Issue 5                                     Shamanic Views on Relationship                                     February 2007

Home  Newsletter Archives

Editor-in Chief:
Bekki Shining Bearheart
Chief Cook and Bottle-washer:
Crow Swimsaway


What's New at CEH
Upcoming Issues of the
Conference on Shamanism
        in Hungary
Obituary: Ann Blessing

Book Reviews:
Spirit Knife, Soul Bone
by Pat
The Omnivore's Dilemma

        by Crow
Evolution's Rainbow
        by Crow  

Bekki's Art: Joanie's Rattle
Activists' Corner
Submission Guidelines
What's New at CEH


Well, once again the newsletter is late--  not one, but two, issues. The plan is to get this issue out this week and March's issue out next week. Cross your fingers.  It has been a busy two months, and two weeks of extremely cold weather in February did not help. The night time temps were consistently between -10 and -15 F. for a solid week, and we had burst water pipes for the first time in many years. My brain was frozen for much of that time, and just doing the basics of keeping the house warm and so on took a great deal of our energy.  Add to that our several recent trips out of town, our finalizing of the paper for the conference in Hungary, and my dad's back surgery last week, and it has been a bit of a struggle to get the newsletter out.

If you've been thinking of sending in articles or reviews, we always need them.

We expect to be on the road a lot for weekends this Spring and Summer so we are looking for one or two people interested in doing a live-in internship with us here at Dragon Waters. The internship includes a bedroom space of your own more or less your own bathroom, and attendance at local workshops and/or private instruction in shamanism and other interesting subjects, in exchange for animal care on those weekends when we need to be away. Internships are negotiated on an individual basis, so contact us with your availability and interests.
Upcoming workshops we're teaching:
March 24-25  Circle of the Ancestors  Beavercreek OH
March 31-April 1  Air Elementals in Shamanic Practice in Upper Black Eddy, Bucks County, PA.
14-15  Water Elementals in Shamanic Practice at the Mystical Attic, Norfolk VA.
21-22  Fundamentals of Shamanism in Haycock, Upper Bucks County, PA.
5-6  Circle of the Ancestors at Dragon Waters
11-13  Dreaming The Journey: Dreamwork in a Shamanic Context at the Mystical Attic, Norfolk VA
We are also working on a Fundamentals class for the Detroit area for May 19-20.
For more details see our Schedule.

Bekki and Crow

 Upcoming Issues of the Newsletter

March: Shamanism and the Elements deadline to submit: ASAP
   We're looking for someone to review any of the workshops in the Elemental series (Shamanism and the Earth Elementals, etc) for the March issue. If you've taken any of them please consider writing one.

April: Healing Techniques, Take 2 deadline to submit: ASAP

May: Plant Spirits and the Green World deadline to submit: 4/15/2007
    We're looking for someone to review the Plant Spirit workshop Rooted in the Heart, Seeded in the Soul for this issue. If you've taken it please consider writing one.

If you have an idea for a theme for an upcoming newsletter we'd love to hear from you.

8th Conference of the  International Society for Shamanistic Research
We have been asked to present a paper at the  Conference. We have submitted the paper and raised initial funds for the conference fees. The ISSR is based in Hungary, and this year the conference, which has been held in Mongolia, Korea, Japan, France, Estonia and China, is actually being held in Hungary.

We still must raise money for the air fare. All contributions to the Church of Earth Healing are tax deductible, and we are also doing a raffle. Contact us (healing for more information.
1st prize: 1 2-day Healing Retreat at Dragon Waters, including 1 bodywork session and 1 shamanic healing session
Additional prizes:
Hand-made custom shamanic rattle by Bekki ($100 value)
Custom beaded jewelry piece by Bekki ($75 value)
Shamanic healing session by Crow ($90)
Cranio-sacral session by Crow ($55)
Tickets are $5 each or 5 for $20

Tickets available now. Drawing is May 1.

