At one time all of our ancestors were stitched intricately into one place, many moved on through no choice of their own. Even hunter gatherers had a range of territory. Spirit was born of place, there was no separating the two because they were one and the same thing.
As an Irish American I occasionally feel the pull of my native land, that ache of spirit that takes over when the mournful Irish flut plays in "The Secret of Roan Inish". I remember for a moment there is a place where my body and soul belong, where the land will welcome me as one of its own, where the soil is made of the bones of my ancestors.
There are more descendants of the Irish outside of Ireland than there are Irish in Ireland today. We can never all go back, the Diaspora is complete. Most of us are officially mobile beings, the issue of being permanently unsettled is...well, settled. We claim citizenship somewhere, but actually, we are the wayward sailors of a culture pushed over the edge by a colonial empire.
When I try to explain to people the differences between Core Shamanism and Classical Shamanism, "place-ness" comes front and center:
"... those aspects of shamanic practice not bound to a people or a place." Despite the centrality of nature and all its spirits, despite the power of place in shamanism, there is still much not bound by place that we can immerse ourselves in.
Shamanic practice inevitably opens us to the larger terrain of the animistic world. It begs us to complete our lives through tribe and intimacy with the land. So many of us come to this work out of a deep love for some place. We've been touched by the sacred, powerful presence of the land. It calls out to us, awakening a wave of spiritual power within our own souls. It doesn't matter if our ancestors were from a place, something has been awakened.
I don't know if we can re-indigenize ourselves, I don't think thats the point. We are something other, something destructive, something healing, something modern. We can still respect and preserve the way of life of the remaining indigenous populations, but we need not become them. I think the Earth needs something different from us.
Where does place fit into our lives now? Some of us are trying to send down roots (I am), but we do so at our own peril. Holding on to land takes money, or tremendous will, or political power, or luck, mostly all of the above. The history of those rooted to a place is a history of extraordinary suffering, just read the history of the peoples of this land.
I think if we all stopped to consider how rooted to place we were or were not, our stories would reveal a new chapter of spiritual exploration. What is your orbit around the planet? How does the spirit of a place impact you? Mobility has created new perspectives, I wonder how these can serve the earth and her creatures? Whats it like to touch down again after generations of flight?
Core shamanism does offer us a way to deepen our relationship to a place. It gives us tools to reach out to the spirit of a place, to enhance our relationship to all creatures. Its a tricky dialog. We are a conquering people made up mostly of the descendants of other conquered peoples. The original people of this land are still here, so are many of their spirits.
Mobility seems to go hand in hand with destruction and disrespect, its the job of this generation to change that or suffer tremendous consequences. I see the participation of the spirits in any solution as being inevitable. Like the need to re-discover whole foods, like the need to ensure clean air and water, like the need to respect wildness - re-discovery of the spiritual dimension of our world will come, the alternative is unacceptable.
I'll be sharing my experiences of Core Shamanism this coming weekend in Pacific Grove when I teach The Way of The Shaman, a course developed by the Foundation For Shamanic Studies designed to introduce people to the shamanic journey. Click here for more info. If I don't see you in circle there, I'll be here at the end of the road, learning more about this place I call home.