COMMON THEMES, EAST & WEST:
Note: Also see under TREES & PLANT LORE
Vision of the Snakes
Copyright © Pablo Amaringo -- all rights reserved
Gallery of Usko-Ayar Art
7 September 2009
http://deoxy.org/shaman.htmAs I've written often in my Myth*ing Links pages, I love the fairy tale genre known as the "wonder tale." About these tales, Joseph Campbell writes in The Flight of the Wild Gander:...Its world of magic is symptomatic of fevers deeply burning in the psyche: permanent presences, desires, fears, ideals, potentialities that have glowed in the nerves, hummed in the blood, baffled the senses since the beginning. The one psyche is operative in both the figments of this vision-world and the deeds of human life....(36).It takes no stretch of the imagination to recognize that the Ur-source for these fragmented, watered-down, but still magical wonder tales has to be the ancient world of shamanism. It is thus with a special sense of pleasure that I am finally expanding this page on Shamanism, a page that was originally launched among my first Myth*ing Links pages on 13 November 1998 with no images and only one link -- the Deoxy.org FAQ page (directly below).
This is a wonderful site offering FAQs ("Frequently Asked Questions") on shamanism as well as a wide selection of links to shamanism in many parts of the world. It offers texts, on-line recordings, shamanic chants, bibliographies, many articles, and much more.http://deoxy.org/melodies.htm
From this same Deoxy (short for "Deoxyribonucleic Acid," or DNA) site comes "Magic Melodies" by an unknown author. What fascinates me about what is written here is how well it suggests "string theory" -- which is to say, the vibrating "strings" that quantum physicists have proposed as the nature of what underlies the sub-atomic world. Ayahuasca reveals realms akin to those of molecular biology in which "magic melodies" called icaros emerge:http://deoxy.org/icaro.htm...each of the different psychoactive plant spirits has its own icaro. Different types of icaros serve a variety of purposes ranging from love magic to divination to the cure of snakebite. "Shirohuehua" or fun songs, for example, animate the patient, inducing joy and hope. "Manchari" are sung to lead an abducted soul back to its owner. With the "icaro de aranita," a little spider spins a web around a man and a woman uniting them for all eternity....
...Icaros are used only during ayahuasca sessions. There is a hierarchy among shamans depending on the number and power of the icaros they know. The icaros sung in Spanish are not as powerful as those in jungle Quechua; mixtures of Queschua with Cocama and Omagua are particularly potent. Yet each shaman has a principal icaro which represents the essence of his power.In the highly sensitized state of ayahuasca intoxication, the icaros help structure the vision. They can also modify the hallucinations themselves. Luna reports: "There are icaros for increasing or diminishing the intensity and color of the visions, for changing the color percieved, and for directing the emotional contents of the hallucinations." .......The icaros are the quintessence of shamanic power. A good vegetalista [i.e., shaman] is able to "orchestrate" beautiful or transformative visions through his magic melodies. Competitions sometimes arise between maestros to "monopolize" the visions of those present - a kind of competitive "jam session" where they unleash all their tricks.[Anthropologist, Luis Eduardo] Luna has included musical transcriptions of eight icaros culled from the repertoire of his informant, Maestro Don Emilio, in Appendix II of his book. Luna describes some of the icaros as having great unearthly beauty and urges ethnomusicologists to record them soon, as they are an evanescent feature of shamanic culture, that is fast disappearing. True ayahuasqueros, he claims, are dying out and their roles are being assumed by charlatans. The key to recognizing a true maestro is: does he know the magic melodies?
