So, what is Celtic Shamanism? I was introduced to the practice some 13 years ago when I met the woman who was to become my teacher and friend. Am I a Shaman? Not at the moment! Only when I am involved in shamanic work.
Celtic Shamanism, as I and my circle work with it, has its roots in the Celtic traditions of Britain, as well as borrowing practices from Scandinavia and from North America and other Aboriginal peoples. At the heart of shamanic practice is the shamanic journey. This is a journey into non-ordinary reality, without, I must add, the aid of any kind of drugs in this particular form. There are three levels into which the shaman journeys, the upper world, the middle world and the lower world of non-ordinary reality.
The journey rhythm is set by the drummer and it is thought to induce a state of theta brain waves, a trance-like state. A journey is undertaken to find answers to questions and is always in the company of guides and helpers. Non-ordinary reality can be a dangerous place. So, the very first journey of a newcomer is always to meet one's guides and helpers. This journey is also always done in the company of an experienced person, who must ask a particular and very important question before the start and the newcomer must give a particular answer to the question. I'm going to remain vague on that as well as on a few other details!
Before the ritual of journeying begins, there is the ceremony of smudging with incence. This can be a smudge stick, an incence stick or herbal mixtures on a charcoal block in a dedicated holder. The smoke is wafted around the body to cleanse the aura and protect. As this is taking place there is usually chanting. There are many beautiful chants.
Spirit of the Wind carry me home
Spirit of the Wind carry me home to myself
Spirit of the Ocean, depth of emotion
Spirit of the Sea, set myself free
Spirit of the Rain, wash away the pain
Spirit of the Storm, help me be reborn
Spirit of the Sun, warm light healing one
Spirit of the Sky, spread my winds and fly
Spirit of the Earth, help me with my birth
Spirit of the Land, hold me in your hand
Spirit of the River, blessed forgiver
Spirit of the Shore, shows me more and more."
There is usually an altar, on which are placed any objects which are special to the circle or are important for the ceremony. At least one candle will be on the altar, and if more than one, there will be a, "Mother Candle," from which all others are lit.
After smudging comes, "Rattling in," which is a traditional ritual with, well, a rattle! There is a set pattern of rattling to the seven directions...yes, the seven directions...the compass points, plus above, below and within. The purpose of rattling in is to summon the guides and helpers and let them know you're ready to boogie. The rhythmic drumming starts and everyone will lie down and cover themselves with blankets, as the drumming reaches journey rhythm and the expedition begins. After 20 minutes or so, the drumming rhythm changes to the, "Call back," and everyone will rise and record their journey in a special book. Then begins the reporting back, the drummer always being last.
I have a very special drum, called, "An Elk Dreaming Drum," which was made by Nicholas Wood of South Wales. Nicholas is well known in shamanic circles and a Nicholas Wood drum is a very special one.
My drum is similar in shape to the ones in the little photo in the right-hand column, but it is made from elk skin rather than deer skin. Nicholas only makes Elk Dreaming Drums to order as the skin is heavier to work with and requires a stronger hoop than the deer skin drums. One very important piece of information about a shamanic drum is that it is a, "power object," and must never be touched without permission. So, even if you were to see my drum rolling down the road, you must not touch it!
Celtic Shamanism cannot be used to cause harm to another person or to any creature. An attempt to use the practice for harm would result in that harm rebounding on the person intending to injure or hurt.
Oh! I forgot to mention the final part of the journey sequence! When reporting back has been completed, comes the, "Rattling Out," which is similar to rattling in, but this time it's done in reverse order and tells the guides and helpers that they are not needed any longer and can go for their dinner!
Water my blood
Air my breath (and)
Fire my spirit."