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  • Karen Hamilton-Viall

Journeying with the ancestors

At Chelmsford's mind, body and spirit fair recently, I decided to attend a shamanic Journeying with the ancestors workshop, run by Clare J Shaman. Apart from speaking with shamanic workers, this was my first experience of immersing myself in shamanism.

Clare, the teacher, was instantly likeable with bright, beaming Cheshire cat features. Brown feathers dangled elegantly from her long blonde hair and hung over her bright yellow robe.

I assume that this was a robe she wore specially for shamanic work, as my friend had previously told me he had special clothes for the purpose.

She began by speaking to the four archetypes of shamanism, the jaguar in the west, the hummingbird in the north, the great eagle in the east and the serpent in the south. She made grand gestures in each direction and to each animal.

She asked us to close our eyes as she drummed. The first thing I saw was an eye. Then a turtle. Then I could see rainbow coloured waves engulfing the audience, who appeared in my mind's eye as gold and brown figures. My eyes began to move rapidly as they do in REM sleep, but I had no control over them. I remember thinking, that's weird. All the time she drummed, my eyes moved uncontrollably.

Next, she asked us to imagine a beautiful place. I thought of Jenet's Foss, in the Yorkshire Dales. It's an enchanting little waterfall and lake in a wood that was once said to be home to Jenet, queen of the local fae folk. Next we had to imagine an entrance in that place leading below. I imagined an entrance behind the waterfall. I followed the tunnel down to an underground lake and cavern. Clare said we could imagine bright colours and crystals and it took me back to a memory of when I was about three years old, of drifting into a rainbow coloured cave in a rowing boat. We had to immerse ourselves in the water and I plunged myself beneath. Then we had to imagine our ancestors coming towards us. I saw no details of faces, but saw them as gold and brown figures. We were asked to pick a path. Either the left or the right. The left path looked scarey and dark, so I chose the right path, which was glowing with golden light. We had to think of a number. I chose seven. We had to imagine a spirit animal. If we saw it at least three times, it had presented itself to us. Much to my surprise, I very clearly saw a mute white swan. The first hint was the wing outstretched, then the long, elegant neck and head. It presented three times. We were told we'd cleared the path of ancestors, as many times back as the number we chose. As I chose the right path, it was through my male ancestors. We had to ask if there was a task that our ancestors wanted us to complete. This was a bit vaguer for me. I saw what looked like the railings of a ship with passengers leaning against it. I also saw a forest, but I was looking up at the canopy from the ground. Nothing very clear in terms of what needed doing.

We then had to pull ourselves backwards the way we came, all the way to the surface. I was reluctant to open my eyes and end the session but I felt great afterwards. My husband's experience was not so complete, with no spirit animal, but it sounded like he had a lot of fun going underground as he slid down on a mud slide straight into the pool! Would I do it again? Yes, definitely. My first experience was a great taster into the world of shamanism. I bought myself a swan stone from the shamanic stall afterwards as a reminder of my journey and my spirit guide. The stones are apparently made by indigenous American people, though the seller did not specify which tribe. I asked my shamanic friend if the swan symbolised anything but he thought I should apply my own interpretation to it.

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