The Voice of All There Is: Shamanism, Harmony and Ecology Munkhbayar.B (Wikimedia Commons)

The Voice of All There Is: Shamanism, Harmony and Ecology

August 28, 202013-15 minutes read

Written by:

Andreea Tincea

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I started writing this after having watched for a second time, after five years, the documentary film La Sale de la Terre (The Salt of the Earth, 2014, r. Wim Wenders), dedicated to Sebastiao Salgado, a wonderful social photographer and his lifetime work built around the human being and human life on Earth.

It crosses my mind that true journalism, as a profession, is a serious thing (for over 13 years I have been working with people reaching out to them through words and music; also, it has been more than 20 years since I first became a volunteer) but the fundamental detail that makes you the best in this profession is the humanitarian vocation. That same ingredient makes doctors grate in their profession, it makes psychologists become therapists (as in Greek language therapeúō – “I serve, treat medically”), the same ingredient makes philosophers actual even more than 2300 years after Plato. These same humanitarian values make some artists transcend with their art centuries of human history and heal, through the “eye of the beholder”, a piece of our collective soul.
Protecting the environment and keeping it clean and balanced (I do not destroy, I do not conquer/enslave, I do not consume more than I need, I do not over make stocks, I do not exploit, I do not own!) is in fact the fundamental act of respecting the cycle of life.

Shamanism ‒ the oldest and most widespread methodic system of psychosomatic healing

Anthony Stevens, psychologist and MD says this two million years old Self, the ordaining centre of the collective unconscious, this continuous chain of experiences called individual life, this Self is a collective character: as Jungians discovered, the particular experience of each and every one of us, counts and influences be it the pathology, or the healing process of everybody. The two million years human understands what it means to be sick and what’s necessary for healing because, as Stevens argues, “acceptance, empathy, attachment and affiliation with this indigenous Self residing in our psyche is the key to adaptation and health”. (The Two Million-Year-Old Self, Anthony Stevens, 1993)

What is it that journalists do? They mirror. What is it that psychologists actually do? They mirror and help us in the process of self-resignification. What is it that medics do? They mirror distortion and bring back the whole version of body functioning. What is it that artists do? They mirror the interior and exterior universe and re-signify it in relation with the Self.

All these self-mirroring and self-centering forms, and more, are also part of the activities’ collection attributed to the shaman – this archetypal and concrete figure that for the last 40 years fought to still be present among us and to culturally resurface… because people still need this figure to function. The shaman–be it in the form of the artist stepping up on stage, treating people in hospitals and psychology cabinets, observing and analysing life and mirroring it through mass-media, but also as an interior dimension of each one of us–acts at the intersection of several existential functions.

The shaman fulfils some of the transcendental artistic expression, some of the counselling and accompanying done by psychologists and philosophers. Acting as a mirror and also being the creator of the collective dream, he is the storyteller and keeper of the cultural memory, reminding us of the work of a Jungian analyst helping us read and rewrite the ‟circuitry” of our soul. We now live a time when this shaman is showing himself again to the world.

A few cultural insights on shamanism:

• The word shaman has an uncertain etymology spreading its roots in several cultures: in Tungus-Mongol language, šaman, “the one who knows”, “the exalted, moved, uplifted one”; with the Evenki people, šamán; in Sanskrit, śramaṇa (monastic figure, saint) etc.
• Beginning of the XXth century, Maria Czaplicka published her bestseller Shamanism in Siberia (an extraordinary effort to collect anthropological information from previous studies done by various adventurers, explorers and scientists, but also an important research into ethnological resources available on the sides of the Yenisei River, Russia). Her book manages to capture a detailed portrait of the Siberian shaman.
• During the 80s, anthropologist Michael Harner builds a bridge over time and sets forth an act of reverence and admiration towards the indigenous people all over the world, but especially indigenous cultures still standing in North, Central and South America: as a result of his anthropology studies he published The Way of the Shaman. His book would later have a massive influence on the rise of neo-shamanism practices worldwide.
• Carlos Castaneda, yet another influential cultural figure during the 70s published in 1968 the book The Teachings of Don Juan, the story of a yaqui, a Toltec "man of knowledge" with whom Castaneda allegedly has spent years of training into shamanic practices. The book became an international bestseller.

The shaman's functions in the community are keeping the balance between man and nature, keeping the culture alive, the stories, the customs of the tribe and their traditions. He is a physical and psycho-emotional healer of the community members, a keeper of the ritual laws, depository of the tribe’s wisdom, beyond time and space, to see the Principle manifested in the harmonious simplicity of nature.

