For me, a person’s ability to perceive and communicate with the Otherworld, to hear the thoughts of animals, to communicate with the ancestors are all part of a mystery tradition we now call shamanism. Our own indigenous shamanism goes by different names such as the Faery Faith, the Elder Faith, Druidry or else Witchcraft.
The Victorian era saw the beginning of the modern day spiritualism with which we are familiar today. Anyone can attend a spiritualist church and see a medium perform his or her craft. The Spiritualist National Union which grew out of the early spiritualist movement, has done an incredible job of bringing mediumship into the modern era, removing some of its mystery and making it available to all. One of its tenets is that mediumship should be evidential, setting out to provide its audiences with personal evidence that the individual soul continues to survive beyond the grave. The incredible standard of mediumship that is taught in The Arthur Findlay College, now owned by the Spiritualist Nationalist Union, and at the College of Psychic Studies in London, is by anyone’s standards an amazing achievement and has propelled this ancient art into the modern era. This essentially belongs to shamanism. Sadly spiritualism has also become somewhat divorced from its ancient past and from shamanism both in this country and worldwide.
Those of the Old Ways, our ancient shamans, always had reverence for our ancestors, those loved ones who had passed before. Imagine the days when you may have had to survive alone in the wilderness with a small family group. Would it not be natural to call upon your grandfather or great-grandfather or your ancestral clan spirit to come and tell you how to heal a loved one; which herb to use; where to find water? From this perspective, shamanism was an essential part of our ancestors’ daily life. The numinous infused all parts of their lives.
One of my very first experiences when learning the art of stillness and meditation was precisely this: I had the most rotten toothache from having a wisdom tooth removed and yet the pain was not so bad that I wanted to reach into the medicine cabinet. Suddenly I heard a loud internal voice, “Chew willow bark.” it instructed. I was in my early twenties at the time and had no idea what herbs were used for what. I looked up the actions of willow bark and found that it contained a natural source of aspirin. A modern day shamanism in practice!
It would be natural to link in your mind’s eye to try to view a distant clan, to read their intentions in relation to your clan. Were they planning an attack? What were their intentions towards you and your family? Historians often talk of “ancestral cults” but I rarely do we use that term in modern parlance. It would be strange to hear Spiritualism being described as an ancestral cult. And yet shamanism essentially is its parent.
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