shamaness-shapeshifter

New Age Frauds and Plastic Shamans

I have recently found that an inquiry has been posted about me on New Age Frauds and Plastic Shamans, a site I actually used in writing my currently unpublished Reiki Warrior book! This is fascinating to me. For those of you that don’t know, this is an interesting forum which questions the validity of people who are teachers and spiritual leaders,.  Some of the main issues the site focuses on are people who are claiming to be Native, or using Native traditions, thus culturally appropriating healing work as well as those who are using their leadership status to gain power, money, fame and sexual gratification. This inquiry inspired me to post a page on my site, my preface actually from Reiki Warrior: http://katalinkoda.com/my-journey-on-the-healing-path/

I have always held a pang in my heart in trying to be culturally respectful, particularly in the Native American context. I received my BA in Anthropology and did a focus on Native American studies and yet throughout my life, with no desire to do so, I have found myself having experiences with spirits and spirit helpers. Without any context for these experiences, I have had challenges trying to make sense of it.  Certainly my flawed notion of native ceremony, the noble Native American and healing was confronted by also discovering Reiki, Wicca and eventually core shamanism, teachings that have inevitably helped me on my path.

One of the teachers on the forum is Michael Harner and his many students and their work, myself included.  The commentators actively question, criticize and even attack his creation of ‘core shamanism.’  Core shamanism is Harner’s distillation of several shamanic cultures relying mostly on the tool of the drum journey to navigate what he calls the SSC, shamanic state of consciousness, also called non-ordinary reality, a term coined by Carlos Castenada. Indeed Harner is literally taking the shamanic work that is tribe or nation or cultural specific out of context.

We begin to run into problems when people promote Native ceremonies as their own, thus cultural appropriation as well as issues of sex, money and power that are found within the New Age, but also found in countless healing and spiritual situations from South America to India.  I myself experienced first hand several encounters with shady healers and self-proclaimed yogis in India.

I lived in India for 7 years and found that there were so many ‘yogis’ and ‘healers’ and sacred this and sacred that for sale, it kind of blew all those concepts to pieces. I will never forget going to a Yoga class by a ‘Master Yoga’ teacher in Benares (the most holy city on Earth) and he sat there, blowing cigarette smoke across us, reading the NEWSPAPER yelling out ‘Kat, do headstand! Kat, do cobra.” It was humorous and hey, I did a headstand in the midst of cigarette smoke.

I also met a Nepali shaman in Kathamandu who had worked with Michael Harner and praised him excitedly. Harner has been responsible for helping to support the continuation of indigenous shamanic practices around the world and the mission of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies is dedication “to the preservation, study, and teaching of shamanic knowledge for the welfare of the Planet and its inhabitants.” So although the dialogue of ‘New Age Frauds’ is crucial, so is the examination of these topics from a multitude of perspectives as we work with ‘shamanism’ in a contemporary age.

Some of many questions that come to mind:

When are we appropriating and when are we assimilating?

How can we access ‘shamanic’ tools if we are not native to a place and have little context for the land/waters/animals/plants/trees that surround us?

Can shamanic tools help us to reconnect with our surroundings?

Is Core Shamanism ultimately benefiting people?

How do we know the difference between working with the unconscious/subconscious versus meeting real spirits?

Is it correct or right to charge for ceremony, workshops, seminars?

How do we know when a teacher is true or not?

What really is indigenous, or who is indigenous, both in terms of people as well as ceremonial work or healing?

Ultimately this is a very complex issue and requires a delicate approach.  I am currently working on an article to explore the various sides of this, examining the problems of cultural appropriation and the balance of assimilation in a time when our need to reconnect with the earth is dire and of utmost importance.  Anyone interested in commenting or sharing their perspective as I write this article, please contact me! In contemplation of this I return to the definition of indigenous: native to a place. Eventually, I always fall back on the truth that regardless of our blood, color, nation or tribe, indeed we are all native to the earth, we are all native to our mother. And we need to find ways to honor that, heal, and celebrate with one another.

 

Ancestral Wisdom

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, Samhain, or Witch’s New Year and dark starsDia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead.  This is a time when the veils are the thinnest between ordinary reality and non-ordinary reality of Dream Time.  We can take time to connect with the compassionate spirit helpers and our ancestors.

Honoring the ancestors has always been something that moves me very deeply inside.  Malidoma Patrice Some, the incredible Dagara healer from West Africa speaks of the ancestors as ALL who have passed over, not only the ones we are related to.  In Buddhism we are reminded over and over of our interconnectedness to all beings and are reborn as infinite beings in a multitude of lives.  Thus we are interwoven.  I remember vividly working deeply with the plants and receiving the message, “The dead nourish the living.”