A shaman becomes a shaman after a crisis (physical and/or mental illness, depression, lose of identity, family lose etc.) followed by a guiding dream or various symbolic synchronicities connected with giving or receiving the responsibility to be a shaman. This is the reason why all shamans present themselves as being chosen to do this. Some theories talk about the First Shaman as being a woman, especially depicted as an old woman, the Grandmother, keeper of knowledge about all that is to be experienced between birth and death during human life.

One of the fundamental healing practice in shamanism is cutting away/extracting/removing all bad/toxic/negative powers and restoring beneficial powers.
Runebommen - ritual shamanic drum. Photo: Åge Hojem, NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet
Runebommen - ritual shamanic drum. Photo: Åge Hojem, NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet

Harmony and rhythm

I must have been 5 or 6 years old. Spending most of my time at my grandparents home, I vividly remember one afternoon: we were all in the flower garden, in front of our house. It was summer and I was helping my grandfather. Watching the water dripping from the sprinkler in my hand I zoomed in my vision to such detail that I was part of the micro moment when the water drop touched the flower and the leaves. It felt magic. I could hear in my mind the sound this touching moment created. Like a kiss. Union. And I started singing those sounds. "What are you doing?", he asked me, smiling in admiration. "This is the sound of water touching the flowers, papa!" Now I know I was only expressing communion, gesture-me-nature-love, just like he was doing when singing while taking care of the vineyard. This connection with nature makes one sing the love of this caring relation.

Like all spiritual/healing/connection and meditation practices, shamanism uses specific methods to attain a relaxed discipline, that is concentration and a clear personal will power. In tribal communities, this personal journey starts as is supposed to, in childhood, when the father/mother/grandparents accompany the gifted (called, interested) child in this work to explore and get to know the environment, teaching him the ancestral methods (plant work for altering consciousness, sacred songs, sacred gestures to get the body and spirit into trance state, ready to work with the Beyond realm). Attuned with the rhythm of nature the shaman reproduces this repetitive cyclic movement of the stars, of the sun, moon, seasons, awaking and sleeping time, birthing and dying, blooming and fading, inhale-exhale, the heart beat... that each element in his surrounding follows eternally. Each ceremony starts with connecting to the main elements of nature, asking for support and knowledge from guides, spirits, ancestors, elementals and by the repetitive sound of a rattle, bells, drum or the simple words of a song the atmosphere is set, the veil of reality is pierced as he enters in a trance state of mind.

Getting to this magical realm is all about rhythm and harmony, while the vibrational technology to get there is based on simple, steady repetitively sound. Just like watching the fire by night works for visually entering into a trance state, the repetition of a low, base, calming and encompassing sound of the drum combined with the alerting, high notes of a rattle stimulates both sides of the brain in different manners: partly alerted and partly detached, relaxed, getting the shaman into a state of clear but settled attention, senses fully opened and receptive to a wider range of imagistic and cognitive information that one does not control but rather abundantly perceive.

Music is almost always accompanied with movement; dance and chanting have always been used to get the human being, mind and body, into amplified states of perception: even if it starts with repetitive gestures and songs, there is always a barrier of self-control to cross and that happens when improvised, free sounds and movements kick in, that is the sacred moment when one has stepped over the realm of reality and entered a stated of full perception.

From ancient times we have had archeological signs that humans used vibration, tune, pitch and timbre of materials and human voices, animal voices to induce these altered states of consciousness where one receives special insight, solutions, understandings, connections, healing gestures and methods etc. The shaman uses drums and rattles, Jew’s harp, chords instruments or just mimic the sound of animals, birds and elements of nature because he understood that all universe vibrates– in overtones, tone and harmony. To mimic the sound of the universe is to become the universe, and as such have its powers, understanding, knowledge.

Simple exercise to connect with sound and vibration: turn your speakers on, put on some real low, bass continuous sounds. Get a sit, lay down, calm your breath… and let the sound penetrate your body. Clear all control, all resistance, abandon muscular resistance, mind resistance, relax your whole body, feel safe, you are safe! and just receive, receive those waves into your flesh and bones, receive what the vibration of the air offers you, receive the very subtle movement of the air impacting your flesh, your ears… be one with the way your internal ear vibrates, get your perceiving attention at the level of those micro-kinetic sensations of sound touching your body. Give yourself permission to be one with those barely perceived sensations. Stay with them. Move with them. Flow with them. Let your body become a resonating material. Become… sound.

