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Shrink Rap Radio interview


Could you give us an idea of how you came to explore shamanism, because I understand you were working in psychotherapy before this began?

Paul Francis, founder of the Three Ravens College of Therapeutic Shamanism and Core Animism

When you are older, you can look back on your life and most clearly see the times your Soul was calling to you. I can look back now and see shamanism was always calling to me. It was what my Soul wanted me to do and be.

I actually got into shamanism before I became a psychotherapist. I had several very intense, what I now understand to be shamanic experiences in my childhood. At the time, I had no frame of reference for them. I didn’t know what on earth was going on. But I first consciously got into shamanism when I was 17 when I went to university.

Daniel Quinn, one of my great inspirations and the author of Ishmael and The Story of B, said it’s sometimes only as you get older that you can look back on your life and see the times when your soul was calling to you. One of those moments was definitely when I was 17 at university.


At the university I attended, as well as the main subject you chose to study, you had to sign up for two other subjects in the first year before you made your final decision. In the Religious Studies department, I saw they were running a course on anthropology. Honestly, I don’t even think I knew what the word meant at the time. I just knew I had to sign up for it. It’s weird looking back on that moment because I can still vividly remember standing there. I half knew at the time it was going to be a monumental event in my life, and it has been. It changed everything.

Having said that, we didn’t use the word “shamanism” that often at the time, or even “animism,” of which shamanism is a part of. Horribly, we were still using the term “primitive cultures” at the time, which is quite shocking to think back on myself writing essays and using that word. But that was the start of it. That was in the mid-1970s. Throughout the 1980s, I explored various spiritual practices, including shamanism.

At that time, I was also studying to be a psychotherapist. My fundamental orientation as a psychotherapist is person-centered. I believe in the power dynamic of equality between therapist and client. 

But then, I am also body-centeredWilhelm Reich, who was originally a pupil of Freud, founded body-centered psychotherapy among other things. So, I’m kind of neo-Reichian, I suppose. Arnold Mindell, who founded process-oriented psychotherapy, also influenced me. So, I draw from various body-centred traditions.

I’m quite eclectic. There’s a saying in shamanism: Does it grow corn? In other words, does it work? As long as it not only grows corn but grows good corn, that’s fine with me. I’m very pragmatic about this. I’m not a purist at all.


So, being a psychotherapist, I could see a lot of interesting crossover between shamanism and psychotherapy.  I won’t mention names because I don’t want to disrespect anyone, but many people involved in shamanic work at the time, including teachers, engaged in unethical practices and abuses of power, which didn’t sit well with me as a psychotherapist. So, I thought I had put shamanism aside. But in hindsight, I hadn’t really, because being body-centred psychotherapist, my psychotherapy work was very much about working with people in altered states of consciousness and working with imagery, which is highly shamanic. It wasn’t until my mid-thirties that I figured out how to practice shamanic work ethically and committed myself to it fully.


What sets Therapeutic Shamanism apart from more traditional perceptions of shamanism?

Therapeutic Shamanism is a development of Core Shamanism, which was founded by the anthropologist Michael Harner. Harner published his important book The Way of the Shaman in 1980. He said that if you studied different shamanic or animist cultures, there is one set of underlying principles, practices, beliefs, and experiences that is universal, and he coined the phrase “Core Shamanism.” It’s really because of him that we’re here, as shamanism was dying out. And he’s certainly been instrumental—not the only person, but instrumental in its revival. What he did was keep it very streamlined. So, I’ve built on that. 


Animism and shamanism should be based on core principles but applied in a way that's relevant to the times we live in.


We can’t just pluck teachings from entirely different cultures and times and think they will work well for us in the modern era. Things have changed over the last few thousand years. We have different psychological, emotional, mental, and spiritual issues that indigenous shamans thousands of years ago never encountered.

Animism and shamanism should be based on core principles but applied in a way that’s relevant to the times we live in. I studied various indigenous shamanic approaches, but it felt strange to sit in my house in northwest England chanting rituals from another culture. It seemed ridiculous. I also saw people go on shamanic retreats and have amazing experiences, but then feel lost when they returned to their everyday lives.

If we’re going to make shamanism relevant, we need to go back to its core principles and adapt them for now. Psychologically, we’re not the same people we were. Since turning away from shamanism a few thousand years ago, we’ve lost our way. Look at the state of society and what we’re doing to the planet. Over the last hundred years, we’ve developed psychotherapy, which has amazing tools for dealing with current issues. There is a lot of overlap between psychotherapy and shamanism, and therapeutic shamanism is my attempt to make shamanism relevant and useful for today.