Here I share a way to honor our ancestors based on my book, Fire of the Goddess: Nine Paths to Ignite the Sacred Feminine, published by Llewellyn Worldwide.

Calling on Guidance and the Ancestors

Connecting with our ancestors and sending healing is a potent way to reclaim our power and love.  Sometimes we are given very clear messages about how we can further honor our ancestors and may feel compelled to research their stories, do a DNA test to find out our ancestry (especially descendants of slavery who often have broken family trees), or collect letters and photographs from the past.  This helps give a voice to the stories that are flowing through our blood, connects us to the larger family tree and helps us to see how diverse and interconnected we are.

Create an altar with images and objects of your ancestors: photos, jewelry, clothing and gifts from those who have passed on.

Create sacred space by acknowledging the four cardinal directions as well as the earth and sky. Light a few candles in their honor.

Thank your ancestors for their gifts, stories and joys that they shared with you.  Think of all the amazing things they did in their lifetimes: the meals they cooked, the children they raised, the work they did, the gardens they tended, the people they loved.  Think back over the stories of their lives and open your heart in gratitude and connection to their lives. Know that in your bones is the DNA that you have inherited from them and that the stories of of their lives have inevitably been passed down to you.

Give an offering on your altar in memory of your ancestors, flowers perhaps, beads or something that reminds you of them.  If you have jewelry from your grandmothers or mother, or clothing from your grandfathers or father, you may choose to wear it for one moon (one month), to relate to their power, calling in their wisdom and connecting to your family’s ancestry.

As you sit in the candlelight, you may also want to ask for specific guidance from a particular ancestor.  I use grandmother below, but you can use any deceased relative.

Concentrate on the breath and intend that you connect with your ancestor.  Imagine one of your grandmothers sitting across from you.  She is sending you love and light and you can send her back love and light.  Feel the exchange between the two of you and spend several moments honoring the healing energy.  After several minutes, then form your question that you have clearly in your mind.  Ask your question either silently or aloud and visualize her receiving the question.  Sit quietly for some time and wait for a response.

When you feel she has answered, perhaps wait a few more moments and ask anything else, either for clarification or a further question.  Again, wait and receive the message, writing it down.  You may want to also ask her if there is anything you should do to help maintain your connection with your ancestors.

When you are finished, send healing love and gold light to your grandmother.  Take some time to generate gratitude in your heart for connecting in with her.  Imagine her surrounded by a golden bubble and floating off and away into the universe.  She is moving on for now, but you know in your heart that you can access her as needed.

When you have completed your efforts, sit and again thank the ancestors.  Close the sacred space and honor each of the elements.

When you go to sleep, intend that you dream your ancestors.  Be open to the messages and omens that may appear in the days that follow.  When I was writing Fire of the Goddess, I began to have more dreams of my Hungarian grandmother in particular.  One dream was especially powerful, as she visited me in glowing light and stressed that she was not dead, but alive and well.  She looked radiant and beautiful, sitting atop her hospital bed and I was filled with joy in seeing her again.  When I woke up, I looked at the calendar and realized it was April 23rd, the anniversary of my other grandmother’s passing!  The two were inextricably linked in my own mind from that point on and I use their guidance as needed.

 

 

pink sky

Pink Rainbow, Pink Sky Blessings

pink sky2This summer I told the story of Mami Wata, feeling the continuous urge to honor the waters, our most vital and irreplaceable resource.  I told the story to my daughter, to my niece and nephew, to sisters in Fire of the Goddess ceremony, to friends and my beloved.  Each time was beautiful and magical, however the most profound moment was on a small beach in Providence, Rhode Island.  We made our flower offerings to the ocean, cried our tears, sang songs and I told the beautiful loving story of Mami Wata.  As the ceremony closed the sky turned the most brilliant shade of pink.  As the pink sky deepened, a PINK RAINBOW appeared in the sky, as if to illuminate the mysterious, feminine watery wonder of Mami Wata.

pink rainbow3

angelic landscape

Soul Retrieval

In the shamanic perspective, most problems that lead to disharmony or dis-ease are rooted in the soul level.  On this level of our being, what prevents us from living a life of power, love and wisdom is usually one of two things: either we are experiencing soul loss or we have something disharmonious in our soul body, or energy field.

Having something that is disharmonious within the energy field is often due to entities such as imprints of earthbound spirits, disease energies and toxic environments. Other disharmonious causes are negative thought forms (from self or others), heavy habitual patterning and karmic influences.  These energies are related to us in some way and although they may or may not be negative on their own, they are causing disruption in the energy field.  When this occurs, shamanic healing requires an extraction to remove the unwanted energies.

