The Hero’s Journey
Each of us has a journey to take upon our path to magick and the spirits. For some, magick and shamanism is much more than entertainment or a path to magical spells and power. It is our life. It is who we are. I often say that I had no choice but to become a magical being. It is in my blood, given to me by the gods, spirits, and ancestors. Magick is all around us. It is guided by our thoughts and felt within our hearts. When we sleep we dream of spirits and heros. When we dance we feel the pulse of the earth and all of creation. As you know, magick and healing is not simply a tool one pics up like a hammer or computer. It is a journey that never ends. Once we accept the magical calling, we will never be the same again and find many wonderful things upon our journey.
Everyone has a story. Our experiences and the events in our lives tell a tale that is all our own. No one will ever have the same story as you. Some things are similar, but you are an individual. Your story is special and has a magical meaning. You are the hero in your story. The Hero’s Journey is a term used by Joseph Campbell in his book, The Hero With A Thousand Faces. Campbell explains that each of us, as the hero, has a mystical calling that not only helps us, but also the community that we serve. In his book, he says, “The effect of the successful adventure of the hero is the unlocking and release again of the flow of life into the body of the world. The miracle of this flow may be represented in physical terms as a circulation of food substance, dynamically as a streaming of energy, or spiritually as a manifestation of grace.” What this means is that the hero has a higher calling to help not only him or herself, but to aide the community as a whole. By going on the adventure of the Hero’s Journey, the magician, witch, or shaman will learn to have the ability to bring the energetic flow of the Universe to the people.
The Spirits are Calling You
When I was very young, I could feel spirits and ghosts watching me. There was never a time when I felt alone. Growing up in rural Texas, I spent a lot of time alone in the woods and the countryside. Animals seemed to speak to me and the wind always let me know there was something that was unseen there. As a child, I would make up stories about magical creatures and portals in the woods that led to magical land. When dusk crept into the woods, I could feel the spirits I was familiar with find refuge as the darkness set in. I would always hurry home because to be caught in the woods alone at night was frightening. The energies seemed dangerous and foreboding. Someone, or something, was watching, but what did they want. Where they ghosts, witches, or something else?
As a teenager I began to play with Ouija boards and reading books on witchcraft and paganism. I remember when I learned that the earth was a living being with solar and lunar cycles. It did not feel unfamiliar, but rather, something I had always known. Maybe not consciously, but a deep knowing inside my spirit. As I grew older, the call to do magick and healing grew stronger and stronger. I began reading and studying magick and paganism. Eventually, I became an ordained minister with the Fellowship of the Phoenix as well as a massage therapist and Reiki Master Teacher.
Each person’s call manifests differently. Sometimes the call comes very early in life and for others, the call comes in later years. I have had older people tell me that they feel inadequate sometimes because they did not start practicing shamanims or magick until later in life. There is not a right or wrong time in someone’s life to hear the call of the spirits. They call when it is time. Joseph Campbell says in his book, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, “The first stage of the mythological journey-which we have designated the ‘call to adventure’-signifies that destiny has summoned the hero and transferred his spiritual center of gravity from within the pale of his society to a zone unknown.”
The call may come with a deep knowing you must learn spirituality, shamanism, or magick. It may come when there is a great change in your life such a job loss, divorce, or illness. It is common for the spirits to call a potential shaman by what is referred to us “shamanic sickness”. This happens when someone is suddenly stricken with a fierce illness. This illness can often time bring you to the brink of death. While this is occuring, your astral body leaves the physical plane and goes on the hero’s journey in the spirit world to be transformed through trials into the healer shaman. The illness can be anything. How it happens is not important to the spirits, but it’s purpose is.
Refusing our magical calling
We are creatures of free will. Even though we may strongly hear the call of the spirits and the gods we are not forced to go on the spiritual adventure to become a shaman, witch, or magician. We have the choice to not answer. It is sometimes taught that to refuse the call will bring despair to your life. You will not find meaning in your work and relationships. You may even become sick and face death. I believe this is one of the reasons that the shaman’s sickness is brought on. Perhaps the spirits called you and you either did not understand that you were being called or you ignored the call. I have witnessed people’s lives come tumbling down because they were being called to do something greater and they refused to take the first steps upon the path. It takes courage to be magical. It is hard work and you are on the fringe of “normal” society. People say all the time that they do not have the time because of work and other responsibilities. Well, if that is the case, the Universe may take those responsibilities away from you. Hence, losing the job that is preventing you from becoming magical. Before you start to panic, if this has happened to you, it means that you are meant to find a job that allows you time to learn about your spiritual path.
