Paul Francis, author of the "Therapeutic Shamanism" Book Series
I am a shamanic practitioner, teacher, writer, founder of Therapeutic Shamanism, and of the Three Ravens College of Therapeutic Shamanism and Animism.
I grew up in the north of England. At eighteen, I went to Lancaster University where I studied philosophy and social anthropology, primarily studying tribal (shamanic) cultures. After graduating, I worked for a few years in a hospital, teaching sign language, and in my spare time studied complementary medicine, counselling and psychotherapy, and explored various spiritual paths and practices. I set up in private practice as a therapist in the early 1980s and have worked in the field ever since. I retired from one-to-one work a few years ago but continue to teach and write.
The author Daniel Quinn, in his autobiographical book “Providence: The Story of a Fifty-Year Vision Quest” wrote that, sometimes, it is only as you move into the later stages of your life, that you can look back and see the times your Soul was calling to you. That is certainly been true for me and shamanism, for shamanism has always been my Soul’s path, but that is something I did not always realise at the time.
I had several intense shamanic experiences in my early life, although I was well into adulthood before I understood them as such. At university, for reasons I did not understand, I was drawn to studying shamanic and animist cultures. I continued to explore shamanism in my 20s, but amongst a host of other things and without any great seriousness or commitment. Then, in my 30s, a series of events completely took me apart mentally, emotionally and spiritually, and very nearly killed me.
It was during the long and painstaking process of emerging from that crisis that shamanism stormed back into my life, this time in a serious way and here to stay. During that time though, shamanism felt like a very private part of my life, and something I discussed with very few people. I needed time to let it change me and, quietly but profoundly, remake me. Time to deepen my relationship with my shamanic Guides and soak up their teaching. In all that time, shamanism certainly never felt like something that I would ever teach. In spite of being a teacher, the thought never crossed my mind.
After many years, I emerged from that long time re-formed. Then, in my early 40s my Guides started to nag me about teaching shamanism. I resisted for years. My Guides persisted, and reluctantly I began to weave bits of shamanic work into the other teaching that I was doing. What astonished me was the way many students soaked it up and were thirsty for more, as if they had been waiting for it all their lives. Even so, it took another near-death experience for me to finally give in and stop being the reluctant teacher. Over the next few years, in 2007, I set up the Three Ravens College with my partner and fellow shamanic practitioner, Cat Anderson, and ten years later published the first book in the Therapeutic Shamanism series.
As well as drawing on my experience in shamanism and animism, my teaching and writing is heavily influenced by my psychotherapy background too. The foundation of my psychotherapeutic work is humanistic, particularly Person-Centred, but is integrative and influenced by other approaches including process-orientated work, depth psychology, ecotherapy, parts-of-self models, and neo-Reichian and other body-centered approaches.
These days, I am filled daily with deep gratitude (and still, some astonishment) that I can devote my life to practicing and teaching shamanism, and that people want to learn what I can share with them. Otherwise, I lead a quiet life. In 2014, my partner and I were able to move to North Wales, a landscape that we deeply love, to live a life more in contact with nature. I balance teaching and writing with spending time walking on the beach and in the hills, watching clouds and sunsets, foraging in my garden, cooking for my partner, holding her hand, reading, learning new things, thinking, feeling, occasionally wrestling inner demons, doing nothing in particular, talking to my Guides, and gazing adoringly at our four cats – Moon, Lynx, Fennec and Elphn Y Fae.
Paul Francis, 2021.