Ann Blessing

Our friend Ann Blessing, a.k.a. Ann Winter, passed away on Friday March 16, after her second bout with cancer. Ann was a devout Pagan, student of shamanism and ancient Cetic wisdom. She was a founding member and on the original organizing committee for the PCCO (Pagan Council of Central Ohio). She was a brilliant woman with a gift for poetry and intellectual repartee, and perhaps her greatest gift a deep love of nature. After years of doing secretarial work for a living she finally surrendered to her Muse and began a PhD program at Ohio State University in Semiotics. It was while working on her degree that she contracted cancer for the first time. We are saddened to lose her friendship, her stimulating intellect, and her wisdom. We were eagerly awaiting the fruits of her scholarly work, of which we had experienced so many enticing fragments. We feel honored that she wanted us near her in her last days, and that she requested us to conduct her memorial service.

Book Review

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
by Michael Pollan, Penguin Press, NY  Hardback $26.95

Reviewed by Crow

The Omnivore's Dilemma is an altogether intense and satisfying book.  Michael Pollan (author of The Botany of Desire, another must‑read for anyone interested in people, plants, co‑evolution and/or shamanism) writes with his usual high levels of personal involvement, research and knowledge. He approaches "the omnivore's dilemma," which is also the dilemma of any conscious person alive and eating today, through the very effective conceit of planning, taking apart, studying (in depth), and then obtaining and/or cooking and eating four focused meals.

By the time you have learned what the contents of the ingredients really are, you might not want to join him in the first meal eaten at the end of Part I (Industrial): it is fast food, industrially presented by McDonalds, eaten in a moving car and its contents are from industrially grown and processed corn.  He takes you to the fields in Iowa, the processing plants and to the filthy feedlots where quite a percentage of our corn is converted, unnaturally, into flesh. The details of all these processes are hideous and you need to know them, especially if you continue to eat fast foods.  This is also true if you buy ordinary "food" products at the supermarket: corn is there everywhere.  It is omnipresent and onmi‑toxic to our bodies, to our environment, to our economy and, ultimately, to our spirits.  I will not bore you by quoting facts, figures and statistics: Pollan gives you more than you will be able to stomach.  OK, one statistic (page 110)," These days 19% of American meals are eaten in the car."

Part II (Pastoral) encompasses two "organic" meals and is a very thoughtful and detailed examination of the morals, economics, sustainability and nutrition of what he calls "Big Organic," or what happened to the concepts of growing and eating food good for you and the environment once the American food industry got ahold of them. Well, I would eat either of the organic meals he serves and I struggle daily with how to balance my household's diet. That is, do we eat certified organic mixed baby greens from California in a plastic box in the winter when locally, sustainably grown greens from a farmer I know at the Athens Farmers Market are not available? 

To the extent possible, our diet follows the dictates of the "Grass‑Fed" meal.   We profoundly believe that food safety (no disease‑laden spinach at our Farmers Market, thank you), security and sustainability are to be found by face‑to‑face shopping on the local level where one's dollars speak directly for clean, organic and "grass‑fed."  You have to read this section of the book to fully appreciate what grass‑fed means and the wonderful, ornery, creative farmers that are making it possible: the exemplary farm here is large with 550 acres, 450 in woods. On 100 open acres with 4 to 6 workers it produces annually, 30,000 dozen eggs, 10,000 broilers, 800 stewing hens, 50 beeves, 250 hogs, 1,000 turkeys and 500 rabbits.  And they are organic.

Part III, Personal, The Forest, will be hard for many to read.  Even if you know that meat comes on legs, not in plastic packages, you may not have examined your own morality around killing to eat.  Pollan takes you, step by painful step, through his personal experience with this in "Hunting: The Meat" because the fourth meal is one he gathers all himself (with a little help from some friends). The killing dilemma is painful.  The fungi dilemma is funny and, having been there myself, kind of painful too.  He finds a beautiful large chanterelle mushroom, his first, but can't bring himself to eat it.  It might be poisonous; he lacks the confidence to identify it.  There is the omnivore's dilemma: we love to eat; we love to explore; being able to eat almost everything helps us survive; being tempted to eat potentially deadly things ‑ plant or animal ‑ can also kill us.  It is quite beautiful that he is forced to live out the dilemma in developing the book!

