My path as a Druid is a shamanic path. It is not something that I ever consciously sought out to be, or, to be honest, something which at this point, I truly understand. I am still very much trying to get to that point. All I can say is that Cernunnos is my guide along this path, and lured me deeper into the mystery at a point when life was about to drown me.
A topic that you see popping up on discussion forums and blogs at regular intervals is the question of who has the right to call themselves a shaman, with some people claiming that you need to have come close to physical death or complete madness first, and that anyone else is an impostor, and some saying that you have to belong to a specific culture if you want to have a right to the word.
I am not claiming to know. I am still too much at the center of a vortex of confusion to feel comfortable claiming to be any kind of expert on anything. But I’d like to share this (channeled) message from Cernunnos with you, as I thought it might shine some useful light on the matter…
This is Cernunnos
This is a reflection on what it really means to be called to the path of the shaman.
This path is not for everyone, that much is true, but a lot of nonsense has also been spread about it. This is not something that belongs to a specific tradition. Anyone who would claim that has not understood the meaning of this path. Nor is it about what you call it. Just like every single person is different and has different lessons they need to learn during this lifetime, so it is true for the ones on the shamanic path.
But there are things that are universal. The universal property of the shaman is that they hurt. They have built their identity around a deep hole at the center of their soul. They are this hole, and many of them will spend a large part of their life trying to run away from this, or trying to find a way to stitch this gap.
I am sorry if this message is difficult to take for some, but this core darkness cannot be healed. It has to be lived and it has to be brought into the world. For it is through constantly living at this edge, on this boundary between darkness and light, between life and death, that the shaman is able to touch on a mystery that remains hidden for most people. For what the pain does is throw down the veils of illusion and forces one to constantly gaze into the face of truth.
It does not allow one to walk away, for what is at your center cannot be walked away from unless you also walk away from yourself, and become a living dead one, a zombie that sleepwalks through life. This is also why some people turn to alcohol or drug abuse. Because they feel that pain more strongly than many other people, and they have no guide to explain to them how to deal with who they truly are, and how to use it as a force for healing rather than a path towards destruction.
These people sense a pain that is deeper than their own psyche can bare. They sense the pains and ills that are at the core of human suffering, at the core of the suffering of the world, both human and nonhuman, and they are forced to carry that wound within themselves, so that it would be able to express itself in a way that the rest of you can understand.
And so they can be healers if they are listened to, they can be the ones that show you the way out of your own pain. Their whole lives are spent in service of it, so that the rest of you would have that beacon of light to guide them when they experience just a little chunk of that pain within themselves. They carry the light that is to be found at the center of the darkness. They will rip the world to pieces, so that the pus can come out of the wounds and the world can have a chance at healing.
But they will never mince their words, and so they may not always be comfortable to be around, for their eyes have seen things that would be enough to destroy most people. They may seem weak, they may appear as if they are unable to cope with the world and with the simplest aspects of life, but that is because the burden that they are given to carry is so much bigger than that of most people.
The shaman is a healer. The hurt is just not always on the physical level. That means that not all shamans will go through a shamanic illness of the body. But the illnesses of the mind and the thing you generally call depression is another way in which this illness can present itself. The way it presents is not something to boast about or to be used as a sign of moral superiority. It simply is the key that gives the shaman access to the spirit world. A key that came at a great cost and a key that will continue to come at a price.
For the darkness can only be kept at bay by being in constant interaction with it. This is why the shaman can never stop being a shaman. Because the monster that devours them is inside of them, and is their muse as well as their destructor. The universe itself was formed when darkness was ripped open to reveal the light within. This act of primordial creation is not something that happened just once, but is happening anew, every moment of every day. It is the fundamental basic force of creation, and without its continuing effect the world cannot exist. It is only as long as it is being recreated that it can exist. But the truth about that creation is that it hurts because something new can only ever come to be if the old is ripped apart. And that is why moving away from your pain means moving away from your cause of being. It hurts because you care, and that is how you know that the place of pain is the place where your heart resides.
Some people have a heavier burden to carry than others, but the core of every being is this seed of darkness. Without that, it could not be alive. And so do not hesitate to go in search of it, to use the shamanic path to find it and to make it into your strength. It is not wrong to call yourself a shaman if you do so. Just remember that the path is different for everyone, and that for some of you this is an optional exploration, while for others it is a matter of life and death. It is who they are. Honour their sacrifice and stop calling them failures if you see them drown. Instead, honour them and give them a hand. For one day they may well need them to give you a hand when it is you who risk drowning. And when that day comes, you will be grateful that they have explored the darkness so they can show you the way back towards the light.