I don’t think I would have returned to shamanism if I hadn’t found ethical ways to practice it. Over the last hundred years, we’ve learned to do things more ethically. Early psychotherapists like Freud and Jung, for example, notoriously slept with their clients, which we now know is wrong. The same goes for social work and the priesthood. We’ve learned about abuses of power, and shamanism needs to adapt to this understanding as well.


You write about humanity's fall and the trauma we inflict on ourselves through domestication. We need to unpack that and explore how it impacts psychic health. So, what is the Fall?


Modern humans, who are around 200,000 years old as a species, lived as hunter-gatherers for about 95% of that time. And as far as we can see, hunter-gatherer tribes were animists. Animism is not a belief system or religion, it’s not even written with a capital as most of other religions are. It is a way of experiencing the world as alive, that everything has a personhood and consciousnes – a very different kinds of consciousnes to us sometimes, but animists experienced the world this way, it is not as a belief system.

Graham Harvey, a great writer on animism, said that “Animism is the experience that the world is full of people, only some of whom are human.” And we need to live in a reciprocal relationship with them. For tens of thousands of years, this was how humans lived. 


Then came what Daniel Quinn calls totalitarian agriculture — large-scale farming, clearing land to grow specific crops or animals. This started the Neolithic Revolution around 10,000-11,000 BC in the Middle East and gradually spread. We’re still seeing its spread today in places like the Amazon, where the last hunter-gatherers are disappearing, and forests are being cleared.

So, it’s been a long process in some ways but very short in human history. That marks a fundamental break in our relationship with nature. Animists had no concept of human supremacy. They didn’t think of humans as being better or superior; they understood we are part of an ecosystem, an organ in a larger body. What we’ve done, in effect, is like a liver declaring its independence, which is just insane, and our superiority. But that’s what agriculture is. Daniel Quinn says agriculture is us deciding that we are God, deciding what lives and dies, and that we own the land. Indigenous cultures didn’t have this concept. 

Arguably, agriculture has given us great benefits, but a lot of intelligent people like Jared Diamond or Chris Peckham agree, it was probably the greatest mistake we ever made. Despite its benefits, agriculture has come at a catastrophic cost. Around 4,000 BC, due to climate change, we faced starvation in many areas and retreated into cities. This led to the birth of the first city-state cultures, like the Assyrians and Babylonians, and the rise of hierarchical cultures, patriarchy, inequality, slavery, and the destruction of the natural environment. We are cultural animals, more than anything. 


It takes a long time to grow a human being because there’s so much to learn. Cultures are based on stories, fundamental stories. Shamans really understand this, that the stories we build our culture on are important.

Animism is the experience that the world is full of people, only some of whom are human.


Animists experience the world as alive and live in reciprocal, non-hierarchical relationships. Harvey coined the phrase “a spiritual round table” of all beings, where humans are not superior. A shaman is an animist who can enter a trance, leave their body, travel to shamanic realms, communicate with the other-than-human, and bring back knowledge to the tribe. When we turn away from this, we build our culture on an entirely different type of stories, the myth of human supremacy, a concept Derek Jensen discusses in his book “The Myth of Human Supremacy.” And that’s the fundamental story our culture is based on – that everything around us is lesser than us, and we can just do what we want with it. That’s led to our current catastrophic state, where only 4% of animals are now wild.

It’s terrifying and heartbreaking. It’s crazy as well. We think we’re a super-intelligent species, but we’re destroying the ecosystems we depend on. It’s immoral, unethical, not civilised at all and insane. Civilization, which started around 4,000 BC, dismisses everything before that as prehistory, as if we have nothing to learn from those people. By measures of ecological sustainability, equality, and mental health, animist cultures were the healthiest we’ve ever produced.


So, what do we do? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. We’ve had 6,000 years of making the same mistakes. We need to look back at times when we were better, at hunter-gatherer animist cultures.


You mentioned the shaman bringing back knowledge from other realms. It's useful to distinguish between mythos and logos. In my experience with shamanic journeys, much of what is gained is symbolic rather than literal. This also connects with the work of Carl Jung?

Jung was a self-described animist and very influenced by shamanism, particularly in his private life.


The other person worth mentioning regarding to mythos and logos is Ian McGilchrist and his work on the two hemispheres of the brain. In his book The Master and His Emissary and his latest book The Matter with Things, he talks about the two hemispheres of the brain: the left hemisphere, which is hardwired to logic, and the right hemisphere, which is more mythological, thinking in terms of art, poetry, symbolism, and spiritual experiences.

