Shamanism knows and breathes nature in her entirety. Shamanism is fed by the spirit of nature and in return it feeds nature’s spirit. The shaman and nature are like one breath, they inhale and exhale one another throughout time. This breath is a bond of love. Life breathes through the shaman in order to live life more fully so that it may come alive and the shaman cannot live unless it is through the breath of nature.
The shamanic way is a path. It’s not written in any books and taught at a school. It’s an inner journey that one must be initiated into, a journey where one is helped by a teacher to retrieve an ancient relationship between humanity and the soul of nature.
The path exists already inside the heart and when we start to walk this path it begins for many as a love affair with the living earth, the mother goddess, Gaia. For a person to become a shaman they must first lose themselves in their own hearts, because there they will discover is the heart of nature, the heart of the goddess, alive and inside us.
To walk this path of the shaman we must fall in love, become spellbound by the earth’s beauty, allow the heart to be seduced and led to a place where the feet no longer touch the ground. This journey of love brings a person inwards, into the softness of the heart, where there is a space of longing and wanting, a desire for connection and it is this very place of longing that we must reach into and experience with our whole being.
Gaia asks first that we cast aside the small self that resides in the mind and enter into the sacred silence of the heart. When the mind is the servant of the heart, then we become free to walk in spirit alongside the spirit of nature. This journey is one that does not reach outwards and upwards to a sacredness that is beyond this world, but is rather a journey inside, into the depths of the fertile darkness within the self. It is a journey into the underworld where the inner emptiness, the void of darkness, takes the seeker deep within to a universe reflected inside our own selves.
In this fertile darkness is the nothingness from which all creation emerges. This is the void present inside each of us, a dynamic centre of emergence, where the earth mother, Gaia, is present. The shaman journeys inside, into the heart and is taken by longing and love to the goddess who resides in these depths. There she encounters the world of the dead, alongside the fountain of life that gives rise to all that is living.
This is the shamanic path in its essence. Through an attitude of longing, an open heart filled with deep love for the earth, the shaman is taken through the heart and into the depths where, through her intuition and her attention, she navigates the path home to the goddess within her own being.
We find the earth mother through this practice of travelling along this ancient trail, this path that one walks inwardly, spiralling into ones self, deeper and deeper into the fertile nothingness within. As we go deeper into this fertile darkness we discover that there is light in this darkness and that it is our own light within the earth that we are walking towards.
Finding the thread
At the centre of creation the shaman sees the light inside the fertile nothingness. This light is, of course, the light of the self that is embedded within the material world, within the body of the earth. That light is like a thread that ties them to the source. They see the threads of connection to the earth mother that they followed down here into the depths and so they realise that there is a unity in all creation, the connectedness of all life forms, the primordial oneness of being. This is the umbilicus that gave rise to all living things and it is a living thread of connection to the web of all life.
The witnessing of the umbilicus, the remembrance of this connection, then frees the shaman to return to the world and to be this place of inner fertility in the outside world. She becomes a conduit for the emergence of the light that resides deep within the heart of the earth, the light of the self now consciously brought into the world. But now she is transformed, no longer human, conscious that she is a divine being in whom the goddess Gaia resides.
The shaman is one who has travelled to the depths and seen the source of life, then returned, back along this thread to the world of form. She brings with her stories from the other side, the inside, the realm of the dead who are so much more alive than the living, that carry the life force of this living connection, so that her words may bring the magic of creation into the world of form.
And so the shaman is a healer because they bring this thread alive in the world, deepen the connection, strengthen the flow of light between the deep inner worlds and the outer world of the tribe. She has lit the pathway between tribe and the soul of the earth. And as the path is once again walked by the shaman, whilst she sings the songs of creation, so the heart of the earth is nourished.
In its purest form the shaman who has returned from the depths comes back with lungs filled by the breath of nature. She breathes from within, not desperately sucking the prana from the air, but absorbing the living essence of creation in every breath from within, remembering the name of her beloved mother earth. And so it is that with her breath she becomes more alive and the soul of the earth becomes more alive too. Breathing with the spirit of the earth the two enliven each other. They are one breath and the shaman has become the axis of creation between the inner and the outer worlds.
The axis of creation
A shaman embodies both the darkness of the deep earth and the surface of light that reflects the sun. The space that a shaman holds is a dynamic centre that is able to embody both poles of the light and the fertile darkness. A shaman can’t be forced to live in the darkness or the light exclusively because a shaman is the pole between these two worlds, the axis of creation. Her role is to be a pivotal place of transmutation that can unify both worlds.
When there is no place on earth for the shaman then her alchemical powers of uniting heaven and earth have no place to be practised. She is a tree without a trunk. She has roots to draw the darkness from the depths of her being and leaves to imbibe and transmute the light of the sun, but there is no form in between that can marry the energies of life’s light and darkness.
A medicine for the earth
The shaman’s heart is like a medicine for the earth, a medicine that aligns and restores energy that flows between the poles of creation. She is the place of fertilisation between the pure light of spirit and the dark recesses of anti-matter.
In her body there is a special place that can hold these energies and fertilise life into new forms. Her womb is not just a place for the growth of a child, but it is the centre of creation, a dynamic centre that holds life and gives birth to what needs to come into this world. Our transcendent prayers have no place to be answered if we do not have the womb of the shaman to give birth to its outcome.
The transcendent spiritual traditions can’t achieve anything without the shamanic wisdom that knows how to weave together the sacred transcendent light with the fertile darkness of the earth mother. She is the body of life through which a certain type of grace can be born into the world. Certain things are born through the body of this woman alone and cannot be born into this world unless they have the sacred place of the shaman’s womb. Any transformation we are hoping for in life will not happen until we create the place for our shamans to take their position at the centre of society, where their trusted role has been since time began.
With the memory of our shamans who were cast out in the previous era, let us all create a place in our hearts, in our groups for the re-emergence of the shamanic spirit so that the earth may blossom once more.
Spiritual Ecologist, passionate about African botanicals & the Earth
Steve Hurt’s writing falls within the paradigm of spiritual ecology which approaches ecology from a spiritual perspective. His writing is influenced by shamanism, sufism and a deep love for the earth. Steve currently lives in South Africa and runs a business that trades in African medicinal plants, a trade that is driven by his wish to preserve the rich heritage of African medicinal knowledge for future generations.