OUR BODIES AND OUR SELVES ARE THE PRIMARY and most important ceremonial tools at our disposal.
As such, we must learn to honor ourselves and better integrate our bodies, the material self, and our souls, the immaterial self.
Learning to be in harmony with and within ourselves is one of the key processes of shamanic healing.
When people are called to Shamanism, they are generally seeking to heal profound wounds.
They come to Shamanism to resolve aspects of their lives that are not in harmony. As we move through life, we experience trauma of varying degrees.
Trauma chips away at our souls. It is common for people to come to Shamanism after experiencing particularly profound trauma, the kind that disrupts our foundation.
The resulting wound becomes a catalyst for change, functioning as an initiation rite of sorts.
This is the underlying concept of the Wounded Healer archetype: we grow and learn through suffering.
The archetype of the wounded healer is a recurring concept in many shamanic traditions, as well as other spiritual paths.
Even though Jung coined the term, this concept can be seen in mythology throughout the world.
Stories of wounded healers date as far back as Ancient Greece, seen in the myth of the centaur Chiron, as well as the legend of Asclepius.
This archetype describes a being who has gone through a journey of self-transformation triggered by trauma.
Within this concept is the understanding that from the wound comes a gift in the form of growth.
More specifically, this gift generally manifests as a call for the wounded healer to help others heal their own wounds.
The trauma results in a significant personal shift that allows us to gain wisdom that can be used in service of others.
Trauma is something that is overcome through a dynamic, multistage process.
The wound urges us to transform, which in turn shifts the wound, encouraging another shift within ourselves.
To face and accept a wound and embrace its teachings, as opposed to resorting to avoidance, is a key internal process for the shamanic practitioner.
The trauma may awaken something new inside us, calling us to a new path, such as Shamanism.
Through shamanic practice, we are able to start mending not only the original trauma, but our other traumas.
Suffering is such a transformative experience that some cultures, both shamanic and non-shamanic, will engage in intentional suffering within ceremonial context as a way to trigger internal shifts.
While I cannot disclose specific details, I have in my own initiatory rites experienced extended isolation, sleep deprivation, binding, and other forms of voluntary suffering.
These experiences are powerful and transforming, but should not be entered lightly.
In his book Cave and Cosmos, Michael Harner discusses the use of intentional suffering as a way to gain personal power from the helping spirits, describing examples of such rites among the Inuit, the Shuar, the indigenous tribes of the North American Great Plains, and tribes in the Upper Amazon region.
This information is not provided to encourage readers who are new to this path to subject themselves to suffering (quite the contrary, as this should not be attempted without extensive prior experience), but rather to highlight the transformative potential of trauma.
Every traumatic event we experience holds the power to push us forward on our spiritual paths.
As we discussed earlier in this book, the most important part of ceremony is approaching it with the true belief that we need to transform.
In Shamanism, we engage in various forms of ceremony, such as power animal retrievals and soul retrievals, as part of our healing journeys.
One such ceremony, which is perhaps the simplest but most important, is singing our soul songs.
We discussed earlier the importance of our voices as ceremonial tools, and singing our soul songs is one important way we can use them.
One of my teachers once said there are two very important questions we must ask ourselves: When did we stop singing?
And when did we stop dancing?
Singing and dancing are the most primal expressions of self we can engage in as incarnate humans.
Modern society tends to cast judgment on unrestrained singing and dancing, and the more time we spend repressing our natural voices and movements, the more we disconnect from crucial parts of our soul.
Humans are the only beings in nature who apologize for their own voices.
The wind does not apologize for howling, crickets do not apologize for chirping, and we should not apologize for making our most primal sounds.
To do so is to deny an essential part of ourselves.
When should soul songs be used?
They can be a practice of their own that we can engage in regularly to strengthen ourselves, or in conjunction with other shamanic work.
I strongly recommend singing your soul song at the opening of any ceremonial work you engage in.
By starting with your soul song, you are establishing a strong connection with your soul, creating a vibrational shift in the space you are working in, and indicating to your helping spirits that you are ready to participate in ceremony.
Your soul song is your most honest, unfiltered, and unplanned vocal expression.
It is what happens when you close your eyes, move your lips, and let whatever sounds your soul wants to make in that particular moment come out.
It is usually a song without words, a song that is brand new, and likely to be different every time, because it expresses whatever your soul needs in that very instance.
You can drum or rattle as you sing, as this is another way for your body to express itself.
The key element is for your soul song to be honest and free of fear or judgment.
The soul song is not limited to vocalization.
Rather, I prefer to think of the soul song as the full, honest expression of the soul as manifested through the entire body.
When singing our soul songs, we often feel called to dance as well.
Surrender to this call and allow your body to move freely in honest expression.
Engaging in song and dance is one of the most primal ways to honor ourselves and Spirit.
Soul songs can be sung both in solo ceremonies and in group settings.
When singing soul songs in a group setting, each person sings their own particular soul song at the same time.
Do not worry about whether your soul songs sound “good” together or whether they sound similar or different.
Allow yourself to be vulnerable in the moment as you share in a vibrational shift in preparation for the work to follow.
By engaging in soul songs as a group, all participants will be more in sync with each other and more open as they move into the next step of the shamanic work they are about to engage in.