The left hemisphere is hardwired to logic, and the right hemisphere is more mythological, thinking in terms of art, poetry, symbolism, and spiritual experiences.

In indigenous cultures, or certainly hunter-gatherers cultures from what we know from anthropology and other reports, the hemispheres of the brain were much more balanced than ours. Animism is sometimes described as living with one foot in this world and one in the other, with the two hemispheres of the brain running in tandem. 


Many people have written about what happened with this cultural shift. I mean, McGilchrist writes about it, and Steve Taylor, in his brilliant book The Fall, discusses how around 4000 BC, at the start of what we call civilization, our left brains seized control and dominated, suppressing our right brains. 

This shift led to a very literal, mechanistic view of the world, which has given us amazing technological advances. I’m very happy to live in a world with computers and antibiotics. I’m not anti-tech at all. But the cost is that we’ve dismissed a lot of the right brain, which operates in terms of stories, symbolism, metaphor, imagery, meaning, and purpose – the mythos. The left brain just can’t compute these; it’s not its job. But these right brain, deeper stories are essential, as stories are what a culture is built on. Without understanding that, we’ve built a culture on unhealthy stories.


The mistake people make about mythos is thinking it’s just imagination or made-up. Shamans are very clear that the shamanic worlds are not imaginary; they are real, objective places. I found that hard to accept for a good 15 or 20 years of practicing shamanism, because I have a very strong critical, logical left brain as well. But these worlds are objectively real. They can only be understood though through mythos, through imagery and metaphor and are essential for a healthy culture! Animists sometimes call these the original instructions or the original stories or the original dance or original music. Going back to Jung, they are fundamental archetypal principles we can only describe through storytelling, painting, or poetry. They are vital for a healthy culture, and we’ve lost that understanding.


Shamans say that if an illness has a shamanic origin, we get ill fundamentally due to one of two causes, or a combination of them: soul loss and power loss.


Shamans understand that parts of our soul can temporarily leave our body. We do it all the time when daydreaming or sleeping. Leaving your body and traveling other realms is not unusual to us, it’s normal. The part should always come back, but sometimes in trauma, it leaves and doesn’t return, or it even flees. Soul loss can have many causes, but ultimately, it’s where part of us fractures off and remains lost. This weakens us, leaving a hole in us that makes us vulnerable. It’s like having a weak immune system – other things can start to get into us. Wonky thoughts, in shamanism known as intrusions. Intrusions are unhealthy thoughts or ideas like “nobody will ever love me” or “I must behave a certain way to be loved.” Fundamental to shamanic work is dealing with these intrusions through shamanic extraction or depossession, and then the shaman being able to voluntarily leave their body,  travel the shamanic realm, find the lost soul part, talk to it try to persuade it to come back, bring it back and reintegrating it into the body.


The other issue is power loss, which is even more fundamental than soul loss. Power loss is disconnection from the other-than-human and the wider web of life, from nature. It’s like being a phone unplugged from the power grid, running on our own little battery. This disconnection from bigger ecology of beings weakens us, making us susceptible to various problems. Our culture suffers from systemic power loss. Even when people think they are in nature, they are often not truly connected, as most natural spaces are not wild anymore.


The very first thing I teach my students is to address power loss by finding a Power Animal, an other-than-human guide to work with. The point is it’s other than human, close enough to us to be able to love it, it’s why it’s an animal, and at the same time it’s other than human, which begins to take us out of our human isolation and sense of specialnes and starts to connect us back to the concerns of  other-than-human community.

Working with our Power Animal begins to take us out of our human isolation and sense of specialnes and starts to connect us back to the concerns of other-than-human community.


What aspects of shamanism and psychotherapy have fed into the practice of therapeutic shamanism and what has been let go.

I passionately love psychotherapy. It’s incredibly dear to me. It’s saved my life, really. At the same time (and this is an and not a but) it does tend to stay within the human bubble a lot. It’s usually done, you know, in a kind of human room, in a very human, civilized way, politely talking about things. And often they disconnect from nature. So I love psychotherapy, but as long as it remains in that human box, it, in the end, is still part of the problem.  There are psychotherapies starting to address this, like ecotherapy and ecopsychotherapy, which is fantastic to see. Sometimes they do actually make the transition to the other-than-human, but sometimes they’re still just therapy done outdoors. It’s still reducing everything back down to the human. But it will be fantastic to see how it develops. 

Animists didn't just believe that things around them are alive and conscious - they experienced this. They were a part of the ecology rather than apart from it.

An example. A client comes in and says:
“You know, on the way here, I’ve just been really depressed by all the litter in the street and the lack of trees and all that sort of thing, and, you know, there’s no birdsong.

And the therapist reduces that down to the human, down to a psychological thing. So in the therapist’s mind, they’re thinking:
“I’m wondering how this is a metaphor for their feelings about their life or their relationship with their partner, or whatever it is they’ve come to deal with.”

So everything can just get reduced down to just being a metaphor for a human problem. It’s actually terrible what’s happening out there. It’s not just a metaphor. It is making us profoundly sick—psychologically and emotionally. We know this is not right. It’s not healthy for us to be this disconnected. And we do understand how we’re waging this holocaust on the other-than-human. So therapy needs to start connecting back to the other-than-human and stop reducing everything down to just being a metaphor for the human.

Of course, there are limitations to shamanism as well. A really vital thing with doing the shamanic work is that you need to be fairly sane and grounded to be able to do it. I mean, shamanism is sometimes described as this ability to enter a trance state, leave your body at will, and come back at will. People who can’t come back at will should not be doing shamanic work. Shamans are very clear that having both feet in either one of the worlds most of the time is madness. So, you know, this culture has both its feet in the physical world most of the time. And shamans, animists say we’re insane because of that. Having both feet in the shamanic worlds would also be insanity. It would be psychosis. 


There’s a sort of idea in a large section of the shamanic community that all mental health problems are shamanic or just undiagnosed shamanism or shamanic experiences. They’re not. 

Shamans were very clear about the difference between what’s a shamanic issue and what’s a mental health issue, including indigenous shamans. They were clear about the difference and understood that not everything was a shamanic problem. 

Let me give you an example. There was this documentary series a few years back featuring twin brothers who were also doctors. They were known as the Van Tolkien Brothers. While the example I’ll share is about a physical issue, I believe it still highlights this point. And they were going around different indigenous cultures studying different indigenous medicine practices. And at one point somewhere in Central America or South America, I can’t remember where, and they’re about to go meet this renowned shaman. And so they meet this guy, and probably within about a minute, this shaman is showing the two doctors his fungal foot infection and saying to the doctors, “Have you got any medicine for this?” And the two brothers are kind of, you can see them smirking a bit, you know, he is this amazing shaman and the first thing he wants is western medicine. But there’s simply, he understands some things as humanic. Later on in the program, there’s a little child in the village. He’s obviously seriously ill. And the two doctors think this child is going to die. The two doctors have to go as part of the program to another village for a few weeks. And they’re coming back clearly expecting this child to be dead, and find, not only is he not dead, he’s completely cured. Because in the meantime, the shaman had found the illness has shamanic origin and cured the child while at the same time still using his fungal foot ointment. So, shamanism’s not a cure-all or nothing; there are some things it’s good for and some things it’s not.


When learning how to do shamanic journeys, you advise some caution to learning practitioners against spending too much time in the shamanic Middle-World when they're just learning the process.

So shamanic or animistic cultures throughout the world described shamanic realities they experienced during shamanic journeys as being in three different layers.


Probably the simplest way for most modern people to understand the Upper-World is that Christians pinched it, of course, like they did with a lot of pagan stuff and called it heaven. So the Upper-World is sort of the realm of celestial beings. And Christians will fill it with Christian imagery, Hindus with Hindu imagery, and shamans with shamanic imagery. But it’s that kind of realm.


The Middle-World is this reality and the non-physical things that also inhabit this reality.


And then the Lower-World is the realm of nature. The Christians, of course, again pinched it, but they decided to tell us this was hell because they wanted to cut us off from nature to justify exploiting nature. 


So the idea of the three realms is pretty much universal. However, as we started to fall we became increasingly deranged and domesticated ourselves. In order to become the domesticated creatures that modern-day humans are and to fit into our complex societies, we’ve had to suppress an enormous amount of ourselves. The problem with that is, that, as Jung says, the suppressed material doesn’t go away; it just gets pushed down into our unconscious. 

So we’ve created this shadow – our personal unconscious, which consists of our own family history and stuff we’ve individually pushed away. But then as a culture, we have our collective unconscious. And I mean, all cultures have to do this to some extent, but the extent to which we’ve had to do it in modern, so-called civilized times is off the scale. So we’ve created this entire new world of collective unconscious, repressed, unintegrated, unexamined material which I call the underworld. 

lower-world Axis Mundi

Animistic cultures throughout the world described shamanic realities they experienced during shamanic journeys as being in three different layers.

Now the problem is with a lot of modern shamanic practitioners who don’t understand psychotherapy and Jung’s ideas around this, the underworld can look like the Lower-World, but it isn’t. It’s still human stuff. And it took me a long time to realize this in my own practice, in myself. So in my twenties, I did a lot of shamanic work. And it was only really in my mid-thirties when I had a whole series of events that led to complex trauma and stuff that I realized how much my shamanic work had really been just driven by my own unconscious, unresolved materials. And it was around that time I started to learn how to get past that enough on a journey to actually connect with the true shamanic guides at the Lower-World.


It sounds then as if someone is to enter this path, they do need to have a great deal of self-knowledge. Is there a preparatory stage before you should try to explore shamanic journeying?

lowr world - hollow out

Shamanism is a very practical form of spirituality. And while you can call it spirituality; it's just even more down to earth than that. It's just about coming into a much saner experience of the world.


The only prerequisite, the only important thing is that you have a willingness to self-reflect and to learn, to have a curiosity to start your process of self-awareness. If you’ve got that, that’s fine. 


Another important thing is to learn to recognise, which realm you journey to. Although shamanic teachers do sometimes wonder with therapeutic shamanism why I am so particular about the difference between the realms. It’s because, in this culture, if you just teach people how to do a shamanic journey, they’ll pretty much do a Middle-World journey. Because that’s the world we’re used to living in. And a lot of that will be driven by their own personal or collective unconscious material. 

There are signs within a journey that that’s happening. So the actual Lower-World is completely free of any human interference. It’s literally pristine nature. If you just don’t tell people that, and, you know, go down to the Lower-World and find an animal and find a tree, people will start to picture domesticated animals or farms or all that sort of thing, because that’s what we’re used to, and that will, in turn, start to affect the nature of the journey, because your fundamental stories affect what then develops. And so I teach people just quite simple things to actually, if you notice modern tech bleeding in or metalwork or all sorts of things like that, strip it out, so people start to actually get past the underworld and start to connect actually with the Lower-World and actual nature and the actual other-than-human, rather than some made-up version of it. And then they’re working on their power loss.


A lot of people do look at this stuff and think it’s just woo, just kind of crazy, while it’s just normal to us or was normal to us for most of human history. It’s the definition of sane – anxiety is having moved away from it. Shamanism is normal. It’s practical. These are techniques that almost anybody can actually learn, and they actually work. It’s a very practical form of spirituality. And while you can call it spirituality; it’s just even more down to earth than that. It’s just about coming into a much saner experience of the world. 


So when I wrote the first book, I just felt compelled to write it. I had no idea whether it was going to be any good or sell or be well received. But more than anything, I just didn’t know whether people could actually learn to journey from a book. I had lots of people in the shamanic community telling me that definitely couldn’t happen. But since the book’s come out, I’ve just had hundreds, thousands possibly even of emails from people saying they have learned journeying through the book, which is amazing. Because we need this stuff back so desperately. 


So do you think that by reading your books and following through with the guidance and the concerns that you expressed there, that someone could have a self-therapeutic technique in their hands?

When anthropologists describe hunter-gatherer societies, they paint a picture of authenticity. These were people deeply embodied, comfortable with themselves, comfortable with their emotional life, kind and tolerant to each other as a whole – a portrait of good human beings.

And that’s what shamanism can give you: a template and practices that actually work to help you find the human being you are meant to be and to grow and blossom into that. And that human you want to be isn’t an interconnected being. In Bill Plotkin’s profound book, “Soulcraft,” he captures this essence with a simple yet profound statement: “The world cannot be whole until you take your place in it.” Our refusal to acknowledge our place within the interconnected web of life has far-reaching consequences. Just as a spider’s web weakens when a strand is broken, our world suffers when we detach ourselves from it. Each of us has a responsibility to reclaim our rightful place in this intricate tapestry, not just for personal fulfillment, but for the greater good.

We were talking earlier about the devastation we’ve wreaked on the natural world. No animist hunter-gatherer culture in nearly 190,000 years of human history, we have no single record of any one of those cultures destroying the environment they lived in. Why? Because they operated under the guiding principles of reciprocity and respect, understanding their symbiotic relationship with nature. It’s a lesson we urgently need to heed if we are to navigate the challenges facing our planet today.

