My personal involvement with shamanism started some 30 years or so ago whilst on what may appear at first sight to be a totally unrelated path.
At an early age I developed a deep interest in the mystical side of our nature, it was as if I was instinctively drawn towards anything that was different or had a freakish nature and was coupled the suspicion that there was much more going on in the world than met the eye. I would spend hours exploring the overgrown orchard and the abandoned farm that backed onto my parents property, the place seemed to be virtually alive with the spirits of nature who had reclaimed the land as their own.
As the years progressed I became ever more interested in the possibilities of our human potential. It was like I was been driven by some invisible force that was guiding my life in a certain direction, and even though I was regularly informed that there was most certainly no such thing as real magik in our world, I decided not to take anyone’s word for it and purchased several popular esoteric books on the subject.
In time the arguments that I read that were in favour of magik existing totally outweighed those that didn’t and I settled into the study and ritual practice of it, a pursuit which can perhaps be best described as being that of causing a willed outcome in the world around us.
Several years passed by, then one day sometime in the early 1980’s I was in the doctor’s waiting room sat flicking through the pages of one of those tatty magazines that you tend to find in there, when I stumbled upon an article that was entitled something along the lines of “Shamanism and the art of ecstasy”. After reading the short article, what struck me almost immediately, was the notion that my own system of ritual magik may have actually been somewhat derived from this ancient practice, or was at least linked in many ways to it.
The article had created more than a little interest within me and so I decided that it would be prudent to read up on everything I could find on the subject, which in due course I did, and then set out on a journey that lead me towards discoveries of what appeared to be important links within many of humanities cultural beliefs systems, involved meeting and practicing with native shaman, and eventually culminated in an actual shamanic death and rebirth experience.
Reading about shamanism was all well and good, but in time I yearned to meet an actual practitioner, so when the opportunity to spend a short time with a South American shaman who was visiting our country arose, I of course jumped at the chance.
After several intense initiation sessions I started to gain a grasp of the major techniques that were involved, the language barrier wasn’t too much of a problem and I quickly opened up towards the various methods that may be employed towards entering trance states. I was shown ways by which we may commune with the spirits, and eagerly took on board abstract ideas such as how songs and vibrational vocal tones could be used as a healing tool.
A few months later another opportunity presented itself and I met up with a Siberian shaman who introduced me to the power of rhythmic drumming and taught me how it is possible to ride upon the beat of the drum in order to journey to other worlds. At face value both of these initiation experiences appeared to be somewhat divided but were obviously linked at a deeper level of understanding.
I spent the next few years putting much of what I learned into practice, but rather than emulating any single method I decided to move towards doing things in my own way via the creation of an eclectic system that involved several variations on the traditional.
I hadn’t in any way lost my interest in ritual magik, and as previously mentioned had begun to notice what appeared to be several important links between the two. If shamanism was the natural ability to connect towards different states of universal energy, then it stood to reason that ritual magik could perhaps be utilized towards a system of controlling the parameters of the experience, more than this, a grafted system that brought to two together thus creating synergetic effect seemed to be the logical way to go.
It was at this very point in time that I had been reading personal accounts from people who had experienced what is commonly described to as a shamanic death, and by coincidence, (Which any experienced occultist will tell you doesn’t exist), I was also investigating accounts from people who had carried out an infamous ritual as mentioned in an ancient grimoire entitled “The ancient magic of Abramelin”. If this is carried out correctly it is said to connect you with your holy guardian angel.
After taking time to do some in depth study into both subjects it appeared more than likely that these experiences were also powerfully linked at an exceptionally deep level, after all, each group had experienced purification/healing of the body, mind and soul within their core working in conjunction with a destruction of the old sense of self or soul which was then replaced with a new version, being a self reborn or a healing of the shattered soul.
These ancient magical books are not only riddled with superstition, they also tend to contain a sea of blinds that are designed to disguise the real processes involved and guide the unworthy student away from the true path.
I had begun to suspect that the inner workings of the Abramelin book were actually a description of an ancient technique that could be employed in order to trigger the shamanic death experience at will.
By the later part of the 1980’s I decided that I was ready to put theory into practise and took it upon myself to approach this ritualistic working from both ends of the spectrum, I would include elements from those laid out in the said book in combination with much of what I had learned from actual practice of traditional shamanism, and although I was excited at the prospects of where this may take me, in hindsight the truth of the matter was that I wasn’t nearly as prepared as I would have liked to have thought I was for the severity of what I was about to endure.
After constructing a ritual working area the reality of the many restrictions that the ritual called for started to hit home. I brought in a radical change of diet and more or less lived out the life of a puritan for the next 18 months.
Each day I would get up early and watch the sun rise, spend some time drumming whilst mentally traveling within hyperspace then allow myself to open up towards the universal spirit. An important part of the process involves facing up towards anything that may be lodged in your conscience such as wrong doing that you may have carried out during your life, this can even be anything ranging from actual physical harm to negative thoughts you may have had about yourself and others, these issues must be faced head on in order that they can be internally resolved and laid to rest.
