Creativity and Shamanism

by Feb 12, 2024

The creative process is evident in so many different activities and expressions, yet you can discern a common thread amongst all of these despite their unique characteristics. The examples below of a painter and a shaman provide the contrast and similarities between two different people and two different mediums.

THE PAINTER

The painter wakes up from a dream, lays there in the early morning light with eyes closed, recalling the details of the dream. He’s intrigued by the various symbols and metaphors that drifted through his nighttime consciousness and begins to realize that perhaps not only was there a message offered to him but also that he could express that message through art.

As he awakens from this reverie, he gradually crawls from his bed, setting out to brew his morning coffee, continuing to contemplate and visualize what he saw in the dream. Now that the coffee is brewed, he finds his way to his studio, ready to start painting what he saw and what he felt in the dream. He sets paper on the easel, sets up his brushes and paint, then steps back and gazes for a few minutes at the blank screen, preparing to adorn it with the imagery handed to him as he slept.

After a couple of days of intense activity on the piece, he steps back and gazes at it, uncertain at first whether it will need more work before it is finished to his satisfaction. After a few minutes of contemplation, he declares out loud, “finito,” a ritual that he is familiar with as something he does after every painting he successfully finishes. It will need to dry for a couple of days before he adds it to his other work, some of which is mounted on the walls throughout the house.

That night he sleeps undisturbed and dreamless, having consummated the familiar task of bringing his inspirations into physical expression. Until the next inspiration seeps into this consciousness.

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THE SHAMAN

The shaman feels the tug of his spirit guides to bring forth a blessing ceremony to honor the birth of his brother’s and sister-in-law’s baby girl. He gathers his bandanna, drum, candle, palo santo, and feathers to be used for the ceremony. He lights the candle and the palo santo, silently prays to the Creator and his Guides, then with the feathers and the smoke from the palo santo, brushes the smoke in each of the seven directions, honoring and thanking those Spirits that reside there.

Once having done so, he then sits on the floor to drum himself through a journey to receive guidance as to how to proceed in enacting this special ceremony to which he has been called to enact. He places the bandanna that he always wears with any shamanic journeying or ceremony and arranges it to cover his eyes. He drums a steady beat that induces an altered state of consciousness that sends him on his way. Bridging ordinary reality from non-ordinary reality, guided by one or more of his power animals, he finds himself in the Lower World and there meets his designated Teacher.

The Teacher goes into detail as to how the shaman should proceed, synthesizing fresh information from Spirit with experiences the shaman has had in doing these kinds of ceremonies previously. After a few minutes he completes the journey, jots down a few notes to help him remember the details, states out loud a simple prayer of thanks to his “spiritual team,” and calls his brother and sister-in-law so they can help with the preparations.

Two days later he joins them and a few other family members for the event and after some warm greetings of one another, everyone gathers in the circle. The room grows quiet as the shaman enters the middle of the circle where the baby was resting quietly in her bassinet. He then shakes his rattle, encircling the baby three times, as he softly sings a song, thus indicating the blessings ceremony has officially begun. It proceeds for the next hour, starting with each person one at a time softly whispering their individual blessings for the child.

The shaman then proceeded from there to enact various other aspects of the ceremony. Once all was completed, the group thanked the shaman and continued to socialize, feeling that they had just been a part of something very special.

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 Whether it be the shamanic journey itself or the enactment of the guidance received from the journey, when compared with a template for the creative process, it becomes evident that shamanic realities and practices are innately creative. In addition, anyone who works in the shamanic realm can readily see how the creative process is intimately woven into the fabric of shamanism and shamanic practices.

Although there are different views of what defines creativity and the creative process, the process can be characterized as movement through four stages. Doing so is not always linear but provide a description that is typically more of a flow, or movement. The stages are inspiration, imagination, implementation, and actualization.

  • INSPIRATION—One definition is “a sudden intuition or idea, or something that arouses your desire to take action.” Another is “to breathe in Spirit.” As in the examples above, the dream inspired the artist such that when he awakened, he was eager to get to it. The shaman was invited to facilitate the blessing ceremony, and this became the spark that prompted him to act. Inspiration can come from either internal or external sources, yet wisdom dictates that Spirit is always the driving force!
  • IMAGINATION—The spark of inspiration ignites the imagination, which is the bridge between the realm of the unseen, the world just behind the veil, and the beginning of bringing that inspiration into physical reality. Note that in the given examples, the creative flow occurs either spontaneously, as happened with the artist, or within the relative structure of the shamanic journey, as happened with the shaman’s initial intent. This is the start of bringing it into the tangible world of the senses.
  • IMPLEMENTATION—Now that the task has become clearer, the planning and preparation begin. The artist carries his vision to the arena where he has the tools to bring forth what he was shown in the dream, while the shaman sets the stage based on what was revealed to him in the journey. Any necessary tools are gathered to fulfill the vision that was inspired.
  • ACTUALIZATION—Let the show begin! This is when all that has come before as described in the first three phases comes to fruition. It can happen in minutes, hours, days, or weeks. Even larger projects can take years to come to fruition.

A great example of the inherent creativity in shamanic practice is from a friend who was inspired to do woodwork, but not in the usual way. When presented with the inspiration to work with a specific piece of wood, he journeys to the wood and the tree from which it came. Through the process of the journey, he receives specific information as to how to proceed creating the piece. Once that is complete, he then journeys a second time, this time receiving a typically extensive message for the one who is to care for the creation. If this is a commissioned work, he then gives the message from the piece to the person who requested it.

Another shamanic practitioner/artist comments on her process of creating jewelry:

“In a shamanic journey in 2020, I was tasked to carve from wax and then cast four silver rings. Each ring honored an essential part of my journey to becoming a shamanic practitioner. Through my creative process, precious stones of the earth and gold’s perfect reflection of the creator’s light inspired me, and the four rings were born. A ring in the shape of a domestic feline eye, a moss agate ring showing my relationship to the trees and the things of the forest. The turquoise ring with the bold design honoring the four directions and my relationship with the land. Finally, a golden ring represents my relationship with the creator. These rings remind me that through this sacred act of creating, I reconnect and become part of creation itself.”

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I invite you to be aware as you do any shamanic work of these four stages, identifying how each one fits into the flow of the work. Creativity is the juice of Life!

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SSP now has a section for Shamanic Creative Arts and is now open to receive submissions of your artwork (including music) to be displayed on the website. Submissions are open to both SSP members as well as non-members and can be any kind of artistic expression inspired by your work in shamanism. This is an exciting opportunity for you to share not only your artistic talents but particularly how shamanism has inspired and is intimately woven into the creative expression that you are submitting. Please go to our Shamanic Creative Arts page for more info or to submit an artwork or piece of music.

 

About the author

Dr. Steven Farmer

Dr. Steven Farmer

Dr. Steven Farmer is a licensed psychotherapist, shamanic practitioner, and author of several best-selling books and oracle cards, including Animal Spirit Guides, Pocket Guide to Spirit Animals, Healing Ancestral Karma, Earth Magic, Earth Magic Oracle Cards, and Children’s Spirit Animal Cards. Dr. Farmer offers individual and couple’s consultations in person or remotely by Zoom. He draws from a wealth of training and experience as a psychotherapist, shamanic healer, and trauma recovery specialist. He offers a popular Private Mentoring program and serves on the board of the Society of Shamanic Practice. For more information please visit his website www.DrStevenFarmer.com  and Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dr-Steven-Farmer/93018852583
Dr. Steven Farmer is a licensed psychotherapist, shamanic practitioner, and author of several best-selling books and oracle cards, including Animal Spirit Guides, Pocket Guide to Spirit Animals, Healing Ancestral Karma, Earth Magic, Earth Magic Oracle Cards, and Children’s Spirit Animal Cards. Dr. Farmer offers individual and couple’s consultations in person or remotely by Zoom. He draws from a wealth of training and experience as a psychotherapist, shamanic healer, and trauma recovery specialist. He offers a popular Private Mentoring program and serves on the board of the Society of Shamanic Practice. For more information please visit his website www.DrStevenFarmer.com  and Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dr-Steven-Farmer/93018852583
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