Since the beginning of my involvement in Witchcraft, Shamanism has accompanied my progress side by side in ways that I was not aware of. The beauty of all shamanic practices is the simplicity that characterises them. The heart of all shamanic beliefs is that this body is the vessel for the spirit which is eternal and incarnates in order to heal, receive valuable experiences and be of service to others. This invisible web connects us not only with humanity and our community but with everything which is alive and in spirit. The moment that I realised this principle, which is similar to what my grandmother taught me about Witchcraft, shook my very core.
I became aware that I live in a vibrant universe where everything is alive and willing to teach and learn. This very moment I also realised that I can draw power from everything, heal, manifest and share the love that I felt inside and all around me.
One of the great tools which helped me greatly and would like to share with you is that of the Shamanic Journey, a magical practice which allows your spirit to travel to other worlds, meet guides, teachers and entities in order to receive answers to questions which can be both practical and mundane as spiritual and philosophical. Let's learn more about Shamanism which vary greatly not only by location but by each teacher. This is the beauty of adopting and living a practice which embraces diversity and sees everything as unique and powerful. Therefore take everything that I describe with a pinch of salt and make any adaptations you feel necessary, I do not teach a particular branch of Shamanism but instead I believe in an adapted and simplified path that can be used by anyone that can grow and extend as a tree.
The 3 Worlds
In the Shamanic practice that I was taught, I learnt about the 3 worlds that the Shaman learns to visit in order to meet power animals, teachers and Spirit Guides in order to learn from them. These worlds can be visited in an altered state of consciousness and are the Middle World, the Lower World or Underworld and the Upper or Higher World.
Each world has distinct qualities along with different spirits as inhabitants and the shaman would visit each world for different reasons. The first world which is recommended to most students at the beginning is the Lower World which is more earthy, even though especially in Christianity it has received a label of a dangerous, 'dark' and ominous world usually associated with where hell resides. Instead the lower world is a place where mountains, jungles, underwater passages, caves and deserts. Many spirits of Nature reside in the Lower World and can provide fantastic teachings and healing to all who ask for their help. From a psychological perspective, the Lower World is associated with the Subconscious mind, therefore it is a great place to visit when you want to gain insight on dream interpretations, unexplained behaviours, irrational fears or simply to explore areas of your self which have remained hidden. In addition, the Lower World is an excellent place to visit the spirits of ancestors, connecting with your lineage and learning more about the mineral kingdom and their wisdom. In general, the Lower World can be associated, but not solely, with the past.
The Middle World is our world seen through spiritual eyes and allows the shaman to speak with the spirit of everything that exists in our physical world. It is great to assist with your telepathy, communicate with our natural world and ask questions about your every day life. From a psychological perspective it is associated with the conscious self and it is associated, but not solely, with the Present. It is generally suggested to leave the Middle World last during your progress with shamanic journeying as it can be tricky.
The Upper World is what many Christians have associated with the Heavens. In my experience, the Upper World is very ethereal similar to standing on a cloud. The light tends to be flowing freely and gives me always the impression that everything is sparkling, however, colour wise it can vary similar to the morning and night sky. Others have described the experience of travelling to the Upper World as that of floating on air or standing on a crystal floor which is completely transparent. As you can understand experiences vary. The Upper World has been described as the kingdom of celestial beings and enlightened teachers. From a psychological perspective it is associated with that of our superego, our higher consciousness or higher self that has received enlightenment and embodies the unity of all things. It is also associated, but not solely, with the Future.
It is important to understand that the 3 worlds are not separate, but instead are united and shamanic journeying to all 3 worlds is important to experience that unity. As mentioned above, the experience belongs and is sacred to the Shaman, however, as a general guidance it is recommended to journey firstly to the Lower World, then to the Upper World and finally after we have become accustomed we travel to the Middle World. But before we see how let's have a small discussion about power animals and spirit guides which are important companions on this journey.
It is important to understand that the 3 worlds are not separate, but instead are united and shamanic journeying to all 3 worlds is important to experience that unity.
Power Animals and Spirit Guides
The Shamans believed that every person has at least one patron spirit which accompanies the individual across their whole Earthly lifespan, however, there are many spirits which the Shaman receives teachings from. The two main categories, however not solely, of spirits that are helping the shaman are considered the Power Animals or Totems and spirit guides or teachers which usually assume a human or human like form to be better understood by the Shaman. As I mentioned above, I am aware of individuals who have patron spirits which have been described as clouds, trees or anything you can imagine however the majority of individuals that I have worked with they usually mention a Power Animal and a human like Spirit Guide. Here I would like to emphasise that before any Shamanic Journey the individual should contact and be aware of their Power Animal and/or Spirit Guide. In order to do that you can either ask to manifest in your life in order to perceive your connection with them. As a suggestion you may wish to perform a ritual to connect with your totem animal. Once you have identified your totem animal or spirit guide it is important to ask where your connection lies- why you have been associated? This will give you more information on the nature of your relationship. In addition, if let's say a snake appears to you as your totem animal, you may wish to acquire more knowledge on why it has appeared. This can be done by reading textbooks of authors who have a vast experience on the field or alternatively connecting with the animal and deepening the bond in order to perceive which qualities you have in common or which qualities you need to bring in your life from your teacher. Once you feel confident about your totem animal and/or spirit guide, you can move on to your shamanic journeys with your companions.
