commitment.

During the dawning of the first century AD, the peoples of the Middle East would have been intimately familiar with this story of Abraham. Into this context, Jesus comes into the world as “God’s only begotten son.” This is a peculiar designation as it is said in Genesis that God created all human beings in His image.

As Jesus grew to adulthood and began his teachings, his behavior was loving toward others. He cared for those in need with healing and fed those without food. He associated with the poor, the sick, those who were lame, the mentally ill and also with those who were considered to have broken prevailing cultural norms. In other words, he was able to see everyone as sacred. These ideas flew in the face of the hierarchical social ideals that were promoted by both Roman culture and the Pharisees.

In both cases, enforcing strict dogma and adhering to the letter of the law was perceived as paramount, as this promoted both social order and obedience to the hierarchy. Supporting the organizational structure was more important than the needs of individuals and superseded acts of compassion, which may have been in conflict with their rigid interpretations of “right and wrong.” It is easy to see why Jesus and his teachings became a source of worry for the existing hierarchy.

When working with his disciples, Jesus charged them to go out and heal others as he had. This was to be done by asking the Divine In All Things–the Holy Spirit–to work through them. In his later teachings, he even suggested that, through the strength of their faith, the disciples could perform even greater miracles than he achieved during his lifetime. Jesus preached that we all could do what he did and more.

Fast forward to the capture, punishment and crucifixion of Jesus. As he suffered along side other prisoners, why didn’t God intervene? Perhaps it was because this sacrifice was meant to be interrupted by human beings! Maybe the entire point of Jesus’ role as the sacrificial “Lamb of God” was to get us to awaken to our own divine nature. If people really understood his message of love, they would have intervened on his behalf on several occasions–during the time he was in front of Pilate, during his journey to Cavalry and finally at the point he was being crucified.

Perhaps Jesus was, in the language of his time, trying to get us to see ourselves as aspects of the Divine who are no more or less important than any other. Through his actions, he suggested that we could choose to be loving, to be more egalitarian and inclusive, and more able to perceive the preciousness of all creatures on our planet.

He asked us to access the divine directly through prayer, fasting and through communication with Nature so that we could see things differently. Maybe the ultimate core of his message was for us to perceive the luminous threads that connect us to everything and everyone in creation. And in so doing to manifest our highest nature to generate healing and harmony around us.

 © 2014 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, the soon-to-be published A Spirit Walker’s Guide to Shamanic Tools 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 http://www.spiritpassages.com.

(Digital illustration © 2013 Evelyn Rysdyk)

A Long History of Serving Life

November 12, 2013

Image

“Every action in our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.”

~Edwin Hubbel Chapin

A skeleton was discovered in Dolni Věstonice, an Upper Paleolithic archeological site in the Czech Republic about one hundred miles north of Vienna, Austria. This site was radiocarbon dated to approximately 26,000 years ago. While Dolni Věstonice 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 remains mentioned above were of a woman in her forties–old enough in those days to have been a grandparent. As an elder, she would have been important to her people. Rachel Caspari argued in Scientific American 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.” 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.

A shaman interred 12,000 years ago, in what is now northern Israel, was afforded similar honors 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. This may have been a talisman to assist her in walking as her skeleton revealed that she would have limped quite badly.

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 deer incisors dangled in front of her eyes.  Her toothy mask was very similar to the fringe masks that are still worn by the shamans of Siberia and Central Asia.

Throughout Northern European and Asian cultures, shamans were frequently women. 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.

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 thousand years before any other pottery vessels were made. She created many ceramicfigurines 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 35,000 years ago while the most recent found in northern France was dated from 6,000 years ago. This suggests that our ancestors continued creating these images in bone, ivory, stone and clay for over 29,000 years. That equates to nearly fifteen hundred 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 in Stone Age Europe. 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. 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 ancestral 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 three 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.”

As it was in the beginning…

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 across Asia 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.…”

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 to bring new life into the world. New generations of human beings and other creatures are born from this joining. 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. Our planet is pivotal to Life’s sacred circle of existence. Those who make the choice to align with the Earth and step into service for her multitude of life forms serve to support Life’s continuance. May every generation have people who choose to serve in our shamanic ancestors’ footsteps.

