Causes and connections are long known: The man of the industrial society is destroying nature, and thus the living beings, whether they benefit from this industry or not (1). No insight is to expect despite decades of increasing environmental movement and spiritual living. Neither the West nor in the growing economies of the East, China and India there is a salutary development for our common world. Native cultures are powerless. The warning call of their shamans are reaching us, but an effect on the common ecosystem is not visible.
Ecology – the oldest science
Ecology was first defined as a science by German scientist Ernst Haeckel in 1866 (2). Basic ecological research thus has a university career of less than 150 years and is as compared to physics, a young discipline. As an applied science it is sure to create one of the oldest systems of knowledge to ensure survival. These people had always been the nature and observe what they had seen, built into their lives.
As long as this knowledge was transmitted orally it had the advantage to easily adapt to changing environmental conditions. Writing down the transfer of knowledge was then indeed safer and more comprehensive, but also rigid. The form gained more importance than the content. The pitcher became more important than the water in it.
The Kogi are a people who live very secluded in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia. The German researcher Konrad Theodor Preuss early as 1926 expressed his admiration for the Kogi, as they deal with their environment and changing environmental conditions:
“I call intellectual heritage of the tribe, made up of all that has influenced it, and life has constructed, incomprehensible exterminating our strange culture, but for the lone researcher so overwhelming that he, the soul seeker, a piece of his own must leave behind”(3).
Preuss has done his studies in Mexico and Colombia at the beginning of last century. The anthropology is interested for his documentary about the manifestations of spiritual power, myth and magic. For people doing shamanism it will have another issue of great importance, namely, Preuss’s work on magic and animism. Animism was regarded as the origin of religions: the animistic universe, everything is animated. Preuss, however, stated pre-animism, from a concept of magic and the workings of an impersonal spiritual power (4). In the Shamanic Universe everything has a soul. Probably one cannot separate these two forms.
Spiritual power Aluna
The Kogi (or Kaggába) as the cultural heirs of the Tairona call themselves “The big brothers” in contrast to us, the more immature, “younger brothers”. Our actions are full of folly and greed. Our name is according to the experience that made their ancestors with the white Europeans. The British journalist and filmmaker Alan Ereira was allowed in Kogi lands to learn from their wisdom to it as knowledge, warning and assistance to the Western civilization of the industrial world to pass.
The focus is Aluna, a mystery, not a mother-force, not matter, coming from the ocean, the sea, the amniotic fluid. It is a concept of femininity (obviously not matriarchy), built on balance, harmony, giving and taking. Aluna, the central spiritual power (“Mother”), gives birth to everything, both the shape, the material, as well as the content, the intelligence that formed matter (5).
A spiritual living is all “born” thus the whole world is living. The object of the mamas, the priest-shamans, is to maintain in-depth thinking on all areas concerning the material world. This means do not include the everyday reality in all aspects. Anything else would be thoughtless and without awareness of the full meaning and consequences of an event. Speak blessing, fortune telling are wholesome actions, in which is even Aluna (5).
The Kogi live in a clear structure for strict social policies that affect any one individual. Living together in the family is carefully prescribed and strictly adhered to. By arranging the regions in horticultural fashion, divided into several levels according to altutude each family has an economic life based on access to many different ecological systems.
That is, every family has cultivated areas at different altitudes and therefore can grow many different fruit gardens. Diversity as a livelihood, no dependence on monocultures. There are economic contacts with the neighboring “creoles” (6). Despite these outside contacts and the contact with “money” it seems to succeed in Kogi land to maintain an intact ecosystem in their defined area.
What can we learn from the Kogi?
Ecology: The Science of a financial nature. How could it find a shamanic world view? Animistic thinking – everything is animated, has a soul – is one way to make selective use of existing resources. A modern word is “sustainability”, the ecological footprint left by man.
The sustainable and ecological processes influenced by access to treatment of nature is shown sometimes by North American Indians, they say to arise from the perception of the supernatural beings that are present everywhere (7). A behavior, “the spirits agree well,” as Galsan Tschinag as described (8). Not only as a function of the shaman, but every individual of a tribe, otherwise taboos are broken and will damage the community. The turn to nature as a teacher in the consciousness of dependence.
There were also failures – as we see at the example of the Maya: they cleared vast forests to build their temples, erosion and drought were the results (9)
. An example of ecological behavior shows the hunting method of a North American Indian tribe: Before the game, the shaman performs a certain ritual. Small pieces of wood are burned, the ash is mixed in a container and moved. As the ashes are to come, it shows the direction in which to place the hunt. It seems like coincidence, but this is the perfect way to get out of an area which has to be avoided for over-hunting(10).