"There is only one continuous sound (in the universe). Let your mind perceive this continuity. And you will never fear getting from one sound to another. There is no fragmentation." (Andreea Iftimescu, opera singer and vocal trainer)
Nikolay Oorzhak (shaman) hammers his drum during a ritual in Tuva Republic. Photo: Alexander Nikolsky, Siberian Times
Nikolay Oorzhak (shaman) hammers his drum during a ritual in Tuva Republic. Photo: Alexander Nikolsky, Siberian Times

Ecology and the balance between worlds

Lakota elders have this saying that we should have a direct and affectionate communication with all our relatives: human beings, animal beings, plant beings, earth, water… they all are our family. Ecology is just a natural loving and respectful relationship with All There Is, with our Home, our environment. Ecology is self love and love for the other. Ecology is the only conclusion of our high human potential: to be one needs to love oneself and the context that keeps one alive. Just as the organic, logical relation between the cells of the human body, ecology is the rule that makes everything stay together, connected, working, functioning, surviving. Ecology as the rule of Interconnectedness is our default software as beings. When did we as humanity forget it?

The shaman knows when do plants grow and when is the best time to rip them, where does clean water flow and when are the animals ready to be sacrificed (not to jeopardize the reproduction of the herd). He can forth see the moving of the rain clouds and the subtle signs of change in nature from one season to the next. He knows the moving of the main stars in the night sky and if this is going to be a good year for the crops or not. Shamans are the first to understand when ”unseen dimensions” change their harmony (sometimes referring to changes in the electromagnetic field of the Earth reversing its poles, causing the change of the sky routes that birds follow, or the surface water flow used by fish and wildlings to navigate. Connected with the rhythm of nature, fine observers of life, they know where herds move in search of food, so they can tell hunters where to go hunt.

Shamans are medicine men, healers, seers, future tellers (reading signs in the human body but also with the help of the natural elements in the environment). They perform all these activities for the greater good of the community calling for help from the spirit guides. The shamans keep the balance between sky and earth, they balance the body-heart-mind of people and keep the respectful balance between man and nature. They watch out for people to respect the rule of keeping a balance between taking/consuming and giving/restoring/re-growing.

Through rituals and ceremonies the shamans are the ones who always remind the community how to honor the ancestors, the elements of nature, animals and spirits so that the balance is kept safe. Their mission is to maintain the survival of the community and this means continuity, regeneration of nature to secure continuous access to food, safety and enough resources to survive.

"Shamanism represents spiritual ecology. Shamanism is not about the simple veneration of Nature, it is about a reciprocal spiritual communication that restores the lost connection that our human ancestors had with the amazing spiritual power and beauty of our garden called Earth." – Michael Harner, The Way of the Shaman

In any shamanic tradition around the world the main accent in shamanic work is keeping the balance: in people themselves, in the community, in nature. Respect for the ecosystem is also the foundation of the entire ritualistic behaviour of the shaman; the shaman only uses his routines to protect and give forth, from one generation to another, the rules used to live a functional life in this space, in this landscape, in nature. His gratitude expressed during ceremonies towards the primordial elements (fire, water, sky, land, wood, metal etc.), animals giving humans food, towards the place they live in, towards the spirits of nature (the wood spirits, spirits of the mountain, oceans etc.), towards ancestors who brought them in this existence and from whom they received centuries of accumulated knowledge… this profound respect is in fact a constant state of connection with the environment, with all that life is. All this was lost for modern humans, this daily routine of connection, this inner attitude of respect and connection with All There Is, as without our ancestors and without all the environment has to offer… we would not be alive.

”Cult of fire”. Photo: Alex Polezhaev
”Cult of fire”. Photo: Alex Polezhaev

Ecology–a new ritual of modern man

Protecting the environment and keeping it clean and balanced (I do not destroy, I do not conquer/enslave, I do not consume more than I need, I do not over make stocks, I do not exploit, I do not own!) is in fact the fundamental act of respecting the cycle of life.

In shamanic culture there is no distinction being made between the natural world and human world, and this is the reason why the human beings community is constantly conscious of the fact that it always has unlimited access to resources by respecting the simple rule to not overly consume, destroy etc. This identification with the environment informs humans (gives them hope and belief) that they live in abundance, that humans are not alone, that life means continuity and cycles, that passing through various stages of evolution and various sufferings are a given Principle of life, of the great All That Is.

