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Thursday October 23, 2014
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Shamanic Journeys

 

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The night I'm there, the group is small, only four of us. Attendance can be anywhere from two to twelve people. According to Jim, in larger groups it's common for people to share elements of their journeys. Once, he says, a participant described seeing himself at the head of a group of horses charging across the landscape, and another person exclaimed afterward, "Well, no wonder! I was having a journey when a whole herd of horses ran through it!"

After some socializing, I am formally welcomed by the group and given a twenty-minute briefing. They show me a book called Where the Spirits Ride the Wind: Trance Journeys and other Ecstatic Experiences. The book's author, anthropologist Felicitas Goodman, discusses seven types of journeys and the "ecstatic body postures" one assumes in order to enter each specific trance. I decide on a "celebration" pose and journey.

Next, the group picks out the helpers responsible for the three ceremonial tasks, and we get started. The lights are dimmed, someone invokes the seven directions, and another person lights candles on an altar — actions that help create a space in which to work, to settle into the silence. After "forty-nine breaths," we assume our positions, and a third helper begins to drum.

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