Most cultures recognize an animating ‘life force energy’, such as chi, qi, ki, kundalini, n/um, ruach, prana and mana. Life force is very closely related to ‘soul’, and often indicates vitality, original nature, instinct, intuition or inner compass. Another term is ‘spirit’, and I must say, it confused me for a long time how they are related, and how they are different. In this article I explain how I understand the nuances between these terms.
Shamanic paradigms consider ‘spirit’ as the animating life force both in our bodies and in the animist world around us. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, this concept is called ‘Qi’, or life force energy. This can be affected by ongoing stress or other health concerns that sap our vitality, but while we live it’s always there.
‘Soul’, in shamanic views, refers to an original essence that makes us who we are. This metaphysical part of us is in direct relationship with the sublime. The soul “continues beyond death and into eternity and into infinity. We could literally say that our soul has a body, much more than saying that our body has a soul” (Villoldo, 2018). This soul essence can be damaged: parts of it can ‘leave’ following traumatic events.
I was recently invited to address a gathering of resident chaplains in the pastoral care department of a major urban medical center. Specifically, they asked me to present the shamanic point of view of team building with an emphasis on creating alliances and community.
There is no such thing! From a shamanic point of view (as well as quantum scientific thought) separation is a false concept. It is redundant to think of reaching out to build teams, alliances, and communities, since we are already all connected, allied, joined together as one. The fact is there is no such thing as opposing sides.There is only one side: just us folks, all of us everywhere, trying to live life as best we can, much more alike than different. There is no us and them. There is only us. We — all of us who occupy this planet: organic and inorganic; living and not; past, present, and future —are the world. Continue reading “Interdependence Day by Mama Donna Henes”
As I was writing this story, my Word program froze several times, and I lost what I had written. This has never happened before. The fifth time, it occurred to me that Artemis was not happy with the way I was telling the story of her life and death. I lit a candle and prayed for her spirit to fly free like the gulls over the sea that I could see out my window and began again. The words in italic are the ones she added.
Yesterday morning I heard the church bells tolling a plaintive, “dong, dong, dong,” as they do when someone dies. Quite a few people die in our village in winter, and I did not wonder who it might be. You didn’t think of me? A few hours later, I saw the death notice on a telephone pole next to my car. My friend and neighbor Artemis died. The words “Theos voithos,” “with the help of God,” came immediately to my mind. Continue reading “Releasing Artemis by Carol P. Christ”
“Childbirth is a rite of passage so intense physically, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, that most other events in a woman’s life pale next to it. In our modern lives, there are few remaining rituals of initiation, few events that challenge a person’s mettle down to the very core. Childbirth remains a primary initiatory rite for a woman.” –Maren Hansen (MotherMysteries)
When I was pregnant with my first baby, I read an article with the theme of “Birth as a Shamanic Experience.” I can no longer find the exact article (online or printed), but I distinctly remember my feeling upon reading it: I was entering into a mystery. Giving birth was big. Bigger than anything I’d ever done before and it went beyond the realm of a purely biological process and into something else. Like shamanic experiences, giving birth is often described as involving a sense of connection to the larger forces of the world as well as being in an altered state of consciousness or even a trance state. While shamanic experiences may involve “journeying” to other realms of reality, giving birth requires the most thoroughly embodied rootedness of being that I’ve ever experienced. It, too, is a journey, but it is a journey into one’s own deepest resources and strongest places. The sensation of being in a totally focused, state of trance and on a soul work mission is intense, defining, and pivotal.
Recently I had the great pleasure of presenting on the WATER Teleconference Series and dialoguing with women from around the world about how to promote healing in a rape culture. Likewise, in a previous post I discussed rape culture in the Church and its impact on victims of sexual violence and the greater community. Within a rape culture, those who experience sexual victimization endure physical, emotional, and spiritual wounding. It is a victimization unlike any other, and one that we must continue to discuss in search of healing.
This topic is important to me for obvious reasons. As a woman, mother, and social justice activist, I am passionate about eradicating gender based violence. This said, I also have direct experience with this brutality that plagues our society. Having worked with rape survivors for more than a decade, I have witnessed the suffering endured as a result of such violence. My own mother died prematurely as a result of sexual and domestic violence; having come to learn of the horrors she lived through has greatly impacted my understanding of the deep spiritual wounding experienced due to our culture of shaming and blaming – our rape culture.
One morning my husband comes to my office to give me an important phone message. “Jo wants you to come and talk to her about her funeral.”
My friend Jo, an artist and poet, is dying of an aggressive form of cancer that is infiltrating her brain. At home in hospice care, she has already lost the use of her left side and has been told she may lose her mind and speech soon. So I go right over to her house where she is enthroned (a tall, regal woman) in her hospital bed in the middle of her living room. All her visitors have the pleasure of being surrounded by her paintings, magical and alive, like all her work from sculpture to book arts (have you ever worn a book? Jo has!) to poetry–some of her most powerful work was composed in the hospital. Continue reading “Coming Out as a Shaman at Your Presbyterian Memorial Service by Elizabeth Cunningham”
When I was five years old, I asked my Sunday School teacher–a woman, “What if Jesus had been a girl?”
“But he wasn’t,” she replied.
Unsatisfied, I asked again, only to receive the exasperated, recursive answer. My mother gave the same empty response later, in private.
It’s no huge surprise that when I was about 14, my many dissatisfactions with the Church overwhelmed my fondness for it, and I began to explore other spiritual paths. Coinciding with this transition was also the realization that intuitive gifts I’d manifest since childhood demanded open expression, and that the energetic truth of my femininity deserved acknowledgement on my spiritual path. By the time I was 17 I had separated from the Church and begun crafting my own relationship to shamanism.
Feminist theology was self-transcending to me. I was unafraid of going beyond the boundary of Christianity and its God.
Mago is the Great Goddess of East Asia and in particular Korea. Reconstructing Magoism, the cultural and historical context of East Asia that venerated Mago as the supreme divine, is both the means and the end. Magoism demonstrates the derivative nature of East Asian religions such as Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism while redefining East Asian Shamanism to be the religious expression of Magoism.
I encountered the topic of Mago during my doctoral studies. The topic of Mago fell out of nowhere at the time I was preparing for qualifying examinations. I had never heard the name, Mago. Only when I was able to collect a large amount of primary sources from Korea, China, and Japan, was I awakened to the cultural memory of Mago. I grew up craving the stories of Halmi (Grandmother/Great Mother), a common referral to Mago among Koreans. I had a childhood experience of being in the fairy land unfolded by my grandmother’s old stories. While “Mago” was unfamiliar to most Koreans, she was taken for granted in her many other names such as Samsin (the Triad Deity) and Nogo (Old Goddess) and place-names such as Nogo-san (Old Goddess Mountain) and Nogo-dang (Old Goddess Shrine). Continue reading “A Cross-Cultural Feminist Alchemy: Studying Mago, Pan-East Asian Great Goddess, Using Mary Daly’s Radical Feminism as Springboard by Helen Hye-Sook Hwang”