10 Of The Most Influential People In Shamanism Today (U.S. Edition)
Who are the most influential people in shamanism in the U.S. today? Who shares their knowledge in a way that the most people are able to absorb the information and use it in their lives?
I’ve started a list of folks I think qualify, with links to more information about them and their teachings. Whether or not you believe in their methods (and I’m staying out of those debates here), I hope this will introduce you to some new teachers and teachings you might not have known about before. Keep in mind that this isn’t about who is the “best” shaman, but rather those with the broadest reach and their teachings are taken in and acted on.
I’d be interested in hearing your additions and comments--after all I’m new to the field compared to many of you--so leave your thoughts in the comments!
Here’s the list--in no particular order.
Sandra's seminal book "Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self" is a must read for anyone interested in shamanic healing as it brought soul retrieval into the foreground of healing techniques for practitioners. And her book, "Shamanic Journeying: A Beginner's Guide" is a still a must read for anyone starting out on the shamanic path. Sandra teaches many classes and has published many other books.
Sandra teaches workshops internationally on shamanic journeying, healing, and reversing environmental pollution using spiritual methods. She has trained and founded an international alliance of Medicine for the Earth Teachers and shamanic teachers. Sandra is recognized for bridging ancient cross-cultural healing methods into our modern culture addressing the needs of our times.
Sandra is devoted to teaching people how we can work together as a global community to bring about positive change for the planet.
We are lucky enough to have several of Hank's articles published on this site. Hank is a fantastic writer with many published works and the shamanic work he is doing in Hawaii is amazing.
Below is part of Hanks bio from his own site, SharedWisdom:
Paleoanthropologist Hank Wesselman is a cutting edge scientist who walks in many worlds. He did his undergraduate work and his Masters Degree in Zoology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He then served in the US Peace Corps, living among people of the Yoruba Tribe in Nigeria in the 1960s where he first became interested in indigenous spiritual traditions. He then went on to receive his doctoral degree in Anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley. For much of the past 40 years, he has conducted research with an international group of scientists, exploring eastern Africa's Great Rift Valley in search of answers to the mystery of human origins. His fieldwork has allowed him to spend much of his life living with tribal peoples rarely, if ever, visited by outsiders, among whom he first encountered traditional shamans.
Dr. Wesselman is also a shamanic practitioner and teacher, now in the 29th year of his apprenticeship. The books in his autobiographical trilogy Spiritwalker, Medicinemaker, and Visionseeker have been published in 13 languages and reveal the nature of his initiation into the shamans world of mystery and magic, documenting his investigations into a hidden reality that most of us have heard about, but few have experienced directly. Hank is also the author of The Journey to the Sacred Garden book with CD; Spirit Medicine (with Jill Kuykendall)book with CD; The Spiritwalker Teachings (with Jill Kuykendall)--a six CD set with booklet; and Little Ruth Reddingford and the Wolf (with Raquel Abreu) a story for children.
Last year he co-authored Awakening to the Spirit World with a fellow shamanic practitioner--Sandra Ingerman.
Here's the blog posts, links, books, quotes, and sites we have for Hank on this site.
Harner's seminal work "The Way of the Shaman" was a key factor in the re-imergence of shamanism in western culture. His idea of Core Shamanism identified the similar components in use throughout shamanic communities all over the world and labled those as being core to the idea of shamanism. His school, The Foundation For Shamanic Studies is one of the largest shamanic schools in the world.
The founder and president of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, Dr. Michael Harner (Michael J. Harner) pioneered the introduction of shamanism and the shamanic drum journey to contemporary life and is recognized as the world leader in this movement.
In his half century of anthropological fieldwork, cross-cultural studies, experimental research, and firsthand experience, Michael Harner arrived at the core methods of shamans worldwide. The applicability of this core shamanism to contemporary Westerners has been substantiated by the experiences of his thousands of students. The experiential methods are simple, safe, and have been used successfully by them with positive life-changing results.
Honoring the oral tradition of indigenous shamans, for the last quarter of a century Dr. Harner has conveyed his shamanic knowledge first-hand through teaching and experiential work rather than through writing. Today he and his staff annually teach thousands of students internationally who, in turn, introduce thousands more to shamanism.
Alberto is a prolific author who spent many years in South America learning the ways of shaman elders. His book, "Shaman, Healer, Sage: How to Heal Yourself and Others with the Energy Medicine of the Americas" covers many of the key healing practices he learned and now teaches in his Light Body School of The Four Winds Society. The Light Body school is one of the largest shamanic shools in the world with classes in many countries.
