Tuesday 30 July 2013

Review: Shaman Pathways - Web of Life

Forget the title – Shaman Pathways - Web of Lifeis not just a book about shamanism. It is for anyone on a pagan or earth-based spiritual journey and, with the subtitle Guidance for Your Life Journey, is about how to ensure you are on the right path.

The circle divided into quarters, the medicine wheel or hoop, and the web of life are central concepts in many traditions including Wicca, Celtic and Native American teachings. The idea is that the circle is a sacred space. Within it directions are called upon for protection or aid when doing ritual work.

The directions can be east, south, west and north; they can be land, sea and sky; or above and below or other variations. Often they are given characteristics such as the elements of air, fire, water and earth; or spring, summer, autumn and winter. They might then have deities, angels or animal spirits associated with them that can offer appropriate guidance to the seeker.

The problem is, although the systems often have similarities, they aren’t consistent – and there is no reason they should be. Different people in different parts of the world with different land features, weather patterns, seasons and wildlife would experience the earth in different ways. If one system says that the east is represented by the element air and the colour blue, another says it is represented by the fire of the rising sun and the colour yellow, while a third sees east as the home of the eagle spirit and the powers of the feminine, that is perfectly natural.

For those raised in the traditional spiritual practices of the land of their ancestors, the correspondences would be taken for granted. The problem comes for those of us living in the multi-cultural Western world who are learning – or relearning – about earth-based spirituality afresh. We often try out different paths – Wicca, Druidry, Buddhism, shamanism, Celtic paganism etc – to find out what is right for us. It can be confusing, and we can even feel that none of them quite resonate with us in their entirety.

Yvonne Ryves, the author of Shaman Pathways - Web of Life, says that doesn’t matter. She offers a method of finding out the way of working that is right for you. This involves creating your own medicine wheel – or web of life – on which you place those teachers, elements and symbols that resonate for you.

This starts with the simple casting of a circle, and then involves meditating on each direction to find out what it means for you personally. You then draw out a spider’s web pattern with circles where the lines meet. In these circles you place the name of the appropriate teachers. Yvonne then describes a method of using these to create cards you can use to trace pathways around the web that relate to your own spiritual journey.

To me this seems similar to the concept behind the Wildwood Tarot, which has cards showing a journey through the mythic forest through the seasons of the year. But by creating your own set of cards you will develop a powerful tool with more personal meaning than anything you can buy in a shop.

Publisher Moon Books said on its press release: “Every single one of us lives our lives within a wheel, a circle, a hoop or a web and every single one of us can benefit from learning how to live our lives to the full within it. The problem though, for many of us, is that because we do not belong to the culture of a medicine wheel or wheel of direction, we find that the wheels do not really fit us or we have trouble connecting with or remembering the attributes. This book provides information, guidance and exercises to help readers find ways to connect with the web of life and weave their paths within it.”

Shaman Pathways – Web of Life is an inspired and original way of working with the sacred circle, directions and teachers, yet it seems so sensible I hope it becomes a well-known way of working and common practice for anyone trying to find their own way on their own spiritual path.

Links and previous related posts
Shaman Pathways - Web of Life: Guidance for your life journey
Medicine for the Soul - Shamanic Healing
Hedge Witchcraft
I Ask Ross Heaven - What is an Authentic Shaman?
The Wildwood Tarot

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