Issue 6                                Shamanism and the Elements                                   March 2007

Home  Newsletter Archives

Editor-in Chief and Computer Geek:
Bekki Shining Bearheart
Chief Cook (thank the Gods) and Bottle-washer:
Crow Swimsaway


What's New at CEH
Upcoming Issues
Workshop Review:
Earth Elementals in  Shamanic Practice
Update on Conference
Book Reviews:
Shamanic Wisdom in the   Pyramid Texts    
Your Feedback
Bekki's Art:
Moon Rattle
Ancestor Crystal Bag
Activists' Corner
Submission Guidelines
What's New at CEH

We have changed the scheduling on two of our workshops this month, and added another workshop.
May 5-6  Fundamentals of Shamanism in Haycock, Upper Bucks County, PA.  Re-scheduled from April 21-22.
May 11-13  Dreaming The Journey: Dreamwork in a Shamanic Context at the Mystical Attic, Norfolk VA
May 19-20 
Fundamentals of Shamanism in Detroit.
For more details on registering see our Schedule.
May 26-27
Circle of the Ancestors at Dragon Waters, re-scheduled from May 5-6

We leave for Hungary on May 28! Thanks to the many people who made donations, large and small. We are so grateful!!! We could not have done it without you. We are still raising money for incidentals (see Wishlist) but the tickets have been purchased.

On other fronts: Crow and I have shared a petition membership at Care 2 for some time.You can see Care 2's profile under this month's Activist's Corner. Care 2 is truly awesome! Among other things, members of Care 2 can moderate groups of all kinds through their site. I have my own personal page and I now host the Shamanic Healing Network Group at  Care 2, and you can check it out by going here:

I am still trying to figure out a way to get a picture of Michelle's baby Hunter into the newsletter and hopefully that will be next time...

Bekki and Crow

Upcoming Issues of the Newsletter
Please note the Topic change for April's issue!
 April: Dreams and Dreaming: the Shamanic Perspective deadline to submit: ASAP
 May: Plant Spirits and the Green World deadline to submit: 5/15/2007
     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.
June: Healing Techniques, Take 2 , deadline to submit: 6/15/2007

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

Workshop Review
Revised and reprinted from the Mystical Attic Newsletter, Norfolk
Earth Elementals in Shamanic Practice
by: Sidonia (aka Pat)
Student of Shamanism
Norfolk VA

Elementals was more than journey work for all of us, there were other lessons in this workshop as well, and our work did not end with the class. Besides new allies and tools, I learned how I might work with them to do healing on myself and others. We opened with Bekki singing in the quarters, then we spent some time working with stones we either brought with us or Crow and Bekki gifted us with, learning how to connect with the stone (earth element), cleansing it, dressing it and working with it.  In one of my journeys I connected with an Earth Elemental, first going to lower world.  My ally spider went with me to meet  a Gnome.  I was surprised to meet a gnome, I thought I would meet an animal or dragon of some sort like the others in the workshop.  He told me he was to help me with the work I do for the earth.  He said he was a protector of the Earth and works at healing the soil.  I journeyed with the two crystals at my feet, and was told to reverse them, one being the crystal to stay on the altar, the other one to be used as a healing tool. The earth ally I connected to also gave me moss as a healing plant/tool to learn about and work with in the future.  

Later, we all were given a "project" to journey for: "the spirit of a place" and retrieve information and insight to help someone in the group who was having some issues with the land's ownership which involved his father.   Each of us came back with different insights, but they were all connected and related to why "the spirit of place" was out of balance and unresponsive. My journey took me to the location of the problem.  I felt that the Land Spirit had been unsettled for a long time, all families who had lived there were always in a dispute or civil unrest of some kind over the land.  I was shown the well that runs into and underground spring does not have a proper current, that the water is too still, and the energy does not flow away from the land.  The land needed to have the water directed away from it.  The father who is so unhappy about not inheriting the land himself, wants to keep the dispute going so he can maintain the land and while doing so he maintains the connection to the two sons, and he loses nothing in the process.     Like all the classes I have attended with Crow and Bekki, I came home with several pages in my journal filled, and a ton of work to do. I feel the work I am learning to do is exciting and full of new experiences.  
I am looking forward to the next workshop.

8th Conference of the  International Society for Shamanistic Research
Update on the Conference and Related Items
We have submitted our paper for the conference, and things are moving ahead. We want to expand the paper, since the papers could be no longer than 8 pages, and we want to put a longer version with more stories in it on the web site. (We plan also take copies to share with folks at the conference.)

The topic of the paper is
  Revivalist Shamanic Practice in Non-Indigenous Communities in the US.  We are asking for examples of healing work, connections with ancestors, or work on behalf of the earth,  where there is clear validation of the work done (healing accomplished, information from the client that validates information gotten from Spirit, ancestral work that results in later validation of information, etc.)

Book Review
Meetings with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind, by Graham Hancock , The Disinformation Company, 720 pages, hardcover  $29.95

Reviewed by Dr Chris Forester

The Spirit World visited by Shamans is real: it has shaped human evolution and all religions since the dawn of human history.  That’s the thesis of this engaging and thought-provoking book.

Hancock begins with an in-depth exploration of Paleolithic cave art and the politics surrounding its interpretation.   There are two strange and universal features of “primitive” art, whether in the caves and rocks of France, Africa, Australia, or elsewhere, going back at least 40,000 years.  These are (a) recurring patterns of lines, spirals, and similar geometric forms with amazing similarities and (b) the prevalence of therianthropes – hybrid representations of humans and animals (e.g. lions with human legs, humans with bulls’ heads, half-human, half-owl creatures, etc.)    How do we explain these?   Hancock’s thesis is that the recurring patterns are “entoptic phenomena” caused by the initial stages of entering into trance, usually psychotropically induced.   He cites fascinating controlled modern studies in which ingesters of ayahascua or the pure chemical DMT see the same patterns in the early trance stages as are recorded on the ancient rock walls.  The therianthropes are the spirit guides and beings met in shamanic journeys, especially those in which sacred plant medicines are used.  Hancock extends the discussion to include the deities of the Egyptian and Mayan pantheons, and proposes a shamanic explanation for these.

Hancock makes a convincing case for the shamanic/trance origins of our ancestors, but then poses a puzzling question: what accounts for the universality of what modern science would term drug-induced “hallucinations” – and for the similarity of content and experience?   Here the book takes some surprising but engaging turns.  He examines modern UFO abduction reports and then classical fairy abduction lore.   He finds amazing comparisons between these phenomena and classical shamanic literature.  Spirit beings from tribal societies/fairies from the European mythos/modern day “aliens” have huge correspondences and coincidences, for example the creation of spirit babies through spirit lovers/fairy changelings/UFO alien-human hybrids.

Hancock believes that the only cogent explanation is that the brain is a radio: psychotropic compounds in traditional plant medicines such as ayahuasca allow the brain to tune in to other realities and dimensions beyond the “normal.”   Spirit teachers and guides are real and have a continual effect on humanity and our evolution.  He cites the work of the psychiatrist Strassman, who administered DMT (the main active compound in ayahuasca) to subjects and found that their experiences of other worlds so convincing and with such inexplicable commonalities that he was forced to conclude that there is something objectively real to the experience.   Indeed, Hancock believes that our accelerated evolution as humans has been due to the influence of the beings from these shamanic otherworlds.

This is one of those books that will give you flashes of insight, and make you want to force a friend to read it so you can talk about it – bursting with ideas.  Hancock sometimes over-states the case or labours a point too long, and the book has a disappointing conclusion in that there are too many questions left unanswered.   My greatest criticism, however, would be that Hancock portrays the spirit worlds as having an often-times fairly malevolent quality and certainly admits to his contact with Spirit leaving him often afraid or confused.   This sometimes makes the book feel a bit too “conspiracy theory” – the “big bad spirits are out to get you.”  It feeds into some of his other work…who were the creators of humanity and what do they want?   My own feeling is that the benevolent, healing and positive aspects of shamanic work are left unexplored by Hancock - - possibly because drug induced journeys are more likely to be uncontrollable whereas journeys induced by other means are not?  Hancock however firmly concentrates on psychotropic shamanism.

Highlights of the book: The point you realize that shamanic journeying really is universal and very, very ancient; and the point where you realize there’s a really good case that DNA could not have been formed by “natural selection” but instead has all the hallmarks of an intelligent language…oh dear – we’re designed!

I give this 8/10.

Book Review
Shamanic Wisdom in the Pyramid Texts: The Mystical Tradition of Ancient Egypt
, by Jeremy Naydler, Inner Traditions, Rochester VT, paper $22.95

Reviewed by Crow

The material in this dense and not altogether easy to read book has joined with a couple of other influences to push my work in a new and unexpected direction.  A warning up‑front though: this is a revised and expanded Ph D thesis. Thus, it suffers ‑ by scholarly necessity and  especially in the first few chapters ‑ from a cautious, repetitious, step‑by‑step style leading the reader through the thought process of the author and those whose material he is "disproving."