From Alberto's bio on The Four Winds site:
My own journey into shamanism was guided by my desire to become whole. In healing my own soul wounds, I walked the path of the wounded healer and learned to transform the pain, grief, anger and shame that lived within me into sources of strength and compassion. I was able to feel for another’s pain because I knew what it was like to hurt. In the Healing the Light Body School every student embarks on a journey of self-healing in which he or she transforms soul wounds into sources of power. Participants learn that this is one of the greatest gifts that they will later offer to their clients; the opportunity to discover the power within pain.
I went back to the roots of the Inka civilization itself to collect the vestiges of a five-thousand-year-old energy medicine that heals through Spirit and light. Scattered throughout the remnants of the empire were a number of sages who remembered the ancient ways. I traveled through countless villages and hamlets and met with scores of medicine men and women. The lack of a written body of knowledge meant that every village had brought its own flavor and style to the healing practices that still survived. I traveled to the Amazon and for more than ten years I trained with the jungle medicine people. Later, I trekked the coast of Peru, from Nazca, site of gigantic markings on the desert floor that depict power animals and geometric figures, to the fabled Shimbe lagoons in the north, home to the country’s most renowned sorcerers. In Lake Titicaca, the Sea on Top of the World, I collected the stories and healing practices of the people from which, the legends say, the Inka were born. What I discovered was a set of sacred technologies that transform the body, heal the soul, and can change the way we live and the way we die. They explain that we are surrounded by a Luminous Energy Field (LEF) whose source is located in infinity. The LEF was a matrix that maintains the health and vibrancy of the physical body.
Today, I have come to understand that the experience of infinity can heal and transform us, and that it can free us from the temporal chains that keep us fettered to illness, old age, and disease. Over the course of two decades with the shamans in the jungles and high mountains of the Andes, I would discover that I am more than flesh and bone, that I am fashioned of Spirit and. This understanding reverberated through every cell in my body. I am convinced that is has changed the way I heal, the way I age, and the way I will die.
John Perkins burst on the scene with his stunning tale of greed and corruption in "The Economic Hitman" and followed it up with some of his learnings from the Jungles of South America in "Shapeshifting: Techniques for Global and Personal Transformation". John continues to write and teaches shamanic classes all over the world.
John is a founder and board member of Dream Change and The Pachamama Alliance, nonprofit organizations devoted to establishing a world our children will want to inherit, has lectured at more than 50 universities around the world, and is the author of books on indigenous cultures and transformation, including Shapeshifting, The World Is As You Dream It, Psychonavigation, Spirit of the Shuar, and The Stress-Free Habit. He has been featured on ABC, NBC, CNN, NPR, A&E, the History Channel, Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Der Spiegel, and many other publications, as well as in numerous documentaries including The End of Poverty?, Zeitgeist Addendum, and Apology of an Economic Hit Man.
I LOVE Christina's weekly podcast, "Why Shamanism Now?" It is consistently some of the best shamanic conversations found anywhere and has a very wide reach. Christina's ability to talk from a space of experience and awe helps bering a better understanding of the work to many of us listeners. Christina also runs a school for shamanic healing and has written the definitive encylopedia for all things shamanic. More from the bio on Chistina's web site The Last Mask Center For Shamanic Healing:
Shamanic healer, teacher, and author, Christina Pratt, opened the Last Mask Center for Shamanic Healing in New York in 1990. She has been serving clients on both coasts since then, opening the Center in Portland in 2001. Pratt, a teacher of exceptional clarity, humor, and inspiration, has taught at The Omega Institute, Rowe Center, Hollyhock, Breitenbush Hot Springs, and Sleeping Lady Retreat Center in addition to the workshops produced by Last Mask Center. She is a frequent and honored speaker for the American Holistic Medical Association and local salons. Pratt's book, An Encyclopedia of Shamanism, was received with good reviews. It is available in paper back through our website or in hard cover from Rosen Publishing Group.
Pratt's training began in 1986 amid a lifetime of dance. Her shamanic work is a synthesis of studies with Ecuadorian, Tibetan, Tamang, and African shamans, the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, the Center for Intuitive Energy Processing, and personal shamanic experience. Masks of Illusions and the Authentic Self was first offered in Hawaii in 1992. The Cycle of Transformation has continued each year since, providing opportunities for transformation and initiation.
Here's a link to the podcast in iTunes. I recommend this highly.
Farmer has published several books and oracle card sets including one of the best books I've come across on ceremony, "Sacred Ceremony: How to Create Ceremonies for Healing, Transitions, and Celebrations". He also wrote several books on power animals. More from his bio on his site:
Dr. Steven Farmer is world-renowned author, Soul Healer, shamanic practitioner, and spiritual teacher. He is the author of the best-selling Earth Magic®, Earth Magic® Oracle Cards, Animal Spirit Guides, Sacred Ceremony, and many other publications, as well as the soon-to-be-released Children's Animal Spirit Cards. He’s also host of his own radio show, Earth Magic® Radio. He conducts workshops on a variety of topics related to Earth Magic®, Soul Healing, shamanism, and Earth-centered spirituality, and offers private consultations one-to-one or by phone for Soul Healing, shamanic therapy, and/or intuitive Earth Magic® Readings.
