Thursday 13 June 2013

I Ask Ross Heaven, What Is An Authentic Shaman?

Shamanism seems to be the buzzword of the moment in the Mind, Body, Spirit marketplace. It sells books; it sells tickets to workshops and it sells places on holidays to far-off lands to try to find the authentic shamanic experience. It also seems to spawn loads of arguments on the internet about what really is authentic shamanism and what is simply borrowed or adopted from other, more traditional, sources.

I’m not a shaman. Sure, as a witch I’ve used some shamanic-type techniques, but I’m certainly no expert. Nevertheless, after a reader on my blog left a few comments on the subject after my interview with shamanic practitioner and author Ross Heaven, the question of what actually is an authentic shaman has been on my mind.

Last week, two days in a row when I did my regular daily reading from a divination deck, I drew the Hummingbird card (I was using my newly acquired Animal Wisdom Tarot). Now, the Hummingbird card can indicate a spiritual insight and inspiration, but it also reminded me of Ross Heaven – as he was the author of a book I very much enjoyed called The Hummingbird’s Journey to God. I took it as a sign that perhaps I should ask Ross about my question.

He sent me a long and detailed reply. Here it is:

Ross Heaven: On one level I don’t even understand this debate and find it rather pointless.

When people become plumbers, for example, do they call themselves “plumbing practitioners” (‘authentic’ or otherwise) or say they offer “real (as opposed to ‘fake’ or ‘plastic’) tap and washer healings”? When you need your house rewiring do you phone an “electrical energy manipulator” or an electrician?

What, then, is this Western reticence about calling oneself a shaman if that’s how you work; why do we have to be “shamanic practitioners”? We don’t seem to have the same problem with other therapies after all. If you offer massage with oils you’re an aromatherapist. If you treat people with herbs and plants you’re a herbalist. If you manipulate feet you’re a reflexologist. But if you work with spirits, energies, plants, drums, rattles you’re a… “shamanic practitioner”? Right.

The argument is nonsense. If you work shamanically you’re a shaman. You may not be a good one yet because, like everything else, a trade takes a lifetime to perfect, but you’re on the path, so let’s just call a spade a spade and a shaman a shaman, shall we?

Once you look at it from this point-of-view, the addition of the word “authentic” becomes silly as well. What is an authentic toilet cleaner, carpenter, gardener, reflexologist – or shaman - compared to an inauthentic one? Don’t we just mean ‘can they do the job – unblock a sink or save a soul – or not?’ And isn’t that actually what really matters?

The idea that we in the West can only be shamanic practitioners and not authentic shamans comes from deluded thinking, mostly on the part of “core shamans” – another meaningless term – and seems to stem from a series of completely fallacious beliefs:
  1. I’ve heard it said by the cores, for example, that the title “shaman” is a term of honour conferred on a person by his community which recognises his power, and must never be applied to oneself. In my experience, at least, that just isn’t true. Real shamans (by which I mean those I’ve worked with in the jungles and mountains of Peru and in other countries rather than those you might meet in core shamanic weekend warrior workshops) call themselves what they are, whether they are selected by spirit, heredity or a personal decision to pursue a shamanic apprenticeship. Not one of the real shamans I know or have ever worked with has been “chosen” by the community to be a shaman because of their innate powers. It just doesn’t happen in the real world. The desire to be “chosen” or “The One” seems rather a Western pre-occupation actually, which has more to do with ego than genuine power or ability. Being a shaman is a job, like plumbing, painting or prostitution, and I don’t know any plumbers either who were chosen by their community because of an innate ability to plumb.
  2. Even the idea that “shaman” is a real title that actually exists and means something is erroneous. In fact it doesn’t exist at all. The word comes from samaan – a Tungus term which has a very specific meaning: something like ‘priest of the Altai region’ – and has no use, except by anthropologists, in other cultures. In the Andes, for example, the “shaman” is the altamisayoq, curandero or huachumera; in the Amazon he is the ayahuasqero, vegetilisto or perfumero; in Haiti he is the medsen fey or houngan. But even then, these terms are meaningless because in real shamanic communities, which are not usually as ego-led and status-obsessed as the West, it is not the title which matters but the ability to do the job. I refuse to use the expression “shamanic practitioner” with my students - they are shamans-in-training - but at the same time it matters little to me (and it should matter little to them or their clients either) if they choose to call themselves Bobo the Flatulent Clown instead of shaman as long as they can heal the person who comes to them for help.
  3. The idea that ‘authentic shamans’ are something other than us is just as wrong and probably stems from the belief that we have no native shamanic tradition of our own, that only ‘noble savages’ running through jungles in loincloths while off their faces on exotic and mind-bending herbs deserve to be called shamans. At some point in all of histories, however, we were animistic cultures working with the spirits of the land, the weather and the seasons for our very survival. Wicca may be a modern invention (about 60 years old, courtesy of Gerald Gardener) but for thousands of years before this we were more than aware of the powers around us and some of the evidence for our co-operation and collaboration with them can be seen in the artefacts which archaeologists have uncovered, such as the remnants of Irish beehive sweathouses (similar in purpose to Native American lodges), votive offerings made at sacred lakes and springs, and the mummified remains of medicine men and nomads carrying protective amulets and healing and magical plants. If shamanism existed anywhere it existed everywhere and if we are keeping the tradition alive we have just as much right to call ourselves ‘authentic shamans’ as a jungle magician in Borneo.
  4. The belief that becoming “a shaman” is the end of a process is equally wrong. In the West, for some bizarre reason, the word ‘initiation’ has come to mean an ending whereas, in fact, to initiate means to begin something. You can call yourself a shaman right now, then, if you wish to, even if you feel you know little about it – or whenever you are ready to do so – but to become a good, skilled, competent healer will still take you a life-long process of learning and practice. As one of the huachumeros I interviewed for my book Cactus of Mystery put it: “I cannot tell you that in six months or six years or even in 60 years you will be ready to call yourself a ‘shaman’; that is between you and your spirits. What I do know is that I have been a healer for 50 years and I am still learning something new every day.”
  5. Even more fundamentally wrong are the notions that “core shamans” even exist in the world and are qualified to make any pronouncements about what makes anyone an authentic or inauthentic shaman, or that we should measure shamanic competence or authenticity by reference to their approach.
    In fact, core shamanism is a fabricated commercial product – a brand - invented by Michael Harner (it is also known as the Harner Method – TM – for trademark) which does not actually exist anywhere in the world. It is made up; cobbled together principally from aspects of Siberian shamanism and the Amazonian ayahuasqero traditions and only began in the 1980s. In historical terms, then, it is even younger than Gardner’s Wicca. It is also a psychological more than a spiritual approach, designed for Westerners, which is (according to many anthropologists and academics, and in my view) a dilution of genuine shamanic methods since it expressly avoids the use of teacher plants (a universal shamanic practice known in all parts of the world – except to “core shamans”) and does not even require a belief in spirit allies or a spirit world since visualisation and the use of imagination or mind is its actual core. (Simon Buxton, who teaches core shamanism in the UK for Michael Harner’s Foundation for Shamanic Studies told me about an argument between Harner and Sandra Ingerman, the ‘core shamans’ at the core of core shamanism, so to speak. To resolve it Ingerman suggested that both she and Harner ‘journey’ – whatever that actually means – to consult with their spirits and seek their advice, to which Harner replied: “There are no fucking spirits, Sandra. I made them up!”). I have a fondness for Harner and see him as a bit of a beardy old rascal so I choose to believe that he invented core shamanism with a good heart and with genuinely good intentions to be of service to the West, but I am sure that even he would never claim that his invention is anything like actual and authentic shamanism. Because it isn’t.
So what, then, is “authentic shamanism”?
Before I answer that, since the subject has been raised here and at many other forums by “Bridget”, “M Graham”, “Anonymous” (or whatever she’s calling herself this week), let me give you an example of what it certainly isn’t.

Simon Buxton and “Bee Shamanism”
Bridget/Graham/Anonymous has been trolling the web for some time now (and I mean years) making the same tedious comments about the authenticity of Simon Buxton’s shamanic bee book and the inauthenticity of my own book on sin eaters (even though sin eating is a known historical tradition with evidence to support it while there is not a shred of evidence for the existence of ‘bee shamanism’). It seems that ‘she’ is very keen to defend her bee guru (or possibly ‘she’ is said bee guru using a number of pseudonyms since she claims to know so much of the background to the books she refers to and the relationship between Buxton and I). On the subject of ‘who ripped what off from who’ and which tradition is more authentic, therefore, perhaps she would like to offer her comments on this small matter…

A 'bee maiden' (i.e. a woman who has spent a considerable amount of time and money on 'path of pollen' "initiation" courses offered by Mr Buxton) writes the following:

"I was drawn to undertake Path of Pollen workshops and trainings having read The Shamanic Way of the Bee and taken it on trust that the book is, as it claims, an authentic account of the author's initiation into the Path of Pollen. What I have recently discovered has shaken that trust considerably and left me wondering if I have been (a) duped and (b) exploited.

"As you will see, it appears that significant passages in The Shamanic Way of the Bee (TSWOTB), including whole paragraphs, have been lifted virtually word-for-word from the much earlier essays of the late P L Travers, who is best known as the author of Mary Poppins but was also a lifelong student of and writer upon myth and fairy tales. Worse still, these key passages are variously presented as the dialogue between Bridge and Twig in TSWOTB and also the first person narrative. There is no indication that use of the passages in question was authorised by P L Travers or her estate [it wasn’t – I checked] and P L Travers' work is not acknowledged either in footnotes or the bibliography at the back of TSWOTB.

