I come from a rich heritage of Spanish and Basque ancestors. In fact my last name, Larramendi, means meadow-mountain in Basque.
Since my early childhood I had a deep connection to nature. I sought the natural world wherever I could find it when I was in need of comfort or calming. I didn’t actually recognize this as a spiritual practice until I went on my first Vision Quest in 1989. That Quest transformed me forever, for it was the first time I began to understand the relationship of spirituality and the Earth, and that this ancient understanding was rooted in something called shamanism.
I began my shamanic studies immediately afterward, first through classes with The Foundation for Shamanic Studies, and then through numerous teachers from different shamanic disciplines. But these teachings primarily gave me tools to navigate through a deep personal initiation that began to unfold in my life. I had many unresolved wounds and deep emotional scars which profoundly affected how I walked my life. These wounds and scars were a shadow that developed into a crisis in my life of dramatic proportions which transformed me forever.
I would be lying if I said that this personal annihilation wasn’t of my own making…like falling off a cliff of my personal blind spot. Yet the Spirits knew that the only way I would face my fears was to be “cooked” in them…to walk through the fire till I could make ‘Big Medicine’ of the inner shadows that stalked me.
So the initiation began, and my teacher was the Wilderness.
Shamans have a distinctive relationship with the wilderness, their natures are not altogether human, but, rather, wild. They live in a unique balance with things that are natural and draw their wisdom from the rhythms and cycles of life and nature…they are the wilderness. They know that the Earth flows through their veins like streams down a mountain and that all teachings of balance, love, compassion and wisdom are held in the bones of the Earth.
I did not understand that this was the nature of what I was becoming, I was just frightened, lonely, severely depressed and in deep pain…yet I discovered in the whispering of the trees and the miraculous visits of animals and Spirits during my desperate times, that there was a profound love and tenderness that this beautiful Grandmother Earth would yield. It is in these experiences that I transformed and grew the roots for my teaching and healing work.
I take great joy in helping people on their healing paths. By sharing these shamanic tools, each person can learn to heal themselves and find a way to develop their own divine relationship with the Great Mystery. Although I teach many different shamanic techniques, the teachings of greatest passion for me are those that deepen our relationship with the Earth and the Creator.
I feel blessed with a life full of beauty and magic and hope to have a place in the countryside where I can live, practice and teach the Spiritual Medicine of the Earth.
In addition to my private healing practice, I am also a minister who performs ceremonies to honor birth, death and marriage in my community. I teach numerous workshops on shamanism, from basic levels to advanced levels. My passion is teaching and practicing earth healing and I have an apprenticeship dedicated to educating practitioners on this topic (see, EarthTenders). This is an area of my passion, where I have chosen to specialize my shamanic knowledge. I am also a founding member of the Society for Shamanic Practice, www.shamanicpractice.org, an organization created to support the re-emergence of using shamanism as a form of spiritual healing in our culture and integrating it with western medicine.
If you have questions, or wish to be on an email list for workshops, you may contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The following is a list of some of my human teachers and the trainings I have taken. I have included their organizations with links:
My dear friend, a Vision Quest leader, a teacher and mentor. Sedonia was my first human spiritual teacher who was the guide on my Vision Quest in 1989. Then, from 1990 to 1999 I assisted her on Vision Quests in the California desert. She was killed in an automobile accident in February of 2000 while traveling in Morocco. An amazing woman who I owe my medicine journey to. Her work transformed my life.
