FSS Polestar: Shamanism for Local and Global Healing and Assistance

Faced with catastrophes of an epic scale — such as the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, and social injustice — how can I ethically bring the power of the compassionate spirits to help?

Faced with catastrophes of epic scale, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, massive fires in Siberia, California, and Australia, social injustice and inequality, and environmental degradation and species extinction, many people are seeking ways to help shamanically. Tragically, there is no shortage of major issues of planetary concern.

While the caring and compassion that motivates us to try to help is a beautiful thing, it may also result in unwise and harmful action for those unaware of the ethical issues associated with the healing uses of shamanic power.

We thought it might be helpful to remind ourselves of the importance and necessity for ethics and permission in the practice of shamanism. Being clear about permission issues when involving our helping spirits in healing activities is paramount, and can be especially complex when working on a large scale. One of Michael Harner’s greatest teachings was this ethical understanding, related to permission on every scale from the individual to the global — without which, no matter how sincere our hearts, we are still practicing sorcery.

With this in mind, we offer the following resources to help you in taking effective and ethical action to relieve pain and suffering in these dire times.

This column from FSS Polestar provides guidance on the ethical issues involved:
https://shamanism.org/news/fss-polestar-shamanism-in-natural-or-human-caused-disasters/

Guidelines regarding permission issues when doing shamanic healing, no matter the scale of the situation: https://shamanism.org/articles/ethics.html

Link to article from the FSS journal, Shamanism Annual, with a step-by-step overview of a process for applying shamanism to local and global issues: https://shamanism.org/news/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Mokelke-Divination-ProblemSolving-p29-31.pdf

Do you want to meet with others to learn and practice this process? Join us for the new advanced weekend workshop, Shamanism for Inspired Local and Global Change (in-person): https://shamanism.org/workshops/calendar.php?Wkshp_ID=38. NOW online: Shamanism for Inspired Local and Global Change (online): https://shamanism.org/workshops/calendar.php?Wkshp_ID=44.

In gratitude for your compassion for our world,
The FSS Staff
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Polestar logo design by Carolyn Fee ©2010 Foundation for Shamanic Studies
FSS Polestar highlights some of the questions we are frequently asked about contemporary shamanic practice. “Polestar” is defined as “something that serves as a guiding principle.” It reflects our commitment to helping practitioners stay oriented to authentic shamanic methods and ethics, while maintaining their own independent spirituality, which comes from learning directly from the compassionate spirits. Send us your practice-related questions for consideration for Polestar. Use our CONTACT FORM, and put “Polestar” in the subject line.

FSS Polestar: Visual and Non-Visual Shamanic Journeys

I’m concerned because my journeys are not very visual. Other people report a lot of vivid details from their journeys, almost as if they’re watching a movie. My journeys aren’t like that at all. I often just get vague, disconnected images. Am I doing something wrong?

Not everyone receives strong visual imagery when journeying, and “seeing” is not necessarily a more powerful or better way to journey. For some people, information comes to them more through other senses such as hearing, smell, emotions, and physical sensations such as changes in temperature. Also, the spirits can communicate to you in a variety of non-visual ways. You might, for instance, hear your spirit’s voice or get a feeling in your body when they are near. And sometimes they convey information directly to the heart, which may feel like an intuitive certainty about the issue of concern. Such journeyers often say: “I just knew in my heart.”

If you are not visual in your journeys, the main thing is to be very clear about when you are in the Upper or Lower World, versus the Middle World. If you don’t “see” the zones/barriers that you must pass through to reach these worlds in non-ordinary reality, you must still have certainty about where you are through whatever senses work well for you. If you are unclear about this, it is sometimes helpful to use the simultaneous narration method taught in the Harner Shamanic Counseling workshop.

As one becomes more practiced at interpreting the spirits’ messages, the ways the spirits communicate often shift. And so, a person who had unusually vivid journeys at the beginning may find the message is transmitted in more subtle ways, with less detail, but also with greater specificity and certainty about the answer. Alternatively, those who may have had difficulty perceiving the spirits’ communications at first, may experience visual and other senses sharpening and expanding, with clear messages coming through.