This is another page on icaros from Deoxy. Luis Eduardo Luna (the anthropologist mentioned directlty above) is quoted as saying:http://deoxy.org/narbystew.htm"One ayahuasca vision showed me how all levels of existence, including material and non-material levels as thoughts or feelings, have vibration, or sound underneath their surface manifestation. If one can reproduce the sound, vibration, or "song" of that which you are working with, you can enter into it and change it around! The shaman does just this using themselves as an instrument to effect the joining."The unknown author of the page continues:An Icaro is a shamanic power song learned from an elder shaman or spirits. They are used to communicate with the spirits of the natural world, to heal the sick, and to actually provoke certain kinds of visual displays or visions in those intoxicated with ayahuasca. The most important of these songs are those learned from the spirits themselves or those recieved in the dream visions which can follow an ayahuasca session.Then come audio files -- unfortunately, they don't identify the plant-spirit source of each icaro nor its purpose but I did download the first one with my dial-up modem and found it both eerie and oddly soothing. Here is what the webpage says about it:This audio file is a short sample from a long icaro heard on the radio late one night on Peter Lamborn Wilson's bi-weekly show "The Moorish Orthodox Radio Crusade" (station WBAI 99.5FM NYC). He said it's from a tape called, "The Songs the Plants Taught Us: Authentic Ayahuasqueros Shamanic Healing Sessions Recorded Live in the Peruvian Amazon" by anthropologist Luis Eduardo Luna.Several audio casettes are available for sale, reasonably priced at $9 and $12.
DNA Embraces the Planets
© Jon Lomberg, the principal artistic collaborator of astronomer Carl Sagan.
This is a beautifully illustrated interview with Jeremy Narby by Deoxy's Todd Stewart (see below in the section on books for my mini-review of Narby's book, The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge). Here are some excerpts:[Stewart]: Could you sum up your book "The Cosmic Serpent, DNA and the Origins of Knowledge"?[Narby]: Research indicates that shamans access an intelligence, which they say is nature's, and which gives them information that has stunning correspondences with molecular biology....The structure of DNA as we know it is made up of letters and thus has a specific text and language. You could say our bodies are made up of language, yet we assume that speech arises from the mind. How do we access this hidden language?By studying it. There are several roads to knowledge, including science and shamanism.The symbol of the Cosmic Serpent, the snake, is a central theme in your story, and in your research you discover that the snake forms a major part of the symbology across most of the world’s traditions and religions. Why is there such a consistent system of natural symbols in the world? Is the world inherently symbolic?This is the observation that led me to investigate the cosmic serpent. I found the symbol in shamanism all over the world. Why? That's a good question. My hypothesis is that it is connected to the double helix of DNA inside virtually all living beings. And DNA itself is a symbolic Saussurian code. So, yes, in at least one important way, the living world is inherently symbolic. We are made of living language.......What are the correspondences between the Peruvian shamans’ findings and microbiology?Both shamans and molecular biologists agree that there is a hidden unity under the surface of life's diversity; both associate this unity with the double helix shape (or two entwined serpents, a twisted ladder, a spiral staircase, two vines wrapped around each other); both consider that one must deal with this level of reality in order to heal. One can fill a book with correspondences between shamanism and molecular biology.......The shamans were very spiritual people. Has any of this affected you? What is spiritual in your life?I don't use the word "spiritual" to think about my life. I spend my time promoting land titling projects and bilingual education for indigenous people, and thinking about how to move knowledge forward and how to open up understanding between people; I also spend time with my children, and with children in my community (as a soccer coach); and I look after the plants in my garden, without using pesticides and so on. But I do this because I think it needs doing, and because it's all I can do, but not because it's "spiritual." The message I got from shamans was: do what you can for those around you (including plants and animals), but don't make a big deal of it.
La Madre Tapir
Copyright © Pablo Amaringo -- all rights reserved
Courtesy of the Electric Gallery
This page from The Electric Gallery provides the artist's description of this mother/child painting, which takes on added significance when one later learns about the poverty and illness of Pablo Amaringo's childhood:http://www.pabloamaringo.com/The mother tapir passes over her baby with her tongue, stroking him after walking through the jungle, where they feel very quiet without injury. There nobody troubles, neither persecutes them. This is a noon, a day of summer. Every tree, bush, plant, vine, airplant, parasite, epiphytal, mushroom and other plant breathes and lives in a peaceful way to preserve to the eco-system. In front at lower left is the patiquina, small palms called "yarina." We use these leaves to make houses of the field because the most people live in houses with thatched roofs. Over these plants is the plant called "Achiote." It is a medicinal plant; upper is the plant of "Intipina" which in Quechua language means "pineapple of the sun." Now this plant is in bloom. At the right is a plant. This is a banana tree but without fruit. It's name is "Situlle." It is utilized for the birds, snakes, spiders, wasps and other animals and insects as their habitat. Behind these plants are the trees - from left to right Requia (Guarea quidonia), at the center: "Shimbillo" (Inga in Spanish), Yacusshapana (Terminalia oblonga), Tahuari Amarillo (Tabebuia in Spanish). Also there are other trees in the background.
