Episode 51

Published on:

18th Aug 2022

Why Shamanism Has Become So Popular Recently

Shamans and shamanism have never been as popular in the modern age as they are today. What is causing people to want to learn shamanism or seek a shaman for healing?

Shamanic teacher John Moore dives into the crises that we face today and the way that causes a shamanic awakening. John will speak about his experience healing from Trauma, manifested as PTSD.

We are also in the middle of global political, ecological, and health crises.

John discusses how we all have shamanic ancestors and shamanism is a return to our roots.


Announcer 0:29

Hello and welcome to speaking spirit where we talk about all things spiritual. Your host John Moore is a shamanic practitioner and spiritual teacher. And now his John.

John Moore 0:48

Hello, everybody.

s of:

300,000 years old. That's very old. They found the bone of a swan that had been carved for spiritual purposes. And somehow they're linking that to Swan shamanism. There is, you know, a whole body of academic stuff behind that, that I don't have a background in. But we'll just say that shamanism is really really old. And it encompasses a set of tools, which involve altered states of consciousness, working with spirits, and traveling in non ordinary realms are traveling in other dimensions traveling and spiritual dimensions. Okay, those are the practices. Shamanism also encompasses a worldview and a set of beliefs. This is not to say that all shamans believe exactly the same things. That's not true. Not all Christians believe exactly the same things. Not all Buddhists believe exactly the same things. But there is a common core of belief. And that Common Core includes animism, that is the belief that spirits inhabit things that were surrounded by spirit that there are spirits and trees and rocks and rivers. Besides people and animals. There's also an understanding about the about relationship about the the interconnectedness between things, that we're very connected to nature, we're very connected to the land. And shamanism is very nature based. So those are the first two components. The last component, and this is one that I'm going to focus on a little bit today is that shamanism encompasses an impulse, an archetypal impulse that seems to be present, throughout humanity. Well, it's archetypal. So it's in the collective. And that is an impulse to awaken spiritually in response to crisis. Let me repeat that this is an impulse to awaken spiritually in response to crisis. This crisis could be individual, this crisis could be tribal, this crisis could be global. Can you think of some individual, tribal and you know, we can exchange tribe for national or statewide or community crises? Can we think of some global crises? So in many areas, while many areas of the world there's political upheaval, there is we see authoritarianism and fascism on the rise. I realize everybody accuses everybody of being fascist. without really understanding what Fascism is. If you are calling people fascist, please look it up. I see people like you, liberal fascists, like well, fascism, by definition is an extreme right wing philosophy, political philosophy focused on power and charismatic leaders. And we see that all over the place we see that cropping up. So we have a global pandemic. And we're not we're not done with it. I know people are acting like COVID has gone in granted. We now have vaccines we now have better treatments for people people are not dying. In the ways they were. Our hospitals are not crashing the way they were our economies are still suffering. You know, People, people will try to blame things like inflation on single causes. Normally, some politician they don't like Joe Biden's fault. It's Trump's fault, blah, blah. And I'm not an economist, but it seems to me that there are a lot of compounding factors, which include

price gouging by corporations, particularly in the fuel industry, they are making record profits right now. And that is driving up the cost of everything, all of our goods that are shipped everywhere, from food, to transportation, to HEC to entertainment. We run on a fossil fuel economy, and maybe we shouldn't this is a good indicator that, you know, maybe it's time to think about that a little bit. So, yeah, so there's, you know, there's a bunch of stuff, causing this global inflation that's hurting a lot of people that's putting a lot of people in crisis. Individual crisis, let's talk about that. Let's talk about why. What happens, sorry, about the shamanic impulse and individual crisis for a moment. So when I came to study, study shamanism, and if you're not familiar with my story, in my early 40s, I went through a psychological crisis, I was diagnosed with PTSD. For those of you who know about PTSD a little bit, what I have, it's not technically a diagnosis in the DSM for whatever version they're on. But I have what's called complex or developmental PTSD. So this is the result of trauma that happened over many years. Particularly during during the formative ages of my life. There was severe chemical dependence, abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, we went through periods where we were very poor, or electricity was shut off. When all kinds of stuff, right, I don't, I won't go, not that I'm not. I'm fine to share my story. But I'm, I worry about re traumatizing people. And the reason why I did give a trigger warning at the beginning. But I want to give a little bit of background and I'll be a little bit general about it. So you know, I have, I had been suffering with depression, and suicidal thoughts and anxiety and all kinds of dissociation. And I had no idea it was not. I didn't have any understanding of what PTSD was. And I thought, well, I have not been to war it PTSD is for people who've been to war. And that's just not true. And, you know, a lot of people do that a lot of people do the trauma comparison game. Well, I didn't have it as bad as so and so. You know, whatever. So I just thought, I don't know, this is how this is how I am. I'm just depressed all the time. And sometimes I feel like we'd be life would be better off without me in it. And, you know, things kind of came to a head and one of the things that I learned or have learned sense is that if you have PTSD, particularly complex PTSD from stuff that happened during childhood, if you have children of your own as I do, I have twin daughters, when they get to the age that you were when some of this trauma happened or when the you know, the biggest part of the trauma happened that can trigger things for you, which is an interesting thing for me. Because being a parent was, was and you know, pretty much is still everything to me. You know, I really, really love my children have always loved my children. When I was married, my wife traveled all a lot, so I spent a heck of a lot of one on one time. With my daughters, we are still to this day extremely close. And I love them dearly and wanted to be a good parent. And in every possible way, did, you know went to parenting classes did

you know everything I could to be a good dad and just felt like I couldn't and felt like I was falling down and felt like at times that they would be better off without me. Which is, you know, it's not true. It's just things your brain tells you to kind of cope with stuff, and, you know, suicidal thoughts when you are, you know, having having thoughts like, you know, my kids would be better off without me. If I were out of if I were out of the picture, there would be better off without me, kind of thing. It's horrific. Like when I think about it, now, you know, what was going on? How could it's for it seems foreign to me now. Anyway, things were really, really rough. And what had happened was, I'd gotten super, super depressed. And I thought, well, you know, have major depressive disorder or something, and I'm just gonna, I'm gonna go to therapy. And by the way, I highly recommend therapy, even if you're seeing shamanic healer, do therapies to do everything you can to, to heal. So I started seeing a therapist, and the therapists I don't think was trained particularly well in trauma. And I think that's something that we don't do well. Educationally is, you know, therapists become, quote, unquote, trauma informed. But aren't necessarily fantastic at dealing with trauma. In fact, I've, you know, I've had conversations with many therapists, not just therapists that I have been seeing as a therapist, but therapists who are friends or who studied shamanism with me, I have therapists, as clients actually now, which is pretty cool. Just taking a sip of coffee here. Wow, very hot. I have this lovely thermal mug that says papa bear on it, that my girlfriend, who I adore and love gave to me. But it keeps coffee very, very hot. hasn't quite cooled down enough to be gullible. sippable Yes, but not culpable. Anyway, um, I don't think we do a fantastic job. And some, you know, I remember talking to a therapist about, you know, what's the training around trauma and this and that, and I'm like, Well, you know, there's a little bit but not really enough. And a lot of therapists won't touch trauma with a 10 foot pole. And I'm like, Well, how does that work? Because just about everybody coming to you is coming with trauma. And she was like, Yeah, I know. Okay. So if you're a therapist, and you're listening to this, and, you know, I'm not telling you what to do. And I'm not insulting the, the role of therapy, I highly encourage people, and when my clients come to me with, you know, psychological, emotional, mental health issues. I, you know, I always tell them, you know, I will work with you, but you need to be working with a therapist, and if you're on medication, don't stop taking medication, and cetera, et cetera. So anyway, I was in personal crisis. I won't go into detail about it. But I came very, very close on more than one occasion to taking my own life. And the other, the other. The other aspect of that, that I don't have a great answer for this, but something I would challenge the therapeutic community on. Is that the way that we treat people in crisis in this country in the US, I don't know about other countries, maybe it's better in other places. Maybe it's worse. In the US, the way that we treat people in psychological emotional crisis is not fantastic. You know, they're going to Send. From a lay person's perspective, they're going to send armed people to your home. And they're going to try to talk to you. And there are a lot of people who are, you know, they're emotionally disturbed who won't wind up in altercations with the police right now, and, and our shot.