Ultimately, the spirits desire to help us and want to work with those who are assisting others and our world. Results are what matter in shamanism. Thus, if you are getting useful information and are able to work effectively with the helping spirits to help others, there is no need to be concerned about vividness or the manner in which the information is communicated.

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Polestar logo design by Carolyn Fee ©2010 Foundation for Shamanic Studies
FSS Polestar highlights some of the questions we are frequently asked about contemporary shamanic practice. “Polestar” is defined as “something that serves as a guiding principle.” It reflects our commitment to helping practitioners stay oriented to authentic shamanic methods and ethics, while maintaining their own independent spirituality, which comes from learning directly from the compassionate spirits. Send us your practice-related questions for consideration for Polestar. Use our CONTACT FORM, and put “Polestar” in the subject line.

FSS Polestar: Shamanism in natural or human-caused disasters

How can I provide shamanic help in cases of natural or human-caused disasters?

Shamanic healing is powerful and can produce miracles of healing. It also operates outside of ordinary reality time and space, so distance healing can be just as powerful as in person work. Where there is trauma from disasters such as war, earthquakes, terrorism, hurricanes, pandemics, massive fires, and so forth, distance shamanic work can bring spiritual healing to souls in need.

The issue of permission is always an important consideration in proceeding with shamanic work. An extra layer of complexity is added when doing distance work, whether for an individual or for large numbers of people. It is crucial in the ethical practice of shamanic healing and divination to obtain express permission, in ordinary reality, from any person for whom you are doing work. This is because none of us can presume to make decisions on behalf of another person’s soul, even if we feel sure that what we want to do is only for healing or “for the highest good.” See “Ethical Considerations in Shamanic Healing” for more: https://shamanism.org/articles/ethics.html.

Given the permission issues involved, there are generally two ways to proceed in cases of mass trauma. One option is to journey to the area of suffering and ask your helping spirits how best to help on a spiritual level. Here, the ethical issues discussed above are paramount. For instance, if in your journey you find living people experiencing pain and suffering, you cannot get permission to do shamanic healing for them from a distance. Remember, permission to work on behalf of living humans must be granted in ordinary reality, not telepathically or spiritually or by communicating with their soul. If, on the other hand, you encounter deceased human souls, you can offer psychopomp work; but again, only with each soul’s express permission and only if you have been trained in this work. Remember, too, that the Earth and all lifeforms and earth forms are ensouled and permission must be sought to use shamanic means to help. See also Shamanism for Local and Global Healing and Assistance.

A second way, often neglected, is to gather in ordinary reality factual information on the issue, then journey to your helping spirits to ask what you can do, in in ordinary reality, to help. The collection of information is an important preparatory step to successfully consulting with the spirits. Once you have done your ordinary reality work, the spirits build upon it and may offer surprising and elegant concrete and spiritual activities to help ease the suffering of the people, life forms, and earth forms involved in these larger disasters. For training and experience in using shamanic methods for addressing both local and largescale healing of our planet, please check out the new FSS advanced workshop, Shamanism for Inspired Local and Global Change: https://shamanism.org/workshops/calendar.php?Wkshp_ID=38. NOW online: Shamanism for Inspired Local and Global Change (online): https://shamanism.org/workshops/calendar.php?Wkshp_ID=44.

Due to climate change and other factors, these days we are experiencing an overwhelming amount of trauma and damage to the earth itself. Many shamanic practitioners want to work in partnership with their helping spirits to relieve the associated pain and suffering. Before proceeding, since the land, the water, the forests — indeed the Earth itself — and all of creation is inspirited, we must ask permission before doing any shamanic work. We do this by journeying to the soul of the land, the water, the trees, and other earth and life forms. And always, we consult with our helping spirits about how to proceed in a wise, ethical, and humble way, never assuming that we know what is best and have the final answers.