"Some people may not care whether or not there is any truth in The Shamanic Way of the Bee or if it is simply one man's fantasy, but to me at least there is something deeply unethical about passing another's words off as one's own and it raises serious questions about the authenticity of the Path of Pollen as a whole. I present some of the evidence below for you to make up your own minds.

"The P L Travers work I quote from is What The Bee Knows - Reflections on Myth Symbol and Story, foreword by David Applebaum, Codhill Press edition 2010

"P L Travers, What The Bee Knows (WTBK) (from the essay entitled What The Bee Knows, first published in Parabola magazine, New York 1981) page 81: For the Bee has at all times and places been the symbol of life - life as immortality. In the Celtic languages, the Cornish 'beu' the Irish 'beo', the Welsh 'byw', can all be translated as 'alive' or 'living'; the Greek 'bios' has been mentioned above and is the French 'abeille' not akin to these? So, the Bee stands for - or is a manifestation of - the fundamental verb 'to be'. 'I am, thou art, he is', it declares, as it goes humming past. ... No wonder then that mythologically the bee is a ritual creature of a host of lordly ones... To anyone capable of suspending for a moment the cavortings of the rational mind, of accepting myth for what it is - not lie but the very veritable truth - it needs no great inward effort to act upon such advice. It's a matter, merely, of listening.

"PP30-31 The Shamanic Way of the Bee (closing paragraphs of Bridge's first knowledge lecture): The Bee Master knows the bee as the most remarkable of creatures, a social alchemist and truly nature's most astonishing being, he reflected before displaying his discreet passion for language and linguistics. It has at all times and places been the symbol of life - life as immortality. In the Celtic language, the Cornish 'beu' the Irish 'beo' and the Welsh 'byw', can all be translated as 'alive' or 'living'. The Greek word bios should also be mentioned. So, the Bee stands for - or is a manifestation of - the fundamental verb 'to be'. 'I am, thou art, he is', it declares, as it goes humming by... if we look to myth the bee is the ritual creature of a host of lordly ones. To anyone capable for a moment of suspending the cavortings of the rational mind, of accepting myth for what it is - not a story or a lie or a corruption of the facts, but the very essence of truth - it should need no great inward effort to access their significance. His eyes bore into me, testing to see if I had yet understood. Then he spoke again, very slowly: It is a matter, merely, of listening.

"PL Travers, (WTBK) p86: “When does the old year end?" asks a child. "On the first stroke of midnight", he is told. "And the new year - when does it begin?" "On the last stroke of midnight." “Well then, what happens in between?" The question, once asked, required an answer from those who know what the Druids knew. Long after I had written down this story, I listened to a radio reporter who was describing the ceremonies of an African tribe at the end of their lunar - or solar? - year. At a given moment, it appeared, the chanting and the drumming ceased as the gods invisibly withdrew. For a few seconds - twelve perhaps - absolute silence reigned. Then the drums broke out again in triumph as the gods invisibly returned with the new year in their arms. 'And' the reporter added 'though I do not ask you to believe it, I can vouch for the fact that my tape recorder, for those few moments of sacred silence, without a touch of my hand, stopped spinning’.

"PP35-36 TSWOB: The end of the year falls exactly at the beginning of the first stroke of midnight on December 31, and the new year begins as the last stroke ends. But what happens in between? In answer to Bridge's question, I told him a story I had heard as a child that had stayed with me over the years. A correspondent for the BBC World Service was describing the ceremonies of an African tribal people at the end of their lunar cycle. At a given moment, the chanting and drumming ceased as the gods and deities invisibly withdrew from the world... For just a few moments, absolute silence reigned in Africa as the gods withdrew. Then the drums broke out again in triumph as the spirits invisibly returned, cradling the new year in their arms. The reason I had recalled the story was that the reporter, a modern western man, had added that though he did not expect his listeners to believe him, he would vouch that during the few moments of sacred silence, his tape recorder had completely stopped working.

"P L Travers WTBK p86: Anyone used to yoga practice experiences the ritual pause between the outgoing and the indrawn breath. Between one breathtime and the next, between one lifetime and the next, something waits for a moment.

"P37 The Shamanic Way of the Bee: ... the Bee Master continued. He reminded me that in meditation working with the breath, there is usually a ritual pause between the outgoing and incoming breath. "Between one breath and the next, between one lifetime and the next, something waits for a moment...."

"P L Travers WTBK p11: The homeland of myth, the country which in the old Russian stories is called East of the sun and West of the moon, and for which there is no known map.

"TSWOTB p98: To my surprise and delight, on this occasion Bridge continued to elaborate: "The Melissae are women who live in a country that is east of the sun and west of the moon for which there is no known map."

"P L Travers WTBK p267 From the essay About The Sleeping Beauty: The Thirteenth Wise Woman stands as a guardian of the threshold, the paradoxical adversary without whose presence no threshold can be passed.

"P102. TSWOTB: Early next morning, I wandered into the garden and found an austere presence dressed in black, awaiting my arrival before the Gate of Transition. She was as the Thirteenth Wise Woman who stands as guardian of the threshold, the paradoxical adversary without whose presence no threshold may be passed.”

Could it ‘bee’ that what I have been saying all along about The Shamanic Way of the Bee is true: that it is a work of fiction masquerading as fact and that the ‘path of pollen’ is a non-existent fabricated tradition, which owes more to Mary Poppins than authentic shamanism? Or perhaps a perfectly reasonable explanation is possible: that the author of Mary Poppins time-travelled to the future so she could rip off The Shamanic Way of the Bee as I have also allegedly done, then time-travelled back to her own era so she could publish her essays 20 years before Buxton’s book appeared? No doubt Bridget/Graham/Anonymous will thoroughly explain this and her guru will emerge once again the innocent and offended party. In the meantime, however, Buxton’s publishers have asked him to rewrite whole sections of ‘his’ book to remove what they believe to be plagiarism and the estate of P L Travers is also looking into the matter.

Sadly, this is not the only email I have received from one of Buxton’s ‘bee goddesses’. A few days before the one above, I got this, which might also serve as a cautionary tale if you've aspirations to become a 'bee maiden' yourself:

"My name is XXX and it is now around six years or so since I was a shamanic practitioner student under the ‘tutelage’ of Simon Buxton. I am myself trained as a psychotherapist, having specialised in working with abuse and am now writing a PhD on the embodiment of the sacred… My own relationship with Simon was difficult, such that at the end of a period of extensive financial and spiritual investment, I found myself having to make a choice between what I experienced as abusive spiritual authority and my own and needing quite simply to walk in the opposite direction to the organisation I had hoped would provide me with a supportive home. I chose my own, amidst considerable confusion and pain..."

As for Bridget’s other points in your comments section, I’m happy to answer them here (although I suspect she will never believe them as she seems entirely brainwashed into intellectual zombification by the ‘pollen power’ of her guru):
  1. Bridget says: In this interview he [I] refers to his alleged experiences with a sin eater in Herefordshire as if they were fact, a claim he doesn't even make in the book in which he describes these ‘experiences’. I call my book a work of semi-fiction, an adventure built around actual events. This is stated in the book itself, quite clearly. I also make clear that the experiences themselves took place – i.e. that I have had these experiences. I fail to see Bridget’s point as I have never claimed otherwise.
  2. She says: The truth is that his book The Sin Eater's Last Confession is uncannily similar in many respects to Simon Buxton's earlier published work, The Shamanic Way of the Bee, even down to chapter headings and the spiritual name of their respective teachers, ‘Bridge’. A similarity between two books written by the same author (i.e. me) is not surprising is it? However, the sin eater I refer to is not named so I don’t know where Bridget gets her information from that the two books share the same teacher. I wouldn’t even (and don’t) call the sin eater a “teacher” in fact, nor do I claim to have apprenticed with him. I refer to him as a friend. And I’ll tell you for a fact that his name wasn’t Bridge. Nor do I ever say that it was. Simon Buxton, however, does know the name of the sin eater because we discussed it at length while I was ghost-writing his book for him. It’s a pity he didn’t mention this to Bridget before he briefed her to make his defences for him.
  3. She says: Having initially supported the authenticity of Buxton's book and vouched for the existence of The Path of Pollen and Buxton's ‘Bridge’, Heaven now denounces it all as a complete fabrication which he ghost-wrote. When Simon Buxton asked me (before a witness I might add) to write his book for him it was presented to me as a work of semi-fiction; a teaching story. On that basis I was happy to endorse it. It subsequently, ‘mysteriously’, appeared as a work of fact however, with my name removed from it, and Buxton went on to accept an award for NON-fiction, so of course I denounced it for what it was. Why should I lie to cover Buxton’s arse? He’s not my bee guru! As for any dispute about the book itself and the tradition it pretends to represent being fabricated, as Bridget does not wish to take my word for it she can now take the matter up with P L Travers and Mary Poppins, Mr Buxton’s real teachers and shamanic initiators it would very much appear.
  4. She says: What he can't answer, however, is why on earth he would have assisted Buxton in ghost-writing a fabricated tale of spiritual apprenticeship when all the time he was sitting on his own ‘genuine’ experiences with the sin eater. Actually, I can and I will answer it. Money, in a word. Mr Buxton promised me £5000 for writing his book for him (which I have never seen). It was also supposed to be a book featuring both our names on the cover, which of course it doesn’t. Then again, it was supposed to be a semi-fictional work but Buxton chose instead to collect an award for NON-fiction for it.
  5. She says: As well as having a bitter fall out with and losing a court case to Buxton, Heaven also managed to fall out with his vodou teacher, Mambo Racine, the details of which are all over the internet. Heaven and Racine denounce each other as fakes and charlatans, yet Heaven still stands by his book Vodou Shaman which passes on these ‘fraudulent’ teachings of Racine. Actually, I won the court case against Buxton (which incidentally had nothing to do with this bee book but Buxton’s theft of some of my other work). Buxton then won it on appeal (which is fairly common in trademark matters) and law prevented a further appeal, or else this matter would probably be ongoing. I wouldn’t say our falling out was “bitter”; rather, I found his attempts to defend himself amusing (as did the judge in fact if you read the case transcript) – one of his strategies being to get gullible and brainwashed students to do the work for him (as per Bridget’s own defences) while he tried to retain a sense of superiority by never once standing up publicly for himself. How foolish those students – and Bridget - must feel now it is obvious that their ‘authentic spiritual tradition’ is little more than a modern-day cult which laughably originates with the author of Mary Poppins and their guru and ‘bee master’ is in fact a plagiarist and liar.
    I have also – for very good reasons – denounced Racine, as Bridget rightly states. Vodou Shaman, however, is not a book of teachings by Racine, it is an explanation for Western readers of the shamanic practices within the Haitian spiritual tradition and it stands (or falls, according to your taste) as what it is.
    What all of this suggests to me is simply that (a) I am committed to telling the truth and (b) If I have made a mistake about something or someone it is because I am human, but I am also man enough to admit it and to rectify it as quickly as possible so that others are not misled. Let us hope that Bridget is now prepared to admit her own mistake as quickly, though I suspect not.
  6. She asks: See a pattern emerging? I do, yes. I see a pattern of me correcting errors and revealing the truth. I also see a pattern of Bridget going from forum to forum to defend her guru in the face of this truth. As more evidence emerges from other sources, however - such as abused and disgruntled ‘bee maidens’ and the plagiarised words of children’s authors - her attacks on me and defences of her guru simply provide further opportunities for the facts to stand against him. I would suggest therefore that the best thing she could possibly do now to protect her bee master is simply shut up and buzz off.
As for the question by ‘Anonymous’, the answer is also simple – and if you’ve read my sin eater books you already know it: sin eating is a historical but no longer current shamanic occupation in the UK but rather a dead art (excuse the pun) so as I said (and as Anonymous quotes), when I went to Haiti, “I was also looking for a spiritual tradition for myself - we don't have those things in the UK", which is true - unless you include the ‘authentic’ and ‘archaic’ Mary Poppins-inspired bee shamanic tradition of course.

So what is ‘authentic shamanism’?
What authentic shamanism is not is easy to answer: it is not an invented practice like “core shamanism” or a falsified tradition based on plagiarism and ‘abusive spiritual authority’ like “bee shamanism”. The former may have something to recommend it if you accept, as I do, that Harner created his approach in good faith and to be of service to the West by opening minds and spreading awareness. The latter, however, like most scams and frauds, seems designed only to fill the pockets and bolster the ego of its inventor as well as the egos of those Westerners who have some apparently deep-seated need to call themselves “bee goddesses”, “priestesses” or “little princesses” and to buy a meaningless quick-fix title to that effect. They, of course, have a vested interest in not asking questions, thinking for themselves or challenging their guru and the system they are – literally – buying into, or in having anyone else ask those questions either.

Authentic shamans do ask questions, however, and (since ultimately there are no final answers to be found) they are also happy to remain in the mystery while they ask them; indeed, they seek proof of the mystery through the questions they ask.

Authentic shamans are also those people who do not need a cult or tradition to follow. They may be born to one or apprentice within a particular tribe or approach to healing but their first and only necessary teachers are the spirits that they work with as allies, not human beings who insist on guru status.

Authentic shamans encourage their students to think for themselves as well and to make connections of their own with the spirit world, not follow systems, rules and procedures. I have dieted many different power plants in the Amazon, for example, and not once did any shaman tell me in advance what these plants would do or how they heal. I told them after I had dieted the plants and made allies of them myself, because that it is the way it is done and always has been in authentic shamanic traditions.

Authentic shamans explore the world – this one and the next – for themselves, and make their own discoveries. They are map-makers not map-readers.

Authentic shamans find their own way and, when they are ready and when their spirits agree, they choose to call themselves shamans, not when they have spent X thousands of pounds on workshops, sat through X hundred hours of “knowledge lectures” from a made-up tradition, swallowed a library of Mary Poppins books, learned the Lambeth Walk and how to feed the birds, tuppence a bag, or paid someone to call them a maiden or a goddess.

Authentic shamans are people of genuine power – power in the moment when that power is needed to conduct an effective healing or to help someone. Apart from that they are normal people, feet on the ground, not head in the clouds, with the same human problems and experiences as everyone else. That’s what makes them effective healers in the first place: the ability to empathise and identify with normal human concerns and to help others through them, because they have been through them too.

They are certainly not gurus or saints and nor should we want them to be. We’ve had enough gurus – from the Maharishi lambasted by the Beatles in their song Sexy Sadie for preaching austerity to acolytes while acquiring a fleet of Rolls Royces and a harem of guru-worshipping blondes, to Sai Baba (claimed by many, with evidence, to be a child molester), to Pope Benedict who recently got out quick amidst rumours and allegations of his own involvement in child abuse, to those who create money-making ‘archaic and authentic’ shamanic traditions and do not even have the sense or decency to change the words they are stealing from others.

Authentic shamans are men and women of thought and action; they are certainly not zombies unthinkingly accepting the dogma of cults and parroting lies in return for fake titles.

The picture at the top shows a wooden statue of a shaman from North America. It was on display at The Body Adorned exhibition at the Horniman Museum. Note: I earn commission from some links. This helps subsidise my blog at no extra cost to readers.

Previous related posts


Elke Larusson said...

Has Ross Heaven been hitting the salvia too hard because he has a very poor recollection of his own book the Sin Eater’s Last Confessions?!

“The sin eater I refer to isn’t named” erm yes he is Ross, you call him Adam Dilwyn Vaughan throughout the book, remember? You even go into the Welsh etymology of his name on page 18.

“I’ll tell you for a fact his name wasn’t Bridge, nor do I ever say it was.” This is highly disingenuous to the point of being untruthful. The comment was that it is the ‘spiritual’ name of the sin eater that is strongly hinted to be Bridge and this you most certainly do.

Page 189 “I want to share my chosen name with you now, although I have given you clues to it once before when we first started speaking of sin. It is B*****.”

page 68. “There is an expression in Wales: Fo byd Ben byd bont – who would be a leader must first be a bridge. While I have no desire to be a leader, I am a bridge for the people I serve, a bridge between this world and the next…”

Debbie Beckett said...

These are murky and unedifying waters.

Simon Buxton quite clearly has a case to answer regarding the presence of the offending passages from P.L. Travers in his book and it is greatly to his detriment that neither he or anyone from his organisation has yet offered any comment or explanation.

However, in this typically rambling, crude and belligerent tirade, Ross Heaven just as clearly isn't telling the truth either.

There is no reason to disbelieve Heaven's claim that he was somehow ripped off or slighted by Buxton, or that he had some input into the writing of The Shamanic Way Of The Bee.

But to claim that he actually wrote it is plainly untrue. I have copies of both books in my possession and they are written in a totally different style.

The Sin Eater book is very obviously from a much weaker and less eloquent pen that Shamanic Way Of The Bee.

Anyone with half a GCSE in English could spot this instantly. There's no comparison between the style and quality of the respective writing.

The passages apparently copied from Travers are there, but they amount to a handful of pages in total out a book of over 200 pages.

The Sin Eater book is very evidently a thin pastiche/copy which post-dates the Shamanic Way Of The Bee.

Again, while he tries to deny it in this article, it makes no logical sense whatsoever why Heaven would, as he would have us believe, have worked with Buxton on a fictional story which closely matched his own 'genuine' experience with the sin eater before a few years later churning out a crapper version of his own which is supposedly the real thing.

Just look at the dialogue quoted by the above poster from the Sin Eater book - hardly convincing, is it? As if someone about to reveal a great spiritual secret would prefigure it with "I've given you a few clues to this earlier, but..." It is clearly just a very clumsy device plonked in there to get the reader to look back and draw the conclusion that the name in question was Bridge.

I'm not sure there's a lot of authentic shamanism to be found around here.

Badwitch said...

I have to say I have never read The Sin Eater's Last Confession or The Shamanic Way of the Bee, but I have read several of Ross Heaven's later books including The Hummingbird's Journey to God and Medicine for the Soul. What I like most about the ones I have read is Ross's writing style - very entertaining and professional. Mind you, it is, quite naturally, often the case that any writers' earliest books are not quite as well written as their later books. We all get better with practise at whatever we do.

Debbie Beckett said...

Badwitch you seem to have got the wrong end of the broomstick.

The inferior Sin Eater book was published in 2008, five years AFTER the Shamanic Way Of The Bee. So Ross Heaven's writing would therefore have had to have got WORSE over time if it was he who wrote the bee book.

In any case, the point you make doesn't stand up to scrutiny. While we can all refine our talents over time, our writing voices remain distinctive otherwise every single one of us could become a Keats or a Shakespeare if it was merely a matter of practice.