He does survive.  The last chapter, "The Perfect Meal" sounds perfect indeed and I would eat that one too.  I have grown by reading this book; I will bet that you will too.

Book Review

Spirit Knife Soul Bone: The Ancient Shamanic Art of Extracting Negative Energy by Crow Swimsaway PhD, ©2005 Church of Earth Healing, Seventh Direction Publishing  249 pages
Reviewed by: Sidonia (aka Pat)
Student of Shamanism
Norfolk, Va.
I enjoyed reading the book, it felt as if I were in one of Crow and Bekki’s classes listening to Crow share his experiences and knowledge of Shamanism and Healing work.   I have read about negative intrusions and extractions in other books, but not covered in as much detail, with first hand experience in clear and concise entirety.
The book is about the Shamanic Extraction technique, its power of healing and Crow’s experience with using it.  Written in first person, the author is well versed and knowledgeable about the subject.  
The first chapter starts out with a story about a biological research expedition that leads to giant ants being extracted from one of the team members; then Crow goes on to his background and qualifications as an anthropologist, teacher, and shares a bit of how he arrived at this point in his life.  Crow explains how throughout history Shamans have practiced many methods of healing, and that extraction work was one that appeared to ethnographers to be a slight of hand trick, and showmanship, but even that was part of the healing process.  Shamans would take their clients through the extraction process and they totally recovered from various ailments.  Reading the cases that Crow presents confirm that it is not trickery or slight of hand, but true shamanic work.  Negative Energy is very real and effects people in different ways.
Crow uses real case histories, explaining his technique from his first contact with the client through the whole process beginning with diagnostic work, then extracting negative intrusions using the methods of healing that he is instructed to use through his animal allies, right into follow up work.  He tells us about several other techniques, the tools used in extractions and how other types of Shamanic healing work together.  
He then goes on to tell how we can protect ourselves against negative energy and possible intrusions by grounding, centering and shielding ourselves.  He reminds us that “Awareness is Half of Prevention”, and to make grounding-shielding-centering an ongoing part of our lives.
I think Crow did a great job covering the topic, all the way from the giant ants, oozing black goo to worms, grubs, fog and black obsidian.  I found the book educational with a hint of Crow’s spirit in the back ground.  I would recommend reading Spirit Knife,Soul Bone to any one interested in Shamanic healing and extraction work. Every Student of Shamanism should have a copy of this book.

Book Review

Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Gender and Sexuality in Nature and People
Why Darwin was Wrong about Natural Selection

by Joan Roughgarden
University of California Press, Berkeley 2004  $27.50

Reviewed by Crow

This is very much a 'did you know?' book.  Did you know that there are animal species (besides the human) with multiple genders?  There can be two male, one female; three male, one female; two male, two female or, three male, two female genders per species.  Did you know that there are scientific reports of homosexuality among 300 species of vertebrates (pages 128 and 155). "A 1999 review featured detailed descriptions of male and female homosexual behavior in over one hundred mammalian species." (137) There are many more amazing facts used to illustrated and illuminate the progress of the book.

Roughgarden has a sense of humor as well as a sense of science.  For humor, try her recounting of male homosexuality among Bighorn sheep. (138) "This case turns the meanings of normal and aberrant upside down.  The "normal" macho bighorn has full‑fledged anal sex with other males.  The "aberrant" ram is the one who is straight ‑ the lack of interest in homosexuality is considered pathological.  Now, why would being straight be a pathology, requiring a hormone checkup?  According to the researchers, what's aberrant is that a macho‑looking bighorn ram acts feminine!  He pees like a female ‑ worse than being gay!"