NOTE: The author is teaching the shamanic journey process on the weekend of December 7 & 8 in Falmouth, Maine. You can register by clicking on the links here: www.spiritpassages.com/calendar.html

(Photo credit for the shaman of Bad Dürrenberg © LDA Sachsen-Anhalt, Bild: Karol Schauer)

© 2013/2014 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, the soon-to-be published A Spirit Walker’s Guide to Shamanic Tools 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.  www.spiritpassages.com

The Wild Hunt

October 12, 2013

Wildhunting!Across the Germanic Alpine region, celebrations for the goddess Perchta/Berchta are enacted every autumn. In these rituals, people dress as the fierce aspect of Perchta known as the Schiachperchten (ugly Perchten) to drive out “bad spirits” from the community. Typically, the processions of masked Pertchen were led though the town by a woman representing the Winter Goddess–Perchta or Frau Holda. It is my belief that this festival is a “reenactment” of the terrifying spectacle of the Wild Hunt.

Tales of the Wild Hunt are told in stories all across Northern Europe. A common thread in all the stories is that the hunt is carried out by a group of fearsome beings flying through the sky. They ride at some point during the cold nights of autumn, often it is said in November.

In the Alps, it was believed that the Wild Hunt was lead by Perchta. Her name means “The Shining One.” (The words peraht, berht and brecht mean bright, light and/or white.) She is the Winter Goddess and “The Lady of the Beasts” and is a guardian of the animals and nature in ancient Germanic hunting cultures. She is like her counterpart, Frau Holda (also Holde, Hulda, Hulle, Holl, Holle) the supernatural matron of spinning, childbirth and domestic animals, who is associated with the dark time of the year, witches as well as the Wild Hunt. Frau Holda’s name is related to Scandinavian beings known as the Huldra, the faerie women with animal tails who live in the forests of Scandinavia.

In some tales, it is the sky God Odin (Wotan, Woden) who leads the Wild Hunt -flying out from his home in heavenly Asgard. This is significant as Huldra gives her name to the great female seer shaman or völva, Huld of the Icelandic Sagas who was thought to be a human “mistress” of the god Odin. Interestingly enough, another name for the leader of The Wild Hunt, is Fau Gaue or Frau Gode. In Westfalian dialect, Odin’s wife is referred to with these same names. This may indicate that the character who became Odin first existed as a consort of the Goddess.

Psychopomp
During The Wild Hunt, Holda, who held court inside Hörselberg Mountain, would ride forth with a host of terrifying spirits. In Northern Germany, she is described as leading a procession of the dead whereas Perchta, her close counterpart in the south, is described as being surrounded by the souls of unborn children, or children who died before they were baptized. This points to the Goddess’ dual role as the protectress of souls both entering and leaving this world.

Whoever is participating, through all the stories of the Wild Hunt the characters are in search of something. Sometimes the tales say they swarm across the sky to gather the spirits of the dead and take them to the Other World.

This is certainly consistent with the idea that the spirits of the dead can return during the darkest time of the year. During autumn, it
was thought that the “veils” between the realms of living and dead were “thin.” This allowed spirits to step back and forth from one world into the other. When the dead walk among the living, it is said to be cause for alarm and fear. The restless dead are capable of causing mischief and especially dangerous ones can capture the living to take them back to the realm of the dead.

It is said among the Orkney Islanders that during this time of year, a trow can steal you away. These creatures are said to live in hills or cairns where they on occasion, hoard great wealth. The Celts believed that hills were where the Tuatha Dé Danann retreated after their “defeat.” Their name translates as the “children of Danu” who is the Celtic Mother Goddess. These ancestral people of the Celts became the Sidhe or faerie folk. While there are some parallels to the Sidhe, the Orkney and Shetland trow is most likely more closely connected to creatures of Scandinavian origin known as a draugr.

The Icelandic dictionary defines the word “draugr” as being a ghost or spirit; especially the dead inhabitant of a cairn or mound grave. After death, the Old Norse people believed that a body placed in its grave continued to live on. This ghostly being would be free to leave and wander among the living particularly during the autumn. The draugr was said to occasionally possess magical powers, including the ability to control the weather and to have knowledge of the future.

So, the riders of the Wild Hunt who live in the mystical lands are magical beings/spirits that are variously described as ancestors, ghosts, faeries or deities! Depending upon the storyteller, it is either a beneficent Goddess and her court or the wrathful dead who ride across the sky. It is certain that the overlaying influences of the Christian Church have demonized the stories. Later tellings of the tales transformed the spirits that rode in the Wild Hunt into black devils on horseback who were accompanied by their black hounds and the spirits of the unbaptized dead-all hungry for human flesh. The older traditions however speak of an event when spirits functioning as guides could sweep the lingering spirits of the departed from this world. This role would also be an excellent description of the Goddess’ dual role as protectress of souls both entering and leaving this world.

Spirit Flight
Shamanic traditions across Siberia tell stories of shamans who fly. The traditional shamans’ costumes of this region are decorated with fringe. This fringe hangs from the arms like wings and dangles along the bottom of the tunic like tail feathers. When a shaman goes into trance and dances, the fringe provides the illusion of actual flight. This provides a tangible, visual metaphor for the shaman’s “magical” ability. When a shaman performs a shamanic journey, her/his spirit takes flight into invisible realms.

