Shamanic journeying

'Underworld Meditation' by Amanda Reid

‘Shamanic journey’ is the