Saturday, July 01, 2006

Druids and Shamanism

I am back in Chester now and I have so much to say I don't know where to begin. First here are the people from my Welsh course - I grew fond of them over the almost two weeks we were together and enjoyed their company very much: here is Bryce who is a post-graduate student doing some research on the Mabinogi (medieval Welsh tales) in South Carolina, Simon who is an undergraduate student reading archeology at Lampeter, Kirk the druid from Arizona who is also doing an MA in Celtic studies, Morina our teacher, Evy another druid who is also studying the Celts (in a university near Boston), and Christine who is going to start her MA in archeology at Lampeter this year.

Druids, apparently, come together in groves and worship the spirit of trees rather than the trees themselves. The number three is significant. I am going to find out more because it does sound fascinating and also ties in with my research into shamanism last year. I had wanted to find out more about altered states of consciousness and I thought the best way of doing this was to go on a shamanic training course in London. After paying homage to four spirits (rather then three) fire, wind, earth, and water, we had to relax on the floor (with the help of incense and small bells) and with the aid of a continuous drum-beat were guided into an underground place we imagined for ourselves, then, after finding a passage into an underworld, we had to reach out through a fog to encounter our 'spirit helpers'. Mine turned out to be a tortoise. Over the next couple of days that tortoise and I had a series of adventures in both this underworld and a world above (which we reached through climbing upwards, bursting through various diaphanous layers until we reached a temple of white stone full of angels). It was a very interesting experience - made even more surreal by the small flocks of wild budgerigars which came squawking to the tree outside the flat and were far too exotic for this area of west London.

After I had finished this course I read a long book on the subject (SHAMANISM by Mircea Eliade) in which I found that many of the things I had imagined - like a central pole or tree connecting one level to the next - were found in most shamanic religions around the world. I have also found that the same images are repeated in cave paintings of our ancestors across the world - which shows, perhaps, that our minds have changed little over the thousands of years that have passed since then and that once the human mind enters this 'altered state of consiousness' it tends to conjure up the same images and ideas.

As usual I used only a little of this research in the final draft of my novel. This always happens, I find - each morsel of information in a novel is the result of much research, most of which is discounted. However I was able a little more in a short story that I wrote a few months ago which pleased me a lot.


Blogger Lee said...

Vitebsky is also good for a general introduction to shamanism.

Is the short story available online?

Mon Jul 03, 04:23:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Lee. Shall look out for that. The short story is going to be published in the Perverted by Language anthology next year .

Wed Jul 05, 01:07:00 am  

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