There are a number of webpages about artist, Pablo Amaringo. This page (also linked to his name under the "Visions of the Snakes" painting at the top of my page) is a good place to start -- it is brief and succinct, both about the man and his work:http://www.egallery.com/artists/?id=34Pablo Amaringo was born in 1943 in Puerto Libertad, in the Peruvian Amazon region. He was ten years old when he first took ayahuasca--a visionary brew used in shamanism, made from the plants Banisteriopsis caapi (yagé) and Psychotria viridis (chacruna). A severe heart illness--and the magical treatment of this via ayahuasca--led Pablo toward the life of a shaman, and he eventually became a powerful curandero--learning the icaros, or healing songs that the ayahuasca brew taught him.There are links to his art, book (also see below in my Books section), public appearances, and contact information.
In 1977, Pablo abandoned his vocation as a shaman, and he is now a painter and art instructor at his Usko-Ayar school, where there is no charge for the students to learn painting from Pablo. The school is dependant on donations....
One of Pablo Amaringo's American representatives is The Electric Gallery in Maryland. Their bio page on Amaringo provides information about his painful childhood. Here are some excerpts:http://www.egallery.com/art/?id=164Pablo Amaringo, the seventh of thirteen children, was born in 1943 in Puerto Libertad, a small settlement near the town of Tamanco in Peru. His parents were small farmers. While Quechua was the mother tongue of his parents, they raised their children to speak Spanish. Many of Pablo's ancestors were healers and shamans. Pablo had completed only two years of schooling when his father abandoned the family. They lost their farm and moved to Pucallpa. After two more years of school, Pablo was forced to work to help support his family. At 15, he worked on the docks in Pucallpa. After falling critically ill, and with his family in extreme poverty, he began to draw....
Pablo was taught the mysteries of healing by a forest woman who appeared to him in dreams. He practised vegetalismo from 1970 to 1976, travelling throughout the Peruvian Amazon. Plunging deeper and deeper into the power of Ayahuasca, or yajé, an herbal concoction widely used in a shamanic context among the Indian and mestizo population of the upper Amazon, he became tortured by the spirit world. After fighting, and being injured by sorcerers and spirits, he decided to abandon shamanic practices and forsake Ayahuasca. He began to paint, interpreting the other worlds of his experience in his art, and working for preservation of Amazonian environment and culture....
Descent of the Holy Spirits
Copyright © Pablo Amaringo -- all rights reserved
Courtesy of the Electric Gallery
Excerpts from the artist's powerful comments on the "Descent of the Holy Spirits":The holy spiritual beings do not work in disagreement neither in disorder, only the ones who turn aside of the eternal legislative source, of the reason, true, logic, love, justice, power and wisdom became to be against the inmaculated ones. These beings have the free will till a limited or eternal time, while they are in service of harmonic cooperation with the unique being cause called in a spiritual way alpha and omega but if one of these beings opposes to the arrangements of this Almighty Legislator he stays convicted of the mistake of his deviation and practically becomes in an angel a bad angel or devil.
The celestial spirits get down to the earth because the earth is his paradise or garden of pleasure for its plants with beautiful and fragrant flowers, its trees which last long with plenty foliage of variegated greenish with its flashing orchids - the forest with its mystical and rhythmic sound that produces a mysterious audition of music of movement which is the ultrasound who like auscultate to the spiritual beings together with the rhythmic movement of the earth into the biorhythm of the universe....
The spirits of eternal fire many times come down to the earth where exist vegetation and express its power with lighting and thunders to give purity and food of manure to all the plants; the sun also gives food the plants need to live but the vegetation must be in an adequate distance to receive this food. But with the depredation and destruction of the trees and the forest, give the unstable disequilibrium to the ecosystem in a way that the environment is unbalancing in its function with its atmospheric time changing in many parts of the world, droughts, inundations, hurricane winds, strong tempests and other phenomena that are presented in nature, these winged beings do not cause damage to the capacity of initiative and the invective genio of the man to make use of the nature but will judge to the ones who are destroying the earth and its ecosystem that is the permanent cycle of life in conjunct.
