First Shamanic Journey
If you have been reading along as I have posted about core shamanism you might be ready to try your first shamanic journey. As I mentioned in a previous post, the big difference between a shamanic journey and a dream is that shamanic journeys are intentional. So, given your intention, let’s get started.
Before you begin your journey you need to do a couple of things. First, determine the purpose of your first journey. To common objectives are to (1) explore the lower world just to get to know your way around, like how to get there and how to return, or (2) to meet your power animal. The second thing that you need to do is to identify your portal. I use an opening in the bottom of a big oak tree that is along a path where I frequently hike. Your portal can be any opening into the earth, it might be a well, a lake, a waterfall, a cave, the roots of a tree, an opening in a wall (see below) or you can borrow my opening at the bottom of the oak tree. Don’t worry about the size of your portal. You will not enter it with your physical body, rather your intention will lead you through the portal.
Your opening might be a place that you have seen before, once or many times, or one that you imagine. I prefer openings that really exist in the physical world because they help me experience passing from one reality into another. I think that the best portals or openings are ones where you feel that the veil that separates one reality from another is thin. Here is a picture of one of the portals that I frequently use. It is an opening in a stone wall and the ground on the other side is about 20 feet below the opening. That doesn't matter because I don't physically jump through the opening (and I'm way too big to fit through the narrow opening) but flying through the opening gives me the option of directing my energy upwards to the sky to visit the upper world or down into the ground to visit the under world.
If you are ready to proceed then:
1. Lay down in dark, quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Get comfortable. It may help to put a pillow under your head or knees. You might want to put an eye pillow over your eyes. If you don’t feel totally relax then tighten all of your muscles and then starting at your feet and working up to the top of your head slowly relax each muscle.
2. Turn on a shamanic drumming track (you can download one from iTunes, get a CD of shamanic drumming, or check YouTube (I’ll post one later and will update this page with the link). You can easily find 10, 15, 20 and 30 minutes tracks. I usually use a 15 minute track. I suggest that you use a track or have someone else drum for you until you are an experienced traveler, then you can drum yourself.
3. When the drumming starts then find your opening. I usually take a few minutes and walk, in my mind, through the forest to my portal. Go through your entry point.
4. As you pass through your portal see or imagine that you have entered a dimly lit tunnel, hall way, or passage way. The tunnel may be only a few feet long or it may go on for hundreds of feet, either way see or imagine that you can see a bright light at the end of the tunnel. That bright light is the opening into the other world, the lower world.
Note: Some of you may be able to close your eyes as see visual images that are as real as the world around you. Others, like me, close your eyes and “see” darkness. Your ability to “see” images with your eyes closed is irrelevant. If you can’t “see” in the dark, then imagine or “know” what is around you. Some people don’t “know” or “see”, they may hear. Use whatever sense seems to work best for you. Don’t worry if you have to “imagine” to get things started. Aristotle said that image is the language of the soul. It’s alright to help your soul get started on this journey by using your imagination to image a new reality.
5. When you enter your portal or opening don’t try to go into the ground. Our objective isn’t to see the dirt, bugs, or roots that are under the surface. We are traveling to a different realm that we perceive as existing beneath the surface of ordinary reality.
6. Once you are in the passage way take a few minutes to get centered. Breathe deeply, relax and become familiar with the sensations or thoughts of being out of ordinary reality. You might want to look around and notice the texture of the walls, the smells, the flow of the air, temperature, humidity and anything else that will help you get a sense of the place. If your intention was only to go and return then once you have soaked in the sensations of the passage way, turn around and move back up and out of your opening.
7. If your intention was to meet your power animal then walk to the end of the passage way into the light. Look around a get a feel for the other world. When I enter the other world I don’t find myself in a dimly lit cave under the earth. I find myself in a different reality, a different world with bright light, sky, trees, rivers, and mountains. Call to your power animal and ask it to accompany you and to introduce you to the other world. Enjoy your stay.
8. When the drumming changes (usually the drummer will stop for an instant, and then change the drum beat to a very fast beat for about 30 seconds, and then takes up a slow and quiet beat.) you have your signal to return to ordinary reality. Ask your power animal to take you back to your passage way. Power animals sometimes take you back, retracing your steps, to your passage way. Sometimes they just point and say, “There it is.”, and sometimes they use my favorite way and transport you at the speed of thought back to the entrance to your passage way. Return through the passage way up through your original opening and back into ordinary reality.
To summarize, here is a general template for lower-world journeys:
1. Lie on the floor, cover your eyes and relax.
2. State the intention of your journey.
3. Begin the drumming.
4. Find your entry point to the lower world
5. Go through the entry point and into the passage way.
6. Emerge from the passage way into the lower world
7. Call to your power animal.
8. State the purpose of your journey to your power animal.
9. Let your power animal conduct you on your journey.
10. Return to the passage way when the drumming changes.
11. Go through the passage way, up and out of your entry point, and back into ordinary reality.
Enjoy your first journey . . . more next time.
I'm Dr. Dave, a modern druid. I lived and worked in Bolivia and Peru for over six years, where I and was trained by Andean Shamans, and today practice modern druidism and contemporary shamanism.