Ask and you shall receive In addition to identifying your guide to the spirit world it is important to understand that each shamanic journey is a formidable experience. Even in the most 'uneventful' journeys, you will acquire a vast amount of wisdom however you may not realise it during the life period. Before each journey, the shaman needs to set his/her intention when travelling to the spirit world. This gives a sense of a mission and acts as a compass on which direction you should move your journey.
Therefore, before journeying focus your mind on the particular question(s) you would like an answer to. It is recommended that you start with a single question each time you journey. See this as an exercise that will help you focus, prioritise and make your travel unique. Of course some times, you might receive different information that is not associated with your original question and remember that this is to be expected as everything is connected value that knowledge and don't discard it.
…the more you get accustomed to shamanic journeying and each world, the more you deepen the bond with your power animal or spirit guide, your journeying will improve…
The Shamanic Journey Here I will describe on how to visualise your journey to each world in order to assist you. I will also give you some advice in order to gain the most benefits from your journeys.
-Journeying in the morning is generally easier, especially after you wake up, as your mind is accustomed to the dream like state. Your mind is also clear and easier to focus. Using a stimulant such as coffee or tea has been reported as beneficial by some individuals however, this should be used in moderation. Try and journey on different times of the day in the beginning and listen to your body in order to find the right timing for you.
-Use a journal in order to write down your experiences this will help you keep track of your journeys and it is of great help when you need to retrack your steps or witness your progress.
-Music is a great way to relax and journey. Shamans will use instruments such as the drum, bells and rattles. These monotonous sounds helped the shaman enter in an altered state of consciousness. You can find similar music online on Youtube or buy the music of an artist who has dedicated their art to this practice. I personally use relaxing dreamlike monotonous music, I select 5-6 tracks on my phone which I ensure that will last for the time of my journey and use them every time I journey. My mind has been accustomed to the music and I am aware that when the 5th song is playing is my time to start my journey back to reality. Use whichever method you prefer and after some practice you will be able to journey with your eyes open at will even when there is noise around you.
-It is true that 'entheogens' have been used by shamans during shamanic journeying and it still is part of their culture in many corners of the world. The use of entheogens assisted the shaman to journey deeper and faster similar to the use of the flying ointment for astral projection for witches. However, I vouch to you that the need of entheogens for shamanic journeying is not essential. The more you practice the better you will become. Always remember that psychoactive/psychedelic substances can create more pitfalls to an untrained mind instead of facilitating the process.
-Start your journey by calling your power animal or spirit guide. The more you deepen the bond the greater your confidence and the bigger the benefits either you realise them or not.
With the above in mind let's travel to the worlds: After you have set your intention and you know which of the 3 worlds you want to visit, you call your power animal or spirit guide either by name if you are aware of it or you visualise it coming closer to you. Then you start your share your question and you ask to go to the world you have selected. I provide details for visualisation to each world separately:
The Lower World The entrance to the Lower World is at the ground. Try and locate a natural opening in the landscape of your mind or ask your totem animal and/or spirit guide to show you the entrance. It can be a cave, an entrance from a quicksand, under a body of water or behind a waterfall. You start journeying underground. If you want you can use your power animal as a chariot and help him/her carry you, alternatively you can simply follow them. Other ideas if you feel more comfortable can be the use of an entrance of an elevator, the hollow of a tree that leads to an underground passage or an underground train which takes you deep under the ground. Ask to be shown a teacher who can help you answer your question. Follow your power animal or hear what they have to say. Once you find the spirit that you feel is assisting you ask your question and wait for an answer. Once you have received your answer, you can discuss further if you feel you need clarification or ask your power animal and/or spirit guide. When ready, ask to be taken back to your world. Thank the spirits and retrack your steps. Let yourself become aware of your body and when ready open your eyes and write down your experience.
The Upper World In a similar manner, if you select to visit the upper world ask your power animal or spirit guide to be taken to the Upper World. Traditionally, shamans would enter the Upper World by climbing the Earth Tree up to the clouds. You can ask your totem to carry you. Alternatively, you may visualise either that you have wings, you float, you have a carrier cloud, a hot air balloon or an airplane. You understand that you reach to the Upper World when you feel that you pass through an unseen veil and/or you feel lighter. In some occasions you may feel that you cannot reach that state, be patient and relax. If you have difficulty then you may wish to come back and plan a journey to identify the root of the issue if any or simply try again. When in the Upper World, locate the spirit that you wish to visit or see which spirit wait for you. Ask your question, have your discussion and when ready retrack your steps to the ground and back to your bed. Again remember to write down your experience.
The Middle World I have already mentioned the importance of setting your intention prior to journeying. When travelling to the Middle World it is best to be clear on your motives and intention as this will facilitate the journey. As you are travelling in physical reality, I personally have found easier to see myself rising from my bed and walking out either from a window or my main door to the World as we know it. The landscape of this world is the same as that of your surroundings. You may see spirits, elementals, fairies or other spirits of nature. Always ask your totem to take you to the right spirit and trust his/her/its wisdom. You can journey anywhere in our physical world you wish to and connect with Nature. When you feel ready retrack your steps back in your bedroom or the room you are using.
In general, the more you get accustomed to shamanic journeying and each world, the more you deepen the bond with your power animal or spirit guide, your journeying will improve. See it always as a living document, a work in progress that you experience whenever you wish to and you become better and better each time. Always remember to show your gratitude to the spirits that have helped you as this is always deepening the bond. An easy way is that of offering a libation. Enjoy the magic of your journeys and share your wisdom with the World.