It’s easy to get a bit restless as a witch. Sometimes it seems like it’s just one sabbat after another, with the same quarter calls, the same invocations. There can be so many moments of joyful community but there can also be drama or no connection at all. And being a solitary practitioner can feel too isolated without fellowship, input, inspiration from like-minded seekers. It’s easy to lose your way, get caught up in the mundane, lose your connection to the divine within and the mysteries and messages of the unseen world.
Many traditions of Wicca and witchcraft solely emphasize the fertility aspect of practice, the Wheel of the Year, and work with the Lord and Lady. It’s a process of coming to understand the mysteries of life and death, growth and decay, through observation and experience over time. Traditions that work more with ecstatic energy seem to depart from familiar Wiccan ritual structure, and can feel a little too alien or devoid of those rhythms and structures that drew you to the Craft in the first place. Could there be a way to walk among the wise ones from other realms instead of only requesting their presence and supervision? Is there a way to be even closer in tune with the undulating changes of the earth and its creatures and the healing that can come with that relationship? Gail Wood says “yes” in her third book,The Shamanic Witch, an exploration of the places where shamanic journeying can intersect with Wiccan ritual.
According to Wood, the healing possiblities of shamanic work are a natural extension of the skills and practices already cultivated by witches. Witches are naturally open and in tune with the energy of the universe. Shamanic work takes it several steps further by allowing the individual to discover and enhance their interaction with the unseen world through shifting consciousness at will and by inviting in spiritual guides, helpers, and tools. It is a path of personal power where the witch is invited to heal himself, then heal the world.
The Shamanic Witch
is a treasure trove of journey narratives, ritual outlines, and exercises to make connections to your own power animal, power song, inner goddess or god. The exercises to explore your drum and rattle are exquisite and inspired — a witch can use these same techniques to develop a closer connection to any of her tools. Wood, a self-described “rowdy goddess,” writes in a very engaging yet comfortingly concise language. She emphasizes that shamanism is a practice, not a belief structure. Wood also takes care to give you a good foundation of information on the historical shaman and how to understand and avoid cultural misappropriation.
Wood does an excellent job of defining her terms and explaining the various practices to which she refers, whether they are traditional Wiccan skills or otherwise. However, the book would probably be best suited to someone with at least a beginning familiarity with Wiccan ritual, tools, and ethics. The final third of the book outlines rituals for a variety of needs, from celebrating the body as divine to protecting one’s property. Wood’s rituals are very strongly Wiccan with occasional nuances that are obviously shamanic in origin, such as calling on quarter totems.
Perhaps the most exciting and inspiring aspect of Wood’s exercises is how truly individual and individually validating they are. There are infinite reasons and no reasons at all needed to journey to other worlds and even more possibilities in what one can learn on his journey. Wood takes care to note that, no matter how one experiences messages received during a journey or meditation, they are valid and useful. All too often it’s easy to feel as though you’re “doing it wrong” because you’re not watching your guided meditation unfold around you in technicolor and surround-sound. Not only is this level of detail not necessarily common among all levels of meditative accomplishment, it doesn’t even have to be a goal. Wood explains that, like the individual ways a person learns best, every person experiences their journey in their own way — as clairvoyants, clairaudients, or clairsentients. Each journey is important and informative in some way, whether it’s frustrating and full of distractions or shockingly profound.
Shamanic witchcraft is an ideal path for diving directly into deep spiritual waters. Where Wicca can give you a way to construct a telephone booth in which you can place a call to the gods, framing your practice within a shamanic healing context can be like setting up your own home phone line, ready to receive messages on a constant basis. Wood sums up best the benefits from this path when she says, “as you develop a regular schedule of journeys and your shamanic trance meditations grow, you will feel the pull of the drum, the heartbeat of the Universe. You will find that you will move naturally into the harmony of the Universe. You will feel the interconnectedness of life, and know that you are not alone.”