Singing the Shaman's Song

At that moment when the shaman song emerges, when the sacred breath rises up from the depths of the heart, the center is found, and the source of all that is divine has been tapped.

from Joan Halifax, Shamanic Voices

Song can be a salve, a celebration, a lamentation, a bridge to other worlds.

From the earliest times, humans have known that song, and its accompanying poetry, could take us out of our ego selves and transport us into the hidden, magical realms where spirits dwell. Along with the drum and the rattle, the shaman's song allows us to transcend this physical world and re-member again our connection to the source, to experience again the unity of the universe.

This page is in honor of the shamanic tradition which I believe underlies all human religions and belief systems, as shamanism has been practiced on every inhabited continent in the world since paleolithic times.

Since antiquity, shamans have been those individuals gifted with the ability to access the hidden realities and to dialogue with spiritual representatives of the universe for the purposes of healing and divination. Shamans also believe strongly in the interconnectedness of all things; therefore, everything that exists--including rocks, tree, animals, the elements--is alive and imbued with spirit and is capable of being communicated with; even their songs can be learned and sung. In tribal cultures, shamans are the healers, the medicine people, or simply, "those who know," those who learn from both the natural and the spiritual worlds.

Remarkably, there are techniques that are known and practiced in common in very diverse cultures around the globe. How is it that cultures that anciently had no physical contact and dramatically different lanugages and art forms indeed had common shamanic practices? The only plausible explanation is that these diverse peoples were practicing similar methods because they worked! Shamanism is our common human heritage.

In a world now out of balance, the shaman's path can teach us much. Core shamanism looks at universal or near-universal shamanic techniques without focusing on specific cultural elaborations. As a spiritual discipline, it can offer us access to the realms of non-ordinary reality that are mostly ignored in our culture. By interacting with power animals and spiritual teachers, we can get questions answered, problems solved, and healing received for ourselves and others.

As the end of this millenium draws near, more and more people are "coming to consciousness" about matters of the spirit, realizing faster and faster that the gods of materialism and greed which have ruled are no longer enough. People want more. There are, of course, many equally valid paths to spiritual "knowing." Shamanism is simply the path for me; when I found "core shamanism" I knew I was home. Today, we shamanic practitioners can, as have shamans for thousands of years, be public servants--to help make fragmented individuals, and eventually the Planet, more whole, more together. Pain and suffering are everywhere in this physical realm, and by working in cooperation in a reciprocal way with spirit helpers, we can help to ease this pain.

The Healing Power of Shamanic Song

One unique way to attempt to heal pain and illness is through SHAMANIC SONG, which I passionately believe is an extraordinary way to re-connect us with ourselves, others, and the planet. For the past few years, following the directives of my spirit helpers, I have come to realize the potency of singing in my own healing practice. I have always loved to sing, but I am not a trained singer or musician. However, in doing my shamanic work, I consistently was guided to use singing to help myself and to help others.

Thus, my healing methods have been transformed. No longer do I simply take a shamanic journey silently; now I rattle and sing my journeys out loud. No longer do I sit in nature and just listen passively to the messages the trees and air and water are giving me; now I pick songs off the air like ripe fruit from trees and sing them--songs about healing, songs about cleansing, songs about clarity. I no longer just lay my hands on clients; I now allow songs to come through me to help each individual.

These songs are never the same, and often I can't remember them later. They are neither from me, nor for me anyway. They are uniquely suited to each client and each situation. In fact, often I am guided to put my mouth directly on or over a particular area of the body and sing into that site of dis-ease, sometimes while I am rattling or drumming. The vibration, as well as the melody, has strong healing power, particularly with localized illness.

But perhaps the most powerful result I have seen occur from shamanic healing song is on the emotional level. When was the last time anyone sang to you? Maybe, if you were fortunate, your parents sang to you when you were a child, but that was likely years ago. When I sing to clients in healing sessions, I do so from a place of compassion as I "step out of my own way" and allow the loving powers of the universe to work through me. I focus on being a conduit, an "instrument" and indeed I feel "played through." When people feel this universal love, focused exclusively on them, and they hear a beautiful melody sung just for them, they often deeply moved. They may cry from a very deep place within themselves, or they may allow themselves to release their long-stored emotions in other ways.

Also, shamanic singing does not require any type of musical aptitude. Like toning, it is about tapping into our own soul songs, bringing them up and releasing them without concern for "how it sounds." Many of us were told at early ages that we couldn't sing, couldn't dance, didn't have any rhythm, and have become, as adults, afraid to express our true voices. We may only sing in the car when we are alone for fear of being ridiculed. I feel this is another way we become fragmented from who we truly are, by having our true soul voices silenced, by putting them on a shelf way deep inside ourselves.

In my workshop entitled, "Singing the Shaman's Song," participants are given techniques to remove the blocks they've built up, to dust off their soul voices and then allow them to finally gush forth in release. The two-day workshop introduces a variety of shamanic singing techniques that I have learned about both from my own spiritual helpers and shamanic training and through research into the cross-cultural uses of shamanic song.

By utilizing the shamanic journey, drumming, movement, and spending time alone in nature, participants will learn to apply song to heal the self, others and the planet. Therefore, over the course of the weekend, we start with the strictly personal and then gradually move to the more transpersonal. This movement supports the belief that one must heal the self before attempting to heal others, that healing begins with the individual and then extends outward to embrace all that exists, honoring our interconnectedness with all of life. Participants will leave the workshop with their own songs, techniques for healing with song, and ideas for how to manifest healing in their own lives.

Core Shamanism

Michael J. Harner's (author of The Way of the Shaman ) Foundation for Shamanic Studies is an international organization of the highest integrity, completely dedicated to teaching and preserving shamanic ways, which are indeed our birthright. The Foundation offers many courses (weekend, five-day, and longer) in "core shamanism" which is non-culture specific shamanism. They only teach universal or near-universal shamanic techniques common to many cultures.

I graduated in June 1998 from the Foundation's Third East-Coast Three-Year Program in Advanced Shamanism and Shamanic Healing, and to say the least, it has *changed* my life. I am have found my life's work: to be a tool for the spirits, to help others to heal. I do soul retrieval, power animal retrieval (restoring lost power connections), extraction healing (removing spiritual side of localized illness), psychopomp (death and dying work), and conduct workshops in introductory and advanced shamanic techniques.

As part of my on-going interest in shamanic song, in addition to the workshop, I am also currently doing research into the healing power of shamanic song. I am doing research into existing scholarship on cross-cultural shamanism for three purposes: