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IT’S TIME FOR A LOWER-WORLD ADVENTURE!

lower-world

In shamanic journeying, the Lower World offers exhilarating experiences – shapeshifting into animals, plants and waterfalls, experiencing what it is like to fly, breathe underwater, and even bathe in molten lava. It’s as thrilling as real-life adventures!

Beyond the joy, Lower-World journeys also bring deep healing – physical, mental, emotional, and soul-level. This profound aspect makes Lower-World journeying a truly compelling practice. 

May the adventure begin:

Finding the Lower-World
The Shamanic Reality

Shamanism tells us that there is another, deeper reality behind this day-to-day, physical one. 

The physical, everyday reality that we inhabit is made from information that comes from a deeper, shamanic reality that lies behind this surface one.

Whilst shamanic people live with the sense of both ordinary reality and shamanic reality being side-by-side, there are times when they choose to deliberately and temporarily immerse themselves more fully in shamanic reality; to enter one of the shamanic realms and go on a shamanic “journey”

It is common to experience shamanic reality as being divided into three distinct shamanic realms when journeying. These are known as the Upper-World, the middle-world, and the Lower-World.

Upper-World. A place where we can go to get a bigger perspective on things; to ‘rise above’ petty concerns and problems; to get help with transcending our own ego concerns and limitations and to act more from our ‘higher self’.

Middle-World. The place where we live and spend most of our time. It is here, this physical reality. It is the world of separation and individual identity.⁠⁠

Lower-World. In journeying, the lower-world appears as pure, unspoilt nature. It is nature as it was before humans have messed with it.⁠ It is a place of healing, and of the “Oversouls” – the original blueprints for how things are meant to be.

The shamanic realms are organised spatially.⁠ When journeying, we usually experience the realms as being organised spatially, with the Upper-World being above us, the Lower-World below us, and the middle-world being this world that we live in (and some more besides).⁠

Each realm has a distinct ‘flavour’, which means they are quite different to each other. Each realm has distinct qualities, and different ‘inhabitants’. Each realm needs a different set of skills from the journeyer, and a different awareness and approach.⁠

Learning to journey involves learning to recognise the feel of each realm and knowing what signs to look for to know which realm you are in at any given point in the journey.⁠ ⁠

Indigenous shamanic traditions usually do not draw the same kind of clear lines between the realms that we do in this modern approach to shamanic work. There are good reasons for this. In modern times, we have changed the middle-world. And in turn, the new, human-created middle-world has changed us.

  • The middle-world was once a world of pristine nature. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors, the original animists and shamanic practitioners, lived in nature, as part of nature, not separate from it. It’s a different world today. While most of us live in towns and cities, even those of us who live in the country live in an environment that is highly domesticated (only 2% of the world’s vertebrate biomass is still wild)!

  • The middle-world was far less complex. Today, the middle-world is full of all the human-created thought-forms of modern-day life. Hunter-gatherers didn’t have to worry about things such as mobile phones, computers, the internet, bank accounts, television, newspapers, religions, political parties, school and exams, pensions, employment, consumer goods, and money worries. All these things have an energy to them, an energy that will be encountered and experienced in middle-world journeying, something our ancestors didn’t have to face.

  • The underworld
    On top of all these external differences there is the issue about the enormous underworld that we have created; the personal and collective unconscious full of unintegrated psychic energies that again will be encountered when doing middle-world work these days.

All this poses new challenges and makes the modern middle-world a very different place from the one original animists were familiar with, which is why these days it is crucial to be clear what realm we are in when journeying.

In journeying, the Lower-World appears as pure, unspoilt nature. It is nature as it was before humans have messed with it.⁠ Although there are humans in it, the Lower World is primarily a place of connecting with other-than-human Peoples; with Animals, Plants and Stones.

  • Humans live in small tribes
    There are humans in the lower-world, although they are few and far between, living as we used to live, as hunters and gatherers. They live respectfully alongside the other (non-human) peoples, being part of the web of life. As hunter-gatherers, humans in the lower-world generally live in small tribes of anywhere between twenty and two hundred people.

  • No agriculture!
    They live a pre-agricultural, shamanic lifestyle, as our human ancestors did for around two hundred thousand years before we started farming. So, in the lower-world, there are no fields and no hedges. There are no domesticated animals.⁠⁠

  • Natural materials only
    There is no metalwork at all. Clothing is generally animal hides or very simple woven fabrics made from grasses or other plant materials.⁠
Lower-World Practices and Techniques
lower world map
Axis Mundi
lower-world Axis Mundi

Axis Mundi is a place where we start out shamanic journey. ‘Axis’ means centre, and ‘mundi’ means ‘world’. So, the ‘world’s centre’. Or, more accurately, a place where the different worlds, or realms, come together.

The axis mundi is a place in this reality where the veil that separates this world and the shamanic worlds is thin, and so it is a place where it is easy to step between the worlds.

You may be surprised to learn that axis mundii are very common. They are all in nature, but all over the place. To find an axis mundi, all you need to do is think about a place in this actual world, in nature, that you know and like and feel good about.

It might be some woodland where you walk the dog. Or a favourite tree. Or a beach or some mountains, some hills, or a lake that you know and love. It might even be in a nature park. 
 
It needs to be an actual, real place, not imaginary, as the whole point of an axis mundi is that it is a place that connects the worlds together, including this physical one. It is also crucial that it is somewhere in nature.
 
Learn more about Axis Mundi:
lower-world Axis Mundi
Hollowing-Out

Hollowing out is a process of stepping aside from our middle-world stuff as much as possible and from our own agendas, drives, beliefs and preconceptions so our Guides can communicate and work through us without all that getting in the way.

We need to hollow out, or our journeys will be coloured, driven and distorted by our ego.

Only if we can step away from our attachments to our identity – the middle-world constructs we think of as being us (our name, gender, occupation and other roles, etc) – can we genuinely experience being something else, such as Yew Tree, or Panther, or one of the Stone People.

This is what shamans mean when they say that to become a shaman, ‘the past has to die’, or that we have to ‘die to the past’. The middle-world stories have to go. Or at least, we need to be able to step away from them when journeying.

Learn more about Hollowing-Out:
lowr world - hollow out
Power Animal Retrieval

Your Power Animal is your most important Guide! It is not the shaman that does the healing, but the Guides. Shamans invite the helpful spirits to work through them. Your first and foremost Guide working through you should be your Power Animal. ⁠You are the apprentice, and your Power Animal is your principal teacher.

ANIMAL TOTEMS

If you choose to practice shamanism, you’ll encounter various animals during your journeys. Some may only appear once, while others may be intermittent companions. A few might become long-term Guides, sticking with you for weeks, months, or even years. These are animal helpers, guides and teachers, sometimes referred to as animal totems. They are not, however, what we mean by the term Power Animal here. ⁠

POWER ANIMAL

In Therapeutic Shamanism, the term Power Animal has a special and specific meaning. Most Animal Guides in journeys are like friends. Some friendships are deep and lasting, and others less so. All are different though to having a “soul mate”; the kind of lifelong, deep, intense, profound, loving, loyal and, ultimately, transcendent connection that we mean by Power Animal in Therapeutic Shamanism.

Working with a Power Animal is a crucial part of developing a shamanic practice in this approach. You find and retrieve your Power Animal by doing a shamanic journey.

Learn more about Power Animals
Meet your Human Guide

When doing a shamanic journey, the practitioner enters into a deeper, shamanic reality and personally experiences how everything is connected. However, in journeys, true power and wisdom come not from the practitioner themselves but from their ability to let greater, wiser spirits (their Guides) work through them. In addition to the practitioner’s Power Animal, their Guides can include Human ones too.

Human Lower-World Guides are what shamans mean by Ancestors (as opposed to Middle-World individual ancestors). As such, they are representations of the Human Oversoul — the archetypal pattern that all humans come from.

While your Power Animal, of course, can teach you an amazing amount about connection with the wider-than-human community to which we belong, their perspective about being human is limited as they are not human. This is where a human Lower-World teacher becomes crucial.

A Lower-World Human Guide can teach you about:

  • What it is to be Human, what your true Adult Soul is, and how to live accordingly.
  • How a Healthy Human Tribe can teach you to live in the right relationship with other human beings and help heal your wounds around this.
  • How to live in the right relationship with other Peoples and the other-than-human.
Learn more about Human Guides:
human guide
The People of the Lower-World
tree lower world

The Lower-World is the realm of Mother Earth. It is also the realm of ‘the People’ – Mother Earth’s children. As well as us, the Human People, there are the Animal People, the Standing People (the Trees), the Plant People, and the Stone People.