The spiritual beings respect life of human beings and also their functions and limitations in the works men execute on the earth; but in no way will tolerate the negligent function than humans make on earth which threaten to its end. Into of the concentration of the ayahuasca, I saw to the angelical beings to cry for the disorder of the world environment that causes men without understanding what we are doing, a future destruction that is coming slowly but without stop to the ones who are living on earth. Now man must learn to balance to this earth system since now by acquiring education, capacity and training to learn to protect the ecosystem we need to preserve the human life. (Pablo C, Amaringo Sh. Pucallpa, 11.03.96)
This painting returns us to the world of the icaros, or "magic melodies." Excerpts from Pablo Amaringo's explanation:http://guariadeosa.com/photos/pamaringo/paintingsforsale/When a shaman has taken the drink of the Ayahuasca AFTER ten or twenty minutes HE starts to hear a spiritual sound of the concentration that is coming down from the heaven and each time he is hearing clearer and perceptible, his spiritual perception which changes his exterior being to an interior existence. It is when the subconscious gets joined with the conscious and it is when the shaman is able to contact with the time and space and can take out to glimmer things that will happen to a person in the future, unforeseen things because the things seeing on the effect of this psychotropic holy plant with extrasensory effects give to the person the sensation of being in another and very strange life to the normal life on earth. The maximum expression that I have of the spiritual kingdom, is what I found so strange and rare for us the terrestrials. Concerning to the movement I confirm according to that I have seen, it is because the central or nuclear part of the movement is the sound, because it can not be movement without sound, neither sound without movement.
But we have to know that the spiritual movement is the ultrasound because there is not physical matter on it while the physical sound is the rhythmic of the whole universe. So that when an angelical being crashes his spiritual sound with the sound of the earth it becomes his body in luminous rays of chromatic colors.
When the shaman and the people who are going with him take the drink of ayahuasca put their auras in trance, that are the sounds of the corporal system of function, and these crash with spiritual ones. That comes from regions of the spiritual world, then the shaman and all of them who are concentrated on the effects of this drink, they see living images of iridescent colors in many shapes and chromes, observed through the visual sensations with an audition of a long reach that embraces the whole globe of the earth, and beyond, of any one is able to hear what people are speaking at any corner of the earth; let us say that all our senses get incited and our nerve cells start to spread themselves in a very, very vast way and then the person becomes wise with an extrasensorial ilimitable power.
In this comes to engrave the sound of the icaros or magic songs which stimulates the emotions and contacts us with the ultrasound dimensions which apparently seem to be concealed, but it is not so, those extraterrestrials always are inviting us and of their influences some people, receive more than others. In the life of these angelical beings, there are jerarqicic level, some of them with more power and other with less power; some of then with more Wisdom, Intelligence, Sanctity, Purity, Beautifulness, etc, etc. and others with less wisdom, intelligence and so on.
These spiritual beings, their existence it is due to the sound of the "WORD;" because through out of the resonance of the "word" they become to exist.... (Pablo Amaringo Sh. Pucallpa, 29 de Enero de 1996)
[Also see: http://sensorium.com/usko/htmls/pablo_ptg.html, for a slightly different version of the text.]
This site has 50 of Pablo Amaringo's paintings for sale -- the first 20 are of his Ayahuasca visions and the remaining 30 are of rainforest landscapes. The landscapes are stunning but I find it difficult to look at them without feeling a deep sense of sadness and fury. That rainforest is what is systematically being destroyed, acre by acre, by the greedy "have's" of the world without any regard for the true wealth of that forest and its peoples.http://headoverheels.org.uk/pablo-amaringo/pablo-paintings-for-sale/
From Head Over Heels comes another 14 paintings by Pablo Amaringo (again, these are for sale).
