SHAMAN COURSE ESSAY BY: Rev. Michele Gordon
The term "Shaman" has always held a negative connotation for me, as it is a term that has been frowned upon by my Ojibwe (Anishinabe) culture. It has always held a meaning of "western new-age people" who want to take from the Native culture and use it in a way that goes against our values. So taking this course has been very helpful to me, in regard to looking at things in another way. I do not expect that those in my culture will ever see the word "Shaman" and not think negatively, however.
The course began with much talk and discussion regarding using mind-altering and mood-altering chemicals to enhance one's shamanic gifts. In my experience, however, those who we call "Medicine People" and "Spiritual Healers" are not people who would even consider doing this. I have always been aware of the Native American church, and the use of peyote, in the western tribal areas, and also the Lakota and Sioux tribes who might use mushrooms, etc. However, in our way, the Ojibwe manner, it would be against the values of the healer, or medicine person, to utilize chemicals in any way. There is a great sense of pride in being "sober and clean" and this would certainly be looked down upon in the community.
I have a personal belief about cannabis, marijuana. I believe all plants are from the Creator, and are here to help in some way. For example, it has been found that even poison Ivy is helpful to those with rheumatoid arthritis. But for healthy people, it is best avoided. I believe the same for marijuana: it is there for sick people, those with AIDS or cancer, and those afflicted with these illnesses who cannot keep food down. It has been found to help people with these things. It has also been seen to help with chronic pain in people. So, the Creator has a plan for this plant, but it is NOT for healthy people to use, in my beliefs. It is interesting to note how states are now looking at legalizing this plant, for medicinal purposes.
I am a psychotherapist in private practice, in Duluth, MN. I am just about done with my Ph.D. in the philosophy of Natural Health, through Clayton College of Natural Health. I use natural healing ways in my work as a therapist, and have for years now. I am a Reiki Master, and use this method of healing for many people who come to see me. I also practice meditation and hypnosis (I have been trained in both these practices). I find that they are very healing and helpful for people who are dealing with anxiety, depression, grief and loss, pain and trauma (PTSD). I also practice some Qi Gong and Tai Chi, and use these methods to help people as well. I consider them "healing ways". So I was glad to see the course address these ways in the text.
As an Ojibwe (Anishinabe) grandmother who carries a pipe, I have come to see the power of prayer as a healer. Also ceremony. I facilitate a full moon ceremony on a monthly basis for women from all walks of life. Sometimes we have 3 or 4 of us, sometimes we have 10 or more women attend! Each of these ceremonies is full of music, use of smudging and the 4 main medicines in our culture, (Tobacco, Cedar, Sage and Sweetgrass). We pray under Grandmother Moon, near an outdoor fire, in all kinds of Northern Wisconsin weather! We pray for ourselves, our families, those gone to the Spirit World, and all peoples of the Earth. We pray for the Earth too, and all the creatures of the Earth, including the plants and rocks. We know that women's time is the night, and so this time of prayer is very powerful. I believe whenever women gather in a circle, there is great power.
I believe trance state and meditation are very powerful states for healing and I use these for myself regularly, and also with my clients. I have attended many doctorings by Medicine men, and have been doctored myself. I know that these ways are healing ways too, just as Reiki is. I believe we need all these healing ways to help ourselves and others in this most difficult time for our Mother Earth. She also needs healing and that is why we pray for her as well.
I agree that one does not refer to oneself as a "shaman". It is up to the community to name those who are healers and medicine people. The truth of this will always come out, and these people will be sought after for their gifts. When I was first given my pipe, for example, I doubted that I was worthy and I doubted that anyone would call me to come and pray with them, as I was told they would. However, the spiritual people who gifted me with the pipe and gave me that message were right. I have been called often to help with those needing prayer and ministering to. I consider it a privilege and an honor to go and be with people who call. I am but the tool and the carrier of the pipe, which has a Spirit. It is that Spirit that is a healer for those who call. It is a humble thing for me.
I liked the part about all the plants still waiting to be discovered on the Earth, for healing. I have a friend who dreams of healing plants and then can find them in the woods, and use their healing powers. I do not have that gift. I respect all our plants and the medicines they have. I also know that they need to be protected from over-use by those who would take them all away. That is why many Medicine People will not share their secrets.
I also liked that the course addressed etiquette and ethics for healers. This is so important. It becomes known who one can trust in each community, I have found, but we still need to be held accountable. I also liked the message to people going for healing and how to act and behave when there. Many do not know these simple things. In our way, one always brings tobacco as a main gift. It is our way of prayer, and always goes "first". Gifts are also given, and these can be many things.
I am glad to have taken this course, and to have been able to respond in this way with ULC and the staff there.
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