Whilst we were pootling around at Summer Camp, we happened across a nice chap called Ian, who is a Shamanic Druid. Knowing very little about that way, we asked him to give us a bit of a description type thing, and he did! Please find it below:
Let’s Start with the Druids!
You may already be familiar with the fact that the classical Druids could be broadly defined by three ‘types’: the Bard, the Ovate and the Druid. The Bards explored the arts and crafts, drawing their inspiration from nature to provide both entertainment and education around the evening campfires with music and the tales of the ancestors. Some Bards would progress to the grade of Ovate, developing their skills as seers using a variety of divination tools and methods while still working in harmony with nature. The third grade, the Druid, was for the most experienced elders taking on roles such as philosopher, judge and acting as a mediatory in community disputes.
What has all of this got to do with Shamanism?
Shamanism is probably the oldest spiritual practice on Earth, predating ‘organised’ religion by thousands of years. There is evidence of rock carvings and painting being found almost everywhere from the Arctic Circle, Americas, Europe and Australasia. In some cultures, such as in Mongolia and South America, it continues to this day. The interesting thing here is that there is a strong commonality between the totems and gods of all these ancient cultures across the world – sometimes even the names are similar.
Typically, a Shamanic practitioner will have undergone various trials in life, lengthy training or perhaps suffered misfortune causing him or her to have a different perspective on life to his or her peers. A Shaman will often use devices to help reach an altered state of consciousness where he can then converse with otherworld spirits to perform healing or receive guidance through divination.
The most familiar method used by a Shaman to enter this altered state of consciousness is the steady, monotonous beating of a drum or rattle. In the Seidr tradition of Northern Europe helpers would chant the seer into an otherworldly state of mind (and then chant them safely back again). Other commonly used ways of entering an ecstatic state are dance and using mind-altering plants and fungi. [Legal Note: please see our FAQ for a discussion of the use of drugs in pagan ritual and worship today.]
Some people feel that the basic principles of Shamanic practice and the Ovate skills of nature-based divination work together exceptionally well. By using combinations of drumming, song and dance or medicinal herbs the practitioner will enter a deep meditative state where he or she will work with sacred Totem Animals for divination, guidance and personal development. They may even become that animal – experiencing life lessons through ‘being in its shoes’ (or paws, claws or hooves!) for a while, known as shape-shifting. They may also work with people – the ancestors – in the otherworld, having conversations with Spirit Guides who are storehouses of great knowledge and wisdom.
It might be argued that it would be unusual if the ancient Celtic peoples of this land had not had some spiritual practices that are built on the same Shamanic principles that are seen around the whole world.