What is a Shaman's Death and who's likely to have one? The death itself is
a suspension between worlds, states of consciousness. The individual today,
which is likely to have a "Shamanic Death," is chasing extinction itself.
Through that process, the person is readying him/herself to stand on a
bridge, between space and time.
Native American Tradition, from my limited knowledge of it, describes a
ritual of preparation - preparing the initiator to burn away his/her world
they were born into, removing any trace of familiar surroundings and
belongings. The ritual continued in complete insolation to the tribe. The
isolation took place in caves, and even in a grave excavated by the
The ancestors of the Shamans had learned the hard way of their chosen path.
It demanded an innate understanding of death and how to control it. Many
went beyond the controls of fatality and prematurely extinguished their human
life. The Shamans were born with a mark. The mark was well hidden until
they had been recognized by the elders. Because of the ideas that
surrounded the practice, it keeps most away from it. A Shaman's death was a
real death to them.
In today's world, the solitude begins for the Shaman in streets and homes of
the modern society. The initiator has a strong sense of being in an
unfamiliar time and place. Nothing seems as it should. It's hard for the
apprentice to function and take a place in the foreign surroundings of
his/her environment. Many times they act out in fits of madness. The
strain of trying to assimilate is over-powering. They abandon the idea of
becoming their true self altogether. Many turn to easier solutions, such as
drugs or any means to release the suffering. Some find their way
through the use of narcotics and controlled substance. They long for the
isolation, the preparation needed to stand once again between realities.
A modern day example of a Shaman's death would be the one that came first-
hand. Most of my life was preoccupied by my unwillingness to conform. I
wanted no part of it. It was wrong for me to accept. On the times that I
broke under the pressure, I found myself healing the wounds and starting the
fight all over again. My childhood was filled with abuse. As I see it
now, the mistreatment was necessary for me to recognize what was laying in
the road in front of me. It's easy to blame others for the perceived
destructive path. Every choice was my own and I needed to endure the
responsibility for it. Our world does not allow us the freedom of alien
thought. We are forced to embrace the materiality presented to us. Or so
A year ago, I met someone who insisted that I go to India with him. Because
I had been chasing death most of my life, the decision was easy. I did not
know at the time that is what I was doing. Only after the event took place,
did I comprehend the idea. The last day of our trip, I was confronted by a
being. A powerful, negative being. That presence forced me into accepting
the task. It was required that I have the experience of a Shamanic Death.
There was no alternative.
A portion of our spirit is contained within our body. My spirit was
conditioning my physicalness, to accept the challenge of taking up my
preordained position in this world. The only place for me to escape the
negativity was to go to the water. My mind was spinning with sensations.
My spirit was in control. My body was overwhelmed with the stimuli of the
universe. All the years of abuse and dealing with the isolation had come
to its conclusion. The ritual was to take on the meaning of dying, discarding all that I knew of the world I was born in.
I found myself at water's edge of the Adriatic Sea. My mind was spinning,
reeling from sensation. What do I do now? I asked myself. I stripped off
my clothes, removed the contacts from my eyes and began to swim - swimming
as hard and as fast as I could. I swallowed as much sea water that my body
would tolerate. When I could no longer see the shore, my body sank. I did
nothing to stop it. I could see the stars turn dark the deeper my body
sank. I was alone in the darkness of the planet. My fate was in the earth
I could see my body continuing down the column of water. Yet my
consciousness was suspended above it. I stood at the place where time and
space no longer exist. I was outside of the universe once again in the
wholeness of my spirit, my core. I immersed my awareness in my creation. I
remembered all of what I am. I tossed aside the body and physical universe
to reveal to my human mind, my essence. The body joined my consciousness
once again and I returned to the surface. My lungs were not starved for air
as I swam back to shore. I had been reborn in the total insulation of my
tribe, humanity, the purpose of a Shaman's death. The condition was to
remain between worlds, all worlds, neither more in one than the other.
Standing on the edge of the spiral of death. Watching the flow of life-force
through the "Circle of Life."
After experiencing "the death," your entire life becomes more in focus, for
your complete examination. Our spirit dictates the depth of the experience.
It gives to our humanness what it desires the body to carry on into the
physical reality. Our will, or spirit than leads us through life and
creates a more fitting nature to our true likeness.
Life here in the modern world is the preparation. Modern society is so far
removed, distancing us from our center. By the mere fact of engaging the
world itself, is all the isolation that is required. One feels like a
warrior, trying desperately at times to keep the enemy at bay. It gives the
shaman apprentice all the direction required to remember his/her way to the
place, the space between worlds - if you can survive and keep focused on the
You can learn more about the journey in a book entitled Elements of Creation. The experience goes well beyond the shaman's death. It takes you
into aspects of creation that have been lost to our current understandings.
You can email the author of the article and book, Bruce Luther at:
firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments.