Hired as a Shaman

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…….

BB drumming flier

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…..

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Drumming:

About me and drumming:
To me my work with drums and drumming, is an inseparable aspect of being Shaman —
My people call a person that does the things I do a “Kham”, leading a Khamlanie = a healing and/ or other rituals. Udega is another Siberian 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 and descriptive for someone entering ecstatic trance in order to help, heal, or otherwise aid the community.
In this culture 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 mentor my private students, and how I conduct public multicultural gatherings and rituals.
Teaching at the Pow Wow
………………………………………………………………………………………………….The musical aspect of my practice as a shaman involves drums and drumming as well as chants, traditional ones and others received in trance states and by extension movement and dance.
To me drumming in itself has different aspects that all fit onto a fluid continuum from light-hearted fun all the way to deep states of conflict resolution and healing.
Describing this continuum in more detail I want to first mention community based events that I facilitate and supply a multitude of drums and percussion instruments for:
There is the Bracebridge Drum Circle that gathers every Tuesday evening and provides everyday fun, good for you drumming. People come to jam together and also practice culture specific rhythms from around the world.

Next is my Frame Drum Circle, called “The Healing Drum” It is centred around spirituality and personal growth and I teach the use of the drum as a tool for relaxation and meditation, anger management and conflict resolution and -on occasion- I facilitate cathartic psychological ab-reactions for participants and lead them into profound healing states.

Next there would be the Native American ceremonies and other events I attend and also participate in as a teacher, setting up my teaching tent and bring drums for the people that gather around. Aside from other teachings I teach drum songs and chants. And we of course have the big Pow Wow drum there. I am a Drum Keeper, have received a 4 foot in diameter grandfather Drum from one of my clients… I bring that to events for the community to use. – See a pic about all the kids around it on the previous post about me in schools……

Here we are at home:
HealingprayersonthelargeMedicineDrum
 
In the Longhouse we sing and dance to the Mohawk water drum, that the Sachem plays. We accompany him with horn rattles..Even further along the continuum is my use of drums in shamanic healings. When I either drum with or for an individual client in order to put him/ her and me into trance, so I can “see” into the body/soul to find the cause of an illness or dis-ease.

The last on the continuum is me, alone, drumming and chanting, most every night to initiate and maintain altered states of consciousness and thereby see/find out about concerns I have for self and others. 
That is also where I receive most of my chants and where rituals are “born” as finished entities, ready to be used with the community and where the concept of much of my artwork comes from….. 
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Hemispheric synchronization
or 
How the healing Drum works
One of the most powerful aspects of drumming and the reason that people have done it since the beginning of being human is that it changes people’s consciousness. Through rhythmic repetition of ritual sounds, the body, brain and the nervous system are energized and transformed. When a group of people play a rhythm for an extended period of time, their brain waves become entrained to the rhythm and they have a shared brain wave state. The longer the drumming goes on, the more powerful the entrainment becomes. . All of the oldest known religious rites used drumming as part of the shared sacred experience. 
It is interesting to look at these ancient drumming practices from the perspective of the latest scientific research into the functioning of the brain. Using electro-encephalographs, scientists can measure the number of energy waves per second pulsing through the brain. A system of classifying states of consciousness according to the frequencies of these waves was created. 
Normal outwardly focused attention generates beta waves which vibrate from 14 to 40 cycles per second. When awareness shifts to an internal focus, our brain slows down into the more rhythmical waves of alpha, vibrating at 7 -14 waves per second. Alpha is defined by relaxation and centering. Dropping down to 4- 7 cycles per second the brain enters the theta state in which there is an interfacing of conscious and unconscious processes, producing hypnagogic dream-like imagery at the threshold of sleep. 

Theta is the source of sudden mystical insights 
and creative solutions to complex situations and is 
marked by physical and emotional healing. People with a preponderance of theta brain waves are also able to learn and process much more information than normal. Without some form of intensive training, it is hard to stay awake in theta–one slips quickly down into delta. This is the slowest brain wave frequency, 1-4 cycles per second, the state of unconsciousness or deep sleep. 
The brain is divided into two hemispheres that are basically split in their control of the thinking process. The right brain functions as the creative, visual, aural and emotional centre. The left brain is the rational, logical, analytical and verbal administrator. Generally, either the right or left brain dominates in cycles lasting from 30 minutes to 3 hours. While one hemisphere is dominant, the memories, skills, and information of the other hemisphere are far less available, residing in a subconscious or unconscious realm. Not only do the right and left brain operate in different modes, they also usually operate in different brain wave rhythms. The right brain may be generating alpha waves while the left brain is in a beta state. Or both can be generating the same type of brain waves, but remain out of sync with each other. But in states of intense creativity, deep meditation or under the influence of rhythmic sound, both hemispheres may become entrained to the same rhythm. This state of unified whole brain functioning is called hemispheric synchronization or the awakened mind. As the two hemispheres begin to resonate to a single rhythm, a sense of clarity and heightened awareness arises. The individual is able to draw on both the 
left and the right hemispheres simultaneously.
The mind becomes sharper, more lucid, 
synthesizing much more rapidly than normal,
and emotions are easier to understand 
and to transform.

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Mi-Shell
 

At Home with my Nepali Drum :)

So, as you guys know, we are home now.

The drum currently resides right on top of our Family Altar. 

It now also has a White Swan feather……..

You will find out, why 🙂

The day after getting home we went to our Tree of Life and I took the drum along, to show it, where it lives now. Of course I played it and chanted….

Peter affixed one of our Nepali welcome scarves onto our Tree

DSCN3115 (864 x 1152)

Do not be fooled by the nice sunshine on the picture: it is – 4 centigrade.

I must say, I find it fascinating that a shaman, while in trance still can wield so much control over the rhythms he/she drums…..

My Spirits usually instruct how I drum and that again is dependant on what situation, what patient, what kind of problem they are dealing with – And yes, they are dealing with the problem, not me. I am GONE!!!!! I am not I!! Just some hollow bone – or bony rack …..;)

They do not keep me on a strict drumming schedule, although I know, certain “dealings” or “treatments”call for, go with certain rhythms and chants and that may be similar from patient to patient, but never a set formula.

Now of course I want to try this out!:)

Do the teachings of these rhythms “come through the drum into me, because, this is, how Nepali shamans do it?

But I am not Nepali and the Gods and Spirits i  am bound to are quite different…. what will happen??

Well…. I tell you , what happened….

I tried last night.

As long as I was in OC = ordinary consciousness, no problem drumming the way Bhola taught. Then quickly however the trance comes and to maintain it I drummed  about 180 to 200 beats a minute,. My question was, “How should I handle this drum and use these teachings.??

Crazzzzzzzy but true, I found myself in the courtyard of Swayambhunath!

Talking to the very Monkey, that is seen on our pictures sitting on the large bronze Varya.

Well…. That is probably, because just an hour before my little exercise I had written up that blog post and sorted in the appropriate pictures…. But that is, how it goes. The Monkey, whom back in Nepal I had fed some peanuts, “transmitted” in pictures and voice:

It is all Peanuts to me! (they were dropping onto the drum making the fast rhythmic sound…)

Ask the Goats! (The ones making up the Drum skin )They are happy you are not hanging them on the wall!”

Bhola’s head appeared on the shimmering light behind the Monkey. “Some people perform (being a shaman) some people drum (like a shaman) some people are …?????(a word that I did not understand, but it’s meaning was evident) and they fall of the (viewpoint over Kathmandu ) and fly away…….

The instant that was “transmitted” I felt myself whisked away and on the bushy Yak tail flew sirrrrrrrselllling through fast moving air, high over the city, through fast approaching dusk and night with shimmering lights below and then high across the hills and snowy mountains. I again was accompanied by a Being half a White Swan, half a –  this time young woman….. (One  of the Swan Maidens of my Ada’s culture…)

Eventually I ended up safe and sound on my own Reindeer fur at home…… Yes, and as soon as I was “sort of back there” I tried to remember, what to drum now and how to hold the drum and what not…. My brain was EMPTY!!!

I had to look it up in my notes but could not find them and when I did could not comprehend, what they meant…

Not right away anyway…

THAT however is a typical sign for a full Theta trance… At least for me…..

Sooo, what do you think?

Should I now go practice these specific rhythms and see where that leads? It would be interesting….

Or – should I just “fly”??

Will you now go and “test-drive” these rhythms – and tell us here, what you experienced???????

That would be nice!!!!!

And Yes, Bhola, if you ever read this, can you say, comment on this, add another piece to the puzzle?

Thanks! 🙂

My Nepali Drum:

In our ritual room we discovered, that Bhola had drums for us to choose from 🙂

Nepali shaman's drum

Nepali double sided shaman’s drums. There were several, but not for long….. 2 smaller ones were taken immediately. I held out my left all feeling hand and – there was one that had A LOT of Power.  No, Bhola said, that is my spare drum….

No wonder!

There was another one, that stood out, because it was all black and had a lower tone than toe 2 or 3 others. Actually that means, that the skin is just a little more loose…. In this weather – it had been raining buckets since the last 2 days; the Monsoon just not letting up this year…

but back to the drum: I will take this drum back to Canada, where we have to heat our homes for more than 7 month out of the year and although the humidity in summer sometimes is quite stifling, let’s face it, there is AC….. A very tight drum might not make it in a very dry environment….This one however felt just right and the wood the frame is constructed of was smooth and flawless. The carvings on each side of its phurba show 3 fierce Spirit faces as well as Spirit eyes and  tridents, the symbol for life, death and re-birth and spirals – Spiral of life…

Around the phurba each drum had red and white ribbons – for male and female energy

Each drum came with a beater, bend in a snake-like shape and was adorned with  a red cotton thread – for life.

Each drum also came with a modern bright blue goretex carrying case fit for the air plane home 🙂

Next Bhola talked  about the drums and here are his words:drums 2

Nepalese shaman’s drums (dhyangro) are double headed, and covered by animal hide the drums are made of special wood. The animal hide used nowadays is either mountain goat, deer or a domesticated goat or sheep. They also have a handle in the shape of a ritual dagger (often known in the West by it’s Tibetan name phurba) which has three sides to its blade, which in its three dimensional way represents all the cosmos.

On one side of this triangular bladed handle there is the beak of the regal Eagle, or perhaps an Owl or a Horse or a Thunderbolt or an Elephant. This is the male side of the drum, so when we hold the drum in front of our face, this male side should be facing outside.

The spirits hardly make any difference between a male and a female shaman, as the drum is the universal instrument used by both the sexes it makes no difference.

Some shamans respect the male and female sides of the drum, but some shamans don’t, it depends upon the instructions they have received from their teachers and the spirits. If the shaman works with the male and female sides of the drum differently, the male side is used in the beginning of a shaman’s ceremony to call in the spirits. The female side is used towards the end of the ceremony or ritual to send away the helping spirits.

The shaman starts to drum with a 1/4 beat [O O O O O O], during which they will observe their whole body to look for tensions, performing deep breathing in order to relax, They will then invite their spirits and ancestors in to help them, and make their intentions for the ceremony or healing clear. Suddenly the shaman’s drumming will change rhythm to a 4/4 beat [O o o o O o o o O o o o], during which the shaman starts feeling sensations of heat and cold in their body as the spirits come closer and start inspiring them.

When the body of the shaman starts to move and shake, or they start to dance, the rhythm of the drumming becomes very random.

Towards the end of the session the female side of the drum is used, and then the rhythm becomes a 3/4 beat [O o o O o o O o o]. During this time the shaman starts calming and slowing down, and eventually the beat changes to a 2/4 [O o O o O o O o] and eventually a 1/4 [O O O O O O O] before it comes to a stop.

As a welcome gift I presented my drum with a Peacock feather.

This is however only the first part of  what happened.

Stay tuned 😉

A new drum:

With the Rattle conundrum being solved we turned our attention to a drum. For me it was pretty clear right away, that I would love to get a :real: Nepali shaman’s drum, Nepali shaman's drumthe likes of which Bhola and Aama Bombo are using. E- mailing Evelyn,our tour organizer, about it, I was assured, that Bhola always has a few hand made drums for sale and that it would not be a problem getting one:)

But then, we also wanted to take another drum along – for Peter to use and just in case…. i normally drum over patients and then start to see”in the reverberations of the sound and the colours where the problem is located and what it “feels like”…

Now, I can do just that with quite a few of my own drums, have – at times, when no drum was available, also used a plastic waste paper basket ….But I also have encountered – and own quite a few drums, where that is not possible. Some drums just do not “resonate right” and, as you can imagine, all double-sided drums are among this group. Now, Nepali drums are double -sided!

So, not so good for diagnosing… for me that is….

Well, I can use the Rattle for diagnosing….

She works like a charm! Tried it,  🙂

But as in all shamanic seminars people often just drum…. So we decided, to take one travelling drum along…

But which one????

I wrote in the previous post about the humidity and – the sheer trouble of stuffing a drum into a piece of luggage along with wet wipes, water purifying solution, electric adaptors, diarrhoea and dehydration medicines and whatever else was on the list of things to bring…..remo drum

We decided on something cheap, that is made from man made materials, will take any kind of abuse and not bend out of shape or break / split its head.

A mid sized Remo “Buffalo drum”

There is nothing Buffalo in or on it, other than the name for marketing reasons…. It is all synthetic – The shamanic translation for synthetic is ancient oooooold plant material that liquefied into oil and then…….. finish the sentence however you like ……

The contraption was $ 55.00 … and yeah!? ….Not impressive….