I think part of the reason things like this happens is because when we agreed to reincarnate in the physical plane during this time we had made plans to help the human race and the planet. Being human, and forgetting this agreement, we become distracted by what we think we want. The big job, the wife/husband, and the new car seem to be what it is all about. We mistakenly ignore the call to our higher spiritual purpose. Well, the spirits are all too happy to remind you…no matter what it takes. If we look around we can see many people who live hum-drum lives. Nothing special ever happens. They go to work and go home. They clock in and they clock out. Their lives lack meaning. They know there is something more our there but they have to pay that car or house note. So, rather than go on the Grand Adventure, they choose to become one of the grey suits and live a life without much meaning. This, I believe, is the greater sickness.
Crossing the familiar into magick
Once we decide to take our first steps into the world of shamanism and magick, the Universe begins to conspire to help you. You begin to study books on paganism, magick, and psychic abilities. Then suddenly, you begin to see the world differently. You no longer see the world as something to use or dominate, you see it as a living organism. You begin to understand that the earth is our mother. She is the goddess who gives us life. You may begin to see the connections of the cosmic web. How we are connected to each other, to wildlife, to the trees and skies. This is the place where healing begins to occur.
With the blessings come the challenges. It is easy to stay in our comfort zone and never explore the Universe further. As shamans, we do not have this option. Like it or not, we must journey forth into the unfamiliar. We leave the safety of what we have always been taught and the things we have always known. We walk upon the path into the unknown. Before the world of technology, to leave the safety of the home could mean many unknown dangers. You could get attacked by wolves, become lost, or freeze in the cold bitter night. Would you find food? Will you survive out there? Yes, there are risks. But, if we go forward and try our best, there are many rewards. Healing and magick, or but a few of the things you will gain at the end of your journey.
It is here that we find Otherworld, or spirit, contacts and helpers. Contacts and helper are those being, both physical and spiritual, who help you upon your shamanic spiritual path. This is where we find out teachers. I always think of Obi-wan Kenobi from Star Wars or Gandalf from Lord of the Rings. I have had many teachers upon my path. My first teacher was Matthew Ellenwood. He taught me much about magick, shamanism, and witchcraft. My second teacher, Billie Topa Tate, taught me Native American spirituality and ceremony. But, I have had other teachers as well. I have had friends and students who have taught me to go deeper into the world of spirit. Teachers can also be authors in books, such as this one. Before I found my first teachers, I read many books on magick, paganism, and healing. Each author had a unique perspective on the subject I was learning. I will say, my teachers helped me put it all into place and challenged me even though, at times, I did not want to be challenged.
In Shamanism, we have our teachers and contacts in spirit. When we journey into the Midworld, Underworld, and Upperworld, it is wise to find a teacher and guide for each of these worlds. We also have animal helpers. Animal helpers are the animals who come into your life, in both the physical and spiritual, who may teach you lessons and aide you in healing and magick. Otherworld contacts can also be helping spirits in each of the Three Shamanic Worlds. It is important to have contacts in those worlds if we are going to work with those energies.
Facing the Shadow
In magickal teaching, there is a concept of the personal shadow, or “The Watcher at the Threshold”. As we continue our grand adventure into the spirit worlds, we will journey down the path of our own limitations and boundaries of our consciousness. What this means is that in order to expand our awareness to work with the spirits and gods we must break through our mental barriers that “protect” our minds from these strange and unusual things. Doing this is far from easy. The Watcher at the Threshold is designed by our mind to make sure we do not destroy this barrier. If we do, will we go insane? Will we be different than we are now? The Watcher will force us to confront our shadow selves. The Shadow self is partly the Id in Freudian psychology. The place in our subconscious minds that store, or repress, our primal desires that society has deemed “bad” or “evil”. It is also partly our fears of the unknown. It takes more courage to be different than the mainstream norm than it is to be like everyone else.
