American Shamanism Movement
The American Shamanism Movement is an organization that I started by accident. It started when a few things came together at once. First, I was abused by the first energy worker I was exposed to. I realized later that if I had even the most basic knowledge when I had met him I would have recognized who he was. I felt heavy over the years I had helped him get clients and helped spread his name and I wanted a way to work off that weight. As I was thinking about this, I was asked to offer some presentations on shamanism. The same week I presented my information I was asked to teach an online class on shamanism. Believing that “this stuff can’t be taught let alone taught online,” I bulked at this (I can sometimes be traditional to the point of it being unhealthy). The thing wouldn’t leave me though. I found myself unable to sleep, and I finally decided to do some work on it. Long story short, I was directed to write out everything that could be presented online with exercises that were safe to do at home alone so learning actually happened. I found that if I organized things differently than my various apprenticeships had I could in fact offer an easily year-long introduction program. This became the 101 class. After praying over it, I presented the class for a year below cost of giving it to my community as a way to do more help than I had harmed by promoting an abuser unknowingly. I learned a LOT that first year, specifically that the options for learning such things out there really didn’t fit my people. I went to the Gods and Spirits on the other side, and I explained why we needed a new tradition in my community. I finished with “if you need someone on the ground to help this come into being, and if it is right that it should happen, I will make myself available.” I fell into one of my strange, coma-like fevered sicknesses soon after and came out of it with the American Shamanism Movement material. It was different than what I believed at the time and thus it taught me a great deal as I wrote things down, got clarification, and developed the programs. I also started offering community events by donation immediately in those teachings. It was clearly something that was needed and grew to 200 active members that first year. When it came to naming the group, a meeting was held and we agreed on American Shamanism Movement because we are American (as is everyone else in North, South and Central America), it certainly is shamanism and not just animism, and it’s more of a movement towards a different way of living rather than a religion or school.
Levels of Training
Our tradition has three training levels as well as a pre-requisite. Here’s how they work:
Shamanism 101 (prerequisite for the other training levels or equivalent training needed): This is an introductory course. The in person class meets once a month for twelve months for four hours. There is a textbook, but no other materials are needed. Each topic is covered in theory and then examined from the lens of multiple shamanic and animistic cultures from around the world. The group is then given a home experimentation activity to work with so they can discover their understanding on their own. The purpose of this program is to help a person discover who they are, to help them become familiar with shamanism to be sure this is something they want to do, and to give people a scaffolding of a new way of living that is more aware, holistic, and in tune with nature. We are currently working on developing this program into an online program and a distance learning program where we can send a practitioner to different communities for a few weekends to train new groups this way.
Year One: This program is the ‘hardest’ part of the apprenticeship. It is a year of going through the underworld- that is, digging into your own unconscious and subconscious to see what’s there. The point of this year is so the participants learn who they really are, so they are able to refine themselves to be who they wish to be, and so a person can truly live in integrity. This year long program meets once a month in person and ends in the most trying initiation experience we offer. Some people choose to do this program more than once or over multiple years, especially if they want to dig into the details of their ancestral issues. We are flexible with this, but due to the challenging nature of this year we do not offer it online or over a distance. Safety first!
Year Two: When a person reaches this level, they are coming back to the earth and the physical world through the opening of the heart and the green world that grows from it. This year is taught through the plant world. We have two to three plants each month. The apprentices learn to make medicine from these plants, and they learn the teachings of the plants. At the end of this year of training a person may be qualified as an herbalist in Pennsylvania State where we are located. This year of workings gives you the ability to work with the community in some basic ways and support the leaders of the movement in their work. This program also ends in an initiation, but it is nowhere near as trying as the one at the end of Year One.
