The Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft: Shadows, Spirits and the Healing Journey (Penczak Temple Series)

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9780738707679: The Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft: Shadows, Spirits and the Healing Journey (Penczak Temple Series)

Is shamanism all that different from modern witchcraft? According to Christopher Penczak, Wicca's roots go back 20,000 years to the Stone Age shamanic traditions of tribal cultures worldwide. A fascinating exploration of  the Craft's shamanic origins, The Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft offers year-and-a-day training in shamanic witchcraft.

Penczak's third volume of witchcraft teachings corresponds to the water element - guiding the reader into this realm of emotion, reflection, and healing. The twelve formal lessons cover shamanic cosmologies, journeying, dreamwork, animal/plant/stone medicine, totems, soul retrieval, and psychic surgery. Each lesson includes exercises (using modern techniques and materials), assignments, and helpful tips. The training ends with a ritual for self-initiation into the art of the shamanic witch - culminating in an act of healing, rebirth, and transformation.

COVR Award Winner

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About the Author:

Christopher Penczak is an award-winning author, teacher, and healing practitioner. He has studied extensively with witches, mystics, shamans, and healers in a variety of traditions from around the world to synthesize his own practice of magick and healing.

Formerly based in the music industry, Christopher was empowered by his spiritual experiences to live a magickal life, and began a full-time practice of teaching, writing, and seeing clients. He is the author of the award-winning Temple of Witchcraft series: The Inner Temple of Witchcraft, The Outer Temple of Witchcraft, The Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft, and The Living Temple of Witchcraft Volumes 1 and 2.

His other books include City Magick (Red Wheel/Weiser), Spirit Allies (Red Wheel/Weiser), Gay Witchcraft (Red Wheel/Weiser), Magick of Reiki, Sons of the Goddess, Ascension Magick, Instant Magick, The Mystic Foundation, The Witch's Shield, The Witch's Coin, and the forthcoming The Witch's Heart. Christopher Penczak resides in New Hampshire. Visit him online at http://www.christopherpenczak.com.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:


1
Witchcraft and Shamanism
To most people, witchcraft and shamanism appear to be two distinct and separate disciplines. The general public associates shamanism with the holy healing people of native tribes, while they associate witches with spells, potions, Halloween, and, due to popular misconceptions, evil. The two seem worlds apart, but in reality, they come from a very similar root.
What Is a Shaman?
The word shaman, or saman, is Tungus in origin, coming from the Ural-Altaic tribal people of Siberia. Related to the Tungus word sa, which translates as “to know,” the Siberian people use the word saman to refer to men and women who act as the spiritual healers and wise ones of the tribe. They are the ones who know the mysteries of spirit. The word shaman is properly used to refer to the spirit healers of those tribes who share a similar genetic origin to those of Siberia. It is usually used in reference to the healers of the North and South American tribes, but culturally and linguistically it can be used throughout Eurasia.
The role of the shaman applies to both men and women, though culturally one gender can be more prevalent than the other. Few refer to female shamans with a different word, such as shamaness. Sexual orientation and gender identity does not preclude one from shamanism either. In many traditions, shamans dress in the clothes of the opposite gender or practice homosexuality.
For anthropologists exploring the spiritualities of tribal societies, the word shaman is an easier and safer term than the words witch, wizard, sorcerer, magician, and seer, even though these labels were used in the past to describe the tribal shaman’s European counterparts. For those from a Western mainstream academic background, shaman has less negative baggage than these other highly charged terms.
In an effort to be more precise, some anthropologists and mystical students use the term core shamanism to differentiate the use of shamanic techniques and ideas from traditional Siberian or Native shamanism. Although it is not a religion, shamanism has a definitive set of core practices that sets it apart from other traditions of magick, yet it can be found worldwide, particularly in tribal cultures, and in the foundations of visionary traditions. Not all mystics can be referred to as shamanistic in the truest sense of the word.
Core concepts to the practice of shamanism include the following:
·The ability to enter an altered state of consciousness through the use of sound, rhythm, movement, and plants.
·The experience of one or more nonphysical realities that are just as “real” to the practitioner as the physical world, and of actions in the nonphysical worlds that directly affect the physical world.
·The use of an altered state, a trance sometimes defined as an ecstasy, to project self-awareness from the physical world to the nonphysical worlds.
·Dealings with nonphysical beings, or spirits, who enter into a relationship with the practitioner. They offer guidance, healing, or power used to create change in the physical world.
·Other mystics may have the same gifts and abilities but do not access them through ecstatic trance or working with the spirits. Though they can be gifted medicine people or spell casters, without that link to the spirit world they are not necessarily shamans.
The voluntary interface with the unseen and the ability to use this link to create change is what sets a shaman apart from other magi. Shamans are typically equated with the title of “medicine person,” though not all medicine men and women use shamanic techniques to effect healing.
Humanity seems to be hard-wired with a few common ways to interface with the spirit world. These interfaces are a natural part of our physical and spiritual makeup. Wise ones across the globe separately discovered and applied these techniques and then applied their own cultural beliefs and rituals to them. These techniques have survived because they work. Archaeological evidence indicates that shamanic practice is at least 20,000 years old, making it truly the oldest profession. The recognition of core shamanic techniques in the lands beyond Siberia and the Americas has led to the somewhat controversial use of terms such as Celtic Shamanism and Norse Shamanism, applying a cultural adjective to the shamanic practice.
Practitioners of these other cultural traditions sometimes resent the label of shamanism. The word shaman, being from Siberia, was never used by the ancestors of the Celts, Norse, or any other Europeans. A Celtic practitioner once asked me why we don’t say Siberian Druidism or Asian Druidism, and in a way he had a point. Through this anthropological choice, shamanism became a default term recognizable to all.
This practice of using the word shaman as a generic label has led to a bit of confusion and some difficult feelings. Those involved in the Native tribes feel that culturally it is their word and resent it being used as a generic label or default term. Modern pagans, sharing a similar spiritual history with tribal communities, should be sensitive to these feelings and make an effort to create bridges of understanding. As you study these techniques, it is important to remember that although there are great similarities between the healing practices of many cultures, there are also great differences in thought, philosophy, and interpretation. Such differences must be respected.
When I first started on my shamanic path, I attended a lecture in the Boston area by a scholarly and experienced Celtic practitioner of the Underworld traditions, visiting from the United Kingdom. He insisted, and made quite a convincing case, that there is no such thing as Celtic shamanism. In his opinion, people who use the term are careless, sloppy scholars and need to be better educated. The very next week, I attended another lecture by a Harvard scholar and practicing Celtic shaman who outlined the reasons why someone would call her practice shamanism. She, too, was quite convincing.
I realized then that if the professional experts can’t agree, then perhaps there is no one right answer. I use the term shamanism myself because it’s practical when teaching and I truly feel called to the word. I like its meaning, history, and associations. The practice of core shamanism, and how it relates to the traditions of witchcraft, is a primary focus of my own work.
Stone Age Witchcraft
When I teach workshops on core shamanism, during the introductions I hear stories of students who, like me, are of European descent. They tell me how they sought out spirituality in Native American traditions, going to drumming circles and sweat lodges, and how they are saddened that their own culture only has rigid, dogmatic institutions and not personal spiritual traditions. They ask me, “Why don’t we have our own shamans? Why didn’t we carry on these traditions?” We did. Our shamans were called witches.
When I trace back the history of witchcraft and paganism, I find my oldest spiritual ancestors in the Stone Age. During the Stone Age, we have evidence of Goddess-reverent cultures. In these seemingly primitive cultures, there is evidence of ritual and ceremony. We had a people directly dependent upon nature for survival. They learned to partner with the environment around them to prosper. They honored the earth as Mother Goddess, and perhaps the grain, sun, or animals as Father God. They believed in the innate magick, divinity, and spirit in all things. They worked with these spirits to create change, ranging from a successful hunt to rainstorms.
