A Few Words on Shamanism

Mircea Eliade one of the first anthropologists to explore Shamanism and write about it in the early sixties writes in his book: Shamanism: Archaic techniques of ecstasy:

“Shamanism in the strict sense is pre-eminently a religious phenomenon of Siberia and Central Asia, The word comes to us, through  the Russian, from the Tungusic ‘saman’…..It has been sought to explain the Tungusic term by the Pali ‘samana’ which is part of the problem of Indian influences on Siberian religions.”

In the book ‘Shamanic voices’ by Joan Halifax we can read the first hand stories as told by shamans and medicine men of today from all corners of the globe including: Australia, South America and Mesoamerica, North America , Siberia, Greenland and Africa.

Shamanism in all cases is performed by a chosen few either because they come from a hereditary line of shamans or because they were chosen by experienced shamans to become shamans. Shamanism proper does not seem to accept volunteers.

Joan Halifax quotes from the Ikinilik:

“I am not a shaman, as I have neither had dreams nor been ill”

In all cases without exception something out of the ordinary must happen for someone to become a shaman. After that person has gone through the ordeals of his initiation his job is always that of a healer, a seer a connoisseur of the language of the spirits of the area and a spiritual advisor to the people.

(Personally I doubt very much that a shaman can operate outside his habitat. How can a shaman from Africa use his helpers and spirits to heal if he resides in America or UK?Also shamans have to adhere to strict diets which are dictated by the specific spirits of the area where the shaman lives. So in India for instance the shaman will never eat meat, but in Siberia they must.)

To do his job the shaman learns or has innate knowledge of how to cultivate the trance state which enables him to draw power from the other world and to bring it to the people who need it. His spirits, guardian animals and helpers advise him as to what tools he needs to make and the content of the rituals he performs and so he busies himself making strange power objects, potions etc

The following quote from the Huichol is revealing  as to the world that the shaman accesses in order to draw his power:

“There is a doorway within our minds that usually remains hidden and secret until the time of death. The Huichol word for it is ‘nierika’. Nierika is a cosmic portway or interface between so-called ordinary and nonordinary realities. It is a passageway and at the same time a barrier between worlds. Nierika a decorated ceremonial disc, is also said to mean mirror as well as face of the diety.”…

Joan Halifax writes that “Nierika is the threshold through which one passes on the voyage to the world of death and visions.”

The initiations that the ‘would be shamans’ have to go through vary from place to place but are always harsh. Sometimes someone is empowered after a period of illness when they are said to die and then be reborn or granted life so that they can then go on to heal, or they may be empowered after an accident such as being struck by lightening or bitten by a poisonous snake etc

Many would be shamans die during their ordeals because these require almost superhuman strength to survive.

From the Escimo/caribou:

Igjugarjuk was compelled by the mysterious divine force Sila to become an ‘angakoq’ (shaman). As a young man he was besieged by dreams that he did not understand…..

The old man Perqanak was chosen as his instructor. In the depth of winter, Igjugarjuk was put on a sledge just large enough for him to sit on and taken far from his home. When he reached the appointed spot, he remained on the sledge while Perqanaq built a snow hut so small that the neophyte could barely sit cross-legged in it. Not permitted to set foot on the snow he was lifted from the sledge, carried into the hut, and placed on a small piece of skin. He was not allowed any food or drink and was exhorted to think of only the Great Spirit and of the helping spirit that should presently appear….. Igjugarjuk declared that the strain of those thirty days was so severe that he “sometimes died a little”.

He recounts:

“When I was to be a shaman, I chose suffering through the two things that are most dangerous to humans, suffering through hunger and suffering through cold. First I hungered five days and was then allowed to drink a mouthful of warm water; the old ones say that only if the water is warm will Pinga and Hila notice the novice and help him. Thereafter I went hungry another fifteen days, and again was given a mouthful of warm water. After that I hungered for ten days, and then could begin to eat, though only the sort of food there is never any taboo, preferably fleshly meat and never intestines, head , heart, or other entrails, nor meat that had been touched by wolf or wolverline when it lay in cache. I was to keep to this diet for five moons, and then in the next five mons might eat everything; but after that  I was again forced to eat the diet that is prescribed for all those who must do penance in order to become clean.”…

 Even in cases where a European has approached shamans asking for initiation he has to undergo physical hardship such as fasting and walking for days on end and also ingest ‘power plants’ which bring on near death experience.

The anthropologist Michael Harner (who founded the ‘centre for shamanic studies’ and even a degree course on shamanism!) was initiated by the Jivaro Indians of Ecuador. Part of his initiation included ingesting the sacred drink ‘ayahuasca’, the “soul vine” also called “the little death”.

Michael Harner  after his fieldwork sought to bring together all the various shamanistic techniques mentioned by Mircea Eliade and to train anyone who wants to be a shaman in any place in the world.

Indeed his well written and user friendly book “The way of the shaman’ has been a best seller since the 1980 and gives a taste of shamanism.

