A Spirit Walker's Guide to Shamanic Tools: Excerpt - Introduction

Now Featured in the Patheos Book Club
A Spirit-Walker's Guide to Shamanic Tools
How to Make and Use Drums, Masks, Rattles, and Other Sacred Implements
By Evelyn C. Rysdyk

Excerpt — Introduction

This volume was specifically designed to support those of you who have learned how to access the spirit realms through the shaman's journey and desire to add the right spiritual implements to your shamanic toolkit. If you picked up this book and don't yet know how to journey, you may learn what you need via several methods. There are several excellent books available that can guide you through the practice. Two outstanding resources for learning the shamanic journey process are my own book, Spirit Walking: A Course in Shamanic Power, and Sandra Ingerman's Shamanic Journeying: A Beginner's Guide. In addition, there are many teachers available to support you in person. The website www.shamanicteachers.com has a list of authorities across North America, Europe, and Australia. Information on my own initiatory shamanic training programs is available at www.spiritpassages.com. Spirit Passages is the organization I founded with my partner, Allie Knowlton, MSW, LCSW, DCSW to support individuals increase their personal power, feel their intrinsic sacredness, and expand their connections to All That Is. However you learn, take the time to strengthen your connections to the spirits prior to attempting the spiritual exercises in this book.

Learning to journey and having strong relationships with a teacher in the spirit world and with a protector spirit in the form of a power animal make up the basic framework for any effective shamanic practice. People who have gained this knowledge through their culture's tribal traditions are typically referred to as shamans. I will mention several of these tribal healers with whom I've been fortunate to study in this book. Their full biographies are available in an appendix. However, it is also possible for anyone without a tribal affiliation to become an effective shamanic practitioner or spirit walker by entering into deep relationships with the spirits. The foundation of any powerful shamanic work is dependent upon the relationships forged with the helpful spirits in the Upper, Middle, and Lower Worlds. Journeying to meet with the helpful spirits and following through with the guidance they offer sustains these relationships. Engaging with the spirits of nature is another essential aspect of becoming a powerful spirit walker. This aspect of practice is supported through journeying to meet the spirits of the trees, animal, birds, and landscape features around your home to find out who they are and what they might like to share. Just as with human connections, initial meetings blossom into reciprocal relationships that nurture the spirit walker and support the health of the natural world. My book Spirit Walking: A Course in Shamanic Power takes you through this process and provides the basics for becoming a truly powerful shamanic practitioner.

Whether you are looking at your connections to helping spirits or spirits of nature, you will find that certain objects facilitate those connections and support you to accomplish your work more easily. For instance, the sacred sounds of drums, rattles, and other implements accompany your spirit journeys. Power objects such as staffs, crystals, and masks amplify your intention, concretize that which is "invisible," or provide a stronger connection to power in your relationship with your helpful and healing spirits.

Navajo traditional healers bring rattles, corn pollen, eagle feathers, and sage smoke together with songs and dances to effect healing. An Ulchi shaman would need a d rum, rattle, and larch wands called gimsacha to work healing magic. A Manchu shaman would need to perfume the air with incense and tie on a heavy bustle of iron jingles as a part of a ceremonial costume. Western-trained, core shamanic practitioners may utilize many different forms of ritual objects. Often con- temporary practitioners have also been trained in one or more indigenous traditions which they incorporate as a part of their healing practice. The implements used are extensions of the shaman's intention and power. They support and/or magnify the connection with the helpful, healing spirits that guide the shaman's actions.

Archaeological evidence shows that we human beings have been making tools for at least 2.6 million years. Early in our development, we discovered that certain objects could help us accomplish tasks more easily. Our stone implements allowed us to hammer, drill, cut, and shape the details of our physical world.

By 40,000 years ago, we were using our tools to craft sophisticated musical instruments, as well as in drawing, painting, and carving figurines that assisted us in expressing complex ideas and our intangible feelings. Shamanic implements are an outgrowth of this progression as they support us to go deeper into the intangible worlds through journeys to the numinous realms of spirit. There, we navigate the complex interrelation- ships that are continually creating our physical existence.