During the journey, shamans are in trance known as the “shamanic state of consciousness.” During these trance states, some shamans may appear unresponsive or “asleep” to the ordinary world. While entranced, the shaman works closely with their helping spirits, often relying upon them for protection and/or “transportation.” That is, the shaman may ride on helping spirits in animal form as they take their spirit flights and often do so while being accompanied by other spirit helpers.

A folk tale motif of a living person carried away by the Wild Hunt’s flying horde is particularly common in Germany and in Scandinavia. A curious form of this theme, which is unique to Norway has people undergoing a sort of involuntary separation from their bodies, which lie as if dead while their souls are traveling with the Wild Hunt. The author, Landstad in his Norske Folkeviser describes the fate of one such woman: “She fell backwards and lay the whole night as if she were dead. It was of no profit to shake her, for the Asgardsreid (Riders from Asgard, the home of Odin and the other Sky Gods) had made off with her.” The woman then awakes to tell how she had ridden across the sky. This story gives us yet another important clue about the WildHunt. What if, rather than a Germanic, Scandinavian or Anglo Saxon mythic tradition, the Wild Hunt is actually a tattered remnant linking the folk tales of Europe to a far older shamanic tradition?

I believe that the purpose of the yearly ride was to unburden the community. The Wild Hunt removed those spirits who had lingered after death and provided relief from other negative influences or “bad luck.” This is yet another parallel the work of the shaman. One of a shaman’s functions is to guide the dying and dead out of this world, as well as to petitions the spirits for good luck and bounty on behalf of their community.

Certainly the riders’ roles-as described in the folk tales-can be ascribed to the shaman. Typically, a shaman functions as a healer and protector of the spirits of those on whose behalf she or he practices. In concert with their helpful spirits, shamans “do battle” with the spirits that cause mischief and sickness, they guide the souls through the passages between life and death and they work with the weather and practice divination to foretell the future. Whatever forms their work take, shamans bring gifts to the living. In some stories the riders of the Wild Hunt also bestow gifts. In Austria and Scandinavia, the seasonal female figure-who can either be the kindly gift-giver or the fearsome demon-is St. Lucia. She is an echo of Perchta and Holda who are associated with animal-masking. Holda–as the protectress of the animals–is depicted with a cow skin and horns in Schleswig-Holstein, while a cow’s head or foot marks Lucy’s Day on some Scandinavian rune calendars. This again bears a certain similarity to the Huldra, those forest spirits who appear as a woman in front, but with a cow or other animal tail on the back.

Even the confusion about the Wild Hunt leader’s gender harkens back to the shaman. Across Siberia, Central Asia, and the Arctic, the original shaman is remembered as a female. It is told that she is a powerful, primordial being who “taught” the skills to humankind. This is so pervasive a belief that most Siberian shamanic costumes mimic female clothing-whether they are worn by men or women.

One of the roles of Freyja in Norse myth is that she is the Goddess of Prophecy. When flying through the spirit realms, cloaked in falcon feathers, she would visit the place where the Norns (Fates) lived and it was she who could read the threads of Life that they were spinning. That is to say that Freyja had the ability to divine the future and it is she who the shaman emulates in their journeys down into the roots of the World Tree.

Freyja is honored as the Goddess of Love, Beauty, Fertility, as well as the guardian of Animals and Nature. In addition, she is also the Goddess of War, Battle, Death, Magic, Prophecy, and Wealth! This diverse collection of skills fits well with “job description” of the Old European Great Goddess and has parallels to both the Germanic Perchta and Holda. Freyja although equal in power with the God Odin, did not live in his sky realm. Instead, Freyja lived in her own realm Vanaheim, which is in the western edge of Midgard or Middle World. There she reigns over the spirits of nature, the elves, the dwarves, and the creatures, which inhabit the land and ocean. She is petitioned by humans wishing her to intercede on their behalf for everything from a good harvest, or a successful hunt to having healthy children. In other words, Freyja is thought to bestow all forms of wealth and good fortune.

It also said that “wherever she rides to battle, she gets half the slain.” Freyja is also the chief of the Valkyries, the demi-goddesses who select the noble and heroic dead and carry them to the Realm of the Gods. Half of the valiant dead are taken up to Odin’s hall, Valhalla in the sky world of Asgard and half of those lost in battle are taken to Freyja’s palace Fólkvangr in Vanahiem to feast in her hall Sessrúmnir. Freyja is also patroness of women who attain wisdom, status, and power. This derives from the fact that the Valkyries begin as ordinary women, who became priestesses and then demigoddesses or lesser norns, capable of participating in the fates of people and of nations. Since Freyja leads these lesser norns, she is considered patroness of those who carried on the role of seer/shaman.