The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge (Tarcher/Putnam, 1998), by anthropologist Jeremy Narby, is a pivotal book (see earlier section for a Deoxy.org interview with him). Even though I finished reading it years ago, I continue to keep it on my active bookshelf because I so often recommend it to clients and friends (and refer to it myself). When I was working on my doctoral dissertation in the 80s, I found a strong connection between "zygote and syzygy," which is to say between molecular biology and paired deities in mythology. That's why I was immediately gripped by Narby's work. For example, he writes near the end (p.160): "...shamans take their consciousness down to the molecular level and gain access to biomolecular information." But some myths and archetypes describe accesss to that same level of consciousness. As Dutch Indologist F.B.J. Kuiper points out, for example, ancient Hindu and Egyptian priests were fully aware that their creation myths concealed what they, the priests, knew to be their culturally-encoded knowledge of embryology. This means that all those mythic warriors fighting against a primal she-dragon was only the story version of sperm up against a huge, solitary ovum. It was a way to entertain believers while safeguarding the priests' secret, deeper knowledge.
Here is an excerpt from a review-passage from social anthropologist/author, Francis Huxley, where he discusses Narby's visionary ayahuasca experience from a time when Narby was studying the Ashaninca Indians in the Peruvian Amazon:...the images of snakes and ladders that accompany the experience refer not only to the appearance of the ayahuasca vine but to that of the DNA spiral. To affirm this likeness he marshals the evidence of molecular biology and leaves the reader with the stunning intimation that the ayahuascan view of the world is none other than the scientific view seen from another perspective, that of selfhood rather than of no self at all.Here are two more reviewer comments from the back of the book jacket:This is the most exciting book I have read in years. It is a spellbinding, scholarly tour de force that may presage a major paradigm shift in the Western view of reality. (Michael Harner, Ph.D., President of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, and author of The Way of the Shaman)Jeremy Narby's pioneering work takes the frontier of science another leap forward toward understanding the primary enigma of our time -- the role of consciousness in the evolutionary patterns of the universe. (Edgar Mitchell, Sc.D., Apollo astronaut and author of The Way of the Explorer)I found, and still find, this Cosmic Serpent enthralling. [Note: my comments here were originally written for my Bookstore Annex, where the full version still remains.]
.. Ayahuasca Visions, The Religious Iconography of a Peruvian Shaman, a richly illustrated work, co-authored by artist, Pablo Amaringo, and anthropologist Luis Luna. Additionally, here is a link to 24 paintings in that book: http://headoverheels.org.uk/pablo-amaringo/ayahuasca-visions/
...The Soul of Shamanism: Western Fantasies, Imaginal Realities is by the late Daniel C. Noel, a former colleague of mine in the Mythology Program at Pacifica Graduate Institute near Santa Barbara, CA. As faculty members, we were kept busy preparing eight hour classes and guiding as many as 15-20 doctoral advisees at a time, which means there was rarely time to keep abreast of each other's work. Thus, although I knew Dan had recently published a book on shamanism, I had no idea of its content. On Friday, 23 August 2002, I was in the middle of interviewing perspective students for the autumn quarter when a staff member interrupted to say that Dan had died suddenly. I was stunned. I just stared in disbelief as tears started running down my face. I knew Dan as a shy, witty, incisive, engagingly quirky man. We had been allies at crucial times in faculty meetings. I had long looked forward to enjoying lengthy conversations with him in some vague future when we would both have more time. But now that future had vanished, "disappearing" Dan along with it. I couldn't stop crying. I delayed the next interview and slowly managed to pull myself together. Then somehow I continued with the rest of the day's appointments.
Afterwards, I went to our campus bookstore and bought Dan's shamanism book. I opened it at random, consciously using it as an oracle, and found myself on p. 117 reading about Jung, art, Merlin's Cry, and the end of Jung's life. I knew Dan well enough to realize that I was also reading about the end of Dan's life:...If "modern man," as he [Jung] wrote, was in search of soul, this modern man, a Merlin of sorts, had rediscovered it, if only by recognizing it when he fell into it in a shamanic descent. Jung himself survived his ordeal with the objective psyche to share the healing wisdom with us, but he feared at the end of his life that the psychology he fashioned to do so went unheeded, uncomprehended, like Merlin's cry in the fairy forest. There may have been some petulance in his worry, a bit of bruised ego that wanted wider acceptance for its views. But who can say that postmodern persons are any less bereft of soul than modern men? Jung's Merlin cry does deserve our greater attentiveness.I hadn't known that Dan saw Merlin as the West's key shamanic guide. But after reading that passage, I understood that it was Merlin I should invoke, asking that he accompany Dan on this unexpectedly "expected" journey.