Adolfo Ttito Condori, Ayllu K’anchaq Qoyllur, www.andeanmasters.com
My Peruvian spiritual brother, mentor and friend. Adolfo was born in Poma Canchi, Peru; a small agrarian village surrounded by mountains and lagoons at 12,000 ft. His journey in the Andean medicine ways began as a child under the guidance of his grandfather and parents who worked with plant medicines as pampamisayoqs. Adolfo experienced many of the classic initiations for becoming a medicine person. He has been struck by lightning twice (as a child and an adult). During adolescence he momentarily died from disease but was resuscitated by the Apus. At age 16 Adolfo lost his father, and in addition to taking over helping his mother raise his siblings, the spirits of the mountains began their teachings of Adolfo directly. After years of personal tests and training the Apus gave him the power of an Altomisayoq. With the guidance of their knowledge and practices Adolfo’s gifts come from a pure communion with the Apus for over 20 years. Adolfo leads trips for students of Andean Cosmology in the mountains of Peru. In 2012 Adolfo began traveling to the USA to teach American students a more refined understanding of Andean Cosmology and spiritual practice. He is currently constructing a school in Poma Canchi named Yachay Wasi (house of wisdom) as a place to teach students the ways of Andean Cosmology.
The Foundation for Shamanic Studies, www.shamanism.org
Started in 1979 as the Center for Shamanic Studies, the Foundation for Shamanic Studies presents the world’s foremost training programs in shamanism and shamanic healing. They are based on the pioneering work of anthropologist Michael Harner, who brought shamanism to contemporary life in the West after extensive field and cross-cultural investigation, experimentation, and personal practice. He originated, researched, and developed core shamanism, a system designed for Westerners to apply shamanism and shamanic healing successfully to their daily lives. The Foundation for Shamanic Studies is a non-profit educational organization which teaches core shamanism workshops across the USA and in many other countries. The FSS also documents, studies and supports indigenous shamans, and funds many different research programs across the world.
Angeles Arrien, (Passed away April 24, 2014)
A fellow Basque, Angeles was a dynamic teacher, storyteller and author. In 1997 I studied in her 4 - Fold Way intensive training was an excellent program showing how to incorporate the teachings of the archetypes of: Visionary, Healer, Teacher and Leader. Angeles was a cultural anthropologist, award-winning author, educator, and consultant to many organizations and businesses. She lectured and conducted workshops worldwide, bridging cultural anthropology, psychology, and comparative religions. Her work continues to be used in medical, academic, and corporate environments.
Betsy Bergstrom, www.betsybergstrom.com
Betsy Bergstrom is a full-time Shamanic Practitioner and an international teacher of healing practices including Compassionate Depossession, which she has developed and taught for more than a decade. She also pioneered Compassionate Mediumship and Curse Unraveling classes for healing practitioners. Betsy specializes in depossession work and Mediumship in the form of Seidr. Her family heritage is diverse, with roots in Norse, Scottish and Native American cultures. She has been trained by a number of indigenous shamans and healers who have encouraged her and shared with her their wonderful teachings. As a practicing Buddhist and student of Lama Tsering Norbu Wangdu Rinpoche, she is authorized to teach the ancient, powerful and beautiful Chöd practice along with other Vajrayana Buddhist teachings. She has worked in various fields of Alternative Healing for over 20 years. Her calling is to work in partnership with the Helping Spirits, to help the living and the dead.
Tom Brown Jr. Tracker School, www.trackerschool.com
Tom Brown, Jr. is legendary for his tracking and nature skills and has published over 16 books on the subject. His Tracker School has been in existence since 1978 and teaches a broad range of wilderness, survival, awareness, tracking and spiritual skills.
Tom Cowan, www.riverdrum.com
Tom is a delightful teacher who is a shamanic practitioner specializing in Celtic visionary and healing techniques. He combines universal core shamanism with traditional European spirit lore to create spiritual practices that can heal and enrich one's own life and the lives of others. He is an internationally respected teacher, author, lecturer, tour leader and is on the Board of Directors for the Society for Shamanic Practice (SSP) www.shamanicpractice.org
Myron Eshowsky, www.myroneshowsky.com
Myron Eshowsky, M.S.(Counseling), is an author, mediator, consultant, shamanic healer, and educator. He is a pioneer in the integration of shamanic methodology for the purpose of addressing modern problems. He has authored dozens of articles on these topics in a wide range of journals and the highly acclaimed, Peace with Cancer: Shamanism as a Spiritual Approach to Healing. For the last two decades, he has studied extensively how cultures throughout the world view and address conflict. He has consulted and taught throughout the United States, Canada, Africa, Middle East and Europe.
Myron was my first teacher on Shamanic Journeying back when he was an instructor for the Foundation of Shamanic Studies. I have learned many advanced esoteric shamanic studies from Myron who is an excellent resource of information.
David Furlong, http://www.davidfurlong.co.uk/index.htm
He is one of the founder tutors of the College of Healing and was the first Chairman of the Natural Health Network in England. He is the author of six books including The Healer Within, Working with Earth Energies, and Healing Your Ancestral Patterns, and has run workshops and training courses for more than forty-five years.
David has a wide ranging knowledge of earth energies and landscape healing work including dealing with disturbed site energies including spirit release. I studied with David to learn about some of London’s ley lines, nature spirits & elemental beings, and understanding how to work with disturbed sites.
Jose Luis Herrera and Q’ero medicine people, www.andeaninstitute.org
Jose Luis Herrera spent much of his life exploring and studying the high Mountain, Amazon, and Coastal medicine traditions of his native Peru. Seeing a need to preserve the indigenous teachings of Ancient Peru he formed ARI, the Andean Research Institute and built a teaching and learning center bordering the Sacred Valley in the village of Maras, Peru. The Andean Research Institute [ARI] exists to support the Andean and Amazon cultures and the wisdom keepers who have been gifting us their extraordinary knowledge for decades. In addition, Jose Luis is an accomplished mountain climber, explorer, author, speaker, naturalist and has studied under the most respected medicine people of Peru. He leads expeditions in Peru and teaches Inka Medicine Traditions across the US and Europe through the organization, Santa Tierras: www.santatierras.com
Sandra Ingerman, www.sandraingerman.com
Sandy is an excellent teacher who trained me in soul retrieval, extraction, and transmutation work. She teaches workshops on shamanism around the world and was formerly the Educational Director of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies directed by Michael Harner.
Sandra Ingerman, MA, is an award winning author of ten books, including Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self, Medicine for the Earth: How to Heal Personal and Environmental Toxins and Walking in Light: The Everyday Empowerment of Shamanic Life. She is the presenter of seven audio programs produced by Sounds True, and she is the creator of the Transmutation App. Sandra is a world renowned teacher of shamanism and has been teaching for more than 30 years. She teaches workshops internationally on shamanic journeying, healing, and reversing environmental pollution using spiritual methods. Sandra is recognized for bridging ancient cross-cultural healing methods into our modern culture addressing the needs of our times.
Chilean Mapuche healing traditions. Luzclara is an internationally known Chilean Medicine Woman, ceremonial leader, ritual dancer and sound healer. Her work is dedicated to awakening the sacred feminine.
Nan Moss, www.shamanscircle.com
Nan Moss and the late David Corbin spent more than a decade teaching the spiritual aspects of weather, and have been doing research on this topic for many years. In 1999 Nan & David presented their introductory workshop, WeatherDancing: Shamanism and the Spirits of Weather, and later published the book, Weather Shamanism. They also created a set of shamanic divination cards using cloud images: CloudDancing: Wisdom from the Sky, and have written articles on the spirits of weather in Shamanism, the journal of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies.
Currently Nan is a senior faculty member of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies. She teaches workshops for the FSS and continues teaching and studying her passion of weather shamanism…
Robert Moss, www.mossdreams.com
Robert Moss describes himself as a dream teacher, on a path for which there has been no career track in our culture. He is the creator of Active Dreaming, an original synthesis of dreamwork and shamanism. Born in Australia, he survived three near-death experiences in childhood. He leads popular seminars all over the world, including a three-year training for teachers of Active Dreaming. A former lecturer in ancient history at the Australian National University, he is a best-selling novelist, journalist and independent scholar. He has published twelve books on dreaming, shamanism and imagination. Robert teaches workshops on shamanic dreaming and dreamwork around the world.
