And yes, here is a little about our teacher and guide, Bhola Banstola
in his own words:
I was born in 1966, in the mountain district of Bhojpur, to the south of Mount Everest. At a very young age I was chosen by the spirits of my ancestors to carry their messages and healing traditions.
My grandfather, who was a very skilful and well known local shaman, found out that I was going through what I would perhaps call a ‘divine embodiment’ – an intinstive communication with the spirits – and so he tried to help me. One night he performed a special ceremony to find out what was happening inside me, how the contact with the spirits was affecting me and what they wanted from me.
Having completed the ceremony, he found out the reason the spirits had chosen me, and so my grandfather started teaching me himself. If you want to be a shaman, having a human teacher as a guide is a must, as human teachers show you the best way to explore and work with the spiritual worlds; and they can teach you how to perform healing rites and rituals as well.
Finally, after I had learnt what I needed to learn I was initiated. Back then it was not easy to work as a healer, as I was a young student at the time too, but the process of honouring the spirits continued none the less. I remember my family and the local shamans used to get together during annual ancestral clan-deity festivals, held at our ancestral home.
During these ceremonies, clan relatives and members construct a sacred space at the edge of the village including a thatch-roofed spirit house with carved stone figures, representing clan deities, Mother Earth, nagas (serpent spirits) and other spirit beings. All the stone carvings use would be smeared in colourful vermillion and yellow powder (tika). All the people at the festival would make offerings of flowers, fruits, honey, water and milk.
The keeper and protector of the animals (Mahadeo), the archtypal forest shaman (Banjhankri) and the hunting spirits of the forest (Sikari) were also given special veneration during this time. Along with my grandfather and other shamans of the clan, I used to make the offerings and sometimes the spirits use to inspire me and speak through me. When the offerings to the spirits were over, everyone used to prepare special rice pudding out of milk they had collected from their homes and rice.
But as I grew up more, I found I had began to drift away from my shamanic calling, and I started to feel more and more uneasy and gloomy. Gradually I began to understand that it was because I was suppressing the natural flow of spiritual energies which my spirits were putting into me, and that was making me sick.
This made me realise that however busy I was as a student, I had to reconnect with my spirits again, and so I started practising shamanism once more. After graduating from university, I studied alternative medicines. For six years I learnt about and used herbal medicines, combining them with the shamanic practices I had learnt in order to help the needy.
When I got reconnected with the helping spirits, everything became very fluid, my clients did not only ask for herbal preparations but spiritual healings also. During this period I travelled extensively to collect rare plants and herbs and also to immerse myself deeply in shamanic practices from different teachers in Nepal, North-east India, Bhutan and parts of Sikkim and Darjeeling.
In 1997 I met Mariarosa Genitrini, my wife, in Kathmandu. I met her at the house of a shaman were she had gone to do some interviews. We got married in Kathmandu, and In 1998, I was invited to Italy, and it was then that I started travelling to the West. After this first visit to Italy, my wife and I started organising cultural and shamanic field study tours in Nepal, Tibet and India and I also teach workshops with my wife too.
But despite all the traveling, I still feel connected to the ancient ways I learned in Nepal as a child.