Rise of the Shamans (Part One: The Way of Shamanka)
More than ever, we are feeling a need to respond to the calls of our ‘earth keepers’. Our intuition is returning to the authenticity of the ancestral pearls of wisdom that our souls have always known. Where monastic religions, ego-based cults and commercially driven societies have tried to fill the deepest of voids, more and more people are listening to and gaining sustenance from the laws of creation, realising all they have been longing for has always been there. In this first of two features, Kate Osborne visits Shamanka and talks to Eliana Harvey, one incredible woman helping to guide us home.
Having grown up in New Zealand, with horses and an addiction to water, now immersed in the life of being the financial provider, a mother and wife, I have often felt estranged from the natural world and the sustenance it once offered. I can ill-afford to take up riding again, and the northern hemisphere seas offer only fleeting invitations to dive in, so I was heartened to hear that Eliana Harvey was inviting me to spend a day with her at Shamamka and allow myself to be at one with the ancient pearls of wisdom once again.
Shamanka is a wonderful centre for women to train in the Shamanic tradition. The name comes from the Russian word for female shaman, or ‘she who knows’. When I finally arrived, having departed Newton Abbot in Devon to accidentally take in the sites of Bristol before returning to Dorset, I really did feel in need of some TLC. Eliana was there to greet me and take me under her wing. Once settled in with a hot cup of chocolate, Eliana, a slim, softly spoken, and an incredibly youthful woman asked me, ‘What would you like to know?’ My goodness, the questions I had flying around in my head about this incredible body of knowledge that she was a part of, the awesome people she has met, the wonderful places she has travelled to, the unique insight she must have gained after decades of exploring, seeking and living this path. But instead, I found myself simply asking ‘Why – why the way of Shamanka, when what you were originally destined to join was the world of fashing and design?’ Eliana nodded and smiled. ‘I don’t really know. You see I’m not anyone special, but I have always been interested in “life”. I was brought up with a strong sense of the Celtic traditions and both my parents were complementary therapists. My father pioneered osteopathy in the UK and my mother was a healer and Bach Flower practitioner. I guess for me it began with yoga, which I have practised and taught all my adult life. I then trained in acupressure and Chinese medicine.’
On the move
Eliana spent a great deal of time abroad with her young family when, as a teacher, her husband Gerry took up a post in Uganda. Subsequently spending time with other cultures fuelled her innate search – the quest for deeper wisdom. This ‘quest’ was bringing her to her authentic self and, as she was later to discover, enabling her to teach and assist others in doing the same. ‘I trained for over 20 years with a number of shamans and medicine people, from many indigenous traditions. It became obvious there that there existed a little-known stream of women’s shamanism, and there was a need for a school dedicated to the recovery and practice of the special gifts belonging to the ancient pathway.’
Middle Piccadilly – the land upon which the Shamanka School has been built – was originally to house an art school and studio, but it made perfect sense to evolve its use to include the wise woman teachings. There is a wonderful medicine wheel that leads to a ‘tardis’ of a meditation room, built on low rise stilts. We went inside and I was in awe of the sense of space, the height and vibration of this building. The floor changed in temperature and appeared to undulate under my feet as Eliana invited me to walk around it until I found the right place for me to sit and take some quiet time with my guides. I was introduced to Eliana’s guide, an image of which hung beside the ‘altar’. He is Chinese looking, a great healer and has been channelled by Gerry having no knowledge of this therapy, nor any recollection thereafter.
The Magical Woman
We return to the main house and I ask about the workshops. Eliana tells me about ‘The Magical Woman’, her initial training enabling women to discover the source of their wounding or disempowerment so they can heal and reclaim their core integrity. Based upon five images: the vessel – representing the womb: water -contained within the vessel, representing our creative potentials: the flame – representing our inner fire or spirit: the knife – used for protection; and the phallus – representing the male principle within the female. Eliana explains, ‘We begin with the water, exploring all the ways in which we dam up our emotions, or allow them to overflow. If the waters of our womb are clean and vibrant, creative potential can bubble up from its depths, it can again be the container of our healing potions and the deep well of intuition. Next is the knife, it can protect us but can also be used compassionately to “cut away” the illusions that we carry about who we really are. It represents our “edge” and our courage. We explore all its uses and there is usually a realisation of all the inappropriate limitations and belief systems that we have accepted as a way of surviving. The clearing process from the wounding suffered from male energy is initiated by the very tactile experience of creating a clay phallus. this can birth powerful reactions, according to the woman’s personal history. A lot of healing and forgiveness may be needed at this stage. And so to the “light”: the sacred flame, our passion and our spark. Here the opportunities exist to explore how we have allowed our flame to be extinguished, or dulled by focusing on the negative as well as revealing our own vital force. it always ends with a “ceremony of Light” where I use a central altar to hold all of these objects which represent the powers, and this is circled with flowers which reveal exquisite beauty and fecundity, for the seeds planted in the womb, container of the feminine principle.’
Eliana asks me about my path. I have always been curious about my own existence – with many opportunities for travel as a child and young woman I am now drawn to gathering and distributing what comes my way, passing on information. I am struck by the similarities and missed Eliana retrieving a blanketed bundle in the shape of a parcel. ‘Would you like to hold this and tell me what you feel?’ Without any idea of what I was holding, I cradled the bundle that felt alive. It was warm and heavy, I shut my eyes and I could see a baby inside this bundle, I could feel its head and bottom and I wanted to rock it. I felt deep love. Eliana awaited my response. ‘I know this sounds silly, but I feel like I am holding a baby or small child, and I want to hold it – it is alive,’ I smiled. Eliana glowed as she said, ‘It is a birthing blanket, inside are rocks of my emotional being. I feel the same way as you do. It heals me. I sit with it against my back or hold it in my lap and it soothes pain.’ I felt very pleased that she had allowed me to spend time with her precious cargo, in fact, all the time I had spent with her on this day passed effortlessly despite the less than promising start. Sometimes the most fruitful journeys are not down the ‘straight and narrow’ path. Our shamanic path is anything but narrow and around each bend there lie the most wonderful opportunities for our souls to take flight.
(For a hard copy of this feature, that includes the Shamanka Training – the three strands, order Kindred Spirit Magazine issue 94 Sep-Oct 2008)
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