Just as Jung realized his personal daimons in art, so his psychological legacy must be realized by successors whose words are never far from the arts of imagination, which are Merlin's bardic media today and the channels of our attunement. It is such post-Jungian successors who make Jung's rediscovery, his attentiveness, our resource in the search for an imaginal shamanism....
In the years following, I have sometimes skimmed a few pages in the book but it still triggered too much pain to read at any length. Only when I began expanding my Myth*ing Links' Shamanism page a few days ago did I finally return to it. I first read the current six reviews on amazon.com (I will eventually add my comments to the other six) and was surprised by how drastically opposed they were. One found the book worthless; several complained about its academic dryness; yet still others loved it and found it deeply moving. The sincerity of one comment in particular struck me: the writer said he felt uncomfortable following shamanic traditions from non-white cultures because of the West's on-going and brutal oppression of such indigenous cultures -- thus, he greatly appreciated Dan's focus on the West's own Merlin. On the one hand, I resonate with that perspective and suspect Dan would have appreciated it. But as someone who has guided people of all races through pastlife regressions for nearly forty years, I find only a limited value in that viewpoint -- all of us, regardless of the color of our current skins, have lived in countless indigenous cultures. Whether one wishes to use a reincarnational framework or Jung's Collective Unconscious, humanity "owns" the shamanic realm as its birthright. Details, portals, means, and levels of access differ, of course, depending upon cultural and environmental constraints, but if one gravitates to a particular tradition, it is likely that this isn't the first time one has done so.
After reading and pondering the six reviews on amazon, last night (9-10 September 2009) I spent the wee hours reading at random in Dan's book, just following my nose from one of my interests to the next. His basic argument is that our postmodern, non-tribal pathway to shamanic insight now comes through dreams, art, and the other precious gifts flowing from our imaginations. Because of this, he writes frequent, often soaring, paeans to imagination. Further, he sees in the "fictive power" of literature -- e.g., Carlos Castaneda's "fairy tales" -- a valid and significant shamanic catalyst (Dan's description of his experiences with Castaneda is especially compelling: as his colleagues and students were well aware, they left him with a lasting wound).
This is a very personal book. Dan actually knew many of the authors whose work he analyzes so he brings an intriguing autobiographical component to his writing. This is a book that wants to be read "imaginatively" -- not straight through, in other words, but a chapter here, another there, as one feels an impulse to explore a particular theme, author, or idea.
As one who deeply values the mystical, numinous, and shamanic in what I write and what I read, and as a lover of others who do the same, I am naturally drawn to Dan's argument in favor of the arts as the West's path and portal to shamanism. I'm not willing to go as far as Dan, however. As I see it, there is an inevitable difference between what writers and painters do and what Pablo Amaringo and Jeremy Narby experience. Writing a brilliant, evocative novel about a ballet dancer, for example, cannot really be compared with actually being a Nijinsky, Nureyev, or Baryshnikov. To push it still further, even being one of those astonishing dancers would not be enough. Agnes de Mille understood this better than most when she wrote in Dance to the Piper: 171:Let us try to do a pueblo corn dance and see how far we get. Most ballet dancers think they can. It demands no muscles they haven't got. But the Indians can make the rains come.Only a few have that gift, of course. Even among indigenous peoples, shamans are the exceptions. For the rest of us, what Dan lays out so skillfully, from such a wide variety of perspectives and endlessly rich examples, is of great value in luring us more deeply into the nurturing, demanding realms of "an imaginal shamanism."