In essence, shamanism offers more than personal benefits – it presents a pathway to collective healing and ecological stewardship. It’s a call to return to the wisdom of our ancestors and forge a new narrative of harmony and balance in our modern world.

spider web

Just as a spider's web weakens when a strand is broken, our world suffers when we detach ourselves from it. Each of us has a responsibility to reclaim our rightful place, not just for personal fulfillment, but for the greater good.


Does shamanism feed into activism? I sometimes feel frustrated by suggestions that a change in human consciousness is enough in itself.

There is no tradition in original animist cultures of shamans being some kind of monks living on a mountaintop and renouncing the world. Their key role was to be the intermediary between humans and the other-than-humans and to keep society on track if it starts to be disrespectful to the other-than-human.


People kind of think that spiritual beliefs are somehow objectively true. The reality is that the spiritual beliefs of a culture are a reflection of that culture. And since the fall, we live in a hierarchical culture and a culture of human supremacy, we’ve put ourselves centre stage. We say God invented us in his image, whereas in fact we’ve just invented God in our own image and everything revolves around us.  

So we live in a culture where a lot of ungrounded spiritual beliefs abound, including ideas that none of this actually matters. And, you know, it’s all just lower vibrations and that there’s going to be some great change in human consciousness, and we’re just going to become fifth-dimensional, blue-skinned beings, all that sort of stuff. That’s just more of the same kind of human craziness, really. If we carry on down this path, we could destroy up to 90% of the animal and plant species on the planet. How is that spiritual? if that’s how people are defining spirituality — it means nothing to me. There’s just nothing spiritual about that. 


Animism is about living in right relationship, reciprocal relationship with the other-than-human. And it is about service to community. That’s the fundamental thing about animism and shamanism. Practising shamanism was never purely for personal spiritual development. There is no tradition in original animist cultures of shamans being some kind of monks living on a mountaintop and renouncing the world. Their key role was to be the intermediary between humans and the other-than-humans and to keep society on track if it starts to be disrespectful to the other-than-human.

It’s like a modern, perverted, bastardized Fallen version of shamanism to practice shamanism and just ignore the plight of the animals and plants in the Middle-World. How can you do shamanic journeys and ask for all this teaching and healing from the animal people, the plant people, the stone people, and then do nothing to help them when they’re suffering so much in the Middle-World? 

That’s the definition of what Daniel Quinn calls Taker culture. The “me-me” culture, the human-entitled culture. And that’s just profoundly un-animistic. Quinn called Animist, original animist cultures, Leaver cultures. They took only what they needed, and they left the rest deliberately for the other-than-human. So shamans have always been activists. They’ve always been the person who says, “This is not okay how we’re treating these animals or this rock or this river.” That was their job. 


People think that the point of shamanism is shamanic healing, soul retrieval, power loss, extractions, possessions. Yeah, that’s important. But the most important role of the shaman is to keep cultural stories on track.

Cultures are based on stories. For a culture to work, most people in it need to take the stories at face value. They need to not think too deeply about them. If everybody thought too deeply, culture starts to fall apart because everyone’s questioning stuff and most people just don’t want to think about that stuff. The sort of 80% of people they just want to get on with their lives. Shamans absolutely understood this, and what they understood was there needed to be somebody or some people who didn’t just take things at face value, who understood these aren’t sort of laws cast in stone. These are stories, and they need to be helpful ones.

They also understood that as humans, we have a tendency to lose sight of that and start making up our own crazy stories. And so the role of the shaman was to be somebody who was at the edges of society. In all indigenous cultures, if you were an apprentice shaman, your thinking would be desocialised. You would go through a period in your life, say, where you had to wear all your clothes backwards or you had to walk backwards, or you had to stand up when everybody else sat down or, you know, sit when everybody else stood. So the hold of these cultural stories on you was less. And it was a deliberate thing so that you could understand the stories aren’t set in stone, they’re human-made, but we need healthy ones. So the role of the shaman was to keep cultures on track, to know that if the culture started to stray, it needed some stories reinforcing again, or told to them in new ways that people could now understand again. And that’s what we need to do now. We need to go back to those original instructions and make sense of them in a new way and say to people, this is actually what is healthy.

And that’s the original role of the shaman, really to be the person who could monitor the stories of the culture and keep them healthy. And we kill our shamans, you know, look what happens.

Published in: Shrink Rap Radio , May 2024
Interviewer: Izzy Clark

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