A very different type of shamanism (if it can be called that at all), was shown by Carlos Castaneda. He advocates that the ultimate way to wellbeing and healing is by attaining freedom of perception: a state where one can ‘see’ energy as it flows through the universe.

Although he himself endured many hardships through his initiations to become a ‘seer’ the modern form of ‘Tensegrity’ which he founded can be followed easily by anyone but it does not claim to produce shamans. It is something altogether different. A way to true wellbeing,  power and knowledge.

….And so I think is ‘Heesht

It sounds more like a meditation or  mystical path where one aligns oneself with the rhythms of nature. This I believe is a worthwhile exercise but not ‘shamanism’ -as the history of its practice shows-.

What is interesting is that in shamanism the initiatition process or incident is so powerful that you can only undergo it once in your lifetime and its effects are long lasting. They last for a lifetime (as long as one doesn’t abuse the power through alcohol or other)

In meditation  and mystical paths on the other hand it is more a case of continuous practice to have access to the unknown. Experience has shown that both ways have validity.

Byron Zeliotis


Heesht – The Way of the Peasant

From the Saroeso library

The Way of the Peasant

Starts with a dreamy child who is fascinated by the agility of ants and watches dreamily the movement of the grass as the wind blows or rain falls on water, making a mirror of a still pool, reflecting the unseen.  Heesht watches and follows with interest the autumn flocks of birds as they patrol in their thousands.  Heesht’s interest is not diverted by the singular movement but surveys the all as one.  It does not shift, it is not captured by one thing or another.  It is as though the spiders web of captivity of interest does not exist.  The butterfly of thought is not caught in the web of why, where or how.  Heesht follows the moment and rides the continuously changing reflections.  Heesht sees the rising and falling of clouds of insects in the air and is held by the web of movement’s interest. It follows the rising and falling of the smoke from the fire as it tells its tale and watches the snow and the sleet following the wind and the weather.  Heesht listens to the bells of the sheep ringing in the hills and sees the slow rising and falling of the hills and valleys and the swelling and shrinking of water in the tides on the seashore.  It sees the circling of the lights around the northern or southern star and the paths followed by the sun and the moon in their travels around the sky.

To recognise a budding shaman on its growing is the main task of a shaman.  Heesht shows itself at a very early age and can be spoilt at this age. The faculty must be nurtured at an age when it is assumed the child has few chances to act on its own. All grown ups can remember the unnerving gaze of a young child: it just looks at you, not judging, with the result that you judge yourself, and this ends with you liking yourself or otherwise. It triggers off your own mirror in effect, and you see yourself through its eyes. You must look for the child with this faculty and the ability to sustain its state for longer than 100 breaths.  Timing is essential in detection of the budding Heesht, then further tests: does the child appear to see entities not physically present?   One danger is mistaken kindness – one must not pity the child, but one must feel what it feels.  Does Heesht like clouds, insects, birds or animals?  Does it spend its time in high places watching them; is it fascinated by flowing water, thunder, lightning or the stars in the sky?  Is dusk or dawn interesting to it?  Mistaken attempts to attract its interest must be resisted – you remember what happened to you when you were enjoying a scene, and the other person said ‘Did you see…’ that bird? or that sight? or that beautiful experience?

Isiladia Pure reflection field equanimity     mugagabe/


ignorance / wisdom 1
Adi aldatua abstract attention force reverie volitional formations 2
Aldamena scattered attention flow hidden agenda progenitive consciousness 3
Liluradurako attracted attention form field mest*


  Energy mind
Atzemana Captured attention force mind base 5
Euskora Held attention flow contact 6
Galdegai egina focussing attention field form feeling 7
Ezarria Imposed attention force agenda decision craving 8
Izatea identified attention flow clinging 9
Antzemena recognised attention form field becoming 10
Etiketa labelled attention force birth 11
Gainezkoa redundant attention flow death 12
Aztarna remnant form

Ikusia – sight
Soinua – sound
Dasta – Taste
Ukimena – touch
Suma – smell
Ahalegina – effort
orabidea – orientation

*mest = mass, energy, space, time

The basque words above are open to change –  we are not sure if we have the right ones – in fact the whole document is open to change and additions are welcomed.

Dependent Origination

From the Sareoso Library, related to diagram 29, Sortu Ernealdi.

The fool said “We come to the mirror of fame, wherein you may be or see everything you may have been or will be”.  We entered a long tunnel lit by a sort of blacklight, pale blue but flashing on and off at intervals.  The fool was humming loudly and singing snatches of tunes which I remembered from my pasts.

There were great peals of bells and huge-sounding organs, flocks of flutes, resounding choruses of bass and baritone, great sussurations of bats and depredations of locusts; the sounds of insects in their millions, moths, ants and wings of grasshoppers singing as they flew, and as they flew they were joined by the little cabbages, great wheels, and winged messengers, which all arose until they filled the very heavens and the grand chorus of sound filled the heaven above and below.

