“The shaman is one who chooses to “walk between the worlds” of everyday reality and the spirit realms for guidance or healing. They are able to slip out of their ordinary reality into an “altered state of consciousness”. In this state of shamanic consciousness, the shaman is aware of both the physical world and the spirit world or “Otherworld” at the same time.
He/she acts as an interpreter for the spiritual realm. Shamans treat ailments/illness by mending the soul. Alleviating traumas affecting the soul/spirit restores the physical body to balance and wholeness. They also travel to the spiritual realm to obtain solutions to problems afflicting the community. Shamans may visit other worlds/dimensions to bring guidance to misguided souls and to ameliorate illnesses of the human soul caused by outside elements.” (Shamanism and Soul Recovery – Everything You Wanted To Know But Didn’t Know What To Ask, Debbie & Gary Gent, 2012, p.2)
So, what are those other worlds or dimensions we travel in? Many shamanic traditions believe that this unseen reality is divided into three separate worlds: the Upper World, the Middle World, and the Lower World. Each world has distinct qualities, including particular entryways and recognizable landscapes. The three realms are linked together by a vertical axis that is commonly referred to as the “World Tree.”The Upper World above is the realm of unrealized potential, higher knowledge, and enlightenment. It is the domain of gods, goddesses, and evolved teachers/Masters. Many people experience the Upper World as very ethereal. The light tends to be bright, although the spectrum of colors can include everything from soft pastels to complete darkness. The landscapes in the Upper World are varied, and you might find yourself in a crystal city, phenomenal places of learning (i.e. classrooms and libraries) or simply in the clouds. In our training, this is where souls go when they are “taken to the light” to rest and prepare for their next journey. Here the shaman meets with teachers and ancestors who will aide the shaman through training and who will help guide the shaman in his/her work. Shamans also come here for cosmic wisdom, divine inspiration, insight, or to find ways to restore balance within themselves, their clients and Nature.
The Middle World is our reality as we know it. It is our day to day lives and the residing place of our physical bodies and our normal waking consciousness – the spiritual dimension of our physical world. Middle World journeying is a way of communicating with the spirits that live in all things present in our physical reality (Nature, pets, weather Spirits, the Moon, etc). It’s so parallel to the world we live in that we can visit all the places, people, and things we know in our ordinary reality. Shamans typically journey to the Middle World to find lost and stolen soul pieces, lost or stolen objects, or to do long-distance healing work. The shaman many come to both the Middle World and the Lower World to commune with Nature.
The Lower World is the realm of animal, plant and nature spirits, spirit guides, and the Land of the Dead. The Lower World can often be seen as being the place where evil spirits live, darkness pervades, and in general, not a good place. This is mainly due to our cultural conditioning of “Hell”. While the Lower World can contain some “not so nice” people and places, it is not a place of evil or Hell. The landscape in most places of the Lower World tends to be earthy, filled with mountains, deserts, dense jungles, and forests – the realm of Mother Nature. This is where guardian animals(Animal Guides/Allies) or helping spirits are found. It can also be a place of tests and challenges. This is where we often find soul pieces of those who are suffering and stuck. A spirit journey to the Lower World is generally undertaken to seek the help and guidance of an animal spirit, to recover lost power, or to find and return a sick or stuck person’s wandering spirit.
Shamans are said to travel to these worlds by climbing the World Tree. The World Tree is the bridge that connects these three worlds; it is the central axis about which the universe of the shaman extends. And it is on the Tree that the spirits pass from one world to another. The roots of the World Tree touch the Lower World. Its trunk is the Middle World and its branches hold up the Upper World.
Until next time –
Mitakuye Oyasin (A Lakota prayer reminding us we are all related),