Tag: symbolism

Being a Shaman – for self and others

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Devil-dancers-sri-lanka-435x279 
Image from Lankapura.com

The word “shaman” may bring to your mind images of medicine men in colorful outfits, dancing around a fire to the beat of tribal drums, much like the image of Sri Lankan devil mask dancers, above.  And you’d be right, though you’d be getting only part of the picture.

The REASON they do all of that is to get past our attachment to the “real” world and connect to our inner workings–to help us travel the landscape of our hearts and souls and make us whole in mind, body and spirit

Now for you and me, their performance probably would not work. This is because they’re not speaking our cultural or symbolic language.  To do that, they’d have to tap into our religious and spiritual beliefs, our cultural upbringing and the images we see in our dreams. 

Wikipedia describes shaman as “intermediaries or messengers between the human world and the spirit worlds… Shamans are said to treat illness by mending the soul…[which] restores the physical body of the individual to balance and wholeness.” They also said “Cultural anthropology approaches shamanism as an integral part of the study of culture, belief, and practice.”

So who are the shaman of our modern Western culture?  Who guides us through the realm of dreams, symbols, metaphor and stories to help us make choices in our lives?  Joseph Campbell said it’s the artists—painters, poets, singers, dancers, actors, directors, comedians, etc.  They take inspiration, which is a message from the spirit world, and communicate it in a language we understand.  And when they really get it right, it not only entertains, but touches our hearts and inspires us.  (Of course, that’s not always their goal.)

 Joseph-campbellHeroes-CmyssArchetypes

Joseph Campbell and Caroline Myss both have said that in today’s world, it is up to us to find our own way through our spiritual landscape.  We have to be responsible for the well-being of our own souls. In other words, we need to become our own shaman.

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Synchronicity, Symbolism & Giant Stone People

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I recently experienced one of those moments when it seems that a glimpse of the grand design is revealed, even if only for a second, in seemingly insignificant ways. It happens to me every now and then, and yet it still surprises and excites me, and inspires me to believe that there is a purpose and a synchronicity in operation beyond what I am able to see and understand.

I was at the doctor’s office, and since I expected to wait for over an hour if not two, I brought some books to read that can be expected to have a fair amount of overlap.  “Man and His Symbols”—an exploration of Carl Jung’s work with the subconscious, and “The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers”—which is based on Joseph Campbell’s study of the Hero's Journey in “Hero with a Thousand Faces”.

Jung’s colleague, ML von Franz, explained that the Self is often symbolized by stone—perhaps because they are complete, unchanging and lasting. “Many people cannot refrain from picking up stones of a slightly unusual color or shape and keeping them, without knowing why they do this. It is as if the stones held a living mystery that fascinates them. Men have collected stones since the beginning of time….”

Buddha-galVihara She says that this is why practically all civilizations have the urge to erect stone monuments to local saints or heroes, on the site of important or religious events, or to express an otherwise inexpressible experience. From the alchemist’s Philosopher’s Stone to the Ka’aba in Mecca, from huge stone Buddhas to Mount Rushmore, people are moved to create and identify with stone monuments.

Then I read in The Writer’s Journey: “the Statue of Liberty is a recurring symbol of the immigrant dream, a lighthouse beckoning the newcomer… The Statue of Liberty, a gift from the people of France to the people of America , is a colossal example of the ancient practice of sending statues of gods and goddesses from a founding city to its colonies to connect them by a psychic thread, a religious tie. …”

More giant stone people!

This particular passage I was reading was a mythical analysis of the film “Titanic” and the ideas of the time in which it was set. Moments later, as I pondered the synchronicity of the ideas, I could hear Celine Dion singing the theme from Titanic over the waiting room TV. Weird!

Or is it just that I was in that moment, at the right place, at the right time, and I was open to all that it could bring? I think perhaps I was.

Written exclusively for symbolicthemes.com