Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Picking up the Trail - My First Steps into the World of Shamanism

Many years ago, when I took my first fated steps on this mysterious path, I could have never guessed where this trail would lead me. I was Starry eyed, spiritually starving, and lost in a sea of questions no one could answer, and so I grasped onto the shining beacon of Wicca. I was in desperate need of healing and validation, and I spent the next few years revelling in the freedom and revitalizing energy of this earth-based path. I learned about the unseen world of energy that surged and bustled around us everyday. I embraced the Goddess who I had been unknowingly searching for during childhood. And perhaps, most importantly, the embers of my spirit had begun to revive themselves, steadily building into a crackling blaze.

I continued to study and practice, exploring the realm of Withcraft and Pagan Traditions. But it wasn't until High School that an unexpected fork in the road changed everything. I came across a random book in the library, Dark Sister, that was shelved as 'fiction', although I would find out later it was anything but. I sat down to read this mysterious book in 4th block French Class. And upon opening the book to the first page, I was transported to the humid and dense jungles of the Yucatan. There I stood, with the author, in a circle of shaman women, who had gathered to perform a most solemn ceremony. It was the power of the story that had begun to weave its own magick, entrancing me as I feverishly turned page after page. I was plunged into the depths of mystery, where light and dark danced in a endless procession of power.

It wasn't until I arrived at the last page that I had begun to realize that I had touched the face of something deeply familiar, something that issued a call that I felt compelled to answer. It was then that everything started to change. The earth felt strange beneath my feet, and the air felt tense like a storm hanging low overhead. It seemed like my spirit was twisting and bending against itself, trying to break free of some cage I could not see. In that moment, all I knew with certainty was that I wanted to know more about these enigmatic and puzzling beings that were called shamans.

Up until then, my operating definition of shamanism was admittedly based off of what I had seen in movies or had read in the vocabulary and brief history sections of my favorite Pagan books. But being a product of my generation, two clicks and few cursory searches later, I began to get a broader sense of the massive precipice that I was currently perched upon. I stood at the edge, the winds of uncertainty whipping about me, but still there was the deep resounding invitation that only my spirit could hear. I didn't know what lay at the bottom of this ancient cavern or what would happen if I stepped out into the unknown. But perhaps the more terrifying question was, What would happen if I didn't? So, with one last breath I looked at the dying light that set over the horizon, gathered my strength and courage, and leapt out into the arms of the unknown.

There is a moment when you're falling. A moment, where time stands still and you are met with a rush of thoughts, emotions, and clarity. Everything else falls away and you are left only with the great expanse of your own being. Alone in this seemingly endless void, you begin to realize that you are undergoing a sacred process that has occured countless times on this Earth. This process of expansion, of death and rebirth that occurs to anyone who bravely looks into the eyes of Spirit. But as everyone knows, when you fall, at some point the Earth rises up to meet you in a glorious and often painful embrace. After the clouds of dust roll away, we shakily rise to our feet again. Stardust clinging to our hair and a surge of strength and power uncoiling itself within our newly awakened bodies.

As I stood in this new and strange terrain, full of mystery and power that crackled in the air, I realized that my spirit had found its way home to the beautiful world of the shaman. I danced among the trees that remembered the ways of those who had walked these trails before me, and they greeted me in kind. It was the expression of a kinship, an unspoken bond, that had been forged in the fires of transformation.

I met many spirits and beings as I explored the hidden vallies and shadowed trails of this wondrous world. Some of them rose up to meet me, extending their hands to guide me along these solitary roads. Others issued challenges that shook me to my core, forcing me to change and learn. It was in these experiences that I began to understand the paradoxical nature of the shaman. They were teaching me how to become fluid and formless, all the while strengthening my foundations and showing me how to stand within my center.

In the years that followed, these teachers and allies showed me the world I had been unknowingly searching for all along. They led me down the old roads, from the Great Plains of my ancestors into the humid jungles were ancient step pyramids still stand. The lives and wisdom of these great peoples planted seeds in the innermost corners of my heart, opening the door for new traditions and practices to flourish and grow on my path. And although this journey has been trying, confusing, and treacherous at times, there is no greater reward than the teachings and experiences that have been shared by these wondrous beings that I am honored to call my allies.

In Lak'ech
- Kurt Shoopman

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