The Wild Hunt Today
Among some contemporary Western shamanic practitioners, the Wild Hunt is reenacted each year between Halloween and Yule. This work usually takes the form of rituals that include long psychopomp (soul guide) journeys taken by groups of highly skilled shamans during a dark autumn night. This work can sometimes be perilous. This is because the spirits of the lingering dead can be quite convincing “opponents” when they struggle to stay here instead of gently leaving the world of the living.

Oftentimes, the groups that gather for this work dress for “battle” carrying weapons staffs and shields into their journeys while wearing fearsome masks. They are guided and protected by their helper spirits and power animals-usually merging with them to keep their own spirits safe. If one was gifted with spiritual “sight,” this horde of shamans flying through the spirit world would certainly resemble those sixteenth century Schiachperchten, driving out the “bad spirits” in alpine villages!

Making a stand for all that is alive and vital, the contemporary shamans “do battle” with those forces that seek to cause harm or ill fortune. With their helping spirits, they clear the Earth of those spirits that have lingered after death. In working on behalf of the forces of Light and Love, they contribute to loosening winter’s dark grasp and pave the way for the return of the Sun on the Winter Solstice.

© 2013 Evelyn C. Rysdyk

* The author is presenting THe Wild Hunt on October 26th. For more information, click here: The Wild Hunt FLYER

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, the soon-to-be published A Spirit Walker’s Guide to Shamanic Tools 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 http://www.spiritpassages.com.

Emotional unburdening: Casting aside the baggage that interferes with our journey.