Facing the shadow can manifest in different ways for different people. For some, it is the lack of discipline it takes to train and learn the shamanic path. For others, their consciousness will manifest sickness. Remember, in shamanic healing sickness is the physical manifestation of repressed negative emotions. And then for others, life gets in the way. You have no time for spirit because of work. Your social life gets in the way. You keep having one crisis after another. There is no one right way to deal with these things. Everyone must discover how to handle their shadow on their own. Sometimes the best things to do is not necessarily a spell or magick. Sometimes the best thing to do is to meditate and ask the Universe for guidance.
Once we face our shadow, and journey deeper into the magick of shamanism and the other worlds, our consciousness and our spirit is forever changed. By deciding to go down the “rabbit hole” there is no going back. You cannot change the experiences you had. When your spirit evolves to a certain point it out grows beyond your old self. You must become new. The old ways of doing things that did not propel you upon your path must be shed like old skin so that your true essence of being can shine through. To go further in your quest to know spirit and to heal yourself and others, you must transform. The old you must forever die and a new you is reborn. In classical shamanism, there is the shamanic sickness. This is where the shaman is near death and the spirits take the astral body, or the soul, to the Underworld to “die”. In their book The Hero’s Journey: A Voyage of Self-Discovery, Stephen Gilligan and Robert Dilts says, “You need to lose your mind on a periodic basis, to get back to the primitive level, to regenerate and recreate your presence in the world. Shifting from the ego to the primitive, whether it happens under positive or negative conditions, brings you down into the roots of consciousness from which new life can be generated. Primitive consciousness is needed to recreate your identity and to generate something beyond where you’ve been before.” The Shamanic death can happen in several ways. You can be dismembered by demons, boiled in a magical cauldron, or shed the old body. Then you are reconstructed by the spirits to a new and improved body. A body that is capable of handling the new powers that will allow you to work with the spirits and heal others. The old self is dead and a new self is born.
For some shamans, the transformation is less dramatic but equally as powerful. Usually, there is some kind of life crisis that causes the shaman to re-evaluate his or her life. This is evident when someone gives up a stressful high profile job and becomes a massage therapist or other kind of natural healer. Another example is when someone ends a long term relationship or divorce and feels the need to do more with their life. It is at these life changing moments that we are able to transform our being.
Returning home from the magical adventure can be equally as strange and challenging as the adventure itself. When we are on the path of the shaman, healer, or witch, we are changed forever. We have obtained our otherworld guides and spirit helpers and have faced our demons. We are transformed into a state of higher consciousness. Now, we must take our abilities and spiritual awareness back into our communities so that we may help others upon their spiritual-magical path. This is not as easy as it sounds.
Sometimes, after we have had the bliss and ecstasy of working with nature spirits and higher beings, it is very hard to come back to the “mundane” world. I really do not like to refer to the physical plane as “mundane”. In my Native American teachings, the earth and all its inhabitants are sacred and spiritual all on their own. A stone is just as spiritual as a guru. Our everyday vocation is sacred as well. Being a school teacher, plumber, or electrician is just as sacred as being a world renowned energy healer. For myself, the most difficult thing about returning to my community was having patience with those who are not spiritually inclined and those who do not want to work hard to achieve spiritual evolution. Some people want their teachers and ministers to do the work for them. We all know one must do for oneself. Eventually I learned patience and accepted people at the place where they interpret Spirit.
I feel it is important for us to teach others. Everyone teaches differently and not everyone teaches as well as others. How I learned to be an effective teacher was by emulating what I thought were the best qualities of my teachers and learning from my mistakes. I found that by teaching, I am forced to learn the deeper levels and meanings of magical-spiritual technique. This only helps me in my understanding and practice of magick and energy work. I will say that before you teach others make sure you have an adept understanding of what you are teaching. Reading one book or two does not make you an expert.
When we return to our community, we have the ability to put our skills and knowledge into practice. This manifests differently for everyone. Some are shamanic practitioners and healers while others are teachers and guides for others. We never stop learning upon this path. There is never a time I am not reading or re-reading magical texts and mythologies. As I go along my path of the shaman and healer, I am seeker deeper understanding of myself, the three worlds, and the world around me.