Links and books worth checking out

There is a great wave of interest in "shamanism", and a great wave of literature on the subject has followed. Some is profound; some is shlock, Some is deeply committed to the revival of a vision that can help our species to find balance here again... and some is crassly commercial. From time to time we try to help you find what will serve you.   Contains videos, and descriptions, and additional content. Under the direction of Dr. Alberto Villoldo, anthropologist who has studied under Peruvian shamans for some 20 years. Villoldo is also founder of The Four Winds Society, which offers training in shamanic healing and related.

On some attributes many of us share, from Hank Wesselman:

Dying Consciously -

The Four Winds Society  -

Great site on Andean traditional and spiritual life, in the form of a Quechua glossary;

The Inka Medicine Wheel imparts the mystery teachings of shamanism and gives you tools to clear obstacles that have prevented you from living your life to the fullest, transforming your wounds into medicine - sources of wisdom, strength and compassion - that empower and guide you. Medicine Wheel workshops as well as private healing sessions.

The Shaman and Ayahuasca; Don Jose Campos Don Jose Campos is himself an ayahuascero. His book is compiled of interviews, as well as reports from some of his friends. And its quite well-put together.  If the idea that Ayahuasca is a “plant spirit” is still one you’re wrapping your head around, what you read here will probably help. Curanderos have “personal relationships” with the plants; that is to say, they relate to them as persons. So it may be more useful to hear what such a relationship is like, than just to abstractly consider the notion that there is such a thing. 

In simple, direct language, Campos describes how he works with the plants, and how they themselves work. reading this small volume, you are taken along on an adventure. Stopping from time to time to hear a good story, meeting others, such as the visionary artist Pablo Amaringo, and, of course, sitting in ceremony -- well, sitting with those who were in ceremony “last night”, and hearing their experiences. (One criticism is that the experiences recounted seem to be selected for their color and appeal; the hard work that’s also part of this path gets a mention but not much illustration.)

Significant, simple insights on the role of the ayahuascero: “...the shaman has the power to invoke these energies. One can clearly see the power of protection.... One can obrain this force, and the transfer of this force is shamanic.”  And why use plant medicines? Are they “necessary”?  Campos says, “Of course, there are other ways to gain the access and wisdom one gains from Ayahuasca.  But it might take years to attain what one can gain from one ceremony. That’s why I like the plants. They are very fast.”

It’s worth pointing out, that this doesn’t mean you escape doing your personal work. If anything, that work may be more intense and more challenging. But bringing all your power to bear, with the focus and leverage the plants contribute, will accelerate things enough that you’ll have some years to enjoy the fruits!

For those already working with the medicine, or anyone becoming acquainted with shamanic practices, there’s much to consider here. A chapter on the soplada, or clearing-protecting practice.  And don Jose’s comments on the icaros, the sacred songs whose effects are so vividly obvious in ceremony.  A chapter on mapacho; another on a few of the most-used plants for dieta.

And, even if you never give yourself the gift of this plant spirit, Campos offers some useful advice:  “Breathe... breathe … and let go, release. Breathe and let go. Release whatever it is that has you trapped or contracted.” 

Masters of the Living Energy”,  Joan Parisi Wilcox aptly titles her book, honoring the Andean teachers -- several Q’ero elders, mestizo paqo Americo Yabar, anthropologist  Juan Nunez Del Prado, and young paqo Puma Quispe -- who are interviewed in this pioneering work, which brings elements of the indigenous cosmology of the region to those English speakers who are taking a serious interest in it.  The result is not a well-defined, clear-cut, organized system.  This is good.  The understandings and practices of the native peoples of the Andes do not constitute a body of doctrine.  There is no counsel to rule on what is approved and what is heretical.

 There is though an underlying ground of experience and shared awareness, which is revealed.  The book is a little bit raw.  I love that Wilcox has resisted the temptation to cook it too well.  As we read the accounts of a variety of elders, investigators, teachers, we’re let in on the messiness of coming into a culture not our own; our minds, being jostled about by the unfamiliar details, are left to ponder the real quarry: this field of  “living energy” (Kausay, in the Quechua language).  The indigenous “spirituality” (our concept) does not constitute a religion.  There isn’t a holy book, a clergy, or other means of authority.  There isn’t a bureaucratic structure between man and godhead, to grant favors or levy punishment, earthly or in the afterlife.  What we glimpse instead is an archaic, pre-“civil”-ized, before city, before stratification, form of awareness. Each individual in connection, balance, with the elements of nature, with others in the human family, and with and within the field of energy that constitutes itself into what we experience in this everyday world as well as in non-ordinary realms.

 As it turns out, although these realms, which the conventional mindset of our modern culture would classify as superstition, are not described in an objectively identical way across cultures, there do turn out to be interesting parallels among indigenous peoples around the globe.  And similarly, the diverging but overlapping prescriptions of elements of the Andean experience, as chronicled by Wilcox, leave us an impression, a feeling for the experiences that these teachers share. Opening a variety of doors, and peeking behind them … such investigation is suggestive of the methodology of awakening that indigenous shamans - journeyers, travelers, dreamers - undertake.  And while reading a book about such experiences is exactly ­not the same as having them, since mental investigation is the tool at hand for many of us, we’re invited to engage that tool and see if some of this speaks to a part of us we’ve been missing.

 For those readers already somewhat familiar with Andean teachings, there is much to ponder here, on topics like the mesa, Andean initiations, energetic healing practices, and ways to move the kausay using one’s own field.


