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This is a question that was asked of me by someone from within my Ayllu. This has posed an interesting question for me. Why do I feel so comfortable using the term shaman, when describing myself?
Actually, the fact is, I am not comfortable using the term shaman for myself. When I label myself as a shaman, I am doing so as much to convince myself as anyone else. But the question, “Am I a shaman?” This is something I ask myself frequently. And it keeps coming to the same. Yes, I am a shaman. Most of the time, I feel no need, at all, to explain myself to anyone. But in this instance, I will do so, but I think that we need to talk a bit about the dynamics of an Allyu. It is kind of like a wolf pack. Within this pack, you honor each other, and recognize that there is no malicious intent. This question was honestly asked, and she wanted to know. After all, I have not even completed the shamanic training for the four directions…
The long and the short of it: before I met my mentor, over 2 years ago, I had been told that I am a shaman.
The ways that I know to gauge a shaman are as follows:
Someone labels you a shaman
You actively assist your community
You actively assist individuals within your community
You interact with the local deities
You have training by spirit or by a mentor
Well, here is the crux of it. All of the above are true. As mentioned before, even before I found my mentor, I was named a Shaman. For almost 2 years, I have been doing work to assist my local congregation grow forward under very difficult circumstances, and almost all of this work was done while maintaining good relationships with individuals within the congregation. Individual healings, individual work, group work, group healings, and much work on behalf of the building and land around the building to ensure prosperity. I have done a fair amount work and learning from the local spirits/deities, and I have been working with my mentor and spirit, very seriously to learn all that I can about this path, my skill set, and the tools I have available to me.
But after all of that explanation, I don’t actually care if anyone agrees with me, or feels that it is a title I should have. I actually do not want the job of a Shaman. But I have been chosen for this path, so I will make the best of it. There is a lot of work to do within this community, as well as the greater community that I can access from my computer. And while I see this work, and feel like I can do something about it, I will. I would also note that the questions I have been asked, and asked of myself in regards to labels, and egos, all come to the same thing. The term Shaman is not a badge that you earn, and wear for the rest of your life. Shamanism is a job, and you are only a shaman, while you continue to do that job. No matter whether or not I am labeled a shaman properly in everyone’s eyes or no, I will continue working with spirit, and with my mentor, and I will continue to grow as far as I can within this lifetime.
This brings up a bigger question though. Why do I feel so confident in self-labeling, when there are two females within my Ayllu, with the same level of training, and different (yet equally as strong) gifts, do not? The member of my Allyu who asked, I could see in her eyes that she didn’t understand how I could call myself a shaman, with the circumstances from her own eyes. Identifying the privilege I hold for being male. When you are a woman, that is to be heard, you rightfully feel as if your words would be questioned without all the documentation proving you are 100% valid. (And often despite the documentation) I, as a male, can walk with my head high, and go with the phrase of “fake it ‘til you make it.” My confidence is all the documentation I need to illustrate my skills. I bring this up because I feel that this talks to an extreme problem in our society. We are still segregating in both bold and subtle ways. It hurts my soul to watch such a gifted and intelligent woman, afraid to help the world with her gifts, due to a deep seeded acknowledgement that she will be challenged and possibly abused for offering to help. That a strong woman is so threatening, that she cannot help the people around her without fear of reprisal.
Earlier, I mentioned that I don’t often explain myself, and I realized something. Taking the time, to listen to the question that was truly asked, I realized that refusing to explain myself, would talk only to the disparity in the privilege I have here. By opening my mouth and my mind, I can talk through the reasons that she too should be feeling confident in herself. And why she too, should be calling herself a shaman.
Am I a shaman? It doesn’t actually matter, but I am going to keep doing the work.