But that is OK, you will get through that and then discover that the thesis presented and the proofs of it, found in a shamanically informed reading of the Pyramid Texts, is amazing, inspiring and connected with the very foundations of shamanic practice, past and present.

The Pyramid Texts, the over 750 'Utterances" which appear on the walls of the inner chambers of the pyramid of Unas at Saqqara, are, at roughly 4,350 years old, the "earliest example of any piece of extended writing worldwide." (p 148) Since 18th century Europeans first "discovered" Egypt and all its archaeological mysteries, there has been an assumption that all of the pyramids were tombs and that artworks, texts, temples and everything within and without the pyramids had to do with elaborate funerary beliefs and practices.  Furthermore, by focusing on a very  material style of life and after‑life, this approach denied the existence of any sort of mysticism or true spirituality for the ancient Egyptians.

Up to the present day, mainstream scholars of Egypt have used that framework of belief and analysis to present their understanding to the world.  Naydler, viewing the texts from a shamanic perspective, has discovered something quite different: "It is hoped, then, that the present study...may lead to an acceptance that not only was ancient Egyptian religion mystical, but that the type of mysticism that existed in Egypt had strong affinities with shamanism." (p 17)

This,  of course, is where our interest comes in; not only in the easily identifiable parallels with tribal shamanic practice, but in the obvious and traceable connections of Egyptian mystical beliefs with other early schools of mystical practice.  The Elusinian and other Hellenistic Mysteries, the dialogues of Plato, the Hermetic writings, the Greco‑Roman Isis mysteries, the stories of Tammuz (a "drying and rising" god of Mesopotamia) all share key elements of shamanic death and rebirth.

Naydler carefully brings each of these connections to our attention in Part One, Mysticism in Ancient Egypt.  Then, Part Two, Shamanic Roots of the Pyramid Texts, reinterprets the Utterances, selecting those of greatest relevance to his thesis.  I will not attempt to summarize this half of the book  It is detailed and fascinating and showcases Naydlers deep awareness of ancient Egyptian cosmology and theology.  Of great interest to me is how he utilizes the placement of the various texts on the walls of the various chambers of the tomb to reinforce his thesis of the mystical as opposed to the funerary significance of the material.  The utterances lead us, as they must have lead the pharaohs, through the transitional processes from life to death to transfiguration to rebirth and then out again into the light carrying newfound power.

This all excites me because shamanic death/dismemberment and rebirth is 1) an archetypal experience found in many shamanic cultures and 2) available, through shamanic journey work, to anyone who seeks it.  We have always led our Intensive students through this deeply initiatory process before they start dealing with the spirits of the dead.  Even more exciting, we had great success doing it with a dozen very spiritual but not shamanically trained folks at ConVocation in Detroit just this February.

I am now developing a way to offer this experience to our students. I am working with the guidance of Sirtur, the Mesopotamian sheep goddess who appeared to me a couple of years ago in Bekki's Drumming in the Temple workshop.  (One of the things I have just discovered about Sirtur ‑ Ah, Google ‑ is that she is the mother of Tammuz, the above mentioned early dying and rising god. I truly did not know this until after she had led me twice through shamanic death/rebirth and I had decided to build a Temple of Sirtur in which others might share this experience.)

One just has to love Synchronicity in doing shamanic work!

Reading Shamanic Wisdom in the Pyramid Texts will not necessarily help you die and rise again.  It will help you understand a great deal more about the process and its precedents than you do now. 

Activist's Corner
Care 2
With more than 6 million members, is the largest online community for people who want to make a difference.

If you care about health, human rights and protecting the environment, and if you believe individuals have the power to change the world, Care 2 has a lot to offer. In addition to providing email, web pages and online groups for FREE, Care 2 is a one-stop way to act for the causes you believe in.

Many of the petitions Crow and I sign and send to friends come from the Care 2 people. Care 2 has a "click free to donate" program to help environmental, humane and other organizations. Free e-cards. Job-finder services. Blogs. News network. And more.

It's nice to know that you can get internet services you want and by doing so make the world a better place. Now that is a warm fuzzy...


Our main focus currently is going to Hungary for the ISSR conference.

If you want to help by donating (we are a tax deductible organization), or if you want to commission a rattle or beadwork from Bekki, she is working on rattles right now. Even small donations help, and we are grateful for everything you do!

We plan to compile a list of donors to the Hungary fund. Please let us know if you do or do not want to be listed...
Bekki's Art
This moon-shaped rattle with a cow horn handle was one of a series of rattles made in trade for my djembe. The horn is about 8 inches long and the moon spans about 10 inches.
This photo is just about life size. The beaded bag is one I made for a crystal that is a spirit house for one of my ancestors.

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