In lat summer I have been approached by the city of Bracebridge, to join them as an employee of the City to bring some of the workshops I usually provide for the community under the umbrella of the Culture and Recreation Department.
I was not interested.
But, they said, I would get paid by them! 🙂
Not very much, certainly not equivalent to what I normally get paid, if they hire me as an “independent consultant”and workshop provider in this department.
In the end they chewed me down and I agreed – at least for this winter – to see, how it goes…….
They first wanted to write Shaman/ “Medicine Woman” onto my contract of employment and on the fliers for the workshops I agreed to provide. But I told them, the word Medicine Woman was controversial, as it is understood – by the Native American (First Nations) – to mean “one of THEIR Medicine People” – like a Lodge Leader, Faith Keeper (Sachem) or Shaking Tent man or Pipe Carrier……..
The word shaman is not as widely known among the general population here in Ontario and often I get asked, what exactly that is. When I explain, that it is a Siberian term for a “Medicine Person, that gains information and help from the Spirit World during theta trance journeys brought on by drumming ”
they say Ooh, like a Medicine Man! – Or ah, you are a Witch Doctor!
NO, I am not!
I am not a witch and I am not a doctor, although I do have a current RN licence and am training as a Jungian analyst from a Western university.
My father’s people call a person that does the things I do a “Kham”, leading Khamlanies = healing and other rituals.
Udega is another similar word but it rather describes a person working with herbs and potions.
Someone who uses drums and chants , who has one or more Spirit Guides, mostly in Animal form that he or she contacts while drumming in order to find out what is wrong with a client is called a Kham. The word this culture uses is Shaman, also a Siberian word, Tunguse to be precise, it is descriptive of someone entering ecstatic trance in order to help, advise, divine, heal, and otherwise aid the community.
Living here in the West I claim this word as a befitting description for me because it points not only towards what I do but also to my Siberian heritage and distances me from the also often used term “Medicine Woman” that implies Native American heritage and incidentally would be analogues to the word Udega among Siberian people.
Shaman however is not what I do, it is what I am. It permeates every aspect of my daily life, my art, the way I teach at elementary and university level, the way I engage the Spirits in order to facilitate healing, the way I mentor my students, and how I conduct public multicultural gatherings and rituals.
But generally the ordinary folk here in Muskoka do not care so much about what I am called; they are waaaay more interested in what I do and what I teach THEM to do.
One lady, that signed up for the upcoming drum workshop and was advised by one of the town clerks taking in her application, that no, I was not going to do any healing right there…. She reportedly replied: ”I do not care if Mi-Shell teaches knitting this fall, my sisters and me and a few friends will be there and we will learn something that will be important to us – and besides, something awesome always happens anyway…..”
Well, we will see…..