As a life-long healer and teacher, he has extensively studied and explored spiritual transformation, trauma recovery, shamanism, hypnotherapy, breathwork, and energy psychology. Dr. Farmer brings a wealth of skills and experience to his writing, teaching, and healing work. He offers clients a unique and powerful synthesis of his many years of experience as a spiritual psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, Soul Healer, and shamanic practitioner to afford quick and effective results. His dynamic and entertaining teaching style helps workshop participants fully engage in the experiential learning process.
I first came across Tom's work when I read "Shamanism As A Spiritual Practice For Daily Life". Tom is also an editor for "The Journal of Shamanic Practice" the bi-annual journal published by the Society of Shamanic Practitioners. I have really enjoyed Tom's editorial pieces in the journal. This post titled "Building Shamanic Community" is based on his writing in the Fall 2010 issue and includes the paragraph:
"Who is practicing shamanism today?" The answer is simple. Us. And we are practicing in ways that are both old and new. We continue to walk into the future adapting our shamanic knowledge, practices, and wisdom in changing times. We are the indigenous people of this century, this place. Whatever communities form around our work are the right communities.
More on Tom from the bio on his site, Riverdurm:
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, and Italy; and most recently he was the first American shaman to teach in Slovakia.
Tom is the author of Yearning For The Wind, 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.
Robert Moss MA is the pioneer of Active Dreaming, an original synthesis of shamanism and modern dreamwork. Born in Australia, he survived three near-death experiences in childhood. He leads popular seminars all over the world, including a three-year training for teachers of Active Dreaming and a lively online dream school. A former lecturer in ancient history at the Australian National University, he is a best-selling novelist, journalist and independent scholar. His seven books on dreaming, shamanism and imagination include Conscious Dreaming, Dreamways of the Iroquois, The Three "Only" Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence and Imagination and The Secret History of Dreaming.
Moss describes himself as “a dream teacher, on a path for which there has been no career track in our culture.” He identifies the great watershed in his adult life as a sequence of visionary events that unfolded in 1987-1988, after he decided to leave the world of big cities and the fast-track life of a popular novelist (already the author of four New York Times bestsellers) and put down roots on a farm in the upper Hudson Valley of New York. Moss started dreaming in a language he did not know that proved to be an archaic form of the Mohawk language. Helped by native speakers to interpret his dreams, Moss came to believe that they had put him in touch with an ancient healer – a woman of power – and that they were calling him to a different life.
Malidoma Patrice Some
Malidoma grew up in Burkina Faso, West Africa in a village where ritual and honoring of the ancestors was a key to their survival. His books tell the amazing tales of how he, and his village, were always learning the importance of this work. Malidoma now gives trainings around the world sharing his stories and teaching people the importance of ancestral work and ritual in any society. More from Malidoma's web site:
Malidoma, as representative of his village in Burkina Faso, West Africa, and an initiated elder, has come to the west to share the ancient wisdom and practices which have supported his people for thousands of years.
At this critical time in history, the earth's people are awakening to a deep need for global healing. African wisdom, so long held secret, is being called on to provide tools to enable us to move into a more peaceful and empowered way of being, both within ourselves, and within our communities. The indigenous spirit in each of us is calling for cleansing and reconciliation. The ancestors are responding.
Four Shamans Who Are Still Highly Influential Years After Their Deaths
Castenada and Eliade are still two of the most widely read shaman in the U.S. and still have a great influence on those walking the path. It just wouldn't have been right to make this list and not have them on it. For many Castenada's work was their first look at shamanism.
Psychedlic visionary Terrence McKenna, while widely appreciated when he was alive, is now a YouTube sensation.
And Ayahuascero Pablo Armaringo's art work continues to connect to people, and the work of the vine, throughout the world.
Castenada's works are still highly popular some 13 years after his death. More from Wikipedia:
Starting with The Teachings of Don Juan in 1968, Castaneda wrote a series of books that describe his training in sorcery. The books, narrated in the first person, relate his experiences under the tutelage of a Yaqui "Man of Knowledge" named don Juan Matus. His 12 books have sold more than 8 million copies in 17 languages. Critics have suggested that they are works of fiction; supporters claim the books are either true or at least valuable works of philosophy and descriptions of practices which enable an increased awareness.
