Apprenticing with a British Shaman

Many of us look skywards when we are born – towards the position of the planets at that specific place and moment of our birth. But very few of us ever make the time or find the opportunity to look down around us, at our roots and discover what connects us to our place upon the earth.

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It was typical English winter day – a blanket of white sky, gentle drizzle and the black bones of trees grasping upwards, towards a sun they couldn’t see. I was cussing as I crawled down a dirt track in the Mercedes navigating the ravines made by tractors – the only vehicle really fit for the ‘roads’.

Eventually I get to my destination, a little wonky thatched house and aside from part of the car’s bumper, we are in one piece. I look around and there is absolutely nothing aside from fields, rooks, crows and the odd starling.

I was about to attend my first weekend on my apprenticeship to an English Shaman versed in the ‘old ways’, before they had to go underground with the onslaught of organised religion in the 1600s.

I walk past the broom on the porch towards the front door and greet the attendees, before getting scolded for talking too loud and not realising I had closed the door on the Black cat who had been following me in. I got the feeling that this was going to be challenging in more ways than one.

The small group I was training with were an eclectic bunch – some from big business, others seeking ways to overcome personal challenges and others like me, who were just innately curious. Everyone, whatever their background, was focused on learning and developing their practice of the old ways.

Shamanism isn’t the sparkly, glittery, ‘Instagram perfect’ kind of work. Its dark, slow and often uncomfortable.

We had been working remotely on tasks often assigned in-line with the old year markers of Imbolc, Lammas, Beltane, Samhain the Equinoxes and Solstices. Our practice was to be above all remembering how to listen, how to hear both the world around us and the elements within us. Only then would we be at a place within which we could interact – find our familiars, meet guides and deepen our discourse with the world around us.

Shamanism isn’t the sparkly, glittery, ‘Instagram perfect’ kind of work. Its dark, slow and often uncomfortable. Its wandering in the pouring rain, sloshing walking boots and heavy grey waterproofs, compass in hand and head in the elements kind of stuff. It was suffocatingly intense at times. Alternating between the feeling of freedom as you soared on feathered wings and the heavy weight of the earth’s womb enclosing around you.

Its removing our belief that the human animal is the centre of the world, that we can just walk up to a tree without thought as to whether that tree wants us to greet it; that cartoon propagated idea that wild animals will collect at our feet the moment we ask them too; that the answers will come as simply as an internet search result. You have to prove your metal to this world – heart, mind and spirit.

what is wild can never be comfortably domesticated, we pay that price every day

Many of us look skywards when we are born – towards the position of the planets at that specific place and moment of our birth. But very few of us ever make the time or find the opportunity to look down around us, at our roots and discover what connects us to our place upon the earth.

Like so much esoteric work, practice is key – from the simplest ones such as remembering to greet the world around us when we have spent a life time just passing it by through to more intricate rituals that require space within the day, month or season. But the rewards are infinite, if not to hear nature speak, at least learn ourselves in more depth.

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