In other cases, when a client is experiencing what is called soul loss, there is a abstract flower petalneed to find and bring back a piece of the soul that is missing.  Soul loss occurs during any traumatic event, or perceived trauma (the event itself may seem minor, but feel traumatic at the time).  This can be anything from serious illness, divorce, abuse or issues from childhood, unresolved grief and anger or negative thinking patterns accumulated over long periods of time.  During my first experience with a shamanic healing, I received a soul retrieval to help heal from the loss of my first baby daughter.

From a shamanistic perspective, when we experience soul loss, then we need a soul retrieval in order to restore harmony and wellness.  Shamanic cultures around the world use soul retrieval methods to journey and recover missing soul pieces and bring them back to their clients.  I have found this to be a powerful method to assist in deep healing from the direct experience of non-ordinary reality or Dream Time.  With the aid of my compassionate spirit helpers and drumming, I may receive the guidance to perform a soul retrieval for a client, however this is not something one can request necessarily without first consulting the spirit helpers. Sometimes we are not quite ready to receive and integrate this profound healing and must first perform an extraction, water ceremony or other kind of healing to prepare.

Once I have received the message to perform a soul retrieval, I then journey to either the Upper or Lower Worlds with my compassionate spirit helpers.  I often find out information about what happened during the time of trauma which can help the client to integrate and heal.  When I retrieve the soul piece, I usually perceive the soul as a particular color.  These soul colors are aspects of our soul that we are born with or have the potential to work with in this life. Often they carry a deeper meaning as well, a word or energy that the person is needing to integrate back into their lives such as joy, expression, or harmony.

This painting captures the vivid images of Dream Time that I experienced around the time of my soul retrieval.

Soul Retrieval and the Bear

Soul retrieval can have a profound effect on our lives.  After my own first retrieval I felt completely different the next day.  My original intention for the session was that I was feeling like I had a lot of power, but couldn’t fully access it.  Although it can take anywhere from six months up to a year to integrate a soul retrieval, I felt an immediate difference the very next day.  In the painting, Soul Retrieval and the Bear, I explore the visual imagery I saw during that retrieval as well as the guides who appeared.

To find out more about receiving a shamanic healing, see here!

aura reading

Aura Cleanse

aura readingTuning into our aura, or energy field, is an important part of development on the spiritual and healing path. Known as chi in Chinese, prana in Sanskrit, mana in Hawaiian, the universal life energy is the pervasive living quality that permeates our physical, emotional and mental body which comprises our aura or energy field. Our deepest thoughts, emotional stories and inspirations live in the aura often as stored patterns and potentials usually operating from the subconscious until we begin to pay closer attention. Cultivating a dialogue between our conscious and subconscious minds is a crucial way to create more clarity and harmony within.

As we start to navigate between our body and energy field, between our conscious and subconscious we may become more aware of a variety of energies, our own as well as others that can have a negative impact on us. Doing an aura cleanse helps to clear away unwanted energies or negative thought forms that might affect us. This is not to imply that negative energies lurk around every corner waiting to pounce on us, however just as we wash our hands to prevent colds, we can also cleanse our aura to prevent disharmonious energies.

When we take time to cleanse our aura, we naturally cultivate more intuition and clarity around our inner landscape. This empowers us to make better decisions about food, work, relationships and pleasure that are more in our harmony with our self, our community and our living planet.

auraCleansing the aura is also an effective way to develop contact with the body’s energy field and learn what affects the field. Checking in with the aura and performing the cleansing exercise will enables us to see certain patterns. For example, we may notice that we feel drained after spending time in a smoky room, with a person that talks excessively or with someone who is not aware of his/her boundaries. Doing an aura cleanse after one of these encounters will help to revitalize the energy field and is a compassionate way to take care of ourselves with judging or cultivating resentment towards others. Other times, it is important to do an aura cleanse after doing a lot of work, spending time around a lot of people, or visiting a hospital.

Aura Cleanse Visualization

Sit comfortably in a cross-legged position. Bring your breath and awareness to muladhara (root chakra) located at the perineum just between the genitals and just below the cervix in women. Drop your awareness down into the base of the spine using the exhale. Imagine your breath as an anchor falling down, down into the body, feeling the warmth at the base of your body. Keep the concentration focused on the muladhara for several moments. If possible, visualize the muladhara as a clear red orb, slowly spinning. If you can’t see this, simply try to gain a sense of warmth or heaviness sitting at the base of the spine.

grounding cordNow visualize a cord of light, your grounding cord, like a root extending down into the earth. Imagine, as you reach the center that you are plugging into the energizing core of the earth. Feel the pulse of the planet, the heartbeat of the Mother Earth surging up through your grounding cord, into the base of your being. Spend several minutes in communion with the center of the earth, noticing the color and form your grounding cord takes. If you wish, you can take a few moments to run earth energy up the grounding cord and through your spine and out the crown of the head. This helps to loosen any blocks or stagnancy before doing the full aura cleanse.