And, you know, this is not necessarily a criticism of the police, it's that they're not there. They're not equipped for the job. They're not trained to deal with that. So there are pilot programs where they'll have teams of therapists now that will go out. And those have been very successful. They have been. So anyway, one of the things I was really afraid of was any sort of incarceration, any sort of being locked up against my will. I had a, I would say borderline phobic fear of that. So I would not talk to my therapist about the thoughts I was having. I did one time, I said, you know, on, I forget exactly how I put it, but they talked about having suicidal thoughts. And she freaked out, to be honest, and I left the therapy session, and she left me a voicemail that said, you need to call me I was in a meeting. After the therapy session, I was distraught, I was in rough emotional shape. It didn't therapy session didn't go well. And she called me back and she said, left a message that said, if you don't call me back right away, I'm going to have to take steps. Wow, did that sound like a threat to me? At that time, I know what she was doing. She was you know, trying to cover her, but legally, she was, you know, trying to make sure I was okay, you know, whatever. But the way she went about it was probably the only option she had. Even though you know, I was not at that point in time actively suicidal or anything. And her it was a it was a really big overreaction on her part. I didn't stay with her for very long after that, you know, she basically obligated me to come back and do more therapy sessions or war, I was worried that she was going to send people to lock me up. So one of the things that happened was, I decided not to do medication, and that was pretty rough. And I am not telling anybody not to do medication. That would be irresponsible of me, it would be outside of my experience. I am not a licensed medical professional. So I'm not saying that I'm saying it, and people get upset with me all the time. When I say I didn't want to do medication. And if I'm not even going to give my reasons for not wanting to do medication, particularly SSRIs. But I didn't want to do it. But people get really upset with me. And like, well, medication saved my life or medication was fantastic. I didn't say it couldn't get variable people have gotten just like just apoplectic with me for saying I didn't want to do medication. As if I were telling them what to do. I'm not at all you do what you do, you do what is best for you. You are the only person who can make that choice. I am all about empowering people. I work with people I know people I talk with to exercise free will and free choice. I think it's good for people to to be educated for people to get information. However, that in itself is really challenging because there is so much disinformation out there. And they do remember, I remember talking to this therapist that I fired rather quickly. Who was like, Well, you've been depressed for a really long time you need to go on medication. I'm like, Well, you're not a doctor, you can't prescribe medication and I decided not to do medication. And I don't really want to talk about this anymore. She's like, well, you need to stop reading blogs. And like, first of all, you're assuming I got my information from blogs. And I am actually an academic, I have two master's degrees. And I read research for fun. And I have a subscription to JSTOR, which is a,