September 25, 2013

Bags

I have been blessed to work with individuals and groups of people for well over two decades. During that time, I have witnessed how profoundly the stories people have woven about themselves and the world around them can limit their ability to be in relationship, to be successful, to be healthy and to feel genuine joy.
Our stories begin before we are born. In utero, we are aware of the emotional state of our mother and the people around her. From the input our developing psyche receives, we begin to develop perceptions about ourselves, and our world. Prenatal (before birth) and perinatal (after birth) psychology is an interdisciplinary study of the foundations of health in body, mind, spirit and emotions and how adult response patterns have their beginnings in our earliest moments. This discipline explores how the sensory and energetic experiences we have very early in our development have profound impacts on the health and learning ability of the individual and on their relationships. These perceptions from our family and our culture become “implanted,” like computer viruses into our little mental and emotional “hard drives.”
Since we have no way to screen the input we receive, we internalize everything. In addition, until a child is about six or seven years old, the child believes that they create or cause everything that occurs in their world. This “magical thinking” causes us to feel responsible for all actions in our environment. So, if the people around us are angry, we can believe that it is our fault. If a parent dies, it means that we did something to make that happen. If no healthy adults help our child selves to more fully understand the situation and repair our misperceptions, we can left with damaging psychological trauma or at the very least, harmful psychological and emotional patterns.
As we grow, we internalize the way people relate to us. The looks, words and actions directed toward us weave our story even further. For instance, if we learn that by being sick our busy parent will finally pay us some attention, we may develop an emotional pattern of being ill, weak or dependent as a way to emotionally survive.
If our mother was anxious during her pregnancy and during our early life, we received hormonal, psychological and energetic messages that our world was fundamentally unsafe. With that information, we may become an anxious adult or we may create adaptive behaviors in an effort to feel safer. We may withdraw from opportunities for intimate relationships, we may seek chemical comforters such as alcohol or narcotics to soothe our nervous systems, we may depress all emotions to quiet anxiety or adapt in some other ineffective and harmful way.
While we may have created these adaptations in an effort to better survive in our childhoods, I know that these same adaptations are the very things that ultimately interfere with our being able to thrive as adults.
While the idea that we begin shaping our views of the world began even before we were born may seem daunting or even feel impossible to fix, I remind you that all of our perceptions—both positive and negative–are a result of learned information about the world. While our perceptions have shaped us, they are NOT actually who we are. When we take the step of separating us for the story we have learned, we can begin to think about our unbeneficial perceptions as simply erroneous or outdated information. Taking that step is a way to begin setting aside the old definitions of who we are. Once we do that, we then have an opportunity to heal. In the same way that we need to keep relearning political boundaries on the map—such as the former Yugoslavia having been transformed into many different countries–we can look for ways to replace the incorrect data we once internalized with new, healthy and much more accurate information.
The healing process begins with the choice to separate ourselves from our old story and from that point, we can bring in supportive people to assist in our “reprograming” process.
As a shamanic practitioner, I am fortunate to be able to step across the illusionary boundaries of time and space to gain wisdom, to get insights and to heal things that happened long ago. In my work as a shamanic healer, I can assist my clients in their processes by going back to the origins of unbeneficial patterns and healing them at the root.
One method is to teach others to perform shamanic journeys. In this way, the individual can go back and redo the scenes that created an unbeneficial pattern. This is never done alone, but rather in the company of helpful, loving and protective spirits, as well as in the presence of trained human guides to support the process. In addition, a traditional shamanic healing, called a soul retrieval, can be beneficial for creating a “new story” for us, as well.
The process my partner and I created called, Spirit Passages’ Shamanic Inner Body Healing TM, is another rich way to discover the root of old patterns and to heal the situations that created them.
During a Shamanic Inner Body HealingTM session, a client’s being acts as a doorway to wisdom that is unlimited by the restrictions built by the conscious mind or the personality. It is an open-ended inquiry process that takes place in the sacred inner landscape. This works because shamanic realms exist both inside and around our physical bodies. As a result, a person can be supported on a journey into her or his inner shamanic realm to heal traumas and the resulting misperceptions that may be unreachable using other methods.
This process has been successful in healing people from traumas, limiting beliefs or wounds sustained in utero or during preverbal infancy, to identify and eliminate unconscious, familial and generational patterns, and to even heal unresolved issues that have their roots in a past life.
During the course of a session, traditional shamanic healing methods may also be used to release a possession, retrieve a soul fragment or bring back a power animal for a child aspect of the client, to heal a past life experience, to release the person from familial “curses,” addictions or a dysfunctional pattern. The entire process is witnessed and “midwifed” by the shamanic practitioner who asks open-ended questions to help the client to find their own interpretation for sensations, images and feelings. Since the information arises from within you, each healing unfolds with a rhythm and pace that is safe and uniquely suited to you.
Most assuredly, other therapeutic methods can also be useful in healing old perceptions. Traditional psychotherapy, hypnotherapy and other clinical methods can be very useful in reworking the inner landscape of belief and healing old misperceptions, as well.
The important things are to make the choice to let go of your old story, to recognize that it is a result of the misinformation you internalized in your early life and then to seek out supportive professionals to assist in your healing. I believe this is as essential component as we were not emotionally injured in a vacuum. We gained our misperceptions through the relationships we had with others when we were infants, children and young adults. For that reason, it is my belief that we are best able to heal when we work with those who can best support us to learn new ways of being. In therapeutic association with healthy, supportive professionals we are able to repair the misconceptions and erroneous beliefs of our inner children so that our adult self can be more happy and whole.
It is never too late to change our story, to let go of our emotional baggage and to start living a life that is truly free from the burdens of the past. Since all time is occurring right in this moment, we can in essence, rewrite our history and change the trajectory we have for our future. We do this by taking the courageous step of choosing to NOT be defined by our out-moded ways of understanding.
Profound transformations have always been within our power. From the beginning, we were designed for transcendence. In his book The Biology of Transcendence, Joseph Chilton Pearce shared information about our five neural centers—or brains—four of which are located in the head, while the fifth is located in the heart. He suggests that the dynamic interaction of the head brain (intellect) and heart brain (intelligence) allows us to advance from one evolutionary place to the next. Our heart’s ability to connect us to the world of spirit means that our biology has actually prepared the way for us to be transcendent beings. We have the ability to live in both the physical and spiritual worlds in a fully conscious way.
Like “six-million dollar” women and men, we can be “better than we were before.” Indeed, we can continually rebuild ourselves in each moment by changing how we view ourselves and our surroundings. As we change our beliefs, our reality shifts, too. As we change our individual beliefs we also contribute to transforming the collective experience. In shedding our old baggage, we embark on a new journey for ourselves and for humanity.
© 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, the soon-to-be published A Spirit Walker’s Guide to Shamanic Tools 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 http://www.spiritpassages.com.

Engaging the soul’s power through shamanic storytelling

August 10, 2013

Tanumshede-2005-rock-carvings

From a shamanic perspective, stories have incredible power. They can paint the picture of an era, give you courage, keep history alive, help to prepare you for a life event, teach you about a skill, and so much more. You can learn how to take your intentional use of language to heal, soothe, and enfold a child or support a person to leave the world as they are dying.

I am a fortunate woman, as my entire childhood was filled with stories. I was the firstborn and entered the world at a time when many of my elders were still living. Not only did I have two sets of grandparents, but their siblings were also a part of my life. I was blessed to spend many hours with my great grandmother, who had several living siblings, as well. More importantly, all of these elders were storytellers.