...To Hear the Angels Sing is a book I have revered for over a quarter of a century. Where Pablo Ameringo and other shamans make use of ayahuasca to tune into plant spirits and their songs, Dorothy MacLean found ways of communicating with this "singing" devic world without entheogens. I originally wrote the following review for amazon.com on 3 October 1999 and later gave it its own page in my Myth*ing Links' Crone Papers section. I am duplicating it here because she too is a great example of the shaman's Way:This is an extraordinary & hopeful vision of interspecies cooperation. I bought To Hear the Angels Sing in an earlier edition in 1982 and fell in love with it. Dorothy Maclean, a Canadian who became one of the founders of Findhorn, tells her story with wit and deep insight. As interesting as her life is, however, what fascinates me most is her ability to communicate with the devas, "angels," or "pattern-holders" of plants and trees (the Hindu term, deva, wasn't as well known when she first wrote the book so she called them "angels" and has retained that term in later editions). Her book includes transcripts of her dialogues with an extraordinary range of powerful nature spirits -- some speak of their vision of life; others complain about a humanity that refuses to listen; still others plead eloquently for interspecies cooperation between their realms and ours. The words are profound and often deeply moving. (The story that has stayed with me the longest is on pp.93-94 where Maclean picks up a pebble on a Scottish beach and has an unexpected encounter with the mineral deva.)...This is The Deer Goddess of Ancient Siberia: a Study in the Ecology of Beliefby Esther Jacobson, an art historian at the University of Oregon. In checking amazon.com tonight (10-11 September 2009), I am saddened to find that this book is no longer available. The data on ancient shamanism alone should have garnered a huge and very receptive worldwide audience. The book is rich, evocative, meticulously researched and beautifully written. What first caught my attention when I read this book in late 2003 were the potent archetypal mythic themes -- amazing data on the larch as world tree; ritual burial dolls (the forerunners of Vasilisa's wise doll-guide in much later Russian fairy tales); Deer Mother/Elk Mother/Bear Mother themes (FYI: were it not for the fact that ancient Bear Mother-worshipping peoples influenced the West before Deer/Elk Mother-worshipping peoples, the Great Bear (Ursa Major) constellation would be called the Great Deer (or Elk). Jacobson explores pre-shamanic cults with a wealth of engrossing data. These cults involved female-power as the Goddess or Mistress of the Hearth and Animals. As later more male-focused shamanism developed, Jacobson explores the continuing strong role of the feminine in, for example, decorative, ritual female garb worn by males along with many other unusual elements (Jacobson is especially brilliant in comparing and contrasting female and male power in Other Worldly realms). Finally, the book concludes with 21 B&W plates depicting a wide variety of detailed archaeological finds. I do hope Brill will make this book available again. It's too good to vanish.
Like all mystics, Maclean sees the Otherworlds through her own societal filters, which leads her to speak of a monotheistic male deity and sometimes to explain things in Christian terms (e.g., God's will, God's plan). Other than this minor quibble, the book is superb. Since reading it, I have never seen "reality" in the same way as before. I am not psychic but Maclean is so grounded and wise in her approach to such matters that I feel I can trust her insights. I may not be able to communicate with the devas myself, but that they are there, I no longer doubt. To a world as ecologically troubled, polluted, and out of balance as ours is, this book brings a vision of hope and offers a path of respect between the realms.
(Note: I also put this review on amazon.com in the hope that those interested in shamanism will help get this book reissued.)
...On many levels, psychological, mythic, ethical, archetypal, shamanic, and aesthetic, this is an extraordinary film. Based on a medieval Sami legend, Pathfinder is a 1989 Norwegian film with Sami actors (once called Laplanders), dialogue in Sami, and English subtitles in yellow so they can be seen against white snowscapes. Warning: there is intense, graphic violence, especially in the beginning. I used the film for nine years in a Ritual and Ceremony course I taught at Pacifica Graduate Institute. The first year, one of my students felt so sickened that she got up and walked out. I understood -- I feel the same way every time I see the film. Yet once she returned 5-10 minutes later, she was soon riveted by the thousand-year old story. The young hero, with his blindingly blue eyes, especially awed her. She said that the shamans she'd read about were usually dark, exotic men from New World deserts and jungles. To see a blue-eyed shaman gave her a sense that her own blue-eyed ancestors had equally deep, valid connections to the shamanic world, which therefore made it her world too, not something alien. She had tears in her eyes as she told me this. Some months later she informed me that she had actually purchased her own VHS copy of the film so that she could share it with her college-age son. In later summers, I always shared her story when I warned each class about the opening violence. I assured them it wasn't gratuitous -- it was part of the film's larger theme of interconnectedness.