You have facilitated, or rather reawakened a fascinating discussion which has been rumbling beneath the surface of the UK shamanic community for some time.

Might I therefore suggest that you get hold of second hand copies of the two books in question and read them in order that you better understand the issues?

After all, you have given Ross Heaven quite a platform here to launch a pretty scurrilous attack on Buxton, albeit that he does seem to ahve a point in some respects.

Have you offered Buxton or the Sacred Trust an interview by way of right of reply for balance? It is certainly about time they broke their silence on the matter.

Badwitch said...

Beckie, I haven't got the wrong end of the broomstick - if you re-read my post I said that I thought Ross Heaven's later books The Hummingbird's Journey to God and Medicine for the Soul were well written and that maybe Ross's writing style had improved since his early book. The issue I was commenting on was whether writers get better at writing over time. As a writer and copy-editor, my experience is that writers do get better with experience.

Debbie Beckett said...

Ah, I see.

I'm not denying that Ross Heaven is a competent and successful writer, of course he is. What I'm saying is that he did not write The Shamanic Way Of The Bee although it is possible that he may have had input into the content.

I am also saying that The Shamanic Way Of The Bee is a much more accomplished piece of writing than The Sin Eater's Last Confessions and self-evidently by a different writer (not just P.L. Travers) and that if you are an experienced copy editor you too would spot this very quickly.

To go back to the beginning, this was supposed to be a discussion about authenticity in shamanism.

There are evidently serious doubts about the authenticity of The Shamanic Way of the Bee and Simon Buxton's Path Of Pollen as Ross Heaven in his own sweet way points out.

However, there are also serious doubts about the authenticity of The Sin Eater's Last Confessions, which Ross does little to allay on here and elsewhere.

Heaven and Buxton both therefore stand accused of having written inauthentic spiritual memoirs which they have passed off as genuine in order to make money from books, workshops and other New Age spin-offs.

One of the many similarities between the two books, which Ross repeats in his article here, is the suggestion that 'truth', or authenticity if you like, is a fluid concept and open to interpretation.

Yet authenticity clearly matters to the consumer, or neither man would have had any qualms about admitting that their work was/is complete fiction.

Let the buyer beware!

Unknown said...

Oh my! Are we STILL talking about this? LOL. The Buxton-Travers book came out 8 years ago, it’s been shown to be fraudulent with a bunch of P L Travers’ writing directly plagiarised and cut-and-pasted into it. Is there really that much more to say? Why don’t we all just move on with our lives. Those who attended Buxton’s “gynocentric” ‘path of pollen’ workshops were ripped off, believing that his teachings were based in fact – because he told them they were. If you were one of them you really have two choices: either live with the fact that you were made a fool of or ask for your money back. Going over the same old ground here – the ‘Heaven V Buxton debate’ – isn’t going to change the fact that you were defrauded and you really don’t have to believe a word I say if you don’t want to because you can read the Travers plagiarism in the Buxton source material for yourself.

The only reason I mentioned any of this in my article is because ‘bee maidens’ keep posting about it, even 8 years on, as if trying to invalidate my own book will magically make their bee guru’s book somehow true and the blatant plagiarism will then disappear. It won’t I’m afraid. You lost your money to Buxton, not to me, so I would suggest that’s where you start if you’re angry about it!

But just to correct a few minor points here since they’ve been raised (yet again):

Elke Larusson said “The sin eater I refer to isn’t named - erm yes he is Ross, you call him Adam Dilwyn Vaughan throughout the book, remember?”

Yes, of course, I remember and, as I’m sure you actually realise, I was referring to the fact that his spiritual name is not given in the book. And I repeat, that spiritual name was not Bridge. If you want to now what it was you can ask Mr Buxton. He knows.

Debbie Beckett said “in this typically rambling, crude and belligerent tirade, Ross Heaven just as clearly isn't telling the truth either.”

For rambling I’d say stating the facts in the form of an email sent to me by a ‘bee maiden’. If you find her style rambling, again, why not take it up with the actual author, her not me.

Crude and belligerent. Well, sorry you feel that way. Again, I’d say just stating facts. And again, you don’t even need to believe I’m telling the truth because the truth is there in the Buxton source material vis-à-vis Travers’ own earlier work.

“I am also saying that The Shamanic Way Of The Bee is a much more accomplished piece of writing”

Fair enough. Personal taste is personal taste but just because you prefer the writing style in the bee book does not, sadly, make the story real.

Unknown said...

Debbie continues…

“There are evidently serious doubts about the authenticity of The Shamanic Way of the Bee and Simon Buxton's Path Of Pollen as Ross Heaven in his own sweet way points out. However, there are also serious doubts about the authenticity of The Sin Eater's Last Confessions, which Ross does little to allay on here and elsewhere.”

I am and always been happy to answer any questions about sin eating and my own experiences but actually nobody’s ever asked, they’ve always been too busy defending their bee guru instead to worry themselves much with the substance of my little book.

I will say this as regards ‘authenticity’ though: I state in my sin eater book itself and I have repeated elsewhere that my story is one of semi-fiction; it is a narrative, a dramatised account which also includes information on the experiences I have had. Buxton by contrast calls his book fact, sold it to the publishers as that (so defrauding them out of $10,000 as it happens) and accepted an award for it as fact. It is now shown demonstrably not to be factual – how can it be when some of the bee master’s teachings are directly lifted from P L Travers (either the bee master is a plagiarist and liar or his small twig is, but in either case, at least some of the teachings do not come from the ‘path of pollen’ but from the author of Mary Poppins). I’d suggest then that when it comes to questions of authenticity, there really are no questions. One is a book described as semi-fiction which IS a book of semi-fiction; one is a book described as fact which AT BEST can only be semi-fiction since the ‘path of pollen’ teachings are debunked by the book itself and its plagiarised passages. I find it hard to see how the two books could be confused or conflated in your mind on any question of authenticity, but hey ho.

“Heaven and Buxton both therefore stand accused of having written inauthentic spiritual memoirs which they have passed off as genuine in order to make money from books, workshops and other New Age spin-offs.”

Well, again, not really, since, once again, I repeat that my book is described as semi-fiction; there is no question of ‘passing it off’ as anything else, unlike Buxton who accepted an award for his book as spiritual fact. Nor have I run any sin eater workshops so I’m not making money from them on the back of my book. If you visit the Sacred Trust site however, you’ll find half a dozen “gynocentric” ‘path of pollen’ courses beginning at £685 a pop, so once again, your accusations only actually apply to Buxton.

And what are these pollen workshops like? Here’s a direct quote from one participant:

“I read Buxton's bee book and intrigued, attended the only Path of Pollen workshop open to men… the workshop went steadily downhill and it seemed apparent that a lot of the exercises amounted to little more than sexual grooming of the women present. The women in the group were 'invited' to remove their underwear at the outset and a number of the exercises seemed designed to afford Buxton the opportunity to look up the skirts of blindfolded ladies. One exercise basically boiled down to sending everyone out into the woods to masturbate. Quite what the Sacred Trust's landlords on the Gaunt's House estate make of legions of Buxton's wankers being let loose on the property, which is also the location of a number of private homes and crossed by footpaths used by locals, who knows. Having initially been intrigued by the bee book, I was annoyed at being duped and at the clear exploitation of the others buying in to the Path of Pollen who were clearly only doing so because they believed in the truth of Buxton's bollocks about an ancient tradition.”

So there you have it. Another disgruntled bee fancier. “Let the buyer beware!” as you put it, indeed.

Unknown said...

And the final point from Debbie…

“authenticity clearly matters to the consumer, or neither man would have had any qualms about admitting that their work was/is complete fiction.”

Authenticity does and should matter to the consumer and, in fact, it turns out (via another ‘bee maiden’) that:

“2013 has already been something of an annus horribilis for Buxton with the very damaging revelation that sections of the book have been plagiarised from the work of P.L. Travers. It now seems fairly clear to most that the book is a complete work of fiction. This year's plagiarism allegations have already had a significant impact upon The Sacred Trust's business. Bookings on Buxton's courses are well down, some previously loyal followers have either turned on him or simply walked away and there have been some unprecedented and desperate last-minute emails issued to try and fill empty places on workshops. I also know that the Estate of P.L. Travers is investigating the plagiarism, though I am unaware if they have taken any action yet. All in all, Buxton's credibility is palpably hit and possibly already fatally holed.”

So it looks like more sensible people are asking for their money back and not turning up to further ‘path of pollen’ workshops – which is simply what I’d advise people here to do instead of wasting time on this endless debate about whose book (mine or Buxton/Travers’) you prefer.

As for admitting that my own book is “complete fiction” I obviously can’t do that but, once again (how many times must I repeat this?) I have said from the outset that it is semi-fiction. Which it is. But then, so is Buxton’s – at best – but he maintains that it’s fact. Travers would disagree.

You do make one very good point though: why hasn’t Buxton/TST defended itself or made a public statement on this? I for one would love to hear it. I expect the reason is simply that Buxton would prefer it all went away and his keeping quiet, he hopes, might accomplish that. Not, however, while the ‘bee maidens’ and Buxton supporters keep dragging it all up again and again!

Unknown said...