As the days slowly passed by I started to feel a certain degree of calmness and inner peace that was profound in a way that I had never experienced before, then as the days became weeks something strange started to happen, something within me was changing, not just mentally but also physically. It started with an extreme acuteness of the senses, my hearing, sight and other senses appeared to becoming ever sharper, my internal powers of visualization had become powerfully enhanced, it felt to all the world that I was becoming super human. Then without warning there came the crash; on the night of the New Year I came down with a powerful fever that lasted for several days.
A week or so later the fever subsided and I awoke to find myself almost totally removed from the world that I had always known. My vision had collapsed into a new, two-dimensional interpretation of the world; in fact I had no depth of vision what so ever. The end of the street would appear to be no further away than the tip of my nose, and on top of this my balance, taste and sense of smell had also become disjointed as if I had somehow side stepped from myself in some indescribable manner. On top of this I had suddenly developed endless allergies and my body refused to tolerate anything that was processed.
My first thoughts were that I may have had a stroke or something of the like, but after endless medical tests they failed to find any physical or mental cause, and I was reminded of the shaman’s words, “Before you can become whole your soul must be ripped apart in order that it can heal”
These were long difficult days that sometimes felt to last an eternity, but as time slowly ebbed away, some three years later I found my senses slowly starting to resemble something more familiar and the allergies eased a little. Given a few months more my sight also returned, it was still super sensitive (as it is still today) so I took wearing dark glasses whenever possible in order to combat the blinding brightness.
Although the world had returned in all its glory, everything was somehow different, it was now flowing with energy, I could see how the whole of creation was linked via its connection to base energy, and it became obvious that any sense of separation was no more than an elaborate illusion. More than this, I did appear to have built a connection to my higher self, or perhaps a second self within the subconscious mind that was capable of passing on unfiltered information, a super mind, as it has been referred to, either way there was no doubt about it, I had returned from the journey different, my soul had indeed been shattered and born anew.
It had been a true shamanic death and rebirth at a very personal level that was beyond anything that I had envisaged, not an epiphany that many people appear to mistakenly confuse shamanic death with. The lengthy ritual had been an ordeal but it had given me plenty of time to study and draw insights together from a varied selection of practices and religions.
Many shamanic based belief systems include a world tree, or Axis Mundi as it is referred to, a portal between the upper and lower worlds of existence, it was quite simple to see how many religions may have reinterpreted this ideology into their mythos as being a heaven or hell scenario.
In fact the origins of many things that I had previously thought to be unconnected even within my own work had suddenly become quite evident.
Above all of these I found the wand to be a very interesting case, many modern esoteric practices include the use of one in one manner or another, many ancient societies around the world such as those of the ancient Egyptians also depicted the use of a wand or staff, so I came to the question, could it be that the idea behind using a wand was actually derived from that of the shamans drumstick? And if this were the case why would the drum no longer have been used in conjunction?
After many months spent pondering this question I began to suspect that the most likely answer may lie in the fact that in many cases around the world the traditional practice of shamanism has often been driven underground. This could also have been the case during early periods of our pre-history, after all even within relatively modern times the practice of shamanism has been known to be outlawed in areas such as Siberia. If this was the case and the practice had indeed become repressed or outlawed due to new belief systems, superstition, or the introduction of religion, the percussive use of the drum would have become all but impossible in populated areas due to its unmistakable sound.
Any shaman born to the role in life and would have always found a way to continue his or her practice of the art, they would instinctively know that a drumstick could still be used in silent motion whist mentally visualizing it striking of the skin of the drum in time to the rhythm of creation. Working in this way as a sole practitioner or group, they would have been able covertly continue their practices.
As time moved on the original use of the drum may have eventually become a lost art or redundant towards the internal art of visualization or even resurface from the collective consciousness in its original form as we see today.
The more I considered this hypothesis the more likely it appeared to be that the wand as used in many modern day esoteric practices is in fact a symbolic drum stick, directionally beating our concentrated willed intent against the energetic surface of creational reality.
What we can know for certain is that those of us that are destined to walk the shamanic path and take that journey into the realms of the unspeakable will always feel the calling from deep within the shadows of our own subconscious, choosing whether or not to take that first step may be the biggest decision that we ever make in life.
Copyright Richard Gordon 2013
My work and ideas are regularly published in underground and pagan magazines such as "Greenmantle" and the "enlightening times"as well as mainstream sites such as "The Sabotage times", I've also been featured in alternative culture magazines such as "Bizarre".
I've studied magik (magick), shamanism alongside many other esoteric belief systems for over 30 years and have a great interest in informational subculture and alternative lifestyles.
Latest posts by Richard Gordon (see all)
- Richard Gordon: ‘Genesis of the Gods’ - Jan 5, 2014
- The Universal Energy Symbol / Sigil – by Richard Gordon - Aug 16, 2013
- Ritual Shamanism – The Drum and the Wand - Apr 18, 2013