Wednesday, October 7, 2009

not generic shamanism

One of the responses I've encountered to Michael Harner's "Core Shamanism" is that it is "generic". I understand the charge. Harner essentially plucks shamanic practices out of the context of the indigenous culture and drops them into our Post-Tribal Culture without much – if any – context. His idea seems to be that when many cultures all do the same thing, that this thing is "core" to shamanic practice and can thus be done by others not of that culture as well. In a sense, it's like he's offering a non-branded version of shamanism.

I wish to differentiate this approach to shamanism from Post-Tribal Shamanism. While "Core Shamanism" extracts practices from their tribal contexts, it is still derived from that matrix. The practice of Post-Tribal Shamanism is often inspired by the practices of indigenous shamans, but is embedded in the matrix of our Post-Tribal culture. It is a non-tribal "brand", but it's still a "brand".

One of the challenges of Post-Tribal shamanic practice is that the context in which we operate is so different from the other "brands" of shamanism. One simple example of this is the fact that we, in this Post-Tribal culture are not brought up with an understanding and awareness of our ancestors or the fact that we are part of something much larger than ourselves. Our parents may have something to say about this, but the culture itself does not respect or honor the ancestors. It does not honor or value the Earth, spirit or our own souls. While the other brands of shamans are helping their people to focus on their place in the world and how to function appropriately, we Post-Tribal Shamans must begin by reminding our people that they are part of a tapestry of life that stretches from their ancestors, through them, to their descendants. We must help each individual discover their own balance – the way in which it makes sense for them to live. There are no "brand specific" qualities that easily fulfill this need. Instead, we must constantly improvise in the moment to come up with what is needed to deal with Now.