There are currently 16 reviews at the amazon link above -- 13 of them give this film 5 stars, a rare tribute. The only complaint is that the film is in VHS and not DVD (there is finally a DVD version but it will not play on most systems in the USA -- it needs special equipment). Since many of the reviews give excellent summaries of the story, I will not offer one of my own. Instead, I will mention some of my favorite sequences....
The boy manages to escape from the villains, not because he successfully engages them in battle but because, although they have sophisticated crossbow technology, they do not yet have ski technology. The boy does -- he loses one ski, he is seriously wounded, yet the remaining ski allows him to flee and reach another small group of Sami many miles away. That group's shaman, or "pathfinder," tends to the boy's wounds and leaves him sleeping in a tent. When the boy awakens, he feels angry and lost. He doesn't know anyone in this group. His presence puts them at risk but he doesn't want to discuss what happened to his family -- he just wants to be left alone. He feels he doesn't belong here, has no connections here. He did his best to conceal his tracks and that's all they need to know.
The shaman returns, gets the boy to sit up and then asks the boy what he sees between himself and the wall of the tent. The boy stares sullenly and says he sees nothing. The man unexpectedly claps his hand firmly over the boy's mouth and nose, preventing him from breathing. Shocked, the boy struggles to free himself but the shaman is unrelenting. Close to strangling, the boy keeps fighting until the man finally releases him. Then he explains that what the boy considered "nothing" is all that keeps him alive -- it is what connects us to life itself. He says that as long as the people remain aware of that connection, all will be well. Once that sense of interconnectedness is broken, however, violence erupts and everything will unravel until harmony can be restored once more. The shaman understands that what makes the cold-blooded villains what they are is that they have lost all sense of connectedness. The boy accepts that among the Sami, he is always connected.
Shortly thereafter, the shaman tells the boy about a vision of a mystical stag he had many years ago when he was about the same age as the boy. It was that vision that told him he was called to be the tribe's pathfinder. He tells the boy that he saw the stag for the second time in his life on the very day the boy stumbled into their village. From this, the man knows his own life is nearing its end. Later, the boy will see the same numinous vision for himself.
Much later, when the boy is forced to guide the villains through a secret and dangerous mountain pass, he will use the very connectedness the villains have denied as his means of defeating them -- it is a brilliant and emotionally very satisfying reversal. And at the very end of the film, a wise woman and a shaman's drum play pivotal roles in the boy's awareness of who he now is -- again, very satisfying, powerful, unforgettable.
Menu of Common Themes, East & West:
[Note: see my home page for the most current list]
Animal Deaths in Europe: Of Cows & Madness
Artists & Muses: The Creative Impulse
Creation Myths I
Creation Myths II
Crones & Sages
Dragons & Serpents
Food: Sacrality & Lore
THE FOUR ELEMENTSEARTH:Green Men
Land: Sacrality & Lore (mountains, caves, labyrinths, spiral mounds, crop & stone circles, FengShui)
Earth Day & Environmental Issues
Earth Goddesses & Gods
Air: Sacrality & Lore (air, wind, sky, storms, clouds, weather lore)
Sky Goddesses & Gods
Fire: Sacrality & Lore (fire, northern lights, green-flashes, Elmo's Fire)
Fire Goddesses & Gods
Water: Sacrality & Lore(water, wells, springs, pools, lakes)
Floods & Rainbows: Mythologies & Science
Water Goddesses & Gods
Nature Spirits of the World
Rituals of Birthing [forthcoming]
Rituals of Death & Dying
Rituals of Puberty
Rituals of Weather-Working: An experimental, on-going ritual in cyberspace
Sacred Theatre & Dance
Star Lore & Astrology
Symbols, Signs, & Runes
Time(Calendars, Clocks, Natural Temporal Cycles, Attitudes toward Time, & Millennium Issues)
Trees & Plant Lore
Tricksters, Clowns, Magicians, Jesters & Fools
Wars, Weapns & Lies: The Dehumanizing Impulse
Weaving Arts & Lore (Cosmic Webs, Spinning, Spindles, Clothing)
Down to Geographical Regions: Africa
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Copyright 1998-2009 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
(11 December 2006: deleted old e-mail link -- interesting to look back at an early, untouched page from 1998!)
7-8 September 2009: saved old page with its single link as Shamanism 1998.
Then began expanding this new page. Re-launched 11 September 2009.