From the people on my mother’s side of the family, I heard stories of Norway and tales of making a new life in America. My grandmother grew up on a farm while my grandfather took to the sea as a young man. I learned many diverse stories, from tales of the little people on the farm to how pitch was gathered in the hold of a ship in South America to be brought back to Norway for shipbuilding. My grandfather, who learned carpentry aboard such a codfish boat, also shared hair-raising stories of building the wooden footings for what became New York’s Throgg’s Neck Bridge.

On my paternal side, I heard wonderfully colorful stories of Old New York and family tales from generations long gone. I heard of ministers, strong women, racehorse owners, fisher-folk and much more. From the old ones’ stories, I learned much about the challenges and triumphs of their lives as well as those of our ancestors. No matter how difficult my family elders’ existence may have been, their stories were deliciously vibrant and were generally well seasoned with humor and laughter.

For orally based tribal cultures, storytelling was a way to preserve the accumulated wisdom of history and transmit all that to succeeding generations. Stories included the tales which explained the cosmos, mythic stories of their ancestors, how their people came to be, how to hunt with respect, proper behavior, and much more. Imagine an encyclopedia of knowledge shared one story at a time! Children in an oral culture would absorb the collective wisdom through the elders’ tales in a way that wasn’t very different to my own childhood.

When the written word became paramount, oral traditions began to die out. This is unfortunate, as it contributes to the unraveling of traditional cultures. As ethnic and tribal groups lose their stories, they lose the glue that holds them together, and what was once an intact culture starts to die. Among more isolated tribal cultures, this dismantling of culture was delayed until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but it was no less chilling. This certainly occurred in Europe. When the Brothers Grimm began to write down the old stories, the tales had already begun to decompose from the lack of being told. When people no longer have cultural supports, they lose an important rudder for finding their way through the world. Then, as cultures die, people themselves can become lost, falling into spiritual illness, depression, anxiety, drug addiction, and alcoholism.

Stories can also be a tool for healing a person, a physical place or one’s own spirit. By changing the stories that we tell ourselves, we can help to transform the pains of our pasts and pave the path for new ways of thinking about who we are. In so doing, we also change the way we behave towards ourselves and also toward others. Working with story can support us to deeply believe in our own power.

A great way to begin to work with stories in a shamanic way is to tell a story about who you are. Either speak the story into a recording device or write it down. Include where you were born, how and where you were raised and how you’ve come to be who you are as an adult. Make sure to include the highs and the lows.

After you’ve done that, it is time to start the story again.  This time, begin with the phrase, “Once upon a time, there was a precious child…”  How would you tell that same story now? Tell it as though you were about to entrance a small child with a story! Don’t alter any of the events that created who you are, simply change the way that you speak about them. Take the ordinary facts of the events of your life, change the tone or perspective and tell them in such a way that they are transformed into a heroine or hero’s journey! This is not to simply romanticize the facts of your story or lie, but to see all the parts of your life’s journey in the larger context of your becoming.  Continue to ask yourself how past events contributed to who you are now.

Completing your new story will take some practice and diligence to achieve. To change your old, tired story you will need to reframe those parts where you are most stuck in old wounds, blame, shame, self-pity, anger or helplessness! Working through this will take some time and must be done in an atmosphere of loving attentiveness. Remind yourself along the way that the prize will be to finally close the chapter on the unhealed aspects of your life that are sapping your strength and power. If some parts of your old story stubbornly refuse to be shifted, get some support to help with the healing. Remember, you weren’t wounded in a vacuum. People participated in your hurts and pains. For that reason, it is important to seek the companionship and guidance of healing people to support your metamorphosis!

While you are engaged in this work, also take the time to reread the fables and fairy tales of your childhood. Observe how many of them were fraught with danger, sadness, loss and peril. The child was orphaned, she was poor, she was hurt and then notice how the change unfolded. Often times, a story’s hero or heroine doesn’t understand what is happening until the story is over! Look at how simple events changed the course of their journeys. Also make note of how the heroes or heroines were changed by their life experiences in the story. In most cases, the stories remind us that heroines and heroes are made by the experiences that they live through. If a “fairy godmother” element is involved in the tale you’re reading, look at how you could rewrite that aspect of the story to have the central character become the one who makes the transformation possible!  Use your creative mind and heart to turn the problem over until a solution reveals itself!

Remember that as you retell your story in a new way, you are actually reprograming your subconscious. This is the part of us that is always listening. By paying attention to how we process and interpret our sensory experiences, our subconscious gets programmed with the beliefs that we hold about ourselves and our world. Why this is important is because this aspect of our mind is what is working with our feelings to create our reality. As we change the information this aspect of ourselves receives, we are teaching it new ways to program our present reality as well as our future selves.

