Understanding and knowledge of the medicine wheel as a sacred, living, three-dimensional mandala which serves as a stable, reliable container for shamanic exploration is central to feminist shamanic practice. Feminist Shamanic Psychology®, which also informs feminist shamanic practice, arose out of my years of experience working with the Medicine Wheel Mandala® and my master’s work in Mythological Studies with an Emphasis on Depth Psychology. Working shamanically with the Feminist Shamanic Medicine Wheel Mandala® and personally with the principles of feminist shamanic psychology creates a path of opportunity for understanding who we are as women, and fosters balanced and stable feminine psychological health and well-being.
How Does Feminist Shamanism Differ From Other
Forms of Contemporary Shamanism?
In today’s world, there is a great deal of confusion about what shamanism is and is not. On one hand, many believe that only Andean or Amazonian, or Siberian or Mongolian healers, or Native American holy people are “real” shamans. In western culture, many believe that all kinds of psychic or energy-shifting healing modalities are shamanic, and as practitioners of such modalities, believe themselves to be shamans. Many westerners are traveling around the world to learn from indigenous healers in various places and are bringing back to North America practices and beliefs which originated from very different geographies than the ones in which they live, and are attempting to integrate these practices into western healing efforts of various kinds.
Some believe that shamanic journeying is a form of dreaming. Others believe that whatever visions or forays into alternate realities they may experience spontaneously or by means of any number of meditative or drug-induced states are shamanic journeys.
The thing that has always stood out to me about the kind of spiritual melting pot being called shamanism, and which is being stirred by so many people with such diverse perspectives in our times, is the vague nature of the understanding many people have regarding what and where shamanic reality is and how one goes about visiting and returning from it. This phenomenon appears to be a common denominator for many people practicing shamanism or calling themselves shamans in today’s world.
Feminist shamanism embraces the following practices and philosophies, which may help you to clarify the nature of shamanism and understand some of the ways in which feminist shamanism differs from other forms of shamanism and neo-shamanism being practiced today:
- Feminist shamans and feminist shamanic counselors engage in a disciplined and thorough mapping of shamanic reality as expressed by and contained within the Feminist Shamanic Medicine Wheel Mandala®;
- In feminist shamanic practice, specific kinds of journey methods are employed for accomplishing specific types of shamanic work;
- Feminist shamans and feminist shamanic counselors have a very clear understanding of what is and is not shamanic reality.
- The practice of feminist shamanism includes strict adherence to an ethical code that honors confidentiality, encourages clear maintenance of psychic boundaries between oneself and others, and fosters respect for the differing perspectives of others.
- Engaging in shamanic journeying is understood to be an essentially Feminine process, in that the pathway into shamanic realities resides within the right brain, the Feminine aspect of consciousness.
- Western culture tends to foster the over-development of ego-consciousness, a function of the Masculine principle, while simultaneously repressing and denigrating the more circular thought patters and intuitive perceptions of Feminine consciousness. Feminist shamanic training empowers you to re-integrate authentic Feminine thought patterns and ways of interpreting reality into your way of being.
Feminist Shamanism and Patriarchy
It is all too easy for us to believe that patriarchy is something from our distant past, thanks to the hard work and sacrifices of countless dedicated suffragettes and feminists over the last century and longer. Their work regained and restored many of the rights and privileges that women enjoyed prior to patriarchy. We now have the right to vote, work, and divorce, to name but a few.
But in reality patriarchy is not something from our past, and in fact, women all over the world suffer various degrees of patriarchal abuse on a daily basis. In this country we are currently experiencing a very virulent form of backlash in response to the gains made by the feminist movements of the 60s and 70s. Many of the original meanings of the principles women fought for during those movements have been twisted by patriarchal thinkers into misogynistic versions of those original meanings, which are being fed back to us on a daily basis by media, educational systems, and workplace and family attitudes towards women.
As a result, many of today’s younger women who were not personally part of these movements and therefore are not well-versed in the original tenets and intentions of the feminism of those times are confused about their feminine identities and roles. Unaware that feminism’s original tenets are now being used in twisted forms as part of the backlash movement to demean and control contemporary women, they are highly vulnerable to being manipulated by such tactics.
Whether or not we are fully conscious of it, every woman encounters some form of misogynistic patriarchal abuse almost every day in our culture, whether it comes at her as blatant physical, emotional or sexual violence, or as harassment and lack of opportunity in the workplace, or in a myriad of more subtle but equally damaging forms, such as denigrating, misogynistic attitudes expressed in TV sitcoms, for example, or as seemingly mild forms of disrespect and discounting of women’s intelligence and strengths in family or social settings.
Older women, the wise female elders of our society who are capable of supporting, guiding and advising young women, are very often targets of this backlash as part of efforts to prevent younger women from maintaining close bonds with, and accessing and benefitting from the wisdom of their mothers, aunties and grandmothers, thus rendering them even more susceptible to patriarchal manipulations.
Patriarchal thinking has, unfortunately, permeated the belief systems associated with many forms of both tribal and contemporary western shamanism, resulting in attitudes and practices that I think of as belonging to “macho shamanism.” I believe that these forms of shamanism are highly unsuitable for women, influenced as they are by patriarchal biases and attitudes.
Feminist shamanism stands in stark contrast to macho shamanism, offering women an opportunity to explore shamanic realities and their own psyches in ways that are based upon the needs and requirements of the archetypal Feminine, which, I am v ery pleased to announce, is alive and well, and waiting to be rediscovered and revisited within the numinous archetypal landscapes of the Feminist Shamanic Medicine Wheel Mandala®.
You might think of feminist shamanism, whether you experience it through feminist shamanic counseling, training, or personal practice, as a kind of antidote to contemporary forms of patriarchal abuse of women.
To inform yourself of patriarchy’s sources, its symptoms, and its impact on indigenous cultures, you can begin by reading the recommended books listed in the Resources section of the site.