The Accidental Shaman: Journeys with Plant Teachers and Other Spirit Allies - Howard G. Charing 2017
I Discover Shamanism
Starting to Heal
The wound is the place where the Light enters you.
Whenever I hear and read about people’s reasons for following a spiritual path, they are often beautiful and inspirational. When I found out my reason for carrying out the healing work, it certainly was different. This revelation happened when a man came to see me. He was a prominent teacher in psychotherapy, and when we met, he clearly appeared unwell: his face was pale, and his movements were shaky. He said that two weeks previously he had given a lecture and that some hostile people in the audience for perverse and malevolent reasons of their own had energetically attacked him. He said that since then he had felt like he was fading away. Every day he felt himself becoming weaker and weaker. As he sat down and I attuned to him, I became aware that he was covered in what looked to me like large putrid leeches. I could say that this was the symbolic form of what was making him weak or that this is how my psyche “read” and interpreted the nature of the entity that was draining his life force.
I started to lift these leechlike things from him. They felt repulsive, repugnant, and obnoxious. I could also smell them, and at times I nearly gagged and threw up. However, I persevered, and when the last one was removed, he looked like a new man. His facial coloring was robust, he stood strong, and he looked well and vibrant. We discussed what had happened, and he resolved to act on his awareness and trust his intuition in these situations.
After he left, I was still feeling a bit queasy from the evening’s work. I needed to take a shower to feel clean again. As I stood in the shower, I had the overwhelming urge to vomit, and I threw up all over the shower. I knew it was from clearing the “leeches,” and then I questioned my reasons for doing this work. I spoke out loud, “Why the fuck am I doing this?” Then a deep, disembodied voice boomed out of nowhere, echoing around me, and said, “Someone has got to do it!” I had to laugh at that because that was a message I could understand. As I mentioned before, these beings do have a sense of humor.
I Discover Shamanism
I wanted not just to learn more about healing but also to understand the inexplicable phenomena taking place. This led me to getting in touch with a national spiritual healing organization, and I enrolled in the courses. During these studies, I was told that I was approaching this work incorrectly and had to stop the way I did healing. I should follow the official guidelines and work the “proper” way, which was to become a “channel” for divine energies. This required that I place my hands in certain positions on the client’s body and raise my energies to the light. I learned various visualizations and practiced healing with the other course participants. I found it interesting and quite pleasant, but somewhere it missed something earthy and fundamental. Anyhow, I had switched off the way I naturally perceived and carried out my work, and now performed healing in the “correct” manner.
During this period, when I was working in the way of the “approved” spiritual healer, I met Leo Rutherford, who was to become a helpful influence, close friend, and eventual colleague. We took to each other immediately and found that there was a great rapport between us. Leo was involved in something called shamanism and had established Eagle’s Wing Centre for Contemporary Shamanism in 1983. Leo invited me to join a group of his friends at a sweat lodge ceremony, and I found it a moving and beautiful experience. As we became friendlier, I discussed some of my experiences and said that I felt that I had “invented” this work. No one else I knew could relate to it, and I had no name for it. Leo smiled and with great amusement proceeded to tell me that I hadn’t invented this work; it had been around for many thousands of years and was called shamanism! I sighed with relief, and laughed and laughed . . . I really did think at times that I was going off the wall and round the bend! At last a map for understanding my journey, and a deep feeling of having found my home.
I still continued to work in the spiritual healing way, and I recall one day in which I was working with a group of healers and one of the most experienced and authoritative among them asked me to help in healing something (which she referred to as a major block) on a woman’s shoulder. My thoughts were, “If she can’t do it, what chance have I got?” Then I suddenly knew that I had to go back to my natural way. As I attuned to the woman, I immediately saw a raven sitting on her shoulder. I touched it and started to lift it off. The raven struggled, vigorously twisting and turning this way and that, and tried to fly away just like a physical bird would. I held on to it as tightly as possible while I visualized disassembling its structure until it became a cloud of translucent energy and could be released.
When I turned back to the person, she was in tears, remembering the death of her father, who had been murdered thirty years back. She realized that she had never mourned for him. Once the raven had been lifted from her, she was able to release the pent-up grief and start to mourn. I was amazed and powerfully moved by this experience, yet still for some months after this I maintained the “proper” spiritual way of healing.