For moderate use of the resources of an ecosystem is the aspect of how products are produced and traded. That is how to deal with the fact the working people. How far are we away from a life as that of the Kogi describes the British journalist Leo Hickman. He had started trying to live ethically. He wanted to provide his family with ethically correct products. He is not successful (11).
Life and spirituality networking
In shamanic cultures, the visible and the invisible, the ordinary and the non-ordinary aspects of reality are equally perceived. Everyday life and spirituality are connected. Hence the daily life in shamanic cultures is influenced spiritually. The bread baking, basket weaving, grain grinding. Even here are reminiscences about the cross on the loaf before it touches on. If the original meaning of such an act is not known, it is regarded as superstition. Pitcher and water seem to have nothing to do with each other.
Through the weaving of everyday life with the spiritual awareness that all comes from one source, leads to a different task and understanding of property as we know it in the individualized Western industrialized world (5). It is a social moderation as a responsibility of the individual results to the community and a sense of justice. We can learn from shamanic cultures, such as the Kogi that you can not live a “little” shamanic, but that it is a lifestyle, which is expressed in the words of Michael Harner: We are not alone. This helpful set in shamanic work means equally responsibility.
People shamanizing work with the spirits of the invisible force that we call soul. We maintain contact with our soul, with which we go on journeys. If there is no contact with the soul, there is thoughtlessness, frivolity. The political thinker Hannah Arendt in the context of the Holocaust, described the banality of evil (12). After being criticized for trivializing the evil, she answered, “… that evil is always extreme, but never radical [Latin radix root], it has no depth, no demonic. It can devastate the entire world, just because it’s like a fungus proliferates on the surface. Deep and radical is only good “(13).
Because ordinary and non-ordinary reality are intertwined, one world affects the other – looking at this this principle the Kogi are convinced “cure” for aeverything is possible. This was our initial question.
Ghost Dance: The return of the buffalo
Ereira shows in his film scenes in which shamans deal with a power plant that the “younger brother” has built with great enthusiasm, but was soon abandoned and the ruins of an industry marred Kogi territory. Very soon the jungle took the field again. It had possession of the boiler tubes and overgrown plants. What did the Mama? They made rituals, ceremonies, they used spells and prayers. “It’s very tiring, you have to hold the concentration, the connection with Aluna, very long” – was the explanation of a Kogi shamanMichael Harner calls this “merging with the spirit”.
There are other examples from native cultures. Michael Harner mentions the Ghost Dance of the Paiute shaman Wovoka, which is maintained in the FSS seminar “Vision Dance”. Wovoka and the dancers were hoping the return of their ancestors and their most important subsistence, the buffalo. The buffaloes returned, not the ancestors. When the smallpox infested the Jivaro, the shamans quickly discovered that smallpox spirits were superior to their own, so they had no chance to cure this disease. “But I hope you let yourself in your groups not stop continue to make rituals for the planet,” said Michael Harner (14).
The Kogi thus seem to know how to do it – but they also know that it is not easy and not everyone is capable of doing. The shaman needs special force, a special awareness. The shaman has to be born, has to be educated, trained. And if the Kogi school – which seems to be one of the hardest – placed behind it, that’s still no guarantee that a really excellent mama(literally, “enlightened”) is formed.
Optimally, the education goes like this: A child selected by shamans is reared from birth in solitude, in darkness, from a cabo (leader) and the mother in complete conformity of food and cleaning instructions. The child grows up in the non-ordinary reality, learning from the spirits, by Aluna. The everyday world moves on until later, and by and by.
What we can do yourselves?
Certainly we are not Kogi shamans. What can people do against the yeast of industrial society, include economic growth, which has infected the entire earth? First, we’ll have to admit that we are profiteers, at least, were also those who have left – see Leo Hickman. Everyone can discuss with her/his spirits whence the money really comes from. Not only the direct source, but what value it previously taken course, has before it landed on the account. Let us remember, only for the production of coins we use resources in an ecosystem, namely metals. This practice is a good research work to be done in drumming circles.
Perhaps it would also be helpful to deal with the wisdom of the ecosystem of the country where you live. A group of core shamanic practitioners had the opportunity to experience in the area of Vorau, North Eastern Styria (Austria), exciting power phenomena. There is a huge complex of underground and aboveground “Erdställe” (“Earth Stables”) of hole stones and standing stones (menhirs), some thousands of years in situ, which are interrelated. The function of the underground tunnels and rooms from a scientific point of view remains a mystery. On personal perceptions of those present could have located one of the functions that have happened in the dark corridors and rooms slip through healing actions. Impressive a statement of the prehistoric researcher Henry Kusch (15) was that while it was here, plants with standing stones, which by their particular setting were probably influencing the weather.
Asking the Right Questions
We should do more shamanizing in the nature without disturbing other people. Amazing experiences are to come as close to wild animals if you for some time sitting quietly in the forest. We experienced at a natural spirits seminar in May 2010 in the Styrian Schöckl several times a small grouse, black grouse, with his hen during courtship.