Larry Peters, Ph.D., www.lpshaman.com
A Tibetan Shamanism expert, Dr. Larry Peters is a licensed psychotherapist, world renowned scholar, and initiated shaman in the Tibetan tradition. Dr. Peters holds advanced degrees in both Anthropology and Psychology, has conducted ethnographic fieldwork with shamans in Nepal, China, Mongolia, and Siberia, and is a Research Associate of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies.
Dr. Peters conducts workshops on Tibetan Shamanism in cities across the U.S., and brings several groups to Nepal each year for Initiation Pilgrimages with Aama Bombo, including Janai Purnima. Dr. Peters is a professor of Anthropology & Psychology at The California Graduate Institute of Professional Psychology & Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles, and a Board Member of the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness. For clients in his private practice, Dr. Peters employs shamanic counseling methods to promote psycho-spiritual integration.
Dr. Peters holds advanced degrees in both Anthropology and Psychology, has conducted ethnographic fieldwork with shamans in Nepal, China, Mongolia, and Siberia, and was a Research Associate of The Foundation for Shamanic Studies.
Marko Pogaĉnik, www.markopogacnik.com
Marko Pogaĉnik is a UNESCO Artist for Peace, Author of over 25 books published internationally, a sculptor, visionary and international teacher from Slovenia. Marko is a specialist in working with the elemental beings, nature spirits, Geomancy and earth energies. He has developed a technique called “Lithopuncture” which involves using carved stone sculpture spikes as acupuncture needles to awaken and balance meridians on the earth. Marko’s innovative thinking makes him a pioneer in awakening us to GAIA and the upcoming earth changes. His current focus is to teach about the multi-dimensionality of the Earth and Earth Consciousness and to communicate our decision to cooperate with Gaia’s plan for the further evolution of the planet.
Brant Secunda, www.shamanism.com
Brant Secunda is a shaman, healer and traditional ceremonial leader who completed a 12-year apprenticeship with Don José Matsuwa, the renowned Huichol shaman who passed away in 1990 at the age of 110.
In 1979, Brant Secunda established the Dance of the Deer Foundation Center for Shamanic Studies to disseminate and preserve Huichol culture, practices, and traditions, and to provide direct assistance with the goal of promoting self-sufficiency and economic independence.
For over 30 years, Brant has been leading conferences, workshops and retreats around the globe. He is a co-founder of the American Herbalist Guild, the Peace University, and the Huichol Foundation.
Herb Stevenson, www.onewhitehorsestanding.com
Herb Stevenson bridges the worlds of business and spiritual healing. Until recently, he was Executive Vice President of Young & Associates, Inc. in Kent, Ohio. Now, as part of his efforts to reclaim his Native American Indian heritage (Shawnee and Cherokee), he has been exploring indigenous healing practices, such as the shamanic use of rocks and crystals in the healing process. He has established a private practice in crystal energy healing, specializing in trauma-related work. Herb has also developed, Medicine of Men, a one-year, male initiation program designed to assist men through the process of maturity. Herb teaches people to work with crystals and rocks, as well as workshops on the medicines of Bear, Wolf, Buffalo and Cougar
Alberto Villoldo & Staff at The Four Winds Society, www.thefourwinds.com
Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D., a psychologist and medical anthropologist, has studied the healing practices of the Amazon and Andean shamans for more than 25 years. While at San Francisco State University, he founded the Biological Self-Regulation Laboratory to study how the mind creates psychosomatic health and disease. Founder of The Four Winds Society, Alberto instructs individuals throughout the world in the practice of energy medicine. Dr. Villoldo’s best-selling books include Shaman, Healer, Sage; One Spirit Medicine; The Four Insights; Courageous Dreaming; and Power Up Your Brain. The Four Winds Society, through the LIGHT BODY SCHOOL, has trained more than 10,000 students in the art and craft of shamanic energy medicine, which includes Illumination work, soul retrieval, extraction, depossession, death rites and much more. I studied with the Four Winds from 2002 to 2006 and have received my certification from Healing the Light Body School in 2004.
WHAT IS SHAMANSIM?
Shamanism is an ancient spiritual belief system which is practiced by indigenous people around the world. Elements of it still exist on every continent that humans live on. Anthropologists believe this practice to be at least 40,000 years old, and some artifacts indicate that it may be over 100,000 years old. It is most likely humankind’s original spiritual practice. If we traced our ancestral lineage far enough we would find that we all came from a shamanic heritage.
Hank Wesselman, PhD,--a Paleo Anthropologist, wrote in his book, Awakening to the Spirit World, “There are certain commonalities in a shaman’s worldview and practice across the world that allow us to make certain broad generalizations about shamanism. In the majority of indigenous cultures, the universe is viewed as being made up of two distinct realms: A world of things seen and a world of things hidden.”
This refers to a perception of a physical world and a Spiritual world. Shamanic peoples recognize that this ”seen world” is part of our everyday reality, but in addition there is a spiritual overlay, simultaneously happening, that is the “hidden world”. This hidden world is the world of spirits, guides, ancestors and the Great Mystery.
Shamanism is not a religion, but rather a spiritual practice whose worldview is based on animism: the belief that all things have Spirit. In the shamanic perspective the animals, plants, stones and elements all embody the essence of the Creator, or Great Spirit. …we are all connected and related to one another:
-- Chief Luther Standing Bear, of the SIOUX nation said:
"From Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit, there came a great unifying life force that flowed in and through all things: the flowers of the plains, blowing winds, rocks, trees, birds, animals, and was the same force that had been breathed into the first man. Thus all things were kindred, and were brought together by the same Great Mystery."
The word, “shaman” comes from the language of the Evenki peoples, a Tungistic tribe in Siberia. It means, “the one who sees in the dark” or “the one who knows”, referring to an individual who has the extraordinary ability to communicate with the Spirits or travel to Unseen Worlds to acquire knowledge for guidance, healing and service to the community.
The word was first used in the book: Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, published in 1951 by Mircea Eliade, a Romanian historian of religion. While “shaman” is specifically the name the Evenki people use in their culture, Mircea Eliade chose to use this word for the ease of reference in his book, as a generalization, for all tribes that practiced these spiritual belief systems. On publication, Eliade’ s book was recognized as a seminal and authoritative study on the subject of shamanism. The term shaman and shamanism, although culturally specific to one tribe, became the de facto term to reference all spiritual practices that followed this pattern.
The modern revival of shamanism was accelerated by anthropologist, Michael Harner, who in 1979 founded the Center for Shamanic Studies then later in 1985, created the non-profit organization, The Foundation for Shamanic Studies (FSS) as a teaching institution for the instruction of core shamanic practices. Another medical anthropologist, Alberto Villoldo, created another teaching institution, The Four Winds Society, to disseminate the ancient wisdom of Peruvian and Inkan shamanic traditions. These two organizations have brought to the forefront a cultural awareness about shamanism, by having reached thousands of students across the world, thus making the word “shaman” more mainstream in our western culture.
WHAT IS A SHAMAN?
Hundreds of indigenous tribes around the world have their own word for who they call the “shaman” of their tribe. Other terms that are sometimes used may be Spiritual Healer or Medicine Man/Woman. However, not all people by these names would qualify as a “Shaman”. The following are qualities that would define a Shaman:
- An indigenous person who through initiation by elders, a mentor, and the Spirits has been trained to communicate with the Spirits, do healings, divinations, mediation, ceremonies, offerings and other services commonly done for individuals and the community. They are a person who works in service to help others. They have been called and recognized as a ”shaman” by the members of their community.
- They carry the wisdom, teachings and stories of their tribe.
- The shaman’s healing work may include traditional forms of healing like Soul Retrieval, Extraction, Depossession
- This person has mastery over the ability to go into trance, enter into non-ordinary reality, and exit with ease. They know the difference between both worlds--they are NOT CRAZY. They are grounded, balanced and wise.
- They work in service to their community, and display wisdom and compassion to those they work with.