An update for you. Since the ‘bee maidens’ and Buxton supporters have raised this whole issue yet again, they provide a further opportunity for more evidence to be levelled at their bee guru so, in the interests of fairness and in the absence of a statement from The Sacred Trust, I’d like to give them an opportunity to answer the following points, raised by yet another disaffected ‘bee maiden’ who has finally seen the light:

“The ‘ai dai idem jano’ supposedly chanted while Buxton was doing his naked cavorting on the Nightshade Isle (p.169) is, according to some of Buxton's workshops, a remnant of the Atlantean language. In fact it's a fairly well-known Bulgarian folk song

“[Further] Buxton's Bridge displays a remarkable lack of originality for a so-called ‘poet with an axe’, but then even that line is robbed from Robert Mitchum's description of himself []. Not content with ripping off P.L. Travers in his opening knowledge lecture, Bridge's backing vocals for Buxton's bizarre honey-glazed bonfire wankfest consist of another bootleg cover version, this time of a fairly popular modern wiccan chant performed here by Kate West.”

Would any remaining ‘bee maidens’ care to defend their guru on these matters?

My interest in the ‘bee book’ (apart from the fact that I keep getting dragged into it by the defenders of Buxton flogging their hopeless cause) is that I am currently researching a book on new age frauds – i.e. those ‘spiritual leaders’ and ‘gurus’ who deliberately invent fake traditions for the express reasons of self-aggrandisement or to sexually exploit and financially defraud their students (guess who gets the first chapter) – but it seems that I’m not alone in this. Here’s a communication from a researcher with similar ideas. For those of you who enjoy Cluedo, crossword puzzles or detective stories, maybe you’d like to do some research of your own and if you come up with any answers please do email me: I will happily give you full credit in my book.

“Greetings Ross, I have for some time been investigating Simon Buxton's "Path Of Pollen" and hope to uncover as much proof as possible that it is fraudulent and has no basis in fact. I am considering approaching the press with the story, or alternatively just spreading the word as far as possible via the internet. I plan to do this regardless, but if there is any further information you are prepared to share it would be gratefully received…

Unknown said...

'The Nightshade Isle' first. Examining the description in the book, it seems to be agreed among those I have spoken to that the only island off the coast of the UK that matches the details given is Steep Holm in the Bristol Channel, which would tie in with Buxton's south west connections and the setting of the book... the island is owned by a conservation trust who strictly control access and would be able to confirm or deny the visits of rowing boats full of beehives, naked cavorting etc.”

Anyone know the answer to this?

”Bridge. This man is described as being both a legendary beekeeper and a Welsh bard. Given that he is said to have died a nonagenarian comparatively recently (late 1990s) one would have thought that the Somerset Beekeepers Association would know of him, but apparently not. Neither is there anyone matching his description in contemporary annals of the various Welsh bardic societies.”

So who’s ‘Bridge’ (if not Buxton’s own idealised father, the Reverend Paddy Buxton)? Has anyone ever met him (besides Buxton)?

“Monk's Bench. The only traceable house in the South West actually called 'Monk's Bench' is in Abbott's Leigh near Bristol but from the information available this property and its occupants do not seem to match the description in the book [it’s a 2-bed semi]. Although Buxton probably felt that he was being sufficiently vague by setting the location of Monk's Bench somewhere in or near the Quantocks, in fact there are very few if any properties in this area (which isn't huge) which match the description given and which could have been occupied by a secretive bee cult for decades or more. Many are open to the public or in some cases, are in public ownership.

”Some of the details of Monk's Bench as described in the book again do not appear to be authentic. The walled orchard with a stream and recesses (or bee boles) for winter storage of hives would actually be quite a rarity if it existed. Because they are so unusual, IBRA has compiled a comprehensive registry of bee boles in the UK which is searchable by county ( ) and again, needless to say, there is no property featured here either in Somerset or neighbouring counties which
matches Buxton's 'Monk's Bench'. Google Earth could also be used to home in on properties in the Quantocks area with walled orchards if anyone could be bothered, but increasingly one suspects this would be a (low-hanging) fruitless exercise.”

Anyone know Monk’s Bench, somewhere in the Quantocks? Ever been there? Got any photos you’d like to share?

”Similarly, the distinctive and somewhat bizarre character of 'Gwyn Ei Fyd' (which simply translates as 'blessed is the man') who Buxton apparently encountered at the Gate of Transition in the book also appears to trip him up when examined more closely. The book describes this Gwyn character as being a blind dwarf who is also a skilled turf and granite labyrinth maker. Again, there are comparatively few labyrinth makers or indeed labyrinths of this type in the UK and the community of enthusiasts is small and tight-knit. As far as I can ascertain, no-one has any knowledge of a celebrated blind dwarf maker of turf and granite mazes in their midst within the last few decades.”

Anyone here know a blind dwarf expert labyrinth-maker ANYWHERE?

Unknown said...

”Turning to the 'Beehive Hut' fogou location of Buxton's alleged underground burial
initiation, this is said to be located in West Penwith. Again, fogous are rare sites of great archeological significance and it is implausible that there would be an unknown one, let alone in an area such as West Penwith which has been so extensively studied by archaeologists. On the other hand, none of the descriptions or images widely available of Cornwall's fogous match the beehive hut described in the book.”

Perhaps there is someone from Cornwall here who knows of such a place?

”In your recent comments on the bad witch blog you mention that Buxton was apparently to be seen serving in a New Age shop in Bath during times he was supposed to be on 'Path Of Pollen' escapades. I wonder if this specifically refers to the 23 days after New Year that according to the book he spent in a hexagonal box following his 'initiation'? It does seem incredible that someone could, without prior warning, go missing for that length of time, as Buxton claims to have done, not least a shopkeeper during the New Age January sales.”

Did anyone else here meet Buxton during his time as a shopkeeper in Bath and if so would you care to comment?

Any information would be gratefully received and fully credited.

On the other hand, I have many other communications from ‘bee maidens’ that could be aired here and many other anomalies arising from the Buxton/Travers book which I’m happy to post in search of answers. But maybe even the most brainwashed of Buxton’s acolytes might decide to give up their defences and simply ask their guru for their money back now instead of pursuing it here because every time they do they are digging a deeper bee bole for their master.

Debbie Beckett said...

Following Ross's replies on here is like watching a fat man trying to discreetly change his swimming trunks on a crowded beach - every adjustment he makes to his position bares his backside in a different direction.

The upshot of these latest posts appears to be that Ross has now conceded that he did not, as he claimed in the original article, personally write what he is now calling the Buxton/Travers book. (He may of course have had input, but the writing style is clearly not his).

And as for his mealy-mouthed flanneling over whether or not he hints that the 'spiritual name' of the teacher in the Sin Eater book was 'Bridge", (which he definitely does by the way as per the above quotes) an insight into the quality of this work can also be gleaned by the fact that Ross Heaven's own spiritual name is revealed to be "H*****".

Your clues on the relevant page of the book as something about gazing up at a starry sky and space travel. So could that be "Heaven" then Ross? If that doesn't say "sack this and let's get it off to the publishers, where's my fee" etc I don't know what does.

I repeat, if it's authentic shamanism you want steer of Buxton AND Heaven. said...

I love Bees and was given Simon's book about 6 years ago -I enjoyed the story, thought the book was very well written and extremely engaging. I used the ideas and symbolism within it to dream and do my own work. I have always walked the figure of eight since a young child. My work is plant medicine and I am a teacher of this. I enjoy to go on courses to keep learning and a 4 years ago I attended Simons Core Shamanism weekend in London. I found him to be a wordsmith, very articulate and superior in his delivery of the workshop the journeys were enjoyable and technique interesting. He had a little rant about 'authentic Shamanism' vs Shamanistic practioner -which I though odd and believed him to have some 'axe to grind' -I call myself a Witch, I do not call myself a witchcraft practioner. So it rubbed something in me the wrong way. Myself and my witch partner booked ourselves onto The path of the Pollen workshop (women only)not led by Simon. The 5 days were great really good fun -the way the course was presented was as if it is from a long line of tradition -clothed in secrecy and mystery -I enjoyed this and took it as light fantasy, I myself am a practioner of Yoga not a Yogi -I just practice with routine. I heard Yoga through the teachings we were presented, breath, movement, creativity, connection and nature. Niomi and Kate were very accomplished workshop leaders and held the space with calm dignity. I was able to get my own learnings from the experience. We were knikerless and blindfolded at times and I even had a spontaneous orgasm (all enjoyable) and this was my holiday a time for me to express and explore myself. I am lucky to be self aware and stable in my world and to be able to pick and chose my learnings. I am not and never have been a 'BEE MAIDEN' or Princess I am a searcher of deeper self awareness -and I can see clearly what seems true/right to me. People like the show man style -it sells and a show is just that it isn't always hard truth.

To come back to what is Authentic- surely being silent and spending time in this silence with your own soul will soon enough tell you that. Paying for 'authentic' shamanism seems part of the game of ridiculousness that many folks are playing from the emptiness these times present.

I have read Ross's book too (sin eater) and it was a harder read but presented some wonderful concepts -I love plants and have an affinity for our native healers and his words describing nettle or Adam's account of nettle filled me with Joy as I know they are our most powerful allie -at least here in Britain. I am always saying to my students ' there is no right or wrong with the herbs -you have to connect and communicate for yourself, as words are man made and anything written down is someone else's idea.

So true authentic magic comes from the heart. Each of us has a heart and the ability to be authentic. We are all one. Even the ones with deep rifts. Mirrors.

love and more love

Jan Godber said...

