Wearing the “Shaman” Title in Public


Perhaps the most important reason that I coined the term post-tribal shamanism to describe my work, is that I wanted to differentiate it from the important work being done by shamans in tribal contexts. Equally, I wanted to clearly define the community I am called to serve: those born into and raised in our post-industrial, first world culture, so prevalent here in the U.S. and elsewhere. 

In acknowledging my calling and taking the step of putting “shaman” on my business card, I was putting myself in a vulnerable place. There are a number of folks who hold a very ridged  view that no one who is not a native member of a tribal culture, actively practicing a traditional form of shamanism within that culture, should use the term “shaman” to define their work. This is a matter of both semantics and of cultural appropriation. My intention has always been to clearly state that what I am doing in not from tribal or indigenous sources, in spite of the many commonalities. I can’t do anything about the discomfort they many have with the semantics. This must have done the trick, because I have had little to no problem with such people. I’ve even had one notable advocate for tribal rights tell me that, “what you do is different. We don’t have a problem with that.” I guess this is why I don’t show up on any of the “plastic shaman” lists on the internet. 

I would like to have found a different word that describes this work; one that doesn’t step on anyone’s toes, but there is not one. Or at least I’ve not found it. (I am open to suggestions, but I have discarded a great many already.) 

To me, Shaman means that person who has always stood between the human community and the unknown. When humans live in tribes, then the shaman serves a tribe. In our post-tribal culture, we serve whoever comes to us in need. 

In current practice, and in my own view, there are at least three necessary elements that a person needs to have in order to be an effective shaman. 1) The calling - This is both the talent and sensitivity with which to work in the shamanic realms and the experiences that focus their attention into these areas and generate the willingness to be of service. 2) Initiation - Usually received in early life, this can be a singular or multiple trauma that wounds so deeply that it engages spirit in the process of survival and healing. 3) Training - Solid truing from a teacher or teachers who actually know what they are doing. No one or two of these elements suffice. 

Being a shaman is not something to use to build ego, neither is it something to be ashamed of. It is a calling that is greatly needed in this culture, and there are many people who are awakening to this call. I hope to be of service in helping them to realize the call, receive training and become initiated, so that they to can wear this title with authenticity and integrity. 

 © Kenn Day 2017