Castaneda was the subject of a cover article in the 5 March 1973 (Vol. 101 No. 10) issue of Time. The article described him as "an enigma wrapped in a mystery." When confronted by correspondent Sandra Burton about discrepancies in his personal history, Castaneda responded by saying: "To ask me to verify my life by giving you my statistics...is like using science to validate sorcery. It robs the world of its magic and makes milestones out of us all". The interviewer wrote that "Castaneda makes the reader experience the pressure of mysterious winds and the shiver of leaves at twilight, the hunter's peculiar alertness to sound and smell, the rock-bottom scrubbiness of Indian life, the raw fragrance of tequila and the vile, fibrous taste of peyote, the dust in the car, and the loft of a crow's flight. It is a superbly concrete setting, dense with animistic meaning. This is just as well, in view of the utter weirdness of the events that happen in it." Following that interview, Castaneda retired from public view.
Eliade's scholarly work includes a well-known study of shamanism, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, a survey of shamanistic practices in different areas. His Myths, Dreams and Mysteries also addresses shamanism in some detail.
In Shamanism, Eliade argues for a restrictive use of the word shaman: it should not apply to just any magician or medicine man, as that would make the term redundant; at the same time, he argues against restricting the term to the practitioners of the sacred of Siberia and Central Asia (it is from one of the titles for this function, namely, šamán, considered by Eliade to be of Tungusic origin, that the term itself was introduced into Western languages). Eliade defines a shaman as follows:
he is believed to cure, like all doctors, and to perform miracles of the fakir type, like all magicians [...] But beyond this, he is a psychopomp, and he may also be a priest, mystic, and poet.
If we define shamanism this way, Eliade claims, we find that the term covers a collection of phenomena that share a common and unique "structure" and "history". (When thus defined, shamanism tends to occur in its purest forms in hunting and pastoral societies like those of Siberia and Central Asia, which revere a celestial High God "on the way to becoming a deus otiosus".Eliade takes the shamanism of those regions as his most representative example.)
In his examinations of shamanism, Eliade emphasizes the shaman's attribute of regaining man's condition before the "Fall" out of sacred time: "The most representative mystical experience of the archaic societies, that of shamanism, betrays the Nostalgia for Paradise, the desire to recover the state of freedom and beatitude before 'the Fall'." This concern—which, by itself, is the concern of almost all religious behavior, according to Eliade—manifests itself in specific ways in shamanism.
11 years after his death McKenna's YouTube videos explaining his world views, the details of how psychedelics heal, and 2012 are wildly popular. Here's a description from Wired magazine highlighting the wild ride that was his life:
McKenna got his 15 minutes of fame when four of his books came out in rapid succession. His 1991 collection of essays,The Archaic Revival, is particularly influential, especially among ravers and other alternative tribes attracted to the idea that new technologies and ancient pagan rites point toward the same ecstatic truths.Food of the Gods, published in 1992, aims directly at the highbrows. In it, McKenna lays out a solid if unorthodox case that psychedelics helped kick-start human consciousness and culture, giving our mushroom-munching ancestors a leg up on rivals by enhancing their visual and linguistic capacities.
Though anthropologists ignored his arguments, the time was right for McKenna's visions. He was tempted with movie deals, got featured in magazines, and toured like a madman. He hobnobbed with Silicon Valley hotshots like interface gurus Brenda Laurel and Jaron Lanier and performed at raves with techno groups like the Shamen. Timothy Leary called him "the Timothy Leary of the 1990s."
McKenna also was a popularizer of virtual reality and the Internet, arguing as early as 1990 that VR would be a boon to psychedelicists and businesspeople alike. But unlike Leary, who planned to use the Net as a stage for his final media prank, McKenna realized that the Internet would be the place where psychedelic culture could flourish on its own. "Psychedelics were always about information," McKenna observes. "Their very existence was forbidden knowledge at one point. You had to be Aldous Huxley to even know about them."
An acclaimed ayahuascero (practitioner of ayahuasca ceremonies) who put his ayahuasca visions on canvas, Pablo's legacy continues to grow. From Pablo's site:
Although he had a brief formal education, most of Pablo's hard lessons were learned simply from living. He experienced difficulty conforming to the conventions of a small jungle village and he had problems with his health. Yet Pablo was always able to retreat into nature and commune with the spirits of plants and the beings of the forest. A powerful healing tool available to Pablo was the visionary botanical brew ayahuasca. Born from experience, his direct understanding of the spirit realm led him to become a shaman, a doctor, and a maestro.
When he stopped practicing shamanism, Pablo declared: "Ayahuasca is not something to be taken lightly. It can kill not because it is in itself toxic, but because the body may not be strong enough to receive so much knowledge and wisdom." After this, he discovered a mission that lasted the rest of his life: to communicate the teachings of the spiritual world beyond language, by painting his visions.
Pablo's art school, "USKO-AYAR", became his instrument for teaching love and understanding of the Amazonian culture and environment–and no one can love something that he or she does not know. Pablo's lines were faultless. The forest and the plumage of birds inspired his colors. His paintings materialized out of an invisible world, yet one that is our home, our habitat, our planet.
Pablo's most famous book, "Ayahausca Visions":