by Paul Robear
We are frequently asked “what is the relationship between the ritual postures of the Cuyamungue Method and Shamanism?” This is an important question. Defining terms is a good start to better understand shamanism.
The terms “Shaman” and “Shamanism” has been adopted by many well-meaning people, but actually is not a catch-all term for all earth-based religions or indigenous religion. Shamanism is not the same thing, for example, as Native American spirituality. The word “shaman” originates among the people of Siberia. The shamans of Siberia interact with deities and spirits not only with prayer, ritual and offerings, but through direct contact with the spirits themselves. However, today the view of shamanism ha become much broader. Scientist, researchers, anthropologist, and scholars have started look at it not as an exclusive belief and ritual practice of the people of Siberia, but as a phenomenon inherent to all people of the world, including Africa and the Americas.
From Wikipedia: “Shamanism is a practice that involves a practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to encounter and interact with the spirit world. A shaman is a person regarded as having access to, and influence in the world of benevolent and malevolent spirits, who typically enters into a trance state during a ritual, and practices divination and healing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shamanism
In the Siberian Tungus language, from which the word originates, ‘shaman’ signifies ‘the one who sees’ and refers to a person capable of ‘journeying’ to alternate realities through an altered state of consciousness. From direct experience, the shaman sees that there is no separation between this apparently material world and the non-substance realm of the spirits. This transition or breakthrough to altered states of consciousness is at the root of shamanism. Much has changed in the human evolutionary story, but thankfully, our physiology, brain, and that part of us with the capacity to transcend and experience alternate realities remains the same.
In traditions all around the world, the transition to an altered state of consciousness is assisted by the use of percussive sound — easily achieved through drumming, rattling or clapping. Some cultures use hallucinogens, such as ayahuasca, to help alter consciousness, but actually they are a small percentage — only about 10%. Most rely on the natural functioning of the mind/body connection, as does the Cuyamungue Method.
Within the process of The Cuyamungue Method, we use percussive sound to activate a specific physiological response to open the doors of perception. When combined with ritual postures, this produces a profound change in consciousness enabling one to experience different areas of the alternate reality — all easily and naturally achieved, without the need for hallucinogens or a long, arduous training period!
Shamanism – a Direct Experience
Where the Cuyamungue Method differs from classic Shamanism, is that the Cuyamungue Method is “doit-yourself” spirit journeying. We are journeying to the Alternate Reality for ourselves, and not on behalf of a client or patient, as the Shaman does. In a group setting, there will be one person facilitating the trance induction. That person uses a ritual process to create a “sacred space” and to call upon the help of healing spirits, and performs the rattling or drumming, and afterwards asks each member of the group to share their experience. In classic Shamanism, it is often the assistant who provides the percussive sound, while the Shaman does the journeying. With modern technology, we can use an audio recording of the rattling or drumming, to facilitate a spirit journey all on our own. However we work it, we are taking a spirit journey for ourselves. We are playing the roles of both healer and patient, interacting with the spirits and integrating the events of the trance while also receiving the benefits. When individuals undergo a healing trance using a ritual posture, they may report discernible energy shifts or flows in their body, visions of colors and patterns of light, visionary encounters with benevolent animal spirits or other spirit beings, and an over-riding sense of well-being. In some situations in trance, we may find we are directing energy toward the healing of others, as directed by the spirits.
We will forever be indebted to Dr. Goodman for her diligence and keen insight in reviving this ancient technology, with its roots in some of the oldest shamanic traditions, for all us.