July 7th, 2005


Misuse of the Word Shaman

I would like to draw everyone's attention to the widespread misuse of the word shaman, originating not from Native Americans but Siberia! Nor does shaman mean "medicine man" or "tribal holy man" or almost any of the ways people use it nowadays.

Native Americans are finding many of the current uses of the word, and its being erroneously linked to their religious practices, offensive.


A "shaman" is a specialist and master of the ecstatic trance-journey, not a synonym for tribal healer, holy person or medicine man. "Shamanism" is the practice of ecstatic trance-journey, and the typical beliefs and techniques that arise from and support it. Shamanism is not a catch-all term for indigenous religion, earth-based religions, spiritual healing, or beliefs in totems, animal guardians or nature spirits. These misconceptions about shamanism are promoted by both well-meaning and fraudulent teachers, books, periodicals and web pages. They need to be corrected both for the preservation of traditional Native American cultures, and for the advancement of spiritual learning in the West.---endquote---


Meanwhile, I had to finally jump in and try (in vain, probably) to educate some readers over at http://somehavehats.typepad.com/ after several derogatory references to Native American spirituality were made by the blog owner in relation to an interfaith ceremony in L.A. at a Catholic cathedral. Apparently this inclusiveness to honor a new mayor was too much for the conservative Catholics in the area, and they proceeded to mock everything about the ceremony. They were also angered by the pro-choice stance of the new mayor, Villaraigosa, who is himself a Catholic.

Since it may be deleted at some point, like my comments in defense of religious freedom for pagans and other non-Christians were previously, I will repeat my comments here:

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Chipping away at ignorance...
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Diving Into You

Diving Into You

diving into you

the great unknown
what will I find
will you catch me
or let me fall and laugh
your golden laugh?
I land on cotton candy skies
and blue lies
beneath and around
everything I am or could ever be

I am wrapping
things up for
our rendezvous
wrapping up my life
as a present
hoping it's bright and shiny
to please you
and that
the wrapping doesn't tear
in the fall

I'm ready for
my swan dive now
leaping into
that great unknown
trusting you
to catch me
with love

Preparing for Death

Ok, I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep, hence the multiple entries today. One of the things I had intended to include here is my growing list of resources for those contemplating their mortality, whether in general or in response to illness. Here is a copy of a post in my forum that gives some of the books and tapes I have found helpful--please feel free to add to the list in comments, I am always looking for more. Here is the post:

Our task is to figure out how to live with a more imminent sense of death and not let it terrify us to the point that we have no quality of life.

I have been reading a number of books that have been helpful to me, trying to develop a more positive attitude towards death. Three of the best have been:

Winona's Web: A Novel of Discovery by Priscilla Cogan...A psycotherapist treats a Native American woman who has decided that she is ready to die soon--by natural causes. The therapist ends up learning from her about the purpose of life and what may lie beyond. A very affirming book, most comforting when I was in the hospital.

The Radiant Coat: Myths and Stories About the Crossing Between Life and Death An audiocassette by Clarrisa Pinkola Estes from Sounds True Recordings, 735 Walnut St, Boulder CO 80302 (All of her work is excellent) Again, very comforting. I absolutely love this and have listened to it over and over again.

Death: The Final Stage of Growth edited by Elisabeth Kubler Ross, MD A collection of essays about death

Also useful for information about the physical changes that happen from different kinds of death:

How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter by Sherwin B Nuland I wouldn't call this comforting, but it is informative and he has a whole section on heart disease. What was comforting was a description of sudden cardiac arrest. If one has to die of heart disease, that's the way to go!

Another great book, although geared to cancer patients, but deals a lot with how to live with impending death while you are trying to live, and accept both (and also a lot about how couples deal with terminal illness):

Grace and Grit: Spirituality and Healing in the Life and Death of Treya Killam Wilber by Ken Wilber, Shambala Books

I also find it helpful to attend to my spiritual life. While that may not be helpful to those of you who are athiests, I think a non-religious practice that's meditative in nature can be helpful to anyone. Consider it stress reduction. Or even spending time in nature can help you feel connected to something larger than yourself and your individual struggle with illness.

Recently added:

Advice on Dying by His Holiness The Dalai Lama, and The Pagan Book of Living and Dying: Practical Rituals, Prayers, Blessings, and Meditations on Crossing Over by Starhawk and M. Macha NightMare. This last book has some really beautiful poetry that can be appreciated in a non-denominational, universal way. One of the phrases I remember vividly is "You go from love into love."

Graceful Passages: A companion for living and dying. 2 CD set in the "Wisdom of the World" series from Companion Arts, PO Box 2528, Novato, CA 94948-2528 It contains music with spoken prayers and messages that encourage a positive death experience from a multi-faith perspective. There is a companion booklet with the transcript of the spoken pieces. Very soothing and I highly recommend it for anyone nearing death.

From my own spiritual perspective, one's consciousness at the time of death is very important to a positive crossing and the possibility of achieving self realization. I see death as something that requires my thoughtful preparation and participation. So if I sometimes seem preoccupied with it, it is a means to a more positive ending, and what I see as the culmination of a lifetime of spiritual effort.

Blessed be--


Prayers and Blessings to London

My heart is with the British today as they deal with the grief and rage in the aftermath of the bombings. I very much hope they catch those responsible. I also hope that as a society they come together better than we Americans did, and not allow this to splinter their parties even further apart.

For those who think liberals want to hold a therapy group for terrorists--no, we don't. I feel the same anger that anyone would feel, and the same desire for justice and even revenge. But I also want to see America and her allies find a different way to interact with the middle east as a whole, because it is so painfully obvious the way we're going about things only brings more suffering our way.

May each of us find ways to bring more peace into the world in our interactions with others.

Lucky find

Sometimes I simply read the most recent livejournal posts from the link on the main page. I run into interesting things, such as this:


They Lied to Me, Too

by James Glaser

I saw a bumper sticker the other day which said "Bush Lied and Our Soldiers Died." I thought back to when I realized that my government had lied to me and that the lives of the 58,000+ Americans killed in Vietnam were lost because of lies.

It didn’t happen right away. I came home from the war and I looked at the peace movement with anger. I was, you might say, still in the jungle. I still knew lots of guys who were counting down their days and I couldn’t believe that young Americans were not joining up to "fight the good fight."

When I got back to the States I still thought we were trying to save the South Vietnamese from the terror of Communism and that if we could get a few good Generals, it would be over in months.

---end quote---

Sound familiar?

Scroll down a bit for that entry, it looks like a good political blog from my quick view. One to keep track of, for sure.

Seen this so often I finally had to go there...

You Are 54% American
Most times you are proud to be an American.
Though sometimes the good ole US of A makes you cringe
Still, you know there's no place better suited to be your home.
You love your freedom and no one's going to take it away from you!

A few questions just didn't fit...it wouldn't be pasta and MEAT balls, I own a real live flag--the one from my Mom's military funeral--but I don't fly it as it's too large for that anyway. Women's tennis rather than basketball or soccer...like most of these tests, they don't really cover enough points of view.

And while I'm at it, another one:

I Am

Which tarot card are you?