- The shaman believes all things have Spirit: Plants, reptiles, insects, animals, birds. Also Elements: Earth, Fire, Water, Air. They also believe places have spirits: Mountains, Rivers, Lakes etc. Because of this the shaman is deeply connected to nature and has an unusual ability to communicate with nature and nature beings.
WHAT DO SHAMANS DO?
Traditionally, shamans over saw a broad range of services for the community. They often prepared offerings to the spirits to ensure good crops or a successful hunt. They performed many types of healings for people and their animals. They did divinations. They oversaw blessing ceremonies for birth, and crossing-over ceremonies for the dying. They cast out bad spirits. Large tribes often had more than one shaman, and different shamans had different gifts regarding what types of healings or divinatory abilities they had. Often seen as wise and thoughtful, they were the psychologists and mediators of the village, helping resolve conflicts between couples or neighbors in order to keep peace in the community.
Because modern shamanic practitioners are not bound to a village or tribe like the past, they tend to primarily focus on healing work with clients and some group ceremonies or teaching. Many modern practitioners are trained in other healing modalities that are not specifically shamanic, but meld well with shamanic work, such as Reiki, regression work, massage, or chakra balancing to name a few.
WHAT IS A “SHAMANIC JOURNEY”?
“All true shamans… possess the ability to go into trance very easily, which allows them to make contact with the Hidden World. Trance in this sense is not an unconscious state, but rather a state of expanded consciousness in which the individual intentionally ‘shifts’ his or her focused attention away from the everyday world and enters into the alternate realm of the Spirits” …H. Wesselman.
The Shamanic Journey is the spiritual state, a trance-like state, that enables the shaman to communicate with helping spirits and receive spiritual information. A few cultures use hallucinogenic plants to go into these states, but the majority of them find this unnecessary. The shaman, is specially trained to perceive and access this world through a form of trance, visioning or ‘soul flight’. Michael Harner, founder of the FSS, named this “shamanic Journeying”.
SHAMAN OR SHAMANIC PRACTITIONER?
This can be a touchy subject among many people, so I am going to express this from my own perspective of personal experience.
I call myself a “shamanic practitioner”. Why? Because I am not an indigenous person who was trained in a traditional way. As most modern practitioners in western culture, the majority of my training came from attending workshops that taught shamanic principles. These workshops were a springboard for training me in how to communicate with Spirits in a way that traditional shamans do…and once I had this knowledge, the Spirits took over in much of my teaching and put me through my own painful and humbling initiations…But I am still a white woman who practices shamanic ways of healing and certain traditional practices. A client or student may wish to call me a Shaman…that is their choice since I certainly do shaman-like things. But I won’t call myself a Shaman. Why? Respect.
I have seen arrogant white people call themselves a shaman in front of indigenous people. I’ll tell you, if you want to get shunned, or have your ass handed to you, or insult the hell out of an Elder…go ahead…call yourself a shaman. There is no faster way to get shut out from a gathering of native people than to call yourself this. Essentially, you are deeply insulting the people who have had their spirituality appropriated in egregious ways by Western Culture. Many of those shamans go through initiations so grueling that most white people would never survive. Many have endured losses beyond our imaginations. Many have been very impoverished or are constantly helping their impoverished communities. Many are losing their lands and cultures. When I stand before an indigenous shaman, I know I have to earn their respect. I am humbled and grateful if he or she is willing to share any of their culture with me. I won’t even call myself a shamanic practitioner in front of them, just a student.
Interestingly, even in indigenous cultures, it is considered very bad medicine to call yourself a Shaman--your community can call you this, you just don’t say it about yourself. Tribal people know that a true healer is humble and of service. They say that if you brag about your work, or show ego or arrogance, the Spirits will take away your gifts…they will take away your power.
So there is a long standing and respected tradition of not calling yourself a shaman, only your community can. For those of us westerners, who have followed this calling and trained in non-traditional ways, the more demure way to say what we do is to say we are students of shamanic practices…or Shamanic Practitioners. And that is how I choose to call myself.