you know, a repository of academic research. And if I read an article from a non academic source that cites a study, I go read the study, so don't make assumptions about me. Really, you know, I did complain. I did lodge a complaint. She was not a good therapist. And she had really, really overstepped her license, in my opinion. And again, this is not to say, this is not me saying any people shouldn't do Medicaid. I'm not like that at all. What I'm saying is, she's not qualified to make that recommendation. And she was misinformed about a lot of things but felt really confident should some serious Dunning Kruger going on. Anyway, I digress. So I was in a personal crisis and personal psychological crisis, personal emotional crisis, I had lost something like 60 pounds. In a in under two months. I couldn't eat, I wasn't sleeping. Things were really rough. And I was doing everything I could I was going to therapy. I was exercising, I was meditating. And one day, in the depths of everything that was going on, and I was meditating. And I heard a very clear sounding male voice from outside of my head, say, you need to learn shamanism. That was it. And it felt really compelling. So I don't know if it was completely made up. Or if it was Spirit speaking to me, I still think it's spirits speaking to me to this day, because at the time I didn't know anything about shamanism. I didn't know what shamanism was. I had heard the word and it wasn't as popular then as it is today. So I thought to myself, Well, geez, I live in Maine. How the heck am I going to learn shamanism? How am I going to find a teacher? I don't live in Mongolia or Siberia or Peru. I live in the state of Maine. Are there even any shamans here? Interesting thing. There are many shamans here in the state of Maine. The shamanic community in Maine is both large and vibrant. And another sip of coffee which is a still quite, quite hot. Yeah, interesting for such a sparsely populated state, which is happens to be the least diverse state in the nation. And also has the oldest population in the nation, which tells you about us. We're a bunch of old people living alone in the woods. Or a bunch of old white people living alone in the woods. That is that describes Maine to you. But there's a large shamanic community here. Isn't that weird? I still don't know what to attribute that to other than people here live very close to nature. It doesn't matter. Yeah, we live in houses and we have internet and cable and electricity and stuff. But most people who live in Maine are you know, we live we don't live most people don't live in cities. You know, we have a couple of small cities. Not too many. And even then, even if you're in the city, even if you live in Portland, there are will there's wilderness in the middle of the city. You can you know, there are hiking trails through the woods. In the middle of the city. It's not like Central Park in New York or the common in Boston, which is like, you know, some greenery and some nicely planted plants and stuff. We're talking honest to goodness woods. There are a couple places I've been hiking in within the city limits of Portland. A couple of interesting trails there. One with a waterfall. Interestingly enough So anyway, I found my teacher, I found my teacher and started training in shamanism. And I trained with her for quite a long time, many years, I did a year long apprenticeship, I did a two year, a two year initiatory training.

came into the US in the late:

coffee's getting tolerable, and temperature. Excuse me, it's delicious, though. So, so that's happening. The other thing the other two components that I think are causing this awakening in shamanism is one is there is wider acceptance and adoption of plant medicines. Now, to be quite clear, not all shamanism involves plant medicine. If you don't know what I'm talking about plant medicine. I'm talking about psychedelics traditionally use psychedelics like ayahuasca and magic mushrooms, psilocybin and peyote and fly agaric mushrooms and substances like that, which are used by some shamanic cultures. Well, that stuff has become really popular again, and there's a lot of research going on and psychedelic medicine for treating trauma, trauma again coming up. And there are a lot of there are a heck of a lot of people doing Ayahuasca recreationally, not I practice I recommend, I'm not saying don't do Ayahuasca or any other substance, I'm saying. Do it carefully do it in ceremony, make sure the person you people have died. People have died and wound up hospitalized from doing Ayahuasca there are you know, it is not? It is not a completely harmless, safe substance, all things have side effects. It is, in my opinion, much more dangerous than psilocybin. Is there a senator but I don't I mean, I don't journey with psychedelics I teach people how to journey without them would not be legal for me to be journeying with psychedelics, it would not be legal for me to be leading people. So not only is just not part of my tradition. You know, if I came from a tribal culture where these substances were part of ceremony and ritual and have been part of the culture for a long time, that would be different. But anyway, this stuff has become really popular, which has interested people in exploring the psychedelic landscape of shamanism. So those two things have happened. So the other thing that I think is driving this is this movement away from religiosity, toward but towards spirituality. There's this huge demographic movement away from organized religion in the United States, with the fastest growing segment of people identifying themselves as spiritual but not religious. And shamanism is spirituality. But it's not a religion in the sense that it's not an organized religion. There's no doctrine or dogma there. There are organizations for teaching and studying shamanism, but there's not you know, there's no hierarchical you're a priest, you're a church, you know, whatever. There's no there's nothing like that out there. Now, I, I have, I have become ordained so that I can perform ceremonies legally. You can't, you cannot. As far as I know, nobody is ordaining shamans, but I'm also studying. I'm studying for another ordination at the moment, which will take a little while. But I'm getting in. I'm going through an advanced degree program studying metaphysics along with a theological seminary which will result in you know, me getting ordained into a metaphysical church. So, I don't know what I'll do with that yet. But probably, you know, I'm not interested necessarily in starting like, Church of shamanism are something that seems outside of the tradition, but if I if I lead ceremony, it will be informed by my shamanic background and all of that stuff. So we'll see what happens from there. So anyway, people are moving towards spirituality but away from organized religion and shamanism is not an organized religion, but it contains.

You know, it contains ways to become spiritually connected, connected with a community, it, it has many of the things that religion offers, and a lot of the things that people who don't want to be religious don't are rejecting are missing from shamanism, right, the judgment and the dogma and, you know, this isn't, you know, I realized I'm painting religion with a really broad brush, and I don't, I'm not, I don't mean to be bashing anybody's religion. That is not what I'm trying to do. I'm talking about the movement, what's going on psychographically demographically, and why this is happening.

So anyway

it predates it, you know, by:

You know, it is a difficult path for one thing. And it's, you know, it's not a go to church on Sunday kind of thing. It is beyond a full time job. It affects every area of your life. In one way or another, it affects every relationship you have, in one way or another. The practice of shamanism fundamentally changes who you are. But we do need a lot more people on this planet, to be beacons of spiritual light, which is a term that I use with my students in particular. And when I say that I'm doing when I when I what I am doing when I'm teaching is that I am trying to light the flame of this person's soul so that they become the beacon of spiritual light they were meant to be, which just means they show up in the world, whether they wind up working as a shamanic practitioner or not, or just working on themselves or just journeying for friends and family or whatever they do. The practice of shamanism changes how you show up in the world. And it does, you know, it makes it puts you in touch with nature, it puts you in touch with the earth. It puts you in touch with other beings. It makes you more empathetic. So, so, this is not to say that everybody who practices shamanism is a fantastic person. That would be prejudice on my part. In fact, I have been in a relationship with somebody who was a shamanic practitioner who went to being quite abusive. And so no, not everybody is who studied shamanism. But that being said, Is it moves the needle it moves people towards being better citizens of the Earth, towards being better friends, better parents, better spouses better all of those things. And it can turn you into somebody who is is a helping person. Somebody who helps others through healing, work through divination, work, whatever it happens to be. So one of the things one thing I want to touch on briefly before I wrap this up is this this is happening less than less and which is good as people become more educated. But I have been accused from time to time of cultural appropriation I have there are people who have used quite pejorative terms about what I do. People who don't know what I do, what I teach what I study, people have no idea whatsoever, yet are very happy to ignorantly tell me that what I'm doing is wrong because of some reason that isn't true. Only in their head. But there is their art. There are problems with cultural appropriation or what I call cultural misappropriation. All cultures borrow, in fact, the word shaman, you know, people say oh, that's not your word. It comes from the tongue just people of Siberia, sure, but they didn't make the word up and the word exists in Chinese Sanskrit Pali Hebrew air Aramaic. We don't know who invented that word. So calm down. Okay? And the fact that you think that it originated there means you have you don't know. So trying to tell me that you are morally superior because of an opinion that is based in ignorance. I'm not being pejorative here, but it is ignorance, lack of knowledge that you're basing your opinion on.

But if I were this, you know, something I will never do. I will never put on buckskins and adopt a Native American name and go out and pretend to do Native American ceremony. Now, people have accused me of stealing Native American religious practices. I do not do that. That's like accusing me of murdering Lincoln. You know, I wasn't around, I didn't do it. Somebody else did it. And we know who did it.