Everything around us, every animal, from a lion through to something seemingly as insignificant as a worm, every plant, and every stone (not just gemstones) has a healing gift and things to teach us. All we have to do is ask. You can acquire this knowledge via journeying, research and other animist and shamanic practices.

BUILDING YOUR MEDICINE BUNDLE

When the other-than-human People make an appearance in a journey, it is good to reflect on it and do some research to learn more about their healing gifts and teaching.

You can work with the other-than-human People in various ways:

  • Choose an Animal, Plant or Stone. It could be one that appeared in a journey that you wish to learn more about, or simply one you choose for some other reason. However you chose it, do some reading about it, and then journey to meet it and find out more about it.
  • Journey to meet the People that live in specific landscapes. This teaches you not just about the individual species, but about how they interact with each other and with the land, and their place in the wider whole.
  • Journey on the People that are native to the environment that your Power Animal is from. This helps you better understand your Power Animal and their place in the whole.
  • Journey to grok the People of the land you live on and are a part of. This can be a powerful re-wilding practice, helping you connect to the land more. It can help you notice the web of life around you and begin to heal any disconnection from it you may suffer from.
Learn more about the People
tree lower world
Working with Environments

Embarking on a journey into the Lower-World opens the door not only to encounters with Animals, Plants, and Stones but also to the profound exploration of environments – the Realms of Sea, Land, Sky and Fire and their connection to the five elements of Water, Earth, Sea and Air (and Ether).

As with everything else in the shamanic realms, environments are conscious beings that can be communicated with. So, in journeys, you can learn to work with the Oversouls of beings such as Mountain, Forest, Grassland, Wind, and even the Waves in the Sea.

THE HEALING GIFTS OF THE REALMS INCLUDES

Sea: Exploring the relationship between Sea and the Mother Archetype can help us heal grief and attachment wounds.

Land: Exploring the relationship between Land, place in the world, and the Father Archetype.

Air: Exploring the relationship between Air, Spirit, and the role of Bird Medicine in shamanism.

Fire: Exploring the relationship between Fire as transformation, the Hero’s/Heroine’s journey and making the darkness conscious.

Learn more about Environments:
environments lower-world
The 5 Elements: Air, Fire, Water, Earth
5 elements
Learn more about the 5 elements:

In shamanism, the five elements – Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Ether – are the fundamental building blocks of the universe, each embodying distinct qualities contributing to the composition of all matter.

Earth symbolises realism, practicality, and grounding. It encourages us to embody a sense of belonging and safety, providing a sense of permanence in the ever-changing world.

Water symbolises emotional depth and the fluidity of life. As Fire burns out, Water encourages perseverance and reflection and helps us keep going.

Air symbolises inspiration and the breath of life. It encourages us to embrace change and new ideas.

Fire is our personal power, pushing us to set boundaries, speak up, and stay true to ourselves. It brings enthusiasm and the confidence to tackle challenges, find joy and approach life with optimism.

WORKING WITH THE 5 ELEMENTS:

  • Transformation practices: Shamanic practices where we work with the elements to experience being taken completely apart and reduced to something formless and then reformed again. In a sense, they are a mini ‘death’ and rebirth. They include weird and wonderful things such as burials, burnings, dismemberments, dissolvings, cocoonings, poisonings and shapeshifting. Read more 
  • Wheel of Life. To come to life, everything must go through the elemental cycle – air for potential, fire for action, water for reflection, and earth for closure. Each stage contributes to growth. When feeling stuck, the Wheel helps us identify our place in the cycle and what’s needed to move forward. Read more 
  • Tree of Life. Our energy system is also closely connected to the five elements. Understanding the different energy bodies (spirit, soul, mental, emotional, and physical), chakras, and their interconnectedness with the 5 elements is a key building block of any grounded shamanic practice. Read more
5 elements
Healing Power-Loss

If an illness has a shamanic origin, then whatever else is going on, the roots are always in soul-loss and/or Power-loss.

We wrote a lot about soul-loss in our other free e-book (link here), so we will focus more on Power-loss here.

Power-loss occurs when we cut ourselves off from nature and Mother Earth, disconnecting and unplugging ourselves from the larger energy grid of each other and of the more-than-human.

