One of the things that's hard to find in contemporary shamanic practices (especially if you're not a Core shamanist), is a sense of community. Whether that be online, or in person.
Practicing as a shamanist can be a lonely path in general. I mean on the outside looking in, it sounds like a crazy religion. You have a person who talks to spirits and land-wights, who believes in gods and the power of sacred animals, who often works to shepherd dead spirits to their resting places, to heal the soul, to travel to invisible worlds that are more commonly accepted to be fantasy or make-believe, rather than the real places a shaman knows them to be. Being a shamanist often involves not just working with pre-existing spirits and deities, but meeting new ones, and bringing their stories back into the world. It is always about walking a fine line between respecting the past, and being a pioneer at the front of spiritual practice.
And any pioneer, in any walk of life, can be difficult for others to accept.
But I'm not talking about a sense of community outside of shamanism here, I'm talking about a sense of community within shamanism. I have this dream, you see, of being able to sit down with a group of people; either online or off, and discuss the ethics of tricking soul fragments into the body. This example, is just one of the many things I devote a lot of thought to, and wish I had more input on. You see, some of the more ancient shamanic cultures simply tricked, connived or plain trapped soul fragments to force them back into the body. With contemporary psychology - or at least, with my limited understanding of it - being as it is, forcing anything back into the body presents problems. How to reconcile the differences? I'd love to brainstorm with other experienced contemporary shamanists... but... where are they?
I've been a shamanist for about 8-9 years now. I run my website; wildspeak.com, I've been a member of countless forums, both shamanic (including the once excellent, but now very quiet English-speaking Kondor forum) and general pagan. I used to be active in the Western Australian Combined Covens community (where I only ever met one other neo-shamanist, but I'm sure there are others), and I'm not exactly new to the crowd. And I can say that I don't know of any community setting where a group of contemporary non-Core shamanists could talk about the ethical dilemma I raised above. Hey, if you know of any, tell me!
I have people in a one on one setting I can talk to, via email. But no real sense of community with it. Once Google Wave comes out, of course, that will change. Because then email / community will be one and the same, and I'm hoping to see some changes in the way the often-solitary-but-community-driven shaman / shamanist responds to this kind of technology.
The things I'd like to do with groups of contemporary non-Core shamanists is extensive. I'd like to see new or learning shamanists experiment or offer soul retrieval / depossession to other shamans/ists with experience (who require it, by the way, not people who are splitting their soul for 'learning purposes'), so that both can go through the process together, and learn together, and create a bond. I'd like to see ethical discussions about the best soul healing techniques, and like on the old Kondor forum, discussions about the best ways of getting from place to place in the Otherworlds, and the best ways of settling down disgruntled spirits of the dead (which, in the past, has ranged from cupcakes, to tea, to chanting, to talking to them, to bringing touchable, affectionate animal spirits along with you). I'd like a community, or communities that worked to solidify otherworldly UPG, while at the same time; show fearlessness when it comes to bringing new UPG to the table, as is our responsibility as story-tellers and makers.
For now, I'm limited to writing posts like this one, and often resolving these issues by myself. Shamanism is a lonely path, my friends; but it should never be this lonely.