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Polestar logo design by Carolyn Fee ©2010 Foundation for Shamanic Studies
FSS Polestar highlights some of the questions we are frequently asked about contemporary shamanic practice. “Polestar” is defined as “something that serves as a guiding principle.” It reflects our commitment to helping practitioners stay oriented to authentic shamanic methods and ethics, while maintaining their own independent spirituality, which comes from learning directly from the compassionate spirits. Send us your practice-related questions for consideration for Polestar. Use our CONTACT FORM, and put “Polestar” in the subject line.

FSS Polestar: Imagination and reality in shamanic journeying

How do I know I’m not just imagining all this, or making it up?

This is a common question among beginning journeyers. Ultimately it is a question that we each must answer for ourselves. We live in a culture that exalts rational mind, intellect, and consensual reality. But we journey in non-ordinary reality where personal truth is experienced through the language of metaphor, feeling states, dreamlike imagery, and visions. What we “see” cannot be verified by others in the usual sense, so it’s easy to assume we’re just making things up. Shamanism is an independent spirituality, however, where each of us must come to know through personal experience the reality of the shamanic realms.

A little coaching about methodology can be helpful too. Successful journeying is a little like learning to drive a car. It’s not a passive process. You can’t just sit in the car and wait for something to happen. You have to start the car, put your foot on the gas pedal, and steer. Journeying is like that. At first it is likely that you are using a bit of imagination to get things started. For example, you have to imagine or visualize your point of departure. And then you have to be active in getting yourself to go up or down through the transition zones/barriers to reach the Upper and Lower Worlds. Journeying is not just drifting and hoping something will happen and imagination can be a valuable tool to get your journey going.

With consistent practice, most people realize that things are happening that they are not directing. Those who do shamanic healing report that information, often in the form of imagery, comes in journeys that is highly specific and relevant for the client yet astonishing to the practitioner. After a time of experiencing these kinds of surprising results and the healing that happens for the client because of it, you stop worrying about making things up. You start asking different questions like: Was the journey helpful? Did I get useful information? Did healing take place?

With experience, the question of “making things up” becomes irrelevant. What matters is the healing and transformation that takes place. And you become as the shamans of old: “one who knows,” not as a matter of faith but from your own direct experience.

For more about imagination and the reality of shamanic journeys, see: Cave and Cosmos, Shamanic Encounters with Another Reality by Michael Harner, chapter 8, beginning on page 109.

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Polestar logo design by Carolyn Fee ©2010 Foundation for Shamanic Studies
FSS Polestar highlights some of the questions we are frequently asked about contemporary shamanic practice. “Polestar” is defined as “something that serves as a guiding principle.” It reflects our commitment to helping practitioners stay oriented to authentic shamanic methods and ethics, while maintaining their own independent spirituality, which comes from learning directly from the compassionate spirits. Send us your practice-related questions for consideration for Polestar. Use our CONTACT FORM, and put “Polestar” in the subject line.

FSS Polestar: Core Shamanism, FAQ

When Michael Harner first introduced The Way of the Shaman in 1980, shamanism was little known outside of academia. The renaissance of contemporary experiential shamanism is largely due to his pioneering work over the last several decades researching, developing, and originating the methodologies of core shamanism.

As a result of Dr. Harner’s groundbreaking work, today tens of thousands of the Foundation’s students and many thousands more who have learned from these students are practicing shamanic methods of direct revelation from the spirits—a welcome phenomenon that offers hope for our Earth and its inhabitants. At the same time, the rapid growth of interest in shamanism and the resulting proliferation of programs and trainings that claim shamanic roots has resulted in much confusion and misunderstanding about what core shamanism is and about its power and efficacy.

As taught in the workshops and training programs of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, core shamanism:

  • Consists of the universal, near-universal, and common features of shamanism, together with journeys to other worlds, a distinguishing feature of shamanism.
  • Offers students the opportunity to learn and practice authentic, powerful, and effective shamanic healing and divination methods to high ethical standards–working with guidance and power provided by the compassionate helping spirits.
  • Is an independent spirituality, a path of direct revelation from the helping spirits.