If you are feeling that you aren’t creative enough or don’t have the energy to do this, take some shamanic journeys or do some meditations to get inspired.  I think about inspiration as the action of being inspirited. Extreme and altered states can provide a kind of spaciousness to our consciousness that allows us to “dream bigger.” Indeed, when teaching my students about the shamanic state of consciousness, I do not talk about altering ordinary consciousness, rather I suggest that the shamanic state of consciousness is an expanded state of awareness or perception which produces an altered experience of reality.

While we journey, physical and emotional changes occur in our bodies. Spirit can support us to feel more imaginative, enlivened and enriched. From that feeling of fullness, we have the energy and creativity to move any project forward. Learning stories and how to share them is also a part of a shaman’s journey. While there are very few spiritual storytellers who are living, there are legions of them in the spirit world. Storytellers of every tradition and time period are available to those who can walk between the worlds.

Journey to your teacher or power animal to have them take you to a storytelling teacher. Ask that teacher questions such as, “How do I let go of the parts of my old story that hold me back?”  Another good one to ask is,  “What are the stories the spirits share about me?” Finally a great journey to do is to ask the storytelling teacher, “What is the story I need to be telling about my life now?”

Each of these journeys can help you to reframe the experiences of your past and will change the texture and color of your personal story. By working with the spirit of a master storytelling teacher you can learn how to refine and refresh the storyline to steer the “plot’ of your life in a new direction. As you continue refining your personal story you will begin to more deeply believe in and feel your own intrinsic power.

All of the best storytellers spend a lot of time refining, polishing and crafting their stories until they are mesmerizing to the listener. That is precisely the effect you are reaching toward. Keep refining and telling your story until your true story unfolds. Make your story so beautiful that you subconscious completely releases all of its old limitations! In so doing, you’ll be contributing to having a far more wondrous, amazing and powerful present. And your wondrous present is what contributes to your happily ever after.

© 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 http://www.spiritpassages.com.

Learning how to browse for wild food

July 29, 2013

Browsing Nature's AislesAs a follow up to my post on preparedness, I wanted to share a book on foraging that I had the pleasure of previewing.

Reading Browsing Nature’s Aisles: A Year of Foraging for Wild Food in the Suburbs is like walking along side Wendy and Eric Brown as they and their family relearn our ancestors’ way of harvesting the wild foods that nature provides. Even in Maine’s harsher northern climate, wild food abounds if you know how to find it. The adventure of discovery that the Brown’s embarked upon provides for great reading and joyful inspiration for those wanting to develop a truly tasty, localvore lifestyle that is in deep harmony with nature.

Foraging necessitates learning how to observe the rhythms of the natural world and remembering how to effectively live in harmony with the plants, trees, animals and birds. By slowing down to really pay attention to the world around us, we can learn how to find food in every season and in that process, remember the bounty of beauty and peace that the Earth provides.

I have been blessed to have Eric as one of my advanced shamanic students. Over the years, I have come to know Wendy and their girls, as well.  This book is a wonderful glimpse into their world and how a suburban family can live a more sustainable and joyful life.  They share their triumphs as well as their fumbles in a way that allows gives the reader ample permission to take their own steps toward sustainability. Even if you only duplicate a few of the Brown family’s ideas, you will find yourself much more connected to the land and bounty around you!

Pre-order your copy of Browsing Nature’s Aisles here: http://www.amazon.com/Browsing-Natures-Aisles-Foraging-Suburbs/dp/0865717508

© 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. Her web site ishttp://www.evelynrysdyk.com.

 

Spiritual Preparedness–the shaman’s way!

July 5, 2013

Shaman Survival Kit

Having a strong spiritual rudder in one’s life feels truly essential. Not only to give comfort in trying situations, but to provide emotional resilience and healing. A shamanic practitioner can get the larger view of situations that can help to put the ordinary bumps of Life’s into a larger context. Indeed, I know my relationship with spirit has helped me to take the hard bumps in life more gently and to regain my balance after periods of turbulence.

 Thanks to electronic wizardry, I am able to stay connected with people on the shamanic path from all around the world. Through these connections, I have also borne witness to the devastating hurricanes, tornados, floods and wildfires that transform peoples’ lives in a matter of moments or days.

Even spiritual people experience difficult situations. Just because we have strengthened our connections to the numinous world does not make us immune to life’s troubles. Each of us can experience the disruption of personal or health-related issues, the devastation of dangerous weather conditions or geologic shifts such as earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. Indeed, the harsh weather we are seeing is likely to continue and in some places worsen due to climate change. Flooding will be more widespread, hurricanes more powerful, tornados more frequent and droughts even more dramatic in nature. Every region will experience some effects of the changing Earth.

