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The Story of Creative Shamanism


Back in time

It was 14 November 2009.  My friend Cathy Bache and I were in the soon to be opened little red drum gallery, Ceres, Fife, Scotland and the website had just gone online.  The School and Centre for Creative Shamanism was being born.  Cathy had brought along her Tibetan bell.  We were sitting side by side on the freshly painted grey, concrete floor. Cathy was wondering what I would like to do to honour this moment before the visitors  who were coming to the opening would walk through the door. They would be here in an hour.  I had a concern, I had told Cathy on booking her early presence.  I needed her to bring an instrument and hold space for something for me.  But partly, the concern had been relieved by the way the little red drum had appeared.  So, let me tell that story first. 


I had been asking for a name for the shamanic and art gallery practice that would keep the vibration of it egoless and in service of the whole.  With my whole being I didn't really want to do this setting up something palava.  I just wanted to be an Artist and be a part of the creative process of the earth.  But something had called me to do it.  I was following guidance to set up something, but I was genuinely frightened of being swallowed by something that wasn't what I knew my soul wanted to be a part of.  So I was asking for a symbol for the practice to protect against that.  One night after putting out this call, I dreamt of a little red drum.   I hadn't thought much of it.  But then by surprise a few weeks later,  I found the same little red drum in a shop in Glastonbury.  The dream came back to me in a flash.   It was a Nepalese Tibetan drum.  It is in the photo above.  I recognised it immediately and took it back home with me.  the little red drum became the name of the practice i 'led'.  It was years later that I read that all early drums were dyed with red ochre and were often found buried beside their female drummer who had also been painted in red ochre at death.  This had blown my mind!  I had tapped into something ancient and presumably a part of my many lifetimes lineage with the drum.  But the thing I had found out at the time of settling with the practice's new name, was on googling the little red drum to see if anyone else had it as a title, and finding it as a song about the beating heart.  The little red drum was the heart in everything.  It was the pulse of connectivity through the worlds. This felt so egoless.  I set to making the four words have completely lower case letters too to put the point across even more.  'the little red drum' would keep me true. 


I don't know why I am so big on this not wanting to be at the helm of something.  I like doing my own thing, but I just can't help but back off when I start to feel like I am coming out of step with everything else.  It's the essential truth to me that shamanism and art are a communication system through the realms.  They are spirits in their own right and they are a collective of spirits.  They don't need us twenty first century humans making them what they are not by squeezing them into political and business frameworks.  They need us to listen to them and find out how it all works and take down the distorted systems and replace them with what is multi-dimensional, nature led and caring for the whole rather than for individual survival.  I was explaining to Cathy, that that is why shamans are the ones who have initiations all the time.  It's because they live this.  Life is always taking them down.  I think we both knew this way of experiencing in our own life experience, although we didn't call ourselves shamans.  We just knew ourselves as apprentices to nature and spirit I think. We used to call it practicing to be angels, like Wings of Desire the other way around. But this being taken down repeatedly to strip illusion I guess, and this finding the information about shamanic initiations made sense in my own story of why life could be such a well, 'drama' for want of a better word.  It did not mean that I was doing anything wrong by not performing in the structures that the man made world pays us to be in.  I had been thrown out of them in 1996, when my grandmother died and reality turned inside out.   When I look back, I can see how my being bipolar (I got a diagnosis in 2018 and it helped me bring kudos to my MSc research project) and not being able to be driven by systems (only my clear centre knows how to look after me and bring me back to balance) stops there being any illusion that I can fit into these structures and thrive within them.  It helps me to find the deeper more natural ones that the earth so needs us to find a step with again if we are going to carry on being a part of her story. 


I remember when I went to do Franco's Astroshamanism training back in 2004.  The vision I had when asking what my purpose was, was of my being on a higher plane with others helping us all to get onto that higher plane.  The story would naturally be that I would slip down too and need help to come back to that plane by others.   Buffalo Woman had yet to appear in my life. It would be twelve years in the future that she would appear to tell me the meaning of the  plane I was operating with.  It was the plane of the future.  She would help me put the book Shamanic Dreaming together and to place the future ones in the picture. But at that point in my life, in the gallery with Cathy and her Tibetan bell, my concern was all about keeping in the place of heart and not being pulled into anything that looked like a hierarchy or that was driven by mine or others human afflictions.