Later in the year I attended a fabulous and life-changing event, the annual New Year’s Eagle’s Wing Shamanic Gathering held at Grimstone Manor, a large mansion situated on extensive grounds, adjacent to one of the last remaining wild places in England, Dartmoor in Devon. The gathering was a powerful and moving experience involving ceremony and all-night trance dancing accompanied by a relay of drummers. We learned about the medicine wheel, enjoyed lots of social interaction, ate good food, and last but not least shared about ourselves in circles. I really felt privileged to witness other participants opening up their inner being and telling others about their problems and the difficulties they had lived through. I found it to be a beautiful and exquisitely cathartic experience.
During one of the sharing circles, a woman spoke of her enduring agony. She sobbed and said she felt like all her life she had had knives in her vagina, and she asked the group if anybody could help her. On hearing this, I immediately felt a bolt of electricity in me, and I knew that I should offer my help, but rather than respond right away, as I felt slightly apprehensive about this, I decided to give it some thought. However, after the circle had closed, Leo approached me and asked if I would help. He had spoken to the woman about me, and she was open to the idea. For the purpose of anonymity, I’ll refer to the woman as “Alice.” Subsequently, we arranged a time and a place for this.
Alice arrived with Leo and a friend, so we started and she lay down on some cushions. I knew immediately that I had to work in my “old way,” and I attuned to her and saw these “knives” suspended above her genital area. I extended my energy and passed my hand a few inches above her body, and the “knives” became loose, began to dissolve, and were then released from her. After this was completed, I noticed what appeared to be an elephant’s trunk inserted into her vagina. I held it and gently started to withdraw it, and then I realized that it was not an elephant’s trunk after all; it was a massive penis. I reduced the massive penis to a more normal size, and then within moments I was holding a man’s “testicles” in my hand. I looked at the man and described him to Alice. She said in a little girl voice, “Daddy.”
The man I described was her father, who still possessed her, and I am not saying this figuratively, because when I told him to leave his daughter, he replied, “She is mine.” I called upon the incorporeal guides to remove him and take him to a place where he could be helped, and as his energy body was detached from her, there was only what I can describe as an explosive release and a sense of enormous liberation emanating from Alice. This led to an indescribable wave of sadness and anguish from Alice as she remembered the times that her father had sexually abused her. Her friend and I spent time with Alice as her body went through the throes of this release. I remember looking at her face, and it was as if a burden of the ages had been cast off. She looked much younger and more alive. I knew that the massive size of the penis in her energy body was how it must have appeared to her when she was young. How horrific the experience must have been. She smiled and said that she had despaired of ever getting help.
After this, I went for a long walk on the moors. It was a cold but sunny day and unusually luminescent. I walked for what seemed to be miles, climbed to the summit of a tor (a rocky peak), sat down in a place of total silence (always a novel experience for a city dweller), and just looked at the moors from this vantage point. It was then I decided to do this work, in the way that I could, using the gifts that I had. From that moment of commitment in Dartmoor, I have never stopped doing this work, and it has continued to grow and develop.
Later on, as my work grew, I started to understand the interaction of energy bodies and fields generated by thoughts and emotions. I knew by attuning to a client whether another person, or a group of people, was “obsessed” in some way with the client. It was as if their energy filaments were entangled with the client’s energy field. Thoughts and emotions (whether expressed or unexpressed) could take on an energy form and a life of their own. It is so critical that we become aware of and take ownership of our negative and diminishing thoughts and feelings. This is the way to start the epic journey to heal ourselves. We have to bring the unexpressed or buried forces within us to the surface.
It was about two weeks after the New Year event that the experience on the moor was reinforced. At home one evening, I had a vision, one so strong that it really felt like I was somehow transported to open countryside. It was a summer’s night, and the sky was clear and filled with stars. I saw a lake, the surface smooth and without ripples. The stars were perfectly reflected in the lake’s surface, and for a moment it felt as if I was in space surrounded by stars. I was quite overawed by this. I then saw something move, and as I looked more closely, I saw a Native American man beckoning to me. As soon as he knew I had seen him, he turned around and started walking downhill. He turned around as if to see if I was following him. He then paused and pointed with his arm to a village below the hill. We walked together in silence into the village.
He led me to a circular lodge and indicated that I should enter by opening the door flap. I went inside; it was pitch dark, and I couldn’t see a thing except for a red glow. I waited until my eyes became adjusted to the dark, and then I could see the glow was coming from a pipe bowl. Shortly after that I began to discern an old Native American man with white hair smoking the pipe. I approached him, he indicated that I should sit down, and then he passed his pipe to me. I smoked the pipe in silence for a little while, and then returned it to him. He said, “Your work is to bring back the old teachings and ways into modern times.” I was stunned by this and didn’t know how to respond. I’m sure that I should have had lots of questions, but if I had I certainly could not get it together to ask any of them. I simply said thank you and got up to leave. He smiled at me and said goodbye. I wanted to give him something as a gift, and I looked in my pockets, but I had nothing with me. He found this amusing and smiled at me.
When I left the lodge, the man outside was waiting for me, and we went back up the hill away from the village. My mind whirled. I felt as if I was twisting and spinning around, and then I found myself back in my room. At times, I have reflected on this remarkable experience, and it has helped me in those times of doubt. At the time I did not know what had happened, but later I came to understand that this was an excursion into magical reality.
Other challenging encounters occurred, and to be honest I was not prepared to talk about them for a very long time, as they would be regarded as very wacky indeed. It’s only now that I feel a tad more comfortable that I can write about them. I went through what people could call an alien abduction experience.
To set the context, this happened after I returned from a journey to Egypt in 1991. I was privileged to have the opportunity to visit the Great Pyramid at dawn, well before the official opening time, and it was an incredible experience. As I entered the King’s Chamber, the energy that met me was overwhelmingly intense. This crystalline energy was so dense*1 that it felt as if I could cut it with a knife. I positioned myself in the massive pink granite sarcophagus, and in there the crystalline energy was even more concentrated; I fell immediately into a deep visionary trance. In these visions I saw eight-foot-tall blue-skinned bipedal beings ascending and descending along the pyramid. I understood that the pyramid at its zenith was some form of interdimensional gateway, or stargate.
Even after I returned home to London, this unreal connection was present. I wasn’t abducted in the literal sense of being physically taken into an extraterrestrial craft, but every evening when I was alone, I felt strong presences near me. They would appear to me as the same blue-skinned beings I had encountered in the King’s Chamber. They induced me to become drowsy and then sleep, and during this sleep, they made modifications on me. These operations, as I call them, were initially painful and uncomfortable. It felt like an apparatus was being inserted and implanted in my head, in particular into my right frontal lobe, and of course it was damned inconvenient too. I could be put to sleep while eating my evening dinner and come to later with food smeared on my face and hair because my head had been lying in the dinner plate.
I remember writhing and rolling around the floor in pain at times as these things were being implanted in me. I couldn’t stop these procedures from taking place because I was made so drowsy. Eventually I learned to negotiate with the incorporeal beings: “Let me finish my dinner first, and then I’ll go and lie down.” It wasn’t much of a negotiation, but it made it easier. These changes went on for a couple of months, and over this period the invisible implants—which felt like they were sticking outside of my head—gradually faded away and somehow integrated into my head, which felt a lot better.
After the modifications had stopped, I clearly knew what the effects were: a heightened sensitivity and receptivity to people’s thoughts, along with an understanding of the influences and circumstances surrounding them. One day while walking through a London shopping mall, I was musing on these alterations, and I thought to myself, “It looks like I will have to trust these buggers.” A loud bass voice boomed out, “No, it is we who have to trust you!” I was a bit shaken up by this and didn’t like the idea of what I had got into. Just who were these bloody spirits, telling me what to do? Giving me responsibilities, and knowing what I was thinking! I didn’t like it one bit! But it brought matters into much more focus, and I approached things in a less casual way after that. I did find the heightened level of sensitivity unsettling, but I found that I could switch it off and on, so to speak. This is really necessary because it is possible to become very ungrounded and spaced out if you don’t switch it off when you aren’t using it.
Michael Harner, who founded the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, relates a story that took place in the 1960s, when he was a young anthropologist working in the Amazon with the Jivaro people. He said that a man in the village wandered around talking to the trees and staring into space and acting in a generally mysterious manner. Michael asked his guide, “Is this man your shaman?” The guide answered by pointing to his head, wiggling his finger, and saying, “No, el esta loco.”1 That is a useful anecdote and good to keep in mind because the role of a shaman is to be grounded and yet be able to at will enter into an altered state of consciousness in order to commune with the ineffable, the noncorporeal domain of spirit.