This is a surprisingly hard question for me to answer. I have been journeying since I was a small child, although I haven’t talked about it much for most of my life. As a child, I learned that to fit into my family and greater society I needed to keep my experiences to myself; talking about my adventures or my friends in the other worlds made the people I knew uncomfortable at best and at worst could result in a trip to the doctor or psychiatrist. So, I led a double-life of sorts, pretending to be mostly like everyone else on the surface and journeying when no one was really paying attention. It wasn’t until I was in my early thirties that I realized what I did had a name and there was even a set of rules and practices for doing it.
Shamanic journey is a method of traveling into other worlds and places. Many shamans use tools, such as drums or rattles or dance or song, to move into and hold the state of consciousness required for the journey. I do that, sometimes. Sometimes I just go. Journeying is akin to walking for me. I often set out without a lot of preparation or the aid of ritual. That’s how I did it for my first twenty-five years, after all. Sometimes just setting off isn’t right, though. Then, I like soaring into the other worlds on a the beat of my drum or on that of a djeridu and click sticks CD by Michael Harner.
Shamanic journey is used by shamans to heal, seek answers and advice, protect, and to gather knowledge. It is one of many tools the shaman uses to create change in the world. It’s a powerful tool. I have used it in these ways for myself and others and have seen changes large and small result, although I do not call myself a shaman. More often than not, my journeys are about visiting friends and family in the other worlds or about learning. Sometimes, I think my teachers there take particular pleasure in noting just how much i have left to learn. They’d be right, of course. I have a lot left to learn, and shamanic journey is one of the tools I’m using.
The best way to understand Shamanic Journey and Shamanism is to practice, of course. To get your started, I offer you these resources:
- Sandra Ingerman’s video on Shamanic Journey is an excellant primer. Her book, Welcome Home, is a good read, too.
- David Lang’s Urban Shamanism has a lot of good information on all things Shamanic.
- The Foundation for Shamanic Studies on the web or in print The Way of the Shaman by Michael Harner are a good doorway into shamanic practice for those of us who grew up in the Western, really scientifically world.