Cathy listened to me, all my concerns, and to the longing that was most true in my heart about staying humble and listening to spirit.  She listened to me speaking about creative shamanism and the spirits that I felt with me helping me to bring a way of educating into the world.  She had been my soul friend teacher that had brought me into the Secret Garden Outdoor nursery and helped me to ground with all the nature beings and with children when we designed the curriculum together in 2007.  She and I had an understanding about heart, nature connection, the innate way we all have of connecting as children and an appreciatoin of the vast and eternal love that works through the realms.  In the gallery that morning, I really felt listened to by a human heart that understood.  I spoke of my longing for Creative Shamanism to be able to let go of ideas of what shamanism might be and to be able to bring art home into its true place of belonging again along with shamanism in these lands.  I spoke about how I didn't know what that was and that in ringing the bell, could we call in all the beings human, living  and beyond who understood the truth about that too so I could learn together with them all.  I spoke about the edge and that the only thing I knew for sure from my own experience, was that that was where the power could be found. I reiterated the need to find the others who were not afraid of the edge so that we could crack something open together in these times, in my lifetime.


After all that needed to be spoken and heard had been spoken, Cathy rang the bell. I felt the gravity of the promise to the spirits and to my own truth.

I am going to quote Leonard Cohen now!  (He was one our favourites.)  He tells the story here of creative shamanism.  (As an 'aside', he also got me to get covid two weeks ago from writing this and enter a ten day deep retreat from the world when I went to see the film Hallelujah at GFT.)   I understand initiation afresh from the intense experience I have had and the deep respect I feel for the virus of these times.  Here are the words of 'Anthem':

The birds they sang
At the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what has passed away
Or what is yet to be

Ah, the wars they will be fought again
The holy dove, she will be caught again
Bought and sold, and bought again
The dove is never free

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in

We asked for signs
The signs were sent
The birth betrayed
The marriage spent
Yeah, and the widowhood
Of every government
Signs for all to see

I can't run no more
With that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places
Say their prayers out loud
But they've summoned, they've summoned up
A thundercloud
They're going to hear from me

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in

You can add up the parts
But you won't have the sum
You can strike up the march
There is no drum
Every heart, every heart
To love will come
But like a refugee

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in

That's how the light gets in
That's how the light gets in


I have met so many people over the last thirteen years who have helped me to find the collective spirit that is humanity in art and in the lived experience that some call shamanism.  I am still practicing alongside many of them.  Creative shamanism is a shamanism that understands that it is only through the experience of initiatory edges and through a creative practice that shamanism can be understood from the inside and appreciated.  I have also met and worked with people who don't get that too, and who try to wield a shape from the energy of creative shamanism and that's ok, stories need to play out too. I have recently felt the calling to use the words Creative Shamanism again to stand with the original spirits who birthed the little red drum and the practice I pledged to listen to and help come into the world back in 2009. I never left them, but I felt to call myself more of a visionary and an artist would be more to true to how I felt myself.  It was when Findhorn Press called my book Shamanic Dreaming, because, as Sabine my publisher said 'Carol, how are people going to know what the book is about if it doesn't have shamanism in the title?'  that the calling came. It feels apt that Findhorn brought me back to creative shamanism as that is where I first went to discover more about it. 


So welcome to the Faculty of Creative Shamanism within Creative Earth Ensemble. As you can see it is an integral part of my life's work. Over these weeks, on the website you will be able to discover films and archives on Creative Shamanism. You will even be able to sign up for online access to learning materials.  Creative Shamanism is in its true essence, a shamanic craft that listens to the edges of the human experience and helps the surrender of the ego to spiritual nature in the alignment of nature. 


And my friend Cathy? Well, Cathy is in the other realms now.  The last time I met the Tibetan bell was July 2017, when I was ringing it to open up realms the night before she passed through the veils of life and death.  I spent the whole night with the bell in one hand and the wing of her spirit animal, buzzard in the other.  I feel her here right now! My friend who showed me the surrender of her ego time and time again and helped me murder mine sometimes too - haha.  I remember too my sense when she died that somehow the work to open up the realms together would continue in a new way and that it is love and soul connection that opens doorways to eternity. And I hear the bell.  The bell that still can ring.  That always will ring.  The bell of truth and the way.  The sound that calls us back to wholeness again.  The bell of Creative Shamanism.


I am looking forward to seeing the creative adventures through the realms that will come from the new and old people and spirits I work with.

Creative Shamanism

Creating in a Multi-Realmed Community

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