Not very “alive” either.

It sounded – well – not like we are used to. All my working drums are quite large and have a low resonant tone. This drum has not much resonance compared to them.

So we put it aside and Peter, who first wanted to paint it and make it his – eventually just frowned and …. it collected dust….

Now however, it is crunch time and Peter had to work on one more huuuuuge jewellery order to be send into the US and said, I should just paint the thing any way I wanted… He was just not “into it”

So I went on a shamanic journey and asked for instructions.

The very first thing I was told was, that it needed a Deer Antler handle in the shape of a trine! And it was supposed to receive sky blue silk for the Tengeri of Siberia!.

OK! that is doable.

Then what?

Another journey revealed, that I was to paint it with petroglyph and pictograph designs – just like my main Ritual Drum, so the Spirits of the Land, that is always work with, are there as well.

Then, into the inside I was to draw my Ancestor Spirits and representations of a few of my Animal Guides, the Tuvan Sun Spirits I always “see” and my Clan Guardian from my Ada’s clan. It also was to receive “Sky Snakes” in the form of silk threads/ribbons of all different shades of blue into which I am to tie beads, one new bead for each experience I will make on this trip and then, later on while using this drum…..

With time in short supply I went to work.

2 days later I was yet again surprised at the outcome:Drum front side

The drum has a lot of Wolf fur in which a small Serpentine Bear with Turquoise eyes is hidden, a large Owl that was a gift from a friend, the slightly sour and disconcerting face of Ee’ren Omsür in Abalone shell and the requested Sky blue silk Spirits that, on the one hand represent a waterfall I saw during the first journey. Drum back

All the silk Snakes,that I was told, have significance for the Spirits of Place in the Himalayas, looked a little too untidy and crazzzzy, so I braided them into 3 braids. For now I wove several beads into that braid. One for the incredible invitation to even GO on this trip, one for the visions received as to how to proceed with this drum, one for all the things I have since learned about Nepal, its people and the way they worship as well as the way in which all the world religions there weave into each other…….

The BIG surprise however came, when I held the drum up into the light and realized, that all the Medicine Drawings are shimmering through the drum head and the ones drawn into the back side appear like Spirits on the front side and vice versa!

How appropriate!

all the Spirits are there

This drum sounds best with a very soft beater and so I made one with Rabbit fur, to feed Wolf and Owl and added a little bone Bear….

For now there are just 2 small feathers….

I will have to find feathers for it during the trip!

I will spend every minute we are in Chitwan National Park looooooking!

I am going back …..

One of my beloved students is not feeling well…

I am worrrrried!

She lives far away,

…too far to rush to her side…..

To hold the worries at bay

I am singing healing chants

throughout the night…

Lakota echinacea chant

I am going back where I am from
to find a healing medicine
I am riding on my horse, the drum
to find a sacred healing dream………

There’s a wild melody
among a million harmonies
There’s a note for everyone…………
That’s their big medicine!

 

I am bringing you your sacred song
from the place we all are from.
And you’ll be well if you will sing
your song of sacred medicine………….

 

journey back

bear paw chant png file

A busy summer :)

At this time of year our summer season with busy markets and art and craft shows is still in full swing. On top of that I am kept busy with students, bringing teachings into resorts and health care facilities and with patients coming to the house.

This is the problem with writing a blog about working as a shaman. Most of the “more interesting” things are strictly confidential. I can not write about the consultations with patients, about individual cases and problems or private hours with students.

Oftentimes, when I bring drums and teachings into groups and healing and recovery centres, I – and the students, that accompany me have to sign strict confidentiality agreements and especially taking pictures is prohibited.

At the same time however, it just may happen, that the caretakers themselves are videotaping the sessions and circle activities.

Sometimes that makes me wonder, what will they use these videos for?

Will they try to replicate my teachings?

Are they becoming part of the public domain?

Are they on U-tube somewhere??

Anyway…

Here a few pictures, that recently were put into one of the many public networking sites and so are OK to re-post here.

Thank you to the very talented photographer ♥selling my large Siberian medicine Pouch

Here I am on the annual Baysville Craft show, showing of my large Siberian medicine Pouch.

It worked! 🙂

I sold it! Yaaaaayyy!!!

Drums for recovery

Drums for Recovery

grandmother Drum at pickerel Lake

Buffalo Medicine Teaching Blanket

Buffalo Teaching Blanket

Bear Medicine Teachings

Bear of the west 2