After a few moments of running earth energy, visualize or imagine a boundary around your body, a boundary that encompasses your aura. This boundary is usually egg-shaped, like a balloon and sits about one and a half to two feet in front of you, beside you, above you, behind you and below you. Notice any sensations where your aura crosses through and meshes with your body.

Imagine that your aura is a bright color, forming a full sphere, like an eggshell around your body. At first you may simply imagine this boundary, but with time, you will begin to see the actual shape of your own aura. When this is possible, you can then see if you need to push out any of the edges that are too close to your body, or pull in edges that are too far away to make the field smooth. Allow your energy field to talk to you, to show you any parts that need to be smoothed out. Let your mind and/or your hands do the work.

After your field has been straightened, recheck the color. Is it the same as you first visualized or did it shift to another color(s)? What sensations did you feel as you moved and played around with this energy space surrounding your body?

Now, pull in the aura boundary in so it is only an inch away from your body. You are pulling in your field, and squeezing anything out that is dark or muddled. Visualize your aura pushing out the unwanted or excessive energies, allowing them to flow down and out through the grounding cord. Do this for several minutes. If any images, issues or negative words come up during the cleanse, imagine them going down through the grounding cord, taken back to the center of the earth where it will neutralize.

You may or may not see negative or muddled energies flowing out of the aura and body. Maybe there is a sensation of cleansing or simply, the intention to cleanse. To enhance this process, you may use a mantra, or repetitive sound, to intensify the cleansing. You can also use the seed syllable, AUM (often seen spelled as Om but pronounced with an ah—uh—mm sound). You can repeat this sound for several moments aloud or in your head as you cleanse your aura.

aura energy field

 After a few moments, pop the aura boundary back to its original place and visualize your energy field filling up with a brilliant color such as white light, brilliant blue or purple or pink. Reshape the field as needed, aiming to visualize the aura about two feet around your body, in the front, back, below, above and alongside. Imagine any bright color swirling and revitalizing your aura and body. Notice the difference in your energy field, how you feel lighter and brighter.

Now, recheck the grounding cord and choose any color for your grounding cord for the day. Then, come back into the awareness of the body. Touch the earth and slowly open your eyes. Write down any experiences you had. Did you see any color or have any sensations before you did the cleanse? Could you see the aura boundary and where it needed to be adjusted around the body? What colors or sensations did you experience once you were cleansed? Continue this exercise each evening to be sure you are re-grounded and cleansed of any energy you make pick up from your day.

**Excerpt from Sacred Path of Reiki: Healing as Spiritual Discipline © Katalin Koda, 2008

Power Animals

What is a power animal?

A power animal is a spirit guide in animal form. Cultures all over the world recognize the assistance of spirit helpers in the form of animals, birds, sea animals, and even mythological beings such as dragons or unicorns.  Many indigenous cultures believe that these compassionate helper spirits protect us from harm and we would not even be alive if we did not have them.  Although the idea of animal spirits may seem like fantasy, it is important to remember that from the shamanic perspective, there is not necessarily a negative connotation around dreams, imagination or fantasy as we are taught in Western thinking.  On the contrary, the realities are simply different from one another.  The shaman moves effortlessly between what is called ordinary reality and non-ordinary reality to find messages for healing and transformation.  Power animals are guides who reside in non-ordinary reality and can assist us in many ways.  For more on the shamanic understanding of reality, see here!

Why is it important to know who our power animals are?

Hawaiian Sea Turtle
Hawaiian Sea Turtle

The qualities that power animals carry are a real message and reflection as to where we are in our life path.  Even if we don’t necessarily connect to a magical animal helper, we can think of this guide as containing certain qualities which can help us on our path.  For example, when we dream of a sea turtle, we may think about the qualities that a sea turtle carries: relaxed in ocean currents, ability to live a long time, traveling with one’s home on one’s back.  We might ask ourselves, do we need to protect ourselves with a ‘shell?’  Are we able to relax in a variety of environments?  Do we take time out to spend a few hours sunning on the beach? Even if we think of power animals as only symbolic, there is a potent benefit to inviting them into our lives.  This also reminds us of our interconnectedness with life forms on earth and how we are all in this dance together.  Children especially love to imagine themselves as a variety of animals and playing with these helpers can open up a wealth of inner gifts.

 

Working with power animals is a helpful and beautiful way to connect to our inner

Katalin Drumming at Ocean's Edge, Big Island Hawaii
Drum Journey

wisdom, power and love.  There are two primary kinds of power animals: a totem animal, which I define as a lifelong helper and a medicine animal which comes for a shorter amount of time (a few weeks, months or years, as long as it is needed) to assist with a very specific purpose such as healing from a particular ailment, learning a new life lesson, bringing specific abilities.  These animals can show up in shamanic journeys, dreams, visions and in everyday life as well.

I have personally experienced many affirmations of the presence of power animal spirit helpers in my life.  The first time I ever did a power animal dance, I felt the spirit of the snake move through me, undulating, shedding skins, hissing.  The next morning I found a snake skin on the ground, and felt connected to the qualities of snake and shedding skin.  During a session along the Puna coast on the Big Island of Hawaii with a very close friend, I was told that she and I share an ‘aumakua (Hawaiian word for ancestral spirit animal), the ‘io (Hawaiian hawk).  The spirit helpers told me, that when I saw the hawk, I would know that this was truth.  After we left the session, we were driving not more than five minutes along the coast road when an ‘io, hawk, dived straight in front of the car and then perched directly in a tree in front of us.  I pulled over and we watched her watching us, piercing and pure.  Since then, I have found comfort in both my relationship with my friend as well as our connection to ‘io, the hawk.  Hawk reminds us to take a broader view on the situation, a higher perspective.  ‘Io is also traditionally connected to spirit and reminds us to cultivate connections between this world and the spirit world.

Shaman Journey Painting
Shaman Journey Painting

How do we find out what our power animal is? 

We may receive a power animal during a power animal retrieval in a shamanic session, or experience one in a dream, vision or meditation. Oftentimes, we may feel a kinship with certain animals and energies or may have even contacted a power animal when we were young.  Imaginary friends and animals of children are often power animals or spirit helpers.  I remember a period in my life when I was very young, I experienced a black panther who lived in my closet.  She would emerge at night and pace my room while I lay there completely petrified by her presence.  This went on for many months.  I’m not sure if I ever told my parents about it,  as obviously there was no physical panther in the morning.  In shamanic cultures, power often stalks us through dreams, visions and imagination, inviting us to turn and face our fears.  When we are able to truly face our fear, it often dissolves and the perceived threat becomes a source of inner power and wisdom. Later in life I was visited by the black panther and she held a great many insights for me, my dreams and ways to work with my clients.

Shamanic sessions often involve power animal retrieval.  To book a shamanic session with Katalin, please contact her!

How can we use our power animal?

Once you have received or discovered a power animal, you can journey to it and learn from it, merge with it for healing work, and ask questions about anything in your life.  Power animals are deeply compassionate and provide answers that assist your well being as well as others in your life.  It is important to remember to honor the power animal and its presence in your life.  You can do this by: merging and moving or dancing with your power animal, placing a picture of your animal on your altar, learning to journey and dialogue with your animal.

**Excerpt from Reiki Warrior, forthcoming title by Katalin Koda.

 

moonflower

Inanna

moonflowerAncient myths act like a key to unlock our innermost feelings and the myth of Inanna works to uncover our deepest, darkest truths in the form of a classic tale of initiation.  From my book,  Fire of the Goddess “Initiation is a deep surrender; it is the courage to really give ourselves over to the universe, goddess or larger self.  When we are initiated, we are taking the great leap into the unknown; it is a complete letting go.” (from Chapter Two: The Initiate, p. 24)  Many of us do not experience a formal initiation into womanhood; however, we DO experience initiatory events in our lives in the form of giving birth, losing a beloved friend or family member, experiencing trauma such as divorce or heartbreak.

dark stars

white darkness

the snow slid slick under spinning tires.

the rubber running over ground,

stretching out the miles in her mind’s eye.

he had asked her, ‘do you know what falling is like?”

‘falling amidst dark stars?”

she only laughed.

he was a poet,

an illusion dreamt in half-waking,

while the white season waited.

Venus faded in the distance,

a mere scintilla on the horizon,

cloaked in Winter’s departure.

his car had hummed in the driveway,

awaiting the appearance of violet eyes

and a crooked smile.

‘we’re supposed to go on a journey,’ he said.

she heaved herself into the seat and replied,

‘don’t you know we’re already on one?’

the windshield fogged heavy with the

steam and smoke,

intermingling,

cloying.

the white darkness blared louder than silence.

he touched her thigh as they cruised, slowly,

softly,

down the street,

never, never looking back.

Winter 1998