Nanci Shanderá, Ph.D. ©1996
Were Women the original Shamans? Are Shamans now generally thought of as men because of patriarchal influence in this area as well as others? (My definition of patriarchy is a political-economic-religious system, dominated by certain males and cultures who fear the power of the feminine-spiritual-ecstatic-lifeforce in themselves, and therefore attempt to control it in Women.) I believe Shamanic states of consciousness are natural to Women and Shamans because they share the visceral ability to access states of consciousness otherwise unavailable to most others. Shamans do this with altered state journeying and Women do it with their emotions. Emotion is our contact point with our instinctual nature, sensuality, creativity, dreaming, sensitivity, and compassion. It is also the feeling nature of the Soul made manifest, and therefore the essential ingredient in accessing expanded, Divine states of consciousness and experience. Expanded state work, in journeying and in ritual, is the bridge through which feeling can be channeled into healing, transformational growth, and a personal experience of Spirit.
Women and Shamans share powers of intuition, dreaming, and prophecy, and these gifts have been discarded by the patriarchy (not implying that all men are part of the patriarchy, nor that the patriarchy is supported only by men) as silly, emotional and even dangerous to a male-dominated political-economic-religious system. History and myth tell us of cataclysmic events when "female emotionalism" was ignored and prophetic warnings by Shamans went unheeded. Cassandra, the ancient Prophetess, for instance, forewarned of the ruin of the city of Troy but was ignored and the city fell.
As a result of centuries of rejection, we act as we are expected to, and may even believe as the patriarchal collective believes. We learn to reject ourselves for not being Madison Avenue stereotypes. We are expected to be “good,” to obey authority, to be both mothering and sexy, to not be too smart or outspoken, and to be polite by eating everything on our plates while trying to maintain impossibly and unnaturally thin bodies. We don't show our anger, we care for others to the extent that it jeopardizes our own physical or emotional health, or we become macho or mean and destructive, which eventually becomes destructive to our souls, emotions, and bodies. We repress our emotions, and then experience dysfunctional lives when the repression keeps us from being free. Patriarchal society gives us reason to fear and reject our own feelings, and the most tragic part of the rejection of emotion is that we lose our connection to the Goddess Spirit.
A common practice in New Age philosophy is to surround oneself with white light and affirm that "all is whole, perfect and complete" to the exclusion of our darker (meaning feeling states or experiences which are difficult or challenging to socially accepted beliefs. Note: I’m not speaking here of what people call “evil” and equate with the dark - my definition of evil is a misuse of both the dark aspects, such as using our power to manipulate or harm ourselves or others, and the light aspects, such as what we find in the oppressiveness and hypocrisy of most organized religions.), instinctual, and feminine, aspects of Spirit. I sense this is just another kind of patriarchal control, this time in a metaphysical package, because the light is generally equated with the masculine aspects of Spirit, and therefore thought of as superior. All is whole, perfect and complete but only when the light is combined with the dark as an integrated part of the wholeness of Spirit. The light is creation made manifest, but it originates in the formless, fecund richness of the dark, feminine nature. By reintegrating and nurturing a conscious union with the feminine, we become whole because we are no longer rejecting our instinctive nature.
We might think of the light as an intriguing lure needed to pull us toward the total experience of Spirit, both light and dark, feminine and masculine. And we can imagine the dark as a sacred place within the earth body of the Great Mother Goddess that we can touch, taste, smell, hear, and see - as well as sense deeply within our Souls - that holds the potential for all life to become everything it was meant to be. Listed below are just a few things we can do to alter and heal the negative effects of the patriarchy on our lives and Souls:
• Question the source of supposed authority. Use intuitive guidance in decision-making, rather than automatically responding in a socially-acceptable way - a way that may be dangerous to your Soul.
• Listen to your body. It speaks clearly about its needs, imbalances, and disorders well before they become diseases. And it generally knows more than any medical doctor, holistic or not.
• Find your own unique way of putting a stop to abuse of self, others, and the earth. Sometimes just learning to say no to anything that doesn’t feel right to you can be equal to years of psychotherapy. You might also begin by embodying the Great Mother Goddess within you - my life has changed dramatically since I did this, especially in the way I am now influencing other Women to become free.
• Check out the attitudes, philosophies, and actions of the companies with which you do business, the stores where you buy food and other products, firms where you invest your money, schools and daycare centers to which you trust your children, churches or spiritual groups you attend, medical practitioners and therapists to which you surrender your health and well-being, and even friends and family members. The purpose of this is to detect any overt or subtle destructive, negative, individuality-oppressing energies that affect you and your loved ones. This may seem like a lot of trouble to go to, but that is one of the attitudes we have been hypnotized into taking on as “children of the patriarchy.” Try breaking free by considering yourself a grownup, a true adult, who is responsible for your own life. That may make a real difference in how you view your world, your place in it, and how you respond to it.
As Women, we are now being called back home to the Mother, not only for ourselves, but for all Her Creations. We have a responsibility to accept the call and venture forth bravely, kindly, strongly, passionately, lovingly, powerfully, and with a determination that clearly speaks of the rightness and profound magic of the Sacred Life She has gifted us with. She calls us to put an end to imbalance and suffering wherever we find it - She calls us to be Her in human form. Since Women are natural Shamans, it is natural for us to “shapeshift” into the worldly manifestation of the Great Blessed Mother. What a joyous and incredible gift we have been given!