Academic journal article Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality

Entering Water: Sea Lion Shamanism

Academic journal article Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality

Entering Water: Sea Lion Shamanism

Article excerpt

Calling Myself a Shaman

I called myself a shaman once.

I wasn't thinking, and it just slipped out. I was having coffee with a friend, and she told me that I seemed distracted.

"I saw something that I thought was significant, and I'm trying to decide if I should say something about it," I said.

"How do you know it's significant?" she asked.

"Well, I don't know if you believe in such things, but I'm a shaman." She looked at me with a puzzled expression, and I continued. "There are two types of shamans--those who have been initiated by the earth, and those who have been trained by other shamans. I'm the first kind."

"I thought you were a mystic healer," she said.

"It's similar," I said, "like a classical musician and a jazz musician. They're both musicians, but they have different styles."

"I see," she said, and our conversation went on to other subjects.

Later, I was back at home, lying down and resting, and I felt bad about the interaction for two reasons--first, I was worried that my friend might think I was delusional and drop me, and second, I wasn't really sure if I actually was a shaman or not.

Fortunately, a dandelion spirit came to me in a vision. "Let's go ask the first spirit," she said. "That should clear the matter up."

It sounded like a good idea to me, so we set off on a journey to the home of the first spirit (I'm bending the details).

We shapeshifted into Arctic Terns and left Alaska, flying south toward Hawaii. I had a strong intuition where to go, and we followed that intuition. There was a mild headwind, but we just relaxed and paced ourselves. About halfway to Hawaii, we saw a small island in the middle of the Pacific, and I knew we were there.

We landed and looked around, but the first spirit was not home. Neither of us was surprised though, as we did not expect the first spirit to be there. We made ourselves at home and rested from the journey.

Night eventually came, and we had a wonderful view of the black sky and the stars. I decided to go for a swim, and the dandelion spirit followed me. We shapeshifted into sea lions and entered the water. It had an unusual silky-smooth texture, but it felt wonderful. I dove and twisted at the same time, and the waterscape changed.

Suddenly it was daylight, and the water was a beautiful turquoise-indigo color. A large humpback whale was swimming a short distance in front of us. Oh, I whispered in my thoughts, the great mother.

Then the scene changed, and we were all on land, human, in an open hut. The dandelion spirit and I were children, around five or six years old, and the great mother was around 30 or so.

The great mother was gentle and kind. When I told her I had called myself a shaman, she said, "You did what?" Her tone of voice was so funny that the dandelion spirit and I burst into uncontrollable laughter. We laughed so hard that tears flowed from our eyes. We laughed so hard that we fell to the ground and rolled with laughter. Finally, after minutes and minutes of laughter, we calmed down, said our goodbyes, and left.

The flight back was calm, and when we got to Alaska, the dandelion spirit stayed with me for a while, then left.

I felt much better after the journey, and I wasn't worried about my friend leaving me anymore. A few hours later, I realized that I had forgotten to ask the great mother if I actually was a shaman. I thought about it for a while and eventually decided that I am a human who is learning and growing in my own way.

This is one of my myths.

In a Beginning

   I work
   in silver the tongue-like forms
   that curve round a throat

   an arm-pit, the upper
   thigh, whose significance stirs in me
   like a curviform alphabet
   that defies

   decoding, appears
   to consist of vowels, beginning with O

   --Olga Broumas, "Artemis"

"Oh, man," I cry, as my feet touch the water. …

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