Sensory Solutions lady, what you've said there is all very nice and New Agey, but you've conveniently ducked the issue (just like Simon Buxton) of the fact that chunks of his bee book have been plagiarised from the works of another writer.

In case you were unaware, this is illegal and the act of a charlatan not a 'showman' as you out it.

It may not matter to you whether the so-called Path of Pollen is completely made up or not, but the fact that Buxton presents his work as non-fiction is clearly dishonest and misleading.

The laissez-faire attitude you present here is all very well for you but does nothing to assist others who may not be such willing dupes.

Unknown said...

OK Debbie, you can have the last word as I’ve basically given up on you.

Whether you are claiming yourself as a ‘bee maiden’ or not your attitude displays the same aggressive need to protect the ‘bee guru’ as many of the other insubstantial words I’ve had levelled at me by other Buxton ‘maidens’ and acolytes over the years, simply for pointing out a truth: that his book is a fraud, students are being ripped off because of this and sometimes apparently sexually exploited and “groomed” as well in knickerless wanking episodes.

I have now given you plenty of evidence of that but you choose to ignore it, as well as the questions I’ve posed here which were raised by another researcher, and to concentrate instead on attacking me in the hope of distracting attention.

I could care less whether you believe I am an “authentic” shaman or not – or what your definition of an authentic shaman might be, since you’ve never given us one – but find it curious and amusing that while you tell me I “have questions to answer” you’ve never actually asked me one; instead you have continued your rants against me in apparent defence of Buxton, based on nothing but your own suppositions, prejudices and projections. For example, you continue to claim that the sin eater’s name MUST be Bridge because on one page of my book a bridge is mentioned. Pretty flimsy evidence. By the same token, if I’d mentioned a trip McDonalds on page 76 would you now be stating as a fact that the sin eater’s name was Burger? Yet you’ve never bothered to ask me what his name actually was. A simple polite question which might have got you an answer. So stay with your illusions and prejudices; I have no need to justify myself to you and no need to defend my role in the Buxton/Travers book (I see you are now at least admitting that I had a role) or my own book. As I’ve said many time before, this was always clearly stated to be a work of SEMI-FICTION. I have not misled anyone, invented an ‘ancient tradition’ and exploited gullible students financially on this basis, or asked anyone to remove their knickers in one of my workshops, so my conscience is clear.

Unknown said...

To the other less caustic and more objective writers here, who actually seem to get the real point: Sensorysolutions, thank you for your recounting of your experiences on the workshop. Your statement that “We were knikerless and blindfolded at times” is further support for what I have stated elsewhere. This, Debbie, is what objective researchers call evidence; it’s not just angry ranting along the lines of “it must be true cos I say it is”. I also take some of your other points and it is more-or-less what I meant when I said that truth is fluid - in the sense, that is, that the process seemed to work for you and had value so wherever it came from it had merit. And I suppose that if Buxton had offered his book as fiction to begin with and built his own “gynocentric” techniques around it or simply come up with a new healing idea that he called ‘pollen method’ and written a genuine non-fiction book to promote it, there would be no controversy here. But he didn’t. Instead he claimed a factual history and tradition to this process to give it credibility and on THAT basis his students were willing to trust him not only financially but to the extent of making themselves vulnerable, (semi-) naked and sexually aroused in front of him.

As Jan Godber says, the real point is that plagiarism, financial fraud and sexual exploitation are all illegal – not just the acts of a charlatan but CRIMINAL acts. There are prison sentences at the end of them.

My work since the bee book first came out has been to try to prevent some of this; to warn would-be ‘bee maidens’ that they were being financially and sexually exploited in attending Buxton’s courses because the ‘path of pollen’ is itself a fiction, the teachings of which have now been shown to stem in large part from the author of MARY POPPINS for chrissakes! While there are still Debbies around, however (and there have been a lot of gullible and angry Buxton believers over the years!) I’m sure that Buxton will make more money yet from new age wishful thinkers and that I’ll come in for a lot more personal attacks for simply pointing out the truth and the bleedin’ obvious to try to save them from Buxton and themselves. But bring it on! I care very little because when and if Buxton is sitting in a prison cell or, at the very least, front page news for the Daily Mail, at least I’ll be able to say I did my best.

As you say Jan, the issue here is not whether you liked my sin eater book or not (great if you did and if you didn’t I can’t say I care much; just don’t buy a copy – simple!) but that “the fact that Buxton presents his work as non-fiction is clearly dishonest and misleading”. Laissez-faire attitudes around this – and attempted distractions from it by focussing on me instead of Buxton – do nothing, as you say, “to assist others who may not be such willing dupes”. I would go further and say that contributors here like Debbie are in fact complicit in the crime which is currently being committed by The Sacred Trust since they seem all-too-willing to ignore the real problem.

Unknown said...

This, by the way, is the REAL problem, in case we needed reminding of that:

“No matter where we live, there is a hidden world going on all around us, full of magic, mystery and adventure. Quite literally what we perceive as ordinary reality is far, far more than this, containing secret knowledge which was understood by an ancient, arcane tradition that still exists quietly in our midst. This knowledge, hidden and carefully preserved over thousands of years is revealed for the first time in this book by Simon Buxton - where magic is only a wing flutter away and reality is seen through compound eyes.

“In The Shamanic Way of the Bee the intriguing world of bee shamanism - the Path of Pollen - is revealed and explained as both a vital part of our heritage and a practical system of healing, wisdom and spiritual development. It is written as a marriage of ethnography and autobiographical memoir, detailing the true adventure story of his initiation into this ancient tradition. As with all new and unusual experiences, his immersion in a new world order and way of being was sometimes terrifying, sometimes exquisitely beautiful, and readers everywhere will be enchanted as they share his journey.”

That’s the description of The Sham Way of the Bee given by The Sacred Trust itself on its website.

Key words: “literally”, "secret knowledge", “ancient”, “arcane tradition”, “part of our heritage”, “autobiographical memoir”, “true adventure”, “initiation”, “ancient tradition” – NONE of which can be true given that the "secret teachings" of the so-called path of pollen were lifted almost word-for-word from an essay openly published in the 1980s by the author of Mary Poppins, so hardly secret, ancient or arcane, and hardly a personal memoir or true adventure of initiation into anything, unless reading a freely-available article on bees written by P L Travers can be described as an initiation and “immersion in a new world order” which Buxton found “sometimes terrifying, sometimes exquisitely beautiful”.

If so, I guess that anyone who’s watched an episode of Masterchef might, with equal legitimacy, call themselves a student of Michel Roux and a master initiate into the secret, ancient and arcane tradition of pudding shamanism.

Unknown said...

It occurs to me in view of a comment from sensorysolutions that I should also clear something up in regards to Core Shamanism. In my interview I state my opinion that Core Shamanism is an invention and a product – a conflation in the main of Siberian and Amazonian techniques to create what its founder called the Harner Method.

That is true. It is also true that many indigenous shamans would not recognise its techniques or agree with its Westernised psychologised explanations of the spirits or the ‘worlds’ that they occupy. An example of this is Buxton again who, a few years ago, took a group of Westerners to meet the Bushmen of the Kalahari, an indigenous group which uses dance and movement to create their states of trance. In return for their hospitality Buxton decided to teach them how to ‘journey’ using Core Shamanic methods. According to students there with him, the Bushmen either looked bemused, began laughing or walked away. Not many of them stayed around to learn the Harner Method.

My view of Core ‘Shamanism’ is that it is not shamanism at all; it is a pick-and-mixed composite which, because of this, has created something new. I have never said, however, that this new thing does not have value as far as it goes, as long as we do not start believing that we have become real shamans after a few weekend warrior courses in a nice hotel (even Harner calls his graduates ‘shamanic practitioners’ not shamans). Furthermore, I am not accusing the Foundation for Shamanic Studies itself of any intentional exploitation and fraud.

Where things get a little murky now, however, is that Buxton is the head of the UK Faculty for the FSS and teaches its Core Shamanism courses. There has been plenty of evidence in this thread alone to show that he, as an individual, is a fraud, worthy even of criminal investigation, but I still want to make clear that this does not make the FSS a fraudulent operation as well. It does suggest that the FSS should choose it representatives more wisely before they expose their students to them and it will begin to raise questions for the Foundation if the organisation decides to give its continued support to Buxton in light of the controversy now surrounding him. At the moment however, it is merely a pity that Buxton’s activities impact Harner’s credibility and that of others at the FSS who well-meaning and wish to genuinely help their students.

Once again, however, I want to make clear that while I am pointing out shortcomings to the Core ‘Shamanic’ approach, I am not accusing the FSS of any deliberate fraud.

Mort Ritchie said...

Be more vigilant people!

It never ceases to amaze me how willing people are to leave all common sense and rationality at the door when attending workshops or reading books of this nature.

Some of the platitudes bandied about here and elsewhere as badges of enlightment - "we are all one", "good and evil are just two sides of the same coin", "we are all mirrors of each other" etc - become dangerously permissive if misinterpreted and taken too literally.

There's a difference between having an open mind and being totally willing to buy into and submit to whatever you are being told or sold.

In my personal experience, a fair proportion of people attending shamanic workshops are fragile or vulnerable in some way and leave themselves wide open to exploitation and abuse. The comedown and emotional damage when the penny finally drops that they are being hoodwinked can be cruel and severe.

I'm not too familiar with the specifics talked about above but it would be no surprise to me if someone working in a new age store might look at the store's frizzy-haired, spaced-out, multi-coloured hessian-clad clietele with their nonsensical "Ahos" and "Hokaheys" and think "**** me there's some serious money to be made from these poor saps".