The Foundation’s training in core shamanic methods provides the basis for a shamanic practice. To practice successfully, however, in addition to the methodology, one must build strong connections with the helping spirits, who provide the power for effective healing. These connections develop in strength over time through disciplined training and experience. Ultimately, we have found that success as a shamanic practitioner is dependent upon:

  • Developing spiritual power through working with the compassionate helping spirits over a period of time.
  • A disciplined and ethical application of the core shamanic healing methods taught in the workshops and trainings under the guidance of one’s own helping spirits.

For more about Foundation training, see the Getting Started guide: https://shamanism.org/workshops/shamanic-training-getting-started.pdf

A great starting point for learning about core shamanism is the FSS workshops FAQ page: https://shamanism.org/workshops/faq.php. Many common questions are addressed, such as:

What is a shaman?
https://shamanism.org/workshops/faq.php#faq1

What is core shamanism?
https://shamanism.org/workshops/faq.php#faq2

What about the quality and authenticity of the Foundation’s training programs?
https://shamanism.org/workshops/faq.php#faq4

If I complete the training programs of FSS, will I be a shaman?
https://shamanism.org/workshops/faq.php#faq11

In future Polestar columns we’ll talk about a number of these issues in detail, including some inspiring examples of the power of core shamanism in practice.

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Polestar logo design by Carolyn Fee ©2010 Foundation for Shamanic Studies
FSS Polestar highlights some of the questions we are frequently asked about contemporary shamanic practice. “Polestar” is defined as “something that serves as a guiding principle.” It reflects our commitment to helping practitioners stay oriented to authentic shamanic methods and ethics, while maintaining their own independent spirituality, which comes from learning directly from the compassionate spirits. Send us your practice-related questions for consideration for Polestar. Use our CONTACT FORM, and put “Polestar” in the subject line.

FSS Polestar: Can you learn shamanism and shamanic healing online?

As interest in shamanism grows, online training offerings are emerging. There are pros and cons to this trend. On the one hand, never before has it been so easy to connect with shamanic practitioners and shamanic resources from all over the world. This is an exciting development, since no one with access to a computer need feel isolated in their pursuit of information about shamanism. The downside is that the sheer volume of material makes it challenging to sort through it and to determine what is accurate, legitimate, and useful. And, even when you find accurate resources, having information and truly knowing are not the same thing.

We are both physical and spiritual beings. Shamanism is an embodied practice, traditionally taught and passed on within a living community, even though the spirits work outside of space and time. Through many years of experience teaching the methods of core shamanism, we have seen that the profound depth of live interaction among participants—supported by the power of the gathered circle and the presence of the compassionate helping spirits—is not duplicated in an online format. Though shamanism is an independent spirituality that emphasizes methodologies that help you connect directly to the spirits for answers and knowledge, it is no contradiction that achieving this personal freedom is most effectively facilitated by learning within a grounded and harmonious in-person community.

Online offerings can provide useful introductory information about shamanism and shamanic healing—what it is and its relevance to the individual and our world. As to shamanic methods, just as one can experiment with shamanic journeying by following the process set forth in Michael Harner’s The Way of the Shaman and Cave and Cosmos, an online course in shamanism may provide you with a glimpse into another reality of great power and possibility. This may help you to determine if shamanism is a good fit for your life, worth pursuing fully in a circle of like-minded students through in depth training with highly experienced shamanic teacher-healers.

More About Shamanism

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Polestar logo design by Carolyn Fee ©2010 Foundation for Shamanic Studies
FSS Polestar highlights some of the questions we are frequently asked about contemporary shamanic practice. “Polestar” is defined as “something that serves as a guiding principle.” It reflects our commitment to helping practitioners stay oriented to authentic shamanic methods and ethics, while maintaining their own independent spirituality, which comes from learning directly from the compassionate spirits. Send us your practice-related questions for consideration for Polestar. Use our CONTACT FORM, and put “Polestar” in the subject line.