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Apprenticing to a British Shamanism

For Shamans, ravens knows the mystery of life, they are strongly linked with death and rebirth

It was typical English winter day – a blanket of white sky, gentle drizzle and the black bones of trees grasping upwards, towards a sun they couldn’t see. I was cussing as I crawled down a dirt track in the Mercedes navigating the ravines made by tractors – the only vehicle really fit for the ‘roads’.

A Shaman's Thatched Cottage

Eventually I get to my destination, a little wonky thatched house and aside from part of the car’s bumper, we are in one piece.

I look around and there is absolutely nothing aside from fields, rooks, crows and the odd starling.

I was about to attend my first weekend on my apprenticeship to an English Shaman versed in the ‘old ways’, before they had to go underground with the onslaught of organised religion in the 1600s.

I walk past the broom on the porch towards the front door and greet the attendees, before getting scolded for talking too loud and not realising I had closed the door on the black cat who had been following me in. I got the feeling that this was going to be challenging in more ways than one.

Top Takeaways: Stop, Listen & get uncomfortable


Shamanism: What is it and why is it so powerful?

Shamanism is a spiritual and healing practice that dates back thousands of years and is found in various cultures across the world. In shamanic traditions, it is believed that everything in the universe is interconnected and that spirits play a significant role in the well-being of individuals and communities. Shamans undergo rigorous training, often through initiation or spiritual experiences, to develop their skills and gain wisdom from the spirit world.

Shamans are sought after for various purposes, including healing physical and emotional ailments, divining the future, finding lost objects, communicating with ancestors, and guiding souls of the deceased to the afterlife.

Throughout history, shamans have played a crucial role in tribal societies, offering guidance, protection, and spiritual counsel to their communities. In modern times, the practice of shamanism has experienced a resurgence as people seek alternative forms of spirituality and healing.

Though the specific practices and beliefs may vary widely among different cultures, the core essence of shamanism remains consistent – the belief in the power of the spirit world and the shaman's ability to navigate it for the betterment of individuals and society as a whole.

Key Practices: What exactly do British Shamans do?

British shamanism is a diverse and evolving practice, and the specific practices of individual shamans may differ widely based on their traditions, training, and personal experiences.

British Shamanism involves various rituals, ceremonies, and healing techniques, such as drumming, chanting, dancing, and the use of sacred plants or hallucinogens. The ultimate goal is to restore balance and harmony, both within individuals and within the broader community.

Journeying: British shamans often engage in shamanic journeys, which involve entering an altered state of consciousness to communicate with spirits, receive guidance, or gain insights into personal and collective issues.

Connecting with Nature: Nature plays a crucial role in British shamanism. Shamans may perform ceremonies, meditate, or hold rituals in natural settings to connect with the spirits of the land and the elements.

Divination: British shamans may use various divination tools, such as runes, tarot cards, or scrying, to gain insight into the past, present, or future and seek guidance from the spirit world.

Healing: Shamans are often sought after for their healing abilities. They may use energy work, herbal remedies, sacred chants, or hands-on healing to restore balance and well-being in individuals.

Drumming on a deer skin brings individuals together and calls ancient spirits

Ancestral Work: British shamans may honor and work with their ancestors, seeking their wisdom and guidance to navigate life's challenges and strengthen their connection to their lineage.

Rituals and Ceremonies: Rituals and ceremonies are integral to British shamanic practice. These may include seasonal celebrations, initiations, rites of passage, and ceremonies to honor spirits and deities.

Power Animal Retrieval: Shamans may facilitate encounters with power animals, spiritual guides that offer protection, wisdom, and strength to individuals.

Working with Spirit Allies: British shamans often develop relationships with various spirit allies, including nature spirits, guardian spirits, and ancestral spirits, to receive assistance and support in their work.

The small group I was training with were an eclectic bunch – some from big business, others seeking ways to overcome personal challenges. Everyone, whatever their background, was focused on learning and developing their practice of the old ways because they felt their modern world missed something deeper.

Top Takeaways: stop, listen and get uncomfortable

We had been working remotely on tasks often assigned in-line with the old year markers of Imbolc, Lammas, Beltane, Samhain the Equinoxes and Solstices. Our practice was to be above all remembering how to listen, how to hear both the world around us and the elements within us. Only then would we be at a place within which we could interact – find our familiars, meet guides and deepen our discourse with the world around us.

Shamanism isn’t the sparkly, glittery, ‘Instagram perfect’ kind of work. Its dark, slow and often uncomfortable. Its wandering in the pouring rain, sloshing walking boots and heavy grey waterproofs, compass in hand and head in the elements kind of stuff. It was suffocatingly intense at times. Alternating between the feeling of freedom as you soared on feathered wings and the heavy weight of the earth’s womb enclosing around you.

Its removing our belief that the human animal is the centre of the world, that we can just walk up to a tree without thought as to whether that tree wants us to greet it; that cartoon propagated idea that wild animals will collect at our feet the moment we ask them too; that the answers will come as simply as an internet search result. You have to prove your metal to this world – heart, mind and spirit.

Many of us look skywards when we are born – towards the position of the planets at that specific place and moment of our birth. But very few of us ever make the time or find the opportunity to look down around us, at our roots and discover what connects us to our place upon the earth.

Like so much esoteric work, practice is key – from the simplest ones such as remembering to greet the world around us when we have spent a life time just passing it by through to more intricate rituals that require space within the day, month or season. But the rewards are infinite, if not to hear nature speak, at least learn ourselves in more depth.


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