Amy Goundry said...

I journeyed to the beehive last night. There, in the aftermath of a great storm, I met a bee master, a man whom I had once known but who was now much changed. It was terrible to see how he wept for the ruin of his work and how he muttered and gibbered and drooled, how he punched and clawed at the air, his face hideously contorted with rage and fury, swearing foul oaths in the ripest of language at those who had brought about his ruin. Aghast at the spectacle, Pan-ic set in and I turned and fled.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like he had a bee in his bonnet :)

Great Dunmow said...

Simon Buxton's Sacred Trust seems to be running a much reduced programme in 2014. The few events that are listed in the sparsely populated calendar are mostly continuations of 2 or 3 year courses that are already running.

Does this mean Buxton is winding down his operation, or is he a wounded healer who has been sorely holed in the pocket?

I would welcome a clear-the-air interview between Ross Heaven and Simon Buxton to get to the bottom of the matter, as this isn't doing British shamanism any good at all.

Anonymous said...

An interview between the two of them sounds a good idea to me. Heaven seems open enough on this subject so Im sure he'd go for it. Problem is Buxton who hasn't said a word about this at all, even to defend himself, so I am assuming he cant.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone cross-checked the alleged copy-paste from Travers? If necessary i will buy the book as Mr Heavens in any case doesn't seem very trustworthy. But if someone has already done it and can post a scan of the relevant pages that would be great.

Anonymous said...

why would you buy a copy when you can 'look inside' at for nothing.

"It is far easier to dupe, con and bamboozle people than to persuade them that they have been duped" ~ Mark Twain (I think). Once those little egos get invested in something, especially if they've paid actual money for a book or a workshop with a conman, they are going to fight to keep their story, no matter what, just so they can be conned again and again and again. Funny really

Anonymous said...

I meant the Travers book. The Buxton one I have read.

Anonymous said...

The allegations are true all right but it's a bit of a faff to scan all the relevant pages for the benefit of others as there are a number of passages spread throughout the book that Buxton appears to have 'borrowed'.

In any case, don't you think it's rather implausible that the 'cut and paste' as you put it would be invented?! If someone simply wanted to discredit Buxton there are plenty of ways of doing it rather than going to the bizarre and legally dubious lengths of inventing quotes from a book that actually exists and can be checked by anyone at any time?! If only people were this questioning of Buxton's book in the first place!

I'd recommend you buy your own copy of the Travers book - it's a good read.

Anonymous said...

Look inside the Travers book here. You might find the quotes to compare and contrast. If not, its a good book anyway and you'd be better buying this than Buxton's plagiarised fairy story if you wanted to know something about bees

Anonymous said...

I agree. However, this guy Ross Heaven is so absolutely off his rocker that if he is my sole source for a claim, I have to treat it with suspicion. In any case, one might also make the same argument the other way - why would Buxton plagiarize passages just for the benefit of having a few more poetic turns of phrase to add to his book? He could have simply paraphrased and then claimed that the similarities were due to a common source in a living tradition.

AND I have read a lot of crap on internet, where quotes are systematically made up and attributed to someone who never made them. And then shared thousands of times on Facebook.

So I prefer to check for myself. If the book is worth a read, so much the better.

Anonymous said...

I'm interested why you think Heaven is off his rocker? His article is reasonable and he sounds sane to me, he's provided evidence of the Buxton fraud you can easily check for yourself, and he presents himself openly. So where does your comment come from?

Maybe you should also tell us your interest in this. Do you know something about Heaven or Buxton that we don't? Did you attend one of these pollen workshops? Or one of Heaven's? Perhaps you've been calling yourself a bee maiden?

Given the nature of this thread I think it requires transparency from those taking sides. And when we get emotive comments like yours, I for one would like to know where it comes from. That's all.

Anonymous said...

He would sound sane to you, he probably is you!
I am male and have never attended a PP workshop. Before exploring further Buxton's work I want to check this criticism.

Anonymous said...

I checked the Amazon preview, it confirms the quote from p.11 of WTBK but the rest of the book is not available for preview.

Anonymous said...

On that particular quote, it seems very well established in general sources, and was used by Tolkien, see
The reference to "no known map", however, is common to both sources and not attested elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Heaven (who isn't me!) is a little less off his rocker than you thought then

Anonymous said...

He's in any case off his rocker I'm afraid. Have a read of the conclusions in the trademark case he brought against Buxton re "Darkness Visible". And his endless, obsessive rants on Buxton's work, with which he was once so closely associated, really make him sound like a jilted lover.

Badwitch said...

Please can we end this discussion now? Obviously there are differences of opinion, but this is turning into an "Oh yes he did", "Oh no he didn't" exchange and isn't getting anywhere.

Anonymous said...

I found the conclusion to the Darkness Visible tm case. These closing remarks caught my attention:

“an elaborate hoax intended to portray Mr. Buxton as an initiate of a group of shamanic bee-keepers known as The Path of Pollen” and “Mr. Buxton has for his part insisted upon using the proceedings as a vehicle for unimpressive evidence about his self-proclaimed initiation into the so-called Path of Pollen.”

So a legal authority, the judge who read the book way back in 2006, also cocnluded that Buxton made it all up.

Badwitch said...

Please note that this discussion is under moderation and, as the moderator, I'm getting bored with the discussion. Please let's end it now. Please. My blog is really about a heck of a lot more than bee shamanism - in fact it really isn't a blog about bee shamanism at all, it is mainly a blog about witchcraft and things going on in London.

Anonymous said...

I agree. This thread is ridiculous and misses the point of the original article completely. People who are actually bothered about this Buxton rubbish have all the quotes they need and the Travers quotes they need. Why don't they just get on and check them if theyre that bothered instead of just whining 'o no he didnt' all the time, when its pretty obvious he did. Buxton's a liar. Move on. This is boring and all you trying to defend him just look like idiots. Theres evidence. So lets just close this.

Great Dunmow said...

Badwitch you may choose not to publish this in the light of your above post but I hope you will at least read it.

In giving Ross Heaven a platform to write such a provocative piece you have facilitated a discussion which is of interest to many in the UK shamanic community.

Unfortunately, the comments have indeed deteriorated, particularly since the arrival of the rather boring chap who refuses to accept quotes and page references at face value yet bizarrely seems to think that his own personal, anonymous findings will provide validation or interest for others.

That aside, this piece and discussion has attracted far more comments and page views than the rest of your blog put together which makes it even more of a pity that it hasn't been better handled and moderated from the beginning.

You gave Ross Heaven free rein yet seem to have ignored the suggestion that you offer Simon Buxton a right of reply. In return, Heaven has abused the platform you have given him firstly by failing to curb his trademark verbal diarrhoea in the original article then posting numerous, very obvious, anonymous comments beneath.

Your failure to pick up on or moderate these has contributed to the downslide of the discussion and suggests either bias or a lack of intuition on your part.

Indeed, as moderator, why even publish comments that don't add to the discussion? You've only got yourself to blame.

This article and discussion represented the high point of interest in your blog. Unfortunately I must agree that it would now be better served elsewhere.

Badwitch said...

To be honest, I'd rather fewer comments on this post :) Let's wrap it up now please.

Unknown said...

what an entertaining argument. it is a bit light on witchcraft and things happening around London. :)

Jenna Joffrey said...

Actually Toby there's quite a lot related to witchcraft in The Shamanic Way of the Bee. Dancing naked through a bonfire on a phallic broomstick while smothered in honey and taking the witches' flying ointment for example.

Whether there's any truth in it or not is highly debatable. There is a passage in the book where Buxton describes how his teacher made him follow a single bee on foot across open country, an exercise that apparently help him develop keen eyesight and sharpened his other senses.

I encountered an "off duty" Simon Buxton in person and was somewhat surprised to find him wearing thick-lensed spectacles, without which he'd have struggled to track an elephant across a bowling green.

Unless he's been playing with his broomstick too often in recent years, this didn't add up for me.

Marty Tumnmann said...

Wow, this article and thread is um... revealing.

Hey, I met Ross Heaven a few years ago and my impression was that he's a real earthy, unpretentious kind of guy and I like that. Sure, he may openly belch and pass gas, he may use profanity, he may eat and drink plenty but he's not afraid to show his humanity and doesn't put up any walls.

It's a pity though that he and this Buxton guy have gotten so sore with each other. Both are shamanic healers, so really they need to practice what they preach. Have a fist fight, make love, do whatever it takes. I maybe wrong but the bitterness here suggests a lovers' tiff? Get back to what attracted you to each other in the beginning.

Debbie Beckett said...

Ross Heaven says:

"Nor have I run any sin eater workshops so I’m not making money from them on the back of my book."

Ross Heaven's website,, says (my emphasis)

"Our courses include workshops in shamanism, SIN EATING, curanderismo, shamanic healing, soul retrieval, Plant Spirit Shamanism and introductions to ayahuasca and other teacher plants."

Anonymous said...

You can emphasise all you like!!!! :)
The FACT (my emphasis) is that The Four Gates has NOT (emphasis added) run ANY (emphasis applied) courses in sin eating.
When the website is revamped in 2015 we may add a mention that we also offer courses in Martian astrology, dolphin channeling and farting new age rainbows. Don't mean we'll EVER (emphasis added) actually RUN (my emphasis) those courses. :)

Aho Hokahey said...

But why advertise courses and then not run them, Ross?