Thirds: We don’t really refer to the last level of the program as “Year Three” because it’s not uncommon for it to take longer or shorter than a year. This part of the program is for those who want to lead the community as spiritual leaders, healers, and in shamanic work. A list of skills are provided and the apprentice is given one on one personal skill training on the skills they need to develop. Some of these involve assisting people in initiation, spiritual counseling work, officiating weddings, healing, facilitation of journeying and drumming meetings, legal concerns for earth-based practitioners and practice, ritual possession skills, activism, assisting the dying and in funeral rites and services, reading the land’s energy patterns, clearing homes and lands, ritual and ceremony facilitation, soul retrieval, divination, necromancy skills, working with the weather, and a list of other things. This year of training also requires the apprentice to put in shadowing hours in which they observe practitioners working in the community and are coached on leading programs themselves. This program ends when the apprentice has the skill sets down and both they and their guide (teacher) agree that they are finished. At the end of this training the person is presented to the community as a new practitioner and may serve the community as a representative of the movement. These practitioners are also able to lead the other programs.
The American Shamanism Movement is more than training. It’s a lifestyle, a community, a new way for us to be that, though based on ‘old ways’ is not the old ways. We believe that animism, shamanism and other earth-based systems arise from a lived culture, the genetics of a people, and the physical land that a person finds themselves on. ASM is about learning these factors and working within them, knowing who and what a person is and how to work with that. Though we have established a way of working together to bring a community together, we assume that each person will have their individual beliefs and copy of the structures and teachings for their personal or private use. We do not all believe the same things, but we’ve agreed on a structure to work within. Thus this community respects the individual as well as the community. In an effort to help our community be strong and unified while helping people on their personal paths, we have several events a month. These include:
Monthly Journeying Meetup: This event is by donation and led by Thirds and above. We basically meet up, set sacred and safe space, build a community altar, and do journey work in a safe space with the assistance of the practitioner. This was the first program we offered and has been going strong since 2015. As a guideline for donation, this event currently costs us about $10 a person to put on and the practitioners are unpaid. If someone is unable to donate, we welcome them anyway, but donations enable us to continue our work so we ask that those who can give do.
Monthly Sacred Drum Circles: This event currently costs us about $10 a person to put together and we do ask for $10 a person. As this just barely covers costs, if a person is able to donate more to the continuation of the program we accept that kindness gratefully. We provide frame drums but you’re invited to bring your own. This program started when a student told me she wanted to “learn to pray like you (I) do.” We start with a heart beat on a pow-wow style drum in the center of the room which is then converted into an altar. The altar is set to the teachings of a different plant each month, which is chosen through divination practices. We then share the teachings of the plant that are current for what’s happening in the community that month. Then we ‘pray’- that is, we drum and sing as it comes into us, move if we feel the movement. This is broken up with bits of talking sometimes. When our time for the month is up, we dismantle the altar and finish with a heart beat on that same drum in the center.
Individual workshops: If you haven’t picked up on this, our practitioners are often unpaid even though they have ‘mad skill.’ Individual practitioners often offer workshops and events to share individual skills and work from their perspective and using their methods. These include everything from learning to do healing work with drums to divination practices to herbalism to ritual skills and more. Prices, content and time are all set by the practitioner.
Opportunities for International Training: We try to do one international trip per year in which we work with trusted local indigenous people in sacred sites for deeper training and personal growth. These are amazing experiences every year. We’ve done work in places like Bolivia, Ireland, Peru, Mexico, Canada, Wales, England and others! We are always expanding our network of trusted wisdom keepers. Anyone is welcome on these trips, even folks who are not a part of our regular community.
Plans for Growth: We would like to grow our services as funds to do so become available. Some things we have on our wish list are three circles a month for each of the sexes (Women, Men and Intersex), a more formal legal team to help our members with legal concerns full time, a hospital liaison team, a group for specializing in funeral, wedding and other ceremonial services, and eventually a physical location where we can build an interfaith sanctuary where all are welcome. We have BIG plans, and we’d love for you to join us and be part of these exciting times we find ourselves in!
Until we have a site of our own, please use the contact page to get in touch for more information. You can also check out some of our Facebook presences at these locations:
The Community Group (open to all): https://www.facebook.com/groups/AmericanShamanismCommunity
Shamanism 101 (people in or who have completed the introduction class): https://www.facebook.com/groups/610588829106728
Initiates Group (People taking Level One or above): https://www.facebook.com/groups/1082965341762590