At its heart, our modern-day totalitarian agriculture says: “We now own this land. We now decide what lives on it and what dies. You goats, you can live on this land, as we now own you and want to use you as we wish. But all you other species who compete with the goats, or who eat them, you now die. Wheat, you can grow on this land, but all you other plants, we will now kill you. For this is our land.

Even if the symptoms are largely the same as with Soul-loss, because the cause is different, Power-loss cannot be healed by shamanic journeying alone. Instead, when there is Power- loss, we need to address its root cause – our disconnection from nature and from our fellow animals, plants, and even from the land itself.

HEALING POWER-LOSS

Practical ways to heal this disconnect and “rewild our souls” is at the very heart of both shamanism and animism, and include:

  • Spending time in nature
  • Shamanic journeying
  • Connecting back to the shamanic realms, underneath the layers of separation and distortions laid over it by modern ‘civilisation’.
  • Power animal retrieval
  • Bonding with our power animal (our most important connection to the more-than-human!).
  • Besides connecting with nature, shamanic practitioners actively communicate with it, serving as advocates and intermediaries between humans and the natural world.

OTHER SHAMANIC PRACTICES

Both soul-loss and power-loss leave ‘holes’ in us. They leave our energy-body weakened. Much in the same way that a weakened immune system means that our physical body can become infected with viruses or other pathogens, a weakened energy body means that other things, ‘intrusions’, can get into us and cause harm. There are shamanic practices that help us deal with those:

  • Extraction involves removing the intrusion in some way, and then healing the hole or wound that is left behind.
  • De-possession The dividing line between intrusions and possessions is not a firm one. Broadly speaking, an intrusion is something that is in a specific place in the physical body. A possession is something that is not localised, but which is influencing someone in a more systemic way.
  • Disentanglement is the process of letting go of attachments that are no longer helpful or healthy or which we have outgrown.
  • Expansions help us loosen the sense of individuality and separation.
  • Just being If we want to experience what it is truly like to be Plant or Stone, then we first need to really, really slow down. We need to stop being driven by lists of things to do, and instead of doing, just ‘be’.
Learn more about Power-Loss:
power loss
Finding Your Soul
soul

Our Soul is our truest self, our true nature. It is a part of us that is wild and free; part of nature; part of Human, of Animal, a sibling to Plant and Stone, and a child of Mother Earth. It is both who we truly are deep down, and the blueprint for what we are meant to grow into and become in the world and in this life.

RITES OF PASSAGE

Because they understood the extent to which humans can get lost and become strangers to our true, authentic Soul, all hunter-gatherer cultures had initiation ceremonies. Performed around the time of adolescence, these ceremonies were designed to shock us out of childhood thinking and help us connect to our true Soul.

Our Soul is of the Lower-World. It is the (truly Adult) Human we were, and are, meant to be.

In animist cultures, being an Adult meant far more than just taking on middle-world adult responsibilities in the tribe. Being an Adult (rather than just an adult) meant being connected to your true Soul. It meant knowing your true Human nature. It meant stepping up to take your place on the Earth as an interconnected being, a part of the web of life and a member of the great tribe of all the Peoples. It was only once you had done this that the tribe considered you to be a fully Human Being.

Learn more about the 5 elements:
soul

Explore the Lower-World with us …

The ‘Exploring the Lower-World’ course consists of 6 pre-recorded theory sessions and 4 two-hour long live sessions.

Theory pre-recorded sessions
will be released released weekly between March 24th and April 28th.

The live (experiential/community) sessions:
March 31st, April 7th, April 21st and April 28th
They will be 2 hours long, and start at 2pm (UK time).
Recordings (minus the break-out room discussions) will be available for anyone who cannot attend the sessions live.

The closing date for enrolment is Saturday 24th of March. This will likely be the last time we offer the course in this format, so please do take this opportunity to book (remember, once booked, you can always work through the recordings at your own pace, and with no time limits).

… or start your shamanic journey!

Exploring the Lower-World starts with learning how to do shamanic journeying. We teach that (and much more) in our Introductory Course First Steps, starting again in June.

First Steps course covers everything you need to start with shamanic journeying, including:

  • What is shamanism?
  • The history of shamanism and animism
  • How to do a shamanic journey (a step-by-step process)
  • How to do Power Animal retrieval journey and find your own Power Animal
  • Why we nearly lost shamanism, why we need it back and how psychotherapy fits in the process
  • The basics of how to do shamanic healing for other people

Read more about the First Steps

Blessings,

Paul Francis

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