Remaining resilient and thriving in difficult times requires us to go even deeper into our practice. Strengthening our connections to spirit and especially to the natural world can help to heal the adversarial relationship many of our species has toward the Earth and her shifts. For instance, when we have a better connection, we can be forewarned about changes.

By being diligent with our gratitude and offerings, we transform our physiology so that we can keep ourselves on a more even keel emotionally. Gratitude, appreciation, love and compassion can be incredible powerful as these feelings not only creates a calmer aspect internally, they can help to gentle the energy in the world. When we are in emotional coherence, we actually contribute to producing harmonious vibrations in the world around us. (This is the work we teach in our Two-Year Apprenticeship in Advanced Shamanism and Shamanic Healing AND what we deepen even further in our Shamanic Graduate Training Program, which is open to those who have had previous shamanic training.) 

 This means being a spiritual warrior and refusing to follow the crowd in their ever-growing anger, anxiety and polarization. I believe that we actually have a profound responsibility to use our consciousness to affect positive change. Rather than feeling impotent in the face of difficulty and harshness in the world we need to create harmony where there is discord through our internal practice and to gather together with others to take actions from a place of harmony and peace.

To accomplish this, we also need to care for our own needs. To free our minds from worry we can make preparations to sustain our physical existence should a storm, flood or other hardship occur. When we are feeling more secure about our physical situation we are less likely to succumb to fear and much more likely to be available to assist others. In other words, like the flight attendant reminds us when doing the safety check, we need to place the metaphoric oxygen mask on ourselves before we are able to help others.

So, along with making your connections to spirit rock solid, making gratitude your baseline and also deepening your relationship with the natural world, it is important to be a physically prepared shaman!

I have prepared a checklist that can help you in your preparations and to help you to prioritize how you can support your self to be strong and resilient. I consider this to be the bare minimum necessary to sustain yourself through a few days of hard times. Also remember to check in with your own spiritual guidance for additional ideas.

The Prepared Shaman Checklist

1. Develop a strong relationship with your helping spirits

• This makes it easier to connect with spirit when you are in a stressful situation

• It allows easier access to you for “early warnings”

• Connection provide solace and stress relief to make thinking easier during duress.

2. Practice gratitude until it is your baseline

• Practice with our “Becoming the New Human” CD!

• This protects your immune system and helps you to think well in a difficult situation!

3. Deepen your relationship with the natural world.

• My book, Spirit Walking: A Course in Shamanic Power has exercises to help you in this deepening.

4. Scan ALL of your vital documents onto a thumb drive (to reconstruct your life!)

• Insurances (life, home, car, medical)

• Car title

• Medical information including allergies for ALL family members

• Prescriptions

• Eyeglass/contact prescription

• Passports/ID

5. Create a preparedness kit in a backpack (refresh contents 2x year)

• Thumb drive with scanned vital information AND hard copies in waterproof zipper bag!

• Water purification (Micro-filter, water purifier and/or water purification tablets)

• Stainless steel water bottle

• Flashlight and extra batteries

• Portable CRANK/solar radio with USB charging port

• First aid materials and guides for use

• Tweezers

• Prescription medication (At least -3 days worth)

• Space pair of eyeglasses or contacts

• Extra car keys & house keys

• Freeze-dried foods AND/OR nutrition bars (for 3 days for each family member)

• Extra socks and underwear (for 3 days for each family member)

• Waterproof matches, magnesium fire starter & safety candles

• Warm wool or fleece blankets AND a Space blanket

• Alternative cooking device (portable Vital Stove/Grill • www.vitalgrill.com)

• Large stainless steel mug & pot to boil water

• Instant coffee or tea & instant soup/bouillon

• A few cotton bandannas

• Four or five gallon zipper bags

• A good multi-tool with pliers, knife and saw

• A fixed blade knife

• Folding saw

• Parachute cord

• A sewing kit –with extra large needle that will handle parachute core threads

• Stainless cutlery for eating

• Warm jacket & folding rain poncho

• A good, engaging book, playing cards and/or a portable board game

• Plastic sheeting & staple gun for covering broken windows—or emergency shelter

6. Stored next to the backpack

• Water (2 gallons a day for 3 days for each member of the family – refresh often)

• Folding water bags (used for camping) to be used in the home during expected storms

• Kelly Kettle for boiling water & cooking outdoors (Kelly Kettle Base Camp Stainless  Steel Kit)

© 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. Her web site ishttp://www.evelynrysdyk.com.