Everything is animated, everything is networked, there are spirits helping us – clear to stand by that living requires some practice, sometimes lack of concern. Certainly, in many workplaces, and in some families to deal with it carefully, however: It’s about doing the maximum practical travel with the spirits of the place and ask what they have to say about the situation of the ecosystem in which one lives and works.
The Exxon Valdez disaster off Alaska’s coast in the spring of 1989, when 37,000 tons of crude oil contaminated 2000 km coastline, prompting U.S. drum groups to concerted efforts (16); European groups engaged in 1986 after the meltdown at Chernobyl. The delayed effects last until today, but isolated successes – helping injured people and local areas – are reported regularly.
Communing with the snake shops
But then there are the little messages. An example from the rural area north of Graz, as we are “close” individually or in groups, for nature, the ecosystem can work:
A wooded area that still has an intact fauna of small wild birds, should be cut down. Smooth snakes, grass snakes, toads and frogs, dragonflies and other rare species live and multiply there, even the golden oriole, and many other songbirds. Even hawks circling over and whimpering.
The first step was making contact with the spirit of the place and communicate with some of the animals living there. In contact with a snake was the wonderful performance given this animal in ordinary reality of a reference to their habitat: In all the rest it first, after it was raised, remained in observation and then have the tree displayed until enough to their home area . It referred to the tree and hang on a tortuous road on either side in peace. It could be reached with the farmer consensus, which tree stand areas. It was important to try to implement the wishes of the survivors there in ordinary reality.
Michael Harner has recognized the importance of the work on site a long time ago, long time, “Living Treasures” are supported native shamans in various parts of the world, financially and morally so that they work where they continue to live as shamans – often against the pressure of churches and big landowners. Not only knowledge is obtained, but as shaman, they remain with the spirits of the place in close contact and can therefore act in their “ecosystem” of nature.
(1) Farb, Peter: Ecology. Time Life International (Netherland) 1963
(2) Townsend, C.R., Harper, J.L. und Begon, M.E.: Ökologie. Berlin, Heidelberg, New York 2002
(3) Aus dem Vorwort zu: „Eine Forschungsreise zu den Kagaba [Kogi]“, Konrad Theodor Preuß 1926. Aus: http://www.lateinamerika-studien.at/content/kultur/ethnologie/ethnologie-261.html am 25. 7. 2010.
(4) Mader, Elke: Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie Lateinamerikas. Eine Einführung. Aus: http://www.lateinamerika-studien.at/content/ kultur/ethnologie/pdf/ethnographen.pdf am 29.7.2010
(5) Ereira, Alan: The Heart of the World, Jonathan Cape, London 1990. Deutsch: Die großen Brüder. Die Botschaft der Hüter des Lebens. Hamburg 1995. Umfangreiche Literaturliste sowohl von Preuß als auch von Reichel-Dolmatoff und anderen.
(6) Reichel-Dolmatoff, Gerardo: The sacred mountain of Columbia´s Kogi Indians. Leiden 1990 .
(7) Feest, Christian: Die Sache mit Manitu. Geo Epoche Nr. 4, Oktober 2000, S. 68-73.
(8) Galsan Tschinag, pers. Mitteilung, Artstätten 1998
(9) Aus: http://diepresse.com/home/science/497816/index.do am 29.7.2010 (nach Journal of Archaeological Science, 22.7.2009)
(10) Leandro Herrero: Managing Irrationality. Aus: http://www.articleslash.net/ Business/ Management/287016__Managing-Irration-ality.html am 19.6.2010
(11) Hickman, Leo: Fast nackt – Mein abenteuerlicher Versuch, ethisch korrekt zu leben. München 2008
(12) Arendt, Hannah: Eichmann in Jerusalem. Ein Bericht von der Banalität des Bösen. München 2006
(13) Schröter, Esther: Zur Banalität des Bösen bei Hannah Arendt.
http://www.sicetnon.org/content/pdf/banalitaet_des_boesen_schroeter.pdf am 30.7.2010
(14) Persönliche Mitteilung von Michael Harner, August 2010.
(15) Kusch, Heinrich und Kusch, Ingrid: Tore zur Unterwelt. Das Geheimnis der unterirdischen Gänge aus uralter Zeit. Graz 2009
(16) Michael Harner: The Valdez Catastrophe, FSS-Newsletter of FSS, Vol. 1, No. 4, Spring 1989; Exxon Valdez Catastrophe Follow-up und Susan Grimaldi: Ceremony for Valdez, FSS Newsletter Vol. 2 No 1., Summer 1989.
Sylvia Wohlfarter, Ph.D., is biologist / biochemist and former faculty member of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies Europe.