There appeared to be many choruses and orchestras, led by charismatic figures who were conducting this great festival of soundless sound which swelled into fullness and faded into lambent silence, rising and falling into the depth of depths, where the small mirrors came into being and passed away as they mirrored the conductors of the songs as they came into the light and passed away, and all the lights of heaven, earth and water were lit and this orchestra of light and sound mixed together and gave me whatever I wanted of sight and sound, taste, smell and texture, balance; all the libraries were there if I wished to look them up, and all the books of shape and name were laid out before me, but the fool took out a mirror and said “What do you see?”

“I see you,” I said.

“And who am I?”

and I saw that it was me looking from the other mirror, focussed by my image of myself, which I had chosen at the great orchestra, and I met the great orchestra and chorus because I saw myself as the charismatic leader of a small part of the soundless sound chorus.  I had wanted this power and ability and hung on to its attributes until I became one with them and then I knew myself and became me – and from this point I knew it.

I grew, and even then as I grew I became less able to do and I went, going down into silence at a higher pitch of soundless sound, and then into the great abyss where life came into existence, striking the balance between what has been and what may be. Wisdom exists in the moment after it has been – before, it is only possible. What is, is not this, not that – I am that I am, balanced by what I shall be, and el ha yam (being life itself; ‘god of the ocean’.)

The black hole opens at one end at death and comes out at the other at wisdom, which is the womb of the mother, which is zpe (zero point energy), wherein all energy  is available to formulate all worlds.

Ignorance is knowing what you do not know, and provides the impetus for further proliferation, for it seeks out what is not known and provides the impetus for consciousness, which is further division into name and form.

Having divided into names, one has to divide names; that is to say, one must then add labels.  Items must have identity – they must be recognisably different from one another.

They are aided in this by the faculties of mind, and further by the sense doors, which give further form and name to experience.

This is then given reality by contact with the object in view, and a feeling arises. At this stage, one desires more ordinary knowledge about the object and one desires the object until it has become one’s own.

When it becomes one’s own it then comes into being as a separate identity and acquires a life of its own, and this internal object begins its deterioration towards its death.

When it ceases to exist it then joins the kingdom of discarded shells and begins its descent into the abyss (the ‘black hole’), where it is separated into inner and outer being – the outer being is the focuses of power from which the cosmic egg develops after the entrance of cosmic truth into the egg of the mother.

El ha yam emerges as wisdom…

Then I entered a level land of dry grass, which was full of dried flowers that shivered with my passing, and Heesht saw before it an old lighthouse on the strand, which stood proud of and towered over the field it was built in, but this lighthouse did not seem to be of stone – it was built out of a material that shimmered in the light of day and seemed to be of ice. However it was not ice – it was transparent like ice but was not capable of being scratched.

Heesht came to the door of the lighthouse and entered. The stairs led upward in a spiral and they widened as they rose, so that each tread became an entry into §a larger space.

Heesht came to the first floor of the house, which contained a huge machine laid flat out in the space, not compact as a normal machine would be. Its parts were separated but were driven by a great finger which turned endlessly in its centre. The entire floor was turning and each part of the machine turned in sympathy with the great turning finger.

On the next floor the steps increased in width and depth – with each step upward the area extended, until it could no longer be contained by Heesht’s vision.

Heesht came to the third floor and it was in a cage of five sides – each side was in the likeness of a precious stone: one was diamond, one was a delicate topaz, then rock crystal, then emerald, followed by a shadowed citrine. These five sides rotated like wheels turning. They also turned about a centre where a sort of light was emitted – this light was a sort of black light that was shadowless; it rested on everything it touched and was not absorbed but automatically reflected perfectly.

On the upper floor of the house from where the lightless light came , Heesht came up to the top landing where the light would be, and found the centre held by a golden ball which was incandescent and surrounded by a sort of doughnut of substance which was as dark as obsidian but as solid as a gas and was studded all over with little sort of gyroscopes. These were of three types: what one would call a ‘top-bottom’, a ‘left-right screw’, and a ‘front-back’ gyroscope –


They moved over the surface of the doughnut and varied in size as they moved, and as they moved, each gave off a silver light as though each one was a sparkle of light given off by a spark struck from the hammer of a divine smith. This ball of emitted light was contained within a ball of glass and the ball concentrated the fire of the myriad thousand silver lights into what seemed to be a continuous beam which was reflected out through five windows: a citrine prism followed by an emerald prism, then a sapphire prism, an agate prism, and the final window was a giant diamond prism. They all rotated around the golden central ball, and around the centre of each window of the lighthouse.

The top floor of the lighthouse was filled with sound, with the highest pitch being emitted by the central golden bell, and this sound was halved by the next stage so that there were twelve notes being sounded by the whole of the top floor at the same time – a seeming chaos of sound, but within it chaos in harmony.