In these tribes were people who acted as spiritual guides. They had a deeper sense of connection with the spirit world and psychic ability. They could partner with the spirits and gods to receive information from the unseen lands that would help the tribe. Most likely many of these wise ones were women, since in the hunter-gatherer societies, the females were protected because of their ability to bring life into the tribe, while one man could father many children. The older men and the injured hunters with spiritual ability would join these women, offering their gifts and guidance to the tribes. This started the archetypal image of the female witch, the wise old wizard, and the wounded healer. They were the first shamans.
As these lands developed into an agrarian society, many of these wise ones gathered to form the first temples and became the first priestesses and priests of society.
They used the tools of the new society, such as writing and formal ritual items, in their crafts. Eventually these mystics created the high arts of ceremonial magick and worship. We find these priestesses and priests influencing the rulers of the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Egypt as those cultures grew into their classical empires.
Some wise ones chose to stay on the fringes of society, without formal temples. They continued on their primal paths to power. They did not have formal schools of training, but kept their teaching personal and individual. They kept the ways of the herbs and medicines. They were in closer contact to untouched nature, the elements and the animals, and continued their relationship with all to better serve those in need. The newly evolving urbanites were more likely to go to the formal temples, while the rural peasants sought help from the simple wise woman or man.
Thus the traditions remained, as empires grew and crumbled. Migrations of many tribes from the East, those of the Celts and Teutons, stretched out across Europe, absorbing the culture, myths, and magick of the indigenous people of Europe, those who had erected the mounds, henges, and standing stones. When you go back to the Stone Age root of all these spiritual and magickal traditions, all evidence points to the core shamanic techniques as a common origin from which the others sprang. What we would now call the forms of European shamanism survived and flourished in many lands, changing with the times. From the Stone Age medicine woman to the image of the medieval witch, the role was one of healing, herbcraft, and midwifery, acting as a bridge between the worlds.
It wasn’t until the rise of Christianity that Europe’s magickal and shamanic traditions came under heavy fire. Intimately linked with what we now consider the pagan religions of old, practitioners of the magickal arts, those who partnered with the spiritual forces of worlds seen and unseen, became targets of fear and persecution. The old gods were called demons, and those who honored them became agents of evil in the minds of Church elders. We did have shamans in the form of witches, and we, as a culture, wiped most of them out and sent the rest underground. As logic, science, and technology replaced the old forms of mysticism, witches were cast into the land of fairy tales and make-believe, no longer taken seriously.
Those of European descent lost a rich shamanic history and tradition due to the persecutions of the Burning Times. Because of the propaganda that was spread, we don’t even recognize the remnants of our heritage, though you can catch distorted glimpses of it in the witch-hunt trial transcripts. Though some magickal practices were preserved as folk wisdom and family secrets, others were resurrected through mythology and written lore.
The Surviving Traditions and Tribes
If our European traditions are broken lines of wisdom, where do we go to find the missing pieces of our past? In my search, I looked to the surviving tribal people. Unlike the Europeans, the surviving tribal people of the Americas did not turn on their own healers and mystics. The native magick was only in danger after the European invasions and subsequent missionary drives to convert the native population to Christianity by fear and force. This form of spirituality, although threatened, has survived relatively intact in the modern era. Even the anthropologists’ research records tribal ways and makes information more widely available. When I think of most primal forms of shamanic witchcraft in Stone Age Europe, I think their way of life, and general belief system, isn’t too far from those keeping the tribal ways now. Modern tribes provide a template for modern witches to reclaim our shamanic ancestry.
As modern witches seek to reintroduce elements of shamanism into witchcraft, we look not only to the traditions in the New World, but also to the practices of surviving traditions of European shamanism. Some are tidbits of folk wisdom from the families of seers brought to light by contemporary scholars. Others are reconstructions of this wisdom based on the old mythologies and intuitive experimentation. Folk magick and re-constructionist traditions are the surviving branches of our older forms of European magick.
Although these cultures, both of the Old World and the New World, influence modern Wicca today, few Wiccans see their magickal practices as shamanic in origin. Hopefully, with more time and information, shamanic roots will be incorporated more fully into the practice of witchcraft.
African
African spiritual traditions are diverse in tribe, language, and location, but have many shamanic techniques in common. Most believe that one distant creative force charged a pantheon of lesser beings to regulate creation. The tribal medicine men function as intermediaries between the people and these spirits, as well as the ancestors. They are respected as priests and ministers. Rituals use music, drumming, and dance. Westerners see the influences of African spiritual traditions in the religions of Voodoo, Santeria, Condomblé, and Ifa.
Asian
The Asian spiritual traditions have a strong shamanic foundation, with its influence found in the nature-based spiritual practices of China, Tibet, Japan, and Korea. Technically, according to the etymology of the word, shamanism most appropriately refers to the practices of those spirit workers in Central Asia and Siberia.
Australian
Although not directly linked to modern traditions of witchcraft, the modern seeker’s search for spirituality that led to the exploration of Native American traditions has also led the seeker to explore the traditions of the Australian aboriginals. As diverse as the tribes of the Americas and Africa, the Australian aboriginals share many shamanistic elements. Best known among them is the belief in the Dreamtime and the reverence of animal spirits.
Celtic
Though the true oral traditions of the Druids may have been lost, the mysteries of the Celts have been preserved through the myths and poetry of Celtic tradition. Even though many have been Christianized from their original pagan foundation, you can clearly see the roots of a culture well versed in the spirit world when you read the tales of Ireland regarding the Tuatha de Danaan, the Welsh Mabinogi myth cycle, the classic transformation of Taliesin the Bard, and the prophecies of Merlin. The pagan Celts were a culture that saw the spirit worlds side by side with the material world, and one step could easily take you through the gates of the human world into the realm of the spirits and gods. Proponents of the old faiths claim that Celtic shamanism has survived under the veil of Christianity in folk customs honoring the faery folk, second sight, spiritual healing and the Underworld tradition. Looking to the surviving folklore of the British Isles, I’m inclined to agree.
Central and South American
The ancient empires of the Incans, Mayans, Aztecs, and Toltecs had rich shamanic cultures that survive today in Central and South America with modern practitioners.
Although each of these cul...

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