Like shamans, poets have visionary experiences which they share with others through their poetry. If a poem is mystical, or even semi-mystical, it resonates with something deep within us. We feel that our souls understand the poet’s vision.
Aristotle said that image is the language of the soul. Our souls don’t need to speak rationally or linearly or logically as our conscious minds might prefer to do. Souls have their own logic, their own truths, and these are expressed by images, such as in visions, dreams, shamanic journeys—such as in poetry.
The poems in this month’s publication strongly suggest that when they wrote them, the poets were in a kind of trance, or perhaps “on the edge of trance,” as poet W.B. Yeats characterized the rural Irish. Their poems present an alternative view of reality quite similar to the alternative realities that shamans understand and journey to in their own altered states of consciousness. As we read poems like these, we ourselves can easily slip into the visionary state that the poets had when they were inspired to write them. We enter with the poets into a shared reality.
If a poet has what we might call a “shaman’s soul,” the vision expressed in his or her poem will tap into shamanic wisdom, and other shaman souls will be enriched by the poem. We, the editors, believe each of these five poets has a shaman’s soul, and that their poems will speak to you and enrich your own shamanic life.
Once I Flew As Owl
Once I flew as Owl, eight scimitars stretched for the soft furred belly to grasp, to rip and rend.
Death must come on owl wings, they are so silent. I could hear the mouse beneath dry leaves pursuing its secret way. It never looked up.
Later, hunched on my tree limb, beak flecked with blood, I digested my savage philosophy, knowing soon I would vomit up the bones, the fur, the tiny claws.
Cait Johnson has authored six works of spiritual non-fiction, and her poem “Cold Moon” was included in Measure for Measure: An Anthology of Poetic Meters, from Random House. Formerly on the faculty at the Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing program, she has a private practice as an intuitive counselor in the Rhinebeck, New York.
When the shaman spoke He spoke of ice melting. Lots of it! It’s in the ocean, he said. You can’t change that. He saw us as polar bears Clinging to our ice floe. He was too sad to be angry. Don’t feel sorry for the polar bear, He said, Feel sorry for yourselves. After his closing remarks He raised his voice, Filling the hall With a prayer to the elements That drowned out Every fear and excuse and regret, Everything but my admiration For his nobility And courage. When he left the stage No one applauded. We were too stunned. I sat up tall, And looked around At all 10,000 of us, In the great hall. And then I sat up taller And looked around some more And then I sat up taller still. And now it seems like a dream But I saw all of us Turning and turning.
Gary Lindorff, a Shamanic Practitioner and a Veteran dream worker with a strong Jungian background, lives with his wife, Shirley, and their two cats in rural Vermont. He is the author of 13 Seeds: Health, Karma and Initiation. He cherishes his relationship with the land and worries about the future of Gaia. https://garylindorff.wordpress.com
Each creature is a shape shifter. The calf, the lamb, the tadpole, the caterpillar, the foal, the fawn, all will grow and change. Everything shifts, whether fluff of dandelion, pea in its pod, seed of pine cone, flax seed, mushroom spore, corn kernel. Everything shifts, changes. The glass in the window runs down to thicken at the bottom. Silt is pressed, hardens, becomes stone with fossils contained within. Icebergs calve, float, melt. Shadows shift throughout the day, as earth shifts which side is to the sun.
Debbee Stone is a semi-retired teacher who writes with the kind support of writing friends. She was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, and has lived most of her life in the Hudson Valley.
As a sparrow so sweetly I have sung you to me. The blue, blue sky a canvas for all that I have ever dreamt. Since the time of my birth my voice has called you to me in the most innocent notes of my heart song.
And before that, my soul danced along the stars alongside yours— Catching glimpses of the other as we weaved in and out of time shapeless and ethereal; The wise ones knowing all the while what lies behind, before, and in this moment.
Now it doesn’t seem so strange the way we knew right away what we were too timid to claim at the time and the way all of the others knew as well.
For you are also a sparrow singing me to you since the time of your birth sweet notes of the universe at play. And we, mere birds, riding the currents Of what we have always known.
Melanie VanOstrand. a Shamanic Practitioner and Celtic Reiki master-teacher, holds a masters degree in literacy instruction. She is the owner of Sea in the Sky Healing and Wellness Center in Hebron, Connecticut.
song of the stones
Why do you say ‘heart of stone’? What do you know of either? We could teach you lessons of catastrophe, the violent heave, the deafening tumble, then the silence, the silence, endurance, the slow sweetness and sorrow of water shifting our shape, finding our faces. Here is what we ask of you: walk among us, stand, sit still. Look till you see our faces, till you know our faces, learn them by heart, turn your hearts to stone.
our talk is not idle, not human, not sound to silence silence but sound to make silence ring to wring the blue from the sky and bring it drenching down to the bone what is hard for the ones who only walk is easy for us, easy to perch on the highest rock or the top of a dead tree easy to float on the wind upside down, easy to dive to the heart of a swamp our beaks are curved and golden our tails, the envy of crows but our voices, oh, our voices part the way between worlds, veils, mists, stones, life, death you walkers can’t fly but you can follow our cry, follow if you dare
temple sweeper’s song
they say the gods are gone from here they said the gods are ghosts dead as their devotees, but I remain unsheltered from sun, from rain in a roofless ruin where wildflowers succor the last wild bees there is pollen and leaf and snow the gods still dance in motes of dust I stir and sweep day after day believing still in the slightest chance someone will come from far away, from long ago to sweep me into the dance by firelight our shadows will leap and the gods will reappear
Elizabeth Cunningham is best known as the author of The Maeve Chronicles, a series of award-winning novels featuring a feisty Celtic Magdalen. These three poems are from her forthcoming collection Tell Me the Story Again. http://elizabethcunninghamwrites.com/
About the Author
Tom Cowan is a shamanic practitioner specializing in Celtic visionary and healing techniques. He combines universal core shamanism with traditional European spirit lore to create spiritual practices that can heal and enrich one’s own life and the lives of others. He is an internationally respected teacher, author, lecturer, and tour leader. He has taught training programs in England, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Slovakia and Italy. Tom received a doctorate in history from St. Louis University. He has studied extensively with and taught for the Foundation for Shamanic Studies.
Tom is the author of Yearning For The Wind: Celtic Reflections on Nature and the Soul, Fire in the Head: Shamanism and the Celtic Spirit, Shamanism as a Spiritual Practice for Daily Life, The Pocket Guide to Shamanism, The Book of Seance, The Way of the Saints: Prayers, Practices, and Meditations and Wending Your Way: A New Version of the Old English Rune Poem.
Dark eyes, the color of rich, loamy soil, hold my gaze. “Would you run for me?” The woman’s voice spills across my shoulders and down my back before drifting upon the breeze. The green grass of a running field stretches to my left. Out of view, horses chuff and stamp...
MICHAEL HARNER 1929-2018 Michael Harner began his personal journey into shamanism in 1956-57 working as an anthropologist among the Shuar (Jívaro) and Conibo peoples of the Amazon. In time he became recognized as a shaman by many indigenous people in North and South...
“If we allow a story to enter into us, we also enter the psychic ground held in that tale. A story reads us as much as we read it. As the Aboriginal hunters of Australia say, “You can’t hunt in the tribal lands until the country knows you!” By entering the symbolic...