Her science is detailed and quite esoteric.  Among the many other virtues of this book is a well-founded criticism of Darwin's views about sexual selection.  Roughgarden is a Darwinist.  She can see, and offer evidence, where the old man's theories went astray. (This is made clear by a rather unusual sub‑sub title at the bottom of the book's front cover: 'Why Darwin was Wrong about Sexual Selection.')  As is necessary in the refutation of a theory, Roughgarden falsifies Darwin's theory of sexual selection.  She does this with ten carefully selected "ways we've seen in which real species depart from the sexual selection norm." (169‑71)  Among these we might note, (1) bodies do not conform to a binary model, (2) genders do not conform to a binary model, (3) sex roles are reversible, (4) sperm is not cheap, (8) same‑sex sexuality is common, (9) mating is not primarily for sperm transfer.

All ten points against Darwin's theory of sexual selection are also important to Roughgarden's broader attempt to shed light on human sexual diversity.  This is her passionately pursued goal.  Each portion of the book includes a section like, "Sexual Selection Corrupted" (172‑75) in which she shows the pain and suffering generated by the corruption of poorly handled data, misconceived theories and the often deadly actions against those of diverse genders, justified by such corrupt ideas.

The first 181 pages of the book are about “Animal Rainbows”, the balance is about people.  The second section, “Human Rainbows”, examines in intimate detail the biology and psychology of human genders.  Chapter 16, “Disease versus Diversity”, summarizes Roughgarden's findings: "A major threat to the human rainbow is the misclassification of human diversity as disease.  Conventional techniques, from surgery to brainwashing, are applied to diverse peoples, often maiming them.  Even those who escape overt injury live stigmatized lives, believing something is wrong with them.  How could these abuses happen in today's world?  Medicine's pathologizing of diversity springs from the absence of a scientific definition for disease." 

Later in the chapter she asks, “Who Needs A "Cure"?” (293‑302)  Noting that there is no scientific evidence that the conditions of diverse peoples are disease states she is happy to answer the question with: "Not gays and lesbians; not transgendered people either; nor intersexes.  As evidence that cures are not needed, she examines some of the torturous "cures" medical and psychological practitioners have attempted, their damaging  qualities and their uselessness.

The final section is “Cultural Rainbows” which reviews the history and ethnography of human genders, with special attention to examples of transgendered people.  People of diverse genders outside of the contemporary West often find a natural acceptance and integration in which they have happy and productive roles within their society and culture. (Prior to Evolution's Rainbow, my favourite examples of this have been from The Spirit and the Flesh: Sexual Diversity in American Indian Culture by W. Williams, 1992, Beacon Press.)  Roughgarden recounts stories of Two‑Spirited people in the Americas, the Mahu in Polynesia, the Hijras and others in India, eunuchs in the Roman Empire, transgender in the Bible, Mukhannathun in early Islam, sexual relations in ancient Greece and the Bible, Tomboi in Indonesia, Vestidas in Mexico City, and Guevedoche in the Dominican Republic.  Not all of these stories are happy ones.  Some of the Hijras and the Vestidas seem to live rather tragical lives yet, overall, we can see "how the universal human rainbows of gender and sexuality fit into the social categories of other societies around the world and at other moments in history, [so] we may glean some ideas about how our own institutions might function better." (329)

The final chapter, “Trans Politics in the United States”, looks at what is going on now for transgendered people in their struggles for recognition and equality. It ends with a six point Trans Agenda stating clearly minimum needs for the safety and progress of trans people in the United States today.  There is also an Appendix of Policy Recommendations drawn up from Roughgarden's well-informed perspective, suggesting how various professions may be more professional and helpful in their relationships with transgendered people.  Included are education, medical practice, and genetic engineering and biotechnology (the latter two have been used, often inappropriately, to try to "cure" the transgendered).

A final word, for those of you not closely familiar with the ethnographies of tribal shamanic cultures: shamans are gender benders.  The Index of Evolution's Rainbow does not have a listing for “shaman”, nor mention us in the text, and that is a little strange.  Indeed, the slighting of this salient aspect of my profession could be my only criticism of this book! 

Certainly not in all shamanic cultures, but in many, especially in native North American (The Spirit and the Flesh, referenced above, gives excellent examples) and Mongolia‑Siberia, the person crossing more than one gender is seen as the most powerful shaman.  Shamans always serve as the bridge, the connector, between Spirit and human needs and interests.  The person crossing gender lines is perceived as having an innate ability to do this. Evolution's Rainbow is a big, complex and challenging book on a big, complex and challenging subject. 

While written primarily from the perspective of an evolutionary biologist, it bravely explores every aspect of sexuality and gender except the legal, which is touched on only incidentally.  Because of its scope, detail and depth ‑ even though it involves many of my greatest interests ‑ this was a difficult book for me to review effectively.  In fact, I had to let it rest for a few weeks between my first reading it, then pick it up again to write about it.  

Don't take my word for it though, read this book yourself.

Activist's Corner

One of the best e-letters out there is put out by the
Organic Consumers Association  and it's called Organic Bytes. Here is an excerpt from this week's letter.


As Organic Bytes has reported, the most serious threat to U.S. organic standards since 1998 is in the dairy sector. Two rapidly growing and profit-obsessed corporations, Horizon and Aurora Organic, are sourcing much of their milk from intensive confinement dairy feedlots, where the cows have little or no access to pasture. Now, in a secret letter obtained by the Cornucopia Institute, OCA has learned that three other major organic dairies, Stonyfield Farm, Organic Valley, and Humboldt Creamery have joined forces with Horizon and Aurora to lobby the USDA to keep dairy standards vague and unenforceable, by not requiring any specific percentage of the cow's feed to come from pasture. The National Organic Standards Board and the overwhelming majority of the nation's dairy farmers have repeatedly stated that at least 30% of an organic cow's feed during the growing season should be coming from pasture. Scientific studies have shown that milk and meat from pastured animals are qualitatively healthier than milk and meat derived from animals kept in unhealthy and inhumane concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).
Learn more:

Bekki's Art

One of my latest rattles, this one for a student in Dayton illustrates how simple a rattle can be. Two sided, it has one ally on one side and a second ally on the other, with a simple deerskin covering at the base of the rattle "head". 

Enviro-Tip: Recycling Hazardous Household Waste
Earth 911 is a website devoted to educating the public about a variety of earth-friendly actions you can take to make your life on the planet better for the planet. You'll find a link here that will help you to recycle potentially hazardous household waste.

Church of Earth Healing Newsletter Guidelines for Authors

Our newsletter is a monthly publication which  includes articles, book reviews, workshop profiles and reviews, news of current and upcoming events and stuff that is really hot that we feel you need to know about. We focus on alternative healing and other work of the church and ourselves, though we cast our net widely.

We love to write and have lots of good material to share.  We also value your outlook, talents, and opinions so we welcome contributions.  These may include specific material we request from you, our readers. We welcome all kinds of material, preferably on our monthly topic. If you are submitting something on the topic, we must receive it before the deadline. If it is of general interest we will fit it in as soon as we can. Articles on topic receive first priority.

We work in Microsoft Word; that is the most convenient electronic form to receive material in.  If you need to use another form please ask first. Format is quite open.  Please place the title, author (in exactly the form you want your name to appear - including degrees, professional designations, etc.) and a very brief bio at the beginning of your offering. Please keep it fairly short and snappy, since we have limited space. We will read everything we receive before publishing it.  We would prefer not to have to edit for intelligibility or length.

                 All Contents Copyright Church of Earth Healing 2006