Paul Sivert on his becoming and Shaman and the Shaman’s Ladder…

To say I have been always a ‘willing’ participant in my studies and practices of Shamanism would be quite an exaggeration. Though I have felt a strong connection with the topic, sometimes I’ve resisted becoming fully involved. However, I never gave up on the process of learning and experiencing more. Now I have decided to apply myself more earnestly to my learning and practicing Shamanic traditions. Therefore, I am putting more energy into my private practice and doing new things (Shamans’ Time).

I will offer some information about how one becomes a Shaman. I’ve been through this process and sometimes I feel I’ve done a couple of steps a couple of times. Furthermore, it feels that the process will continue on, which I look forward to.

In his book, The Celtic Shaman, John Matthews describes the twelve stages on the Shaman’s journey which prepare the individual to function as a Shaman. The Shaman’s Ladder, as it is called, is described as a spiral which contains the tree of tradition in its center. The stages of the Shaman’s Ladder are:

  • First Realization
  • Opposition
  • Death
  • Awakening
  • Meeting
  • Traveling/Attunement
  • Totems
  • The Inner Shaman
  • The Spirit World
  • Acceptance
  • Vision
  • Second Realization

Briefly, a description of each stage is as follows:

Stage (1) First Realization – The moment when you first decide to follow the Shaman’s Way. This calling may occur in many ways, but it leads to exploring Shamanism, its principle, its work, its effect on you.

Stage (2) Opposition – When you begin your studying of Shamanic practices and techniques, you soon discover what you’re learning is contrary to what you have learned in the past. The new information places you in conflict with your present beliefs and, for many, the struggle is too great and they drop out. However, this is when trust in yourself and faith in spirit can help you through the opposition struggle to a new set of beliefs and values.

Stage (3) Death – This doesn’t mean a near-death experience is essential, though many Shamans do experience this event. More often you realize the futile struggle you are currently engaged in with your life. Thus you die – transform back to your former self. Now you can be reborn to a new awareness of spiritual life.

Stage (4) Awakening – You are now prepared and receive the experience of wakening of the spiritual consciousness. Everything may appear the same outwardly, but all is transformed. The natural world teaches you its wisdom, a new type of teacher.

Stage (5) Meeting – At this time you begin to make clear, conscious contact with the other worlds. Spirit energies rush to meet you and you understand the significance of the experience. Your contact with guides is heightened and ancestors may make themselves known to you.

Stage (6) Traveling/Attunement – The apprentice Shaman starts to move to understanding the wheel and the universe. It is a time of observation and exploration of future possibilities. The knowledge acquired in this stage will be very valuable later on.

Stage (7) Totems – You learn how to journey with a totem. This relationship adds to the capability to seek, find, track, hunt, and heal.

Stage (8) The Inner Shaman – The apprentice meets his/her inner Shaman. This realization can be surprising because you are actualizing an aspect of yourself that has always been there but was dormant. The goal of this stage is balancing the newly acquired responsibility regarding cause and effect.

Stage (9) The Spirit World – Having ‘acquired’ totems and inner Shaman, the apprentice experiences increased confidence in the spirit world. He/she begins to gather more skills of the trade to do healing work.

Stage (10) Acceptance – The apprentice accepts the gift of confidence and begins to take his/her place in the real world community. They now apply what they have learned and are recognized for their abilities.

Stage (11) Vision – The Shaman now experiences the visionary awareness of the deity in its many forms. In this stage, the Shaman’s specialty takes form.

Stage (12) The Second Realization – The end of the journey, the beginning of the journey. The Shaman is presented with a new beginning and begins the spiral again, looking forward to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the process. The true Shaman is one whose work never ceases. The Shaman knows that there will never be an end to the learning, observation, practice – the goal has become the art of life itself!

It can be an arduous journey but it’s so rewarding to receive the outcomes. You are on the spiral… but where?