"Our interconnectedness with all that exists is an absolute truth: nothing and no one can exist outside of All There Is, the Universe, the Whole." (Evelyn Rysdyk, The Norse Shaman, 2016)

Sainkho Namtchylak, renowned throat singer of Tuvan descent, once said, during a public conference held in 2017 in Bucharest, that pollution is not just the visible garbage. We are responsible also for the way in which we alter the electromagnetic field of the Earth through waves. And here we are, only three years away having a global debate about how much we can intensify the waves running through this electromagnetic field without producing any ecological damage nor any global health crisis.

Shamanic ecology comes from this direct and simple closeness to natural elements: between the need for food and shelter of the indigenous people and nature who provides all this there is a partnership and a codependency relation. For the modern man, sadly, water comes from the water cleaning station, bottled, from the store, or from the urban pipes network. For the modern man food doesn’t come from the earth, but from the supermarket shelves. The modern man made a partnership with false providers of survival – supermarkets chains, not Nature. His central god is not a solar one anymore, but an electric one.

Green energy is a result of ancestral & modern technology and respect for nature. Ecology will become the new ritual of contemporary man and our planet seems to also make effort to help us move in this direction by giving a good shake to all of us, once in a while, through such collective crisis, as the one we are passing through, in order to reset our behaviour as a collective.

Chinese bells. World Traditions Reunion 2019
Chinese bells. World Traditions Reunion 2019
For a more profound understanding, I got in touch with several Romanian shamanism practitioners who shared with me their vision on ecology, harmony and shamanism.

“For me, shamanism means, first of all, communication with nature and discovering the harmony of the Whole. Every being and every single thing has spirit, consciousness: from animals to plans, mountains, lakes, planets… This perspective opens new possibilities for us: we can communicate and collaborate with all these consciousnesses. To be conscious becomes the dominant level of our existence. It also means that we interact as equals with these other beings, that we drop the perspective by which the world is our meal table, and that we can serve ourselves as we please. We become once again members of the natural community. We recognize the intelligence of nature and the power of the Whole that only one Part of it cannot recreate, no matter how much it would like to do that. Nature has her own voice that we can listen to. We have no more excuses like “I just wanted to build a house; I didn’t know I would be destroying the environment […]. If we now assume responsibility, we can precisely know the effect of our actions. At first it may seem hard, but after we open up to this perspective of interconnectedness, we will see that there are numerous benefits for all of us. When we assume responsibility for our contribution to the harmony of the Whole, our life becomes more harmonious as a whole.” – Alexandru Anton, shamanic practitioner.

“Human, stop and listen to the voice of Mother Earth and all her creation. Feel her feminine, creative energy pulsing inside yourself, waking up ancestral, wonderful mysteries of this Earth, woven in your DNA! AHO! Stop and listen with all your being!” – Olimpia Mioara Mireștean, shamanic practitioner.

“Every woman has inside herself the capacity to travel between worlds. To heal. To effortlessly communicate with All that is Alive. To access the extraordinary Feminine Dimension of Creation. To live in a profoundly loving, respectful and supportive relation with Mother Earth […]. Mother Earth receives (the woman’s function to cleanse the world) and completes this purification, this alignment, this remembering of women for the higher good of all. For such a woman nourishing a loving relation with hey monthly blood and with the Earth, step by step, all becomes more natural and simpler. The way reveals itself, the veil between the worlds is easily put aside – on the inside, subtly, silently, in complete accordance with the level of integration of the wild, alive, authentic nature of the woman. Her intuition accentuates, her instinct sharpens and her relation with Mother Earth becomes real, tangible, with every step. When we start living this way, there is no turning back. We hear the Earth calling for us, speaking to us; we feel how the Earth is cracking us on the inside. And all we wish now is to Serve, Love and Remember, every one of us in our own way, guided by our Divine Soul.” – Laura Maria Yara, womb priestess.


*This article is part of the project Music & Conversations in the Attic, co-financed by AFCN.
About the Author

Andreea Tincea

Andreea Tincea has a background in communication, PR, cultural journalism and events management. From 2009 onwards she has been also developing several music projects: Loungerie II, Abator Industries, Cats in the Rain, and El Madre – a project involving sacred sounds & music. Presently she works as Senior Editor for the Romanian publishing house Herald, where she coordinates a book collection on shamanism.

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