No takers, by any chance?

Or cancelled due to an unforeseen outbreak of honesty?

I did hear a rumour that Simon Buxton claims to have shamanically banished you from the British Isles by the way!

Aside from that though he seems to have gone pretty quiet recently.

Anonymous said...

Yes I heard that Buxton banished me as well. Funny since im sitting right here in Brighton typing this. However I do now have a second home in Spain and will be teaching over the next few months in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Ireland, Spain, Mexico and Peru while he knits his bee webs in rainy Dorset. Maybe that's what he meant? If so, cheers Buzzton!

Some sin eater practices are included in other courses run by The Four Gates but we have never run a course on sin eating. We have every right to, of course, though, which is why the reference is on the website. In fact every year we are asked by one student or another to run a full sin eating course and actually, after this, we might do. Thanks for bringing it to my awareness and for the suggestion :)

Aho Hokahey said...

Are we to take it Ross that, unlike Simon Buxton, you would be making it clear to prospective participants in any Sin-Eating course that the events described in your Sin Eater book were, by your own admission, semi-fictional and may not have occurred?

The banishing from Britain spell is fascinating by the way. Have any other blog readers heard of something like this before?

Maybe it only works in Dorset? Try popping into Wimborne one day and see what happens - you could pose triumphantly by the signpost with an ice-cream for a photo your Facebook page.

(All being well, of course.)

Badwitch said...

As moderator, I have just declined a comment left for moderation on this post that was about something on an individual's Facebook page. My blog has no way of influencing what appears on other people's Facebook pages. If you have an issue with anything on Facebook, contact the person directly or go to your own Facebook and either block all feeds from the page you dislike, or put in a complaint to Facebook.

Anonymous said...

"Are we to take it Ross that, unlike Simon Buxton, you would be making it clear to prospective participants in any Sin-Eating course that the events described in your Sin Eater book were, by your own admission, semi-fictional and may not have occurred?"

The book itself is quite clear on this point and describes itself as semi-fiction. Sin eating, as you may know, is also a legitimate and authentic tradition and the techniques outlined in the book are real shamanic healing methodologies. If we choose to run a sin eating course, therefore, people will be taught real techniques from a real tradition. Unlike anything they might learn on the Path of Poppins. And I use the word "learn" very very loosely.

Thanks for the photo suggestion. I may be visiting Wimbourne soon actually. Let's see if Buzzton has the shamanic ability to knit web strong enough even to keep my boot out his arse :)

Anonymous said...

Badwitch, see through the charms of heaven pls

Do you not realise that all this has to come from somewhere, and you have tapped into something that needs release?

There is no smoke without fire.

I'm just one of many who have been ripped off by him over the years

Do your self a spiritual favour and get yourself as far away from him as possible - or you may lose your credibility too

Badwitch said...

Anonymous, if you are a regular reader of my blog you will know that this was just one post out of thousands, and quite an old post at that. My normal subjects are about witchcraft in the UK - especially London. Feel free to read my more recent posts and leave comments on those subjects. I agree this particular thread is a bit old now. I have tried to draw it to a polite close before...

Anonymous said...

All of this does indeed "have to come from somewhere". It comes from the FACT (which you can verify for yourself by simply reading the Buxton book alongside P L Travers') that Simon Buxton is a plagiarist, a liar and a thief.
There is indeed "no smoke without fire", just as you say. As far as this thread goes, all Heaven has done is show up Buxton's lies. Strange then that youre choosing to attack him rather than the liar and rip-off merchant who has been thus exposed. Guess some people just don't want to hear the truth.
As for Heaven, Ive worked with him and I don't think even he would claim to be a "charmer". He's a human being, down to earth, straightforward and in my experience, he has great integrity. He's certainly no plagiarist, liar or thief. As for his workshops, theyre experiential, mainly working with medicine plants which teach you how to teach yourself. So if you feel you've been "ripped off" by him, unfortunately that can nly be because you ripped yourself off. Probably by following false prophets and lying "gurus". Like Buxton. I hope you wake up soon.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the article, but the middle part (as soon as the "bee shamanism" was mentioned) felt odd to read. & then it was great to return to the other questions & I loved what he had to say, in regarsd to how we are obsessed with seeming qualified & having titles, guru fetish, ego, etc. & then... Then I read the comments & now I wish I could unread it all. I have no idea who this Heavens person is, or the Buxton (I am not in Europe), but thank you for the article. I will be more careful with reading comments next time. Thank you for running this blog. I forget what led me here! I wish I could remember. All my best to you!

Anonymous said...

I tried to submit this & my screen refreshed, so I am unsure if I am double posting - I apologize if I am! ::: I enjoyed the article, but the middle part (as soon as the "bee shamanism" was mentioned) felt odd to read. & then it was great to return to the other questions & I loved what he had to say, in regarsd to how we are obsessed with seeming qualified & having titles, guru fetish, ego, etc. & then... Then I read the comments & now I wish I could unread it all. I have no idea who this Heavens person is, or the Buxton (I am not in Europe), but thank you for the article. I will be more careful with reading comments next time. Thank you for running this blog. I forget what led me here! I wish I could remember. All my best to you!

Casey Smith said...

Has anyone heard from Ross Heaven recently? It's really noticeable that the number of likes he gets on Facebook have dropped dramatically from dozens per post a year or so ago down to two or even zero in some cases. I just wondered if something had happened to affect his following and popularity - bad juju from this Buxton guy perhaps?

Badwitch said...

Yes, I got a message from his publishing company only last week that he is bringing out a new book about San Pedro. It is currently in production.

Nick Turville said...

For a newcomer exploring alternative beliefs and spiritual practices, I have to say I find this all pretty discouraging.

If people are making up ancient spiritual traditions then charging sky-high prices for workshops about them then that just seems like a scam on the unwary to me.

Shouldn't this stuff all be free? Why should we have to get our credit cards out to explore these pathways of ancient, natural, universal knowledge? I wasn't aware that spirits needed cash.

Anonymous said...

A viewpoint from taking a course from Sandra Ingerman: she has never studied with a shaman. She bases her extensive courses and personal comments on he students' experiences, on what she calls "direct revelation."

The group is chockfull of clueless Anglo Saxons culturally appropriating the alleged beliefs and practices of shamans they claim to have studied with. Yet not one can name a specific tribe, let alone teacher. Sorry honey, "my Native American medicine teacher" has no meaning in the ancient lineage of shamanism.

And oh, the many many who have "Native American" or "Gypsy" blood, but again, can't verify it.

I don't even know where to start on all the clueless crystal mining and New Age feather waving. Most written in New Age Speak; lots of "resonating" and "honoring" and "empowering." Many of the posts made me gag.

Meanwhile, Ingerman enthusiastically gives approbation to this type of cultural and spiritual theft. She even has a Catholic priest as one of her two assistants! I can't begin to get over that one. Really? You choose a priest of the most destructive entity, the one that eradicated so many Indigenous peoples, for such a close position? And this priest freely comments, positively or negatively, on students' experiences in the course. It's ludicrous.

Badwitch said...

The original blog post was written in 2013. Attitudes towards shamanism have changed quite a lot over the past 4 years, particularly in regards to the concept of cultural appropriation - understandings of which have increased hugely since then, that goodness!

Anonymous said...

It's hilarious reading Heaven as the anonymous supporters. My god I have a headache reading this schoolyard ego drivel.

Anonymous said...

Badwitch are you aware that Ross Heaven died of a heart attack in Spain earlier in the year? Perhaps an obituary would be appropriate as you were clearly a big fan.

Badwitch said...

I was aware that Ross Heaven died earlier this year. I believe his publishing company, Moon Books, posted an obituary at the time. I never met Ross Heaven, only reviewed some of his books on my blog and interviewed him the once. It is always sad when someone dies at a young age, whoever they are.

Anonymous said...

The Bee Hut and fogou described is Carn Euny near Sancreed in West Penwith. I live close by and often visit

Anonymous said...

Much much more plagiarism

Coco lucas said...

Hi, I have been living with legit "shamans" in Peru.
I think the problem is that lot of people are not real initiates and practice it fo money and power and know only few tricks and methods. But the problem about self called shamanism is that the name of "shaman" is related to very dofferent practice and vumtures and doesn't mean anything. I understand the answer of Ross because as me, he was initiated in Peru. In Peru Shamans don't like to be called "shamans" they say "Curandero" (healer) or "Brujo" (person that work with evil forces to kill or make peopme sick in distance etc). So your distinctuon between witch and shaman is a non sens, I think medieval witches didn't called them witches, they just practiced and didn't need title. I respect your view but your commentary is very western mind , lot of mental and rationnal classification, as a medium you should be able to recognize real shamans just by sight.
When I was in Peru a good indicator of megit shamans was : 1legit shaman generally have a traditionnal master and not self made initiation 2 Pzruvians locals recommand them and they don't have only western peopme at cerzmony. 3 They refuse some peopme if their intention is unclear or inapropriate. They work for spirits law and not for money even if asking money is normal.
I dln't see the difference between witches and shamans, maybe people are blocked by entheogen plants use and I can compt the ego witches claming "I don't need plants it s drug I can do without " => ego and fear and ignorance.
Medieval witched used exactly same plants to enter in trance like mandrake, hyoscamus. And lot of shamans don't work with plants.

I think each practionionner has his own way and own tradition. Witch and shaman are just words for rationnal western mind that love classification and forget to see the reality without the mental.