When I was a child, I used to sit on the floor, cross-legged, and, unintentionally, rock back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth. I would always wander off into a daydream whilst doing this, and I never knew I was rocking until I came back from the daydream and caught myself rocking.
My mum would hate it. I remember her walking into my bedroom more than once, because I did not respond to her calling my name (I didn’t hear her – I was off dreaming), and she’d find me rocking. She’d exhale sharply, and say, “For goodness sake, stop rocking like that – you look like one of those neglected orphan children!”
I suppose I had a sad look on my face? I never really knew what she meant, but it obviously pressed her buttons (more than once). For some reason she associated rocking with trauma.
I never felt sad or lost (or traumatised) while rocking, or daydreaming. I felt calm and balanced. I rocked a lot, right up until my teenage years, and even now I sometimes catch myself doing it without knowing straight away. It was years later, at the age of about twenty, when I discovered through reading and research that many shamans rocked (to drumming, to chanting, or to silence) as a way to reach trance state so they could journey.
Finding this information was like coming home. I remember feeling overjoyed; someone understood; I’d found solidarity! And the more I read, the more I identified. All these things – rocking, dreaming; all my very many dreams I’d had, ever since I could remember – the flying dreams, and floating dreams, and falling dreams, and the people and creatures I connected with through them – now meant something.
It’s a strange thing to feel overjoyed and deeply sad all at the same time. I felt sorrow that I had no tribe; there was no village and no elder to recognise what I was doing and guide me through it, and I wouldn’t be the only one – most children with shaman tendencies, growing up rocking and dreaming in the year 2000, would have to find their own way. It made me realise how much we'd truly lost amid the growth of technology and everything that takes us away from nature and from our spiritual selves.
So I did what I’ve always done: I taught myself. I read everything I could on shamanism and its practices, from Native American, to Celtic, to Siberian, to African. I identified with Native American and Celtic the most, particularly remembering my Native American spirit guide as a child, and the sense of safety and familiarity I felt while in his presence. How I wished I could remember all the words he breathed into my ear when I was three. I could only remember a fraction, but I knew he taught me a lot in my dreams.
In those pre-internet days, I found someone local – a shamanic teacher by the name of Ivan, who was running a training programme. I wasn't one for seeking out teachers, but I felt a need to do everything I had read; to somehow put it into practice so I could grow outside my own mind. But I didn't and never have believed in "gurus" - one should always follow their own path with their own mind. Ivan never portrayed himself as a guru, or as knowing everything, which was good. I liked him on our first meeting. Fair enough, this wasn’t going to be a testing month-long trek through the Amazon Jungle with native shamans teaching me their ways, but it was the year 2000, most tribal villages have been decimated and their shamans (and their teachings) lost to us. It was a start. (And the Surrey Hills was magical enough!)
That was when I found myself on a seven-month long shamanic warrior “death and rebirth” course with Ivan McBeth (now passed away), and while I was doing this, I was still reading and studying. I’ve always been eclectic with my studies – I think how I grew up in my early childhood demanded I look at many different cultures and viewpoints. I eventually found myself reading about the practices of druidry and witchcraft in England, and I found yet another path I could follow. Whereas shamanism spoke to my soul and my undeveloped abilities, this other path spoke to my creativeness and dramatic flair: the path of the witch.
I discovered it was entirely possible to be a solitary witch, and the idea of a coven never appealed to me anyway, for I felt too ingrained with my shamanism through my spirit guide to be fully immersed in the teachings of a coven.
So, in the years 2000 and 2001, respectively, I happily dedicated myself to the path of a solitary witch, while I was also initiated as a shamanic warrior. In essence (and if we’re going to go by labels), I suppose I became a shamanic witch.
I have read so much, and some books were from the library. Some books were given away or lost amid house moves over the past two-and-a-half decades, but I remember some of what I read and still have a lot of those books. The below are a short list of books I found inspirational and helpful while studying and practicing shamanism. Of course, I didn't agree with every single thing in every book, but who does? Books are supposed to make you question, think, and find yourself, and they did just that. (Note: I read these in 1999 / 2000 / 2001 - times have changed, as have I - but they opened doors for me at the time.)
Written by Dianna Hardy, February, 2019. This article was first posted on Between Fire & Ice on 22nd February, 2019.
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