Shaman’s Body, Arnold Mindell.      Arnold Mindell studied at the Jung Institute in the 70’s. He’s got a great story in this book, about how he came to be there… almost “by chance”; except, of course, not so at all. Mindell’s topic is the altogether “shamanic” one of occurrences, processes, events in our lives, be they bodily feelings, diseases, encounters with people or animals or weather… the whole range of events which we may naively take to be random, except that they are united in the fact that they all “happen to me”.  That is, they are not just events, they are my events.

“Shamans” – indigenous healers, sages, and wild-eyed mystics ­– live in this expanded range of the self. Mindell, the psychologist, has written a sort of extended guidebook to the “shaman in you”. Unlike so many books that use the word, his does not tell us how to make a drum or what words to utter. His guidebook stops at the entry gate. But he shows us where those gates are. He hints at what to watch for in our own living. Bits of dreams, fleeting images (“imaginations”), vague feelings in the body. And then starting places. How to pursue these clues, how to pay attention to experiences we’ve been ignoring so well for so long that we may be inclined to think, “oh, I don’t have those.”

If your interest is in the currently fascinating world of shamanism, well and good. This will put it on the ground where you stand, and you can begin to seriously step in, if that’s your way. The fact that Mindell is a psychologist rather than an anthropologist gives him a great stance to work with the essence of the matter. And if your interest is really in self-development, in becoming the greater being you have long been suspecting, but which has felt elusive, so much the better. “Shaman’, the Siberian term, means the one who journeys. That one journeys alone. He or she journeys into realms beyond the ordinary. But does it with the same DNA that you have. Shaman’s Body doesn’t map that territory, but it shows you where the entry points are. 

Secrets of the Talking Jaguar
,  Martin Prechtel

This book is of a certain narrow genre. That genre may have a name, but I’m going to have to just try to describe it:  The writer has one foot in each of two very different cultures. He writes to describe, explain, present one of these cultures to members of the other one. There are a lot of ways for cultures to be different, and I happen to think that the gulf between neolithic/indigenous worldviews and the “Western” world of the 21st century is about as wide as they come.

 Martin Prechtel got a head start. Son of a native-American woman and a Euro-American father, he grew up on a New Mexico reservation and came of age with a deep resistance to the authorities’ forceful repression of all things “Indian”.  At 21, with doors closed to him in New Mexico, the young man headed south, eventually coming to rest in Guatemala, where a village shaman asked, what took you so long?

 Secrets is the story of many years apprenticed to this elder. Prechtel has both the will to live this path, and the words to take us along. His descriptions are deep. Plenty about what’s going on in everyday life; and plenty about the non-ordinary dimensions he encounters…also every day. We found Secrets on the reading shelf in a little café in Peru. We kept going back, partly for the food but also to read another chapter.

 Eliade tells us the Siberian term “shaman” meant something like “one who dreams/journeys in service to the community.” There are a lot of books that purport to be about shamanism.  What few really communicate is the way this role is integrated in the community.  Prechtel  gives us that piece. He is not an anthropologist working on his dissertation. Both he and the villagers believed he was one of them, returned home.  There are plenty of hair-raising tales, plenty of conscious awakenings; but the unique gift is the genuine reporting from inside the native culture – with an awareness-by-birth of the conscious milieu of the reader, us.

 Robert Bly has written the Foreword to Secrets of the Talking Jaguar. He says, “This book will be a bucket that drops down toward the water of our indigenous soul. All the words that Martin writes here amount to a meditation on this soul as a natural force…(which) still lives inside each of us. We can rejoice in its abundance, its ingenuity, its determination not only to exist but to continue giving its gifts, if we will turn and meet it.”

Hank  Wesselman's Spiritwalker series:
This trio of accounts of Wesselman's continually-deepening experiences is engaging and informing. Wesselman is an anthropologist who spontaneously begins to "journey" into other realms and other times. He decides to takes the experiences seriously, and is in for a wild ride. These are not works of fiction; what they are is for the reader to judge.  Each builds on the last, but goes into subtler material. The third is, well, far-reaching.

Another must-read: Daniel Pinchbeck's Breaking Open the Head:   There are several parallel tracks running through this work. Pinchbeck gets a lot of attention for his interest in entheogenic plants, but he also deals with alternative worldviews a lot here, as well as some worth-knowing history of our own culture in the past several decades.

Three interviews, in about 45 minutes, on three aspects of shamanism .
The basis of healing? Consciousness in indigenous culture. The "Shrink-Rap" site's archive includes quite a few topics of interest in these connections. One of the speakers, Jurgen Kremer, is a personal favorite of mine who thinks deeply about matters like what is really involved in our trying to learn from indigenous peoples. I have the paper he mentions if anyone is interested in it.

Audio files on shamanic and related topics. Content changes.

Shaman Portal: The Global Resource for all things Shamanic is a podcasting website that presents intimate conversations with authors, visionaries and innovators from around the world. Listen to this community of voices who speak about our connection and partnership with the living Earth.

The Astraruim,  Michael McCracken's website
: The Astrarium is packed with interesting information.
A sanctuary of cosmic creativity. New content added frequently. One of my favorites is his post on Chakra Healing Music.

Urban Oracle, Kahshanna Evans' website: "is an elixir of maddening truths, shameless opinions and heart felt advise with equal parts Spirituality, woman’s intuition and New York ‘no-she-didn’t’."  An accomplished writer and artist, as well as an energy healer, Kahshanna explores the edges of body, soul, and relatedness, and does it courageously.

Pacha Sonqo: Karen van Doesburg has trained with the Four Winds Society as well as directly with the Qero in Peru.  She leads workshops in Europe and does energy healing work.  Look for links on her sight to translate the text into English.