And I make it very, very clear when I teach people. I'm like, I am not. Some people think that shot. First of all, Native American tribes, not all of them are shamanic. And not all Native American ceremonies are shamanic. Some are, some are not. And while I have academic books about Native American shamanism I don't replicate Native American ceremonies, that would be problematic, unless now I know people who are native, who are pipe carriers for tribes who are in fact, Caucasian. And we could argue the appropriateness of that, but I would not be arguing from a place of intelligence. But these are people who tribal elders gave the right to conduct certain ceremonies. But I digress. I don't do that. I don't do things that I don't have a right to teach, or don't have knowledge of. And I also don't pretend, like I come from a culture that I don't that's the other part of the thing. You know, people you know, they're definitely they're definitely problems with. I've witnessed, at least online, people in Portugal, doing a quote unquote, shamanic initiation on a young boy, surrounded by Celtic idols and imagery, wearing a patchy war bonnets. And I'm like, What's going on here? Oh, they're doing it. It's shamanic initiation. Isn't that beautiful? And like, I don't, I don't know, why are these are these people Apache? Why are they? Why are they wearing Apache regalia? Why would people wearing Apache regalia be surrounding themselves with Celtic symbols? They just like threw all of these cultural things together to seem more special or you know, whatever. And that really is misappropriation. I don't think they these people, it didn't seem like they were intending harm. But that doesn't mean it was okay. And I did call them out. I'm like, Look, I don't know what you're doing. But you seem like white European people to me. And if that is true, if you are not, you know, part of this tribe or allowed to be wearing these things, you probably shouldn't Plus, you're confusing a whole bunch of like stuff from, you know, new. You're calling it shamanic. But you've got this, these war bonnets and you've got these Celtic symbols around you and you've got this and you've got that and all of these things. The flip side to this is there. There are people who have called me out for talking about Celtic shamanism, saying, There's no such thing as Celtic shamanism, and that is crap. It's bullcrap. And there are people who are quote unquote experts in Irish literature or whatever who talk about there's no you know, there's no Celtic. There's no Celtic shamanism. Well, because they didn't read the they didn't use that word. The word shaman in Gaelic, but there were certainly shamanic practices, there were certainly people doing shamanic things. And the Celts were a large, a very large group and not monolithic, group. And, you know, spread, you know, loose collection of tribes that was sort of bound by like, you know, somewhat common languages. And certain skills like they were, the Celts were expert metal workers and things like that. And we think of them as Irish, you know, Irish and Scottish and Welsh these days. But the vast majority, that's just where the last Celts wound up living, but there were Celts throughout Europe. And they interacted with people from all over who were definitely shamanic, the Norse for one thing.

been working with trauma for:


You have been listening to speaking spirit with your host, John Moore. For more info or to contact John go to maineshaman.com That's MAINESHAMAN.com.

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About the Podcast

Speaking Spirit
Spirituality, Shamanism, and Personal Success
John Moore is an irreverent spiritual teacher and shamanic practitioner. After decades of working in computer science, John underwent a spiritual, mental, and physical crisis - a dark night of the soul. This crisis turned out to be the archetypal call to shamanic initiation. Along with his occasional guests, John dive into all things spiritual, from shamanism (the art of the shaman) to energy healing, to magic, esotericism, tarot, astrology, new and old age alike. John's ultimate goal is to help people recognize their own connection to divinity.

About your host

Profile picture for John Moore

John Moore

John Moore is an irreverent spiritual teacher and shamanic practitioner. Having spent over two decades in the corporate world as a computer scientist, John entered a "dark night of the soul." This manifested as a mental, physical, and spiritual crisis. This crisis, as John would learn later, was an archetypal call to shamanic initiation.

John dove headfirst into the practice of shamanism, looking to his Celtic and Norse ancestral line. He has explored altered states of consciousness, becoming a certified hypnotherapist and meditation instructor.

John considers himself a guide, not a guru - helping people find the path towards their own connection to the divine.