We live in an interesting age. More and more people called to a shamanistic practice with almost nowhere to learn that. Please understand, I am not talking about people who do this for status, we all know the sweat lodge braggart who is the Fifth Sacred Thunderbird Firekeeper of the fill-in-the-blank Nation, or those who do it only as a means to make money, to achieve fame or to get laid. And it seems there are a shit ton of these folks out there. Also people who claim to have the goods, but have no training whatsoever. Sprinkled among these absolute fucktards are some folks who are the real deal. If you're lucky you find one of these before one of the former burns out your passion for the work.
There is a certain amount of phoniness to me in claiming what rightfully belongs in Navaho, or Lakota, or Q'ero, or Tibetan, or Wiradjuri, or Yoruban culture. Don't read that and be pissed if you are one of the shamanistic folks. But do think about it open-mindedly. Those spiritual practices co-evolved with those cultures, not a post-technology boom, fast paced Western world. There is no way that we can ever fully understand what someone raised in that culture does. And insisting it must be only that one way, sounds a little bit like the Koolaid that the church I was raised in wanted me to drink. No thank you. That's all I'm trying to say.
So what's a body to do if they are called to a spiritual shamanistic practice but comes from a culture that lacks one? It's not like you beebop down to the Church of the Shining Shaman and sign on or that you are born knowing because an elder divined it for you. Western European colonialism and science have done a pretty good job of eradicating those things. Most of us find someone local to hang out with, then maybe you study with a native elder, maybe from one of those cultures listed above. But you will always be an outsider in those practices. There is just no way that a practitioner raised outside those places can understand as well as a person raised in those traditions. The cultural reference points are off. This doesn't mean that you can't be a powerful practitioner - NOT AT ALL. What it means is that you need to adapt what you know to your own cultural reference points.
Remember that Darwin dude? Adapt or die. That's what nature shows us. Most shamanistic cultures are steeped in connection to nature, so small leap here, why shouldn't our spiritual practices evolve? Why shouldn't they adapt to our environment too? Spirituality should be an evolving, living, breathing part of our lives. How can it do that, be that, if we are locked to say, a Peruvian mesa, but live in the Eastern Woodland where there are no mesas? To clarify......I know what a mesa is, but it's not like I get up every morning, look out my window and stand in awe of a towering red mesa. It is just a word to me. I do spend a lot of time though wandering under the protective canopy of those Eastern Woodland trees. I have certain kinds of trees that I love, beech, burr oak, redbud, certain individual trees with whom I have an ongoing relationship. These trees are my 'mesa'. Ditto the idea of totems or helpers. While, I dig the idea of a condor, they have no place in my real life. But say Muhammed Ali or Barbara McClintock could come and hang with me for a while. There's a cultural reference point that I can bite into. Making the teaching personal, current and relevant is one way to evolve a shamanic practice to Velveteen Rabbit real.
I wonder how much more genuine a practice might feel if, once you've gotten a good foundation in the basic aspects of shamanism, you had a little one-on-one with your peeps and see what they had in mind and how you need to adapt what you know to where you are. How do you evolve your practice so that it fits where you are, where you are going? By evolve here I DON'T mean tweeting about your status as great Poobah of BFE Whatev to your own aggrandizement, nothing against the Twitter, but of using the tools that our culture provides for us in ways that are aligned with our practice. What if Christianity had evolved along with it's followers? How powerful might that be? Maybe fewer of us would be called to something else if it had.
That said, anyone who can point me toward a plastic shaman for my dashboard will earn serious bonus points. And just to be straight, I would not claim to BE a shaman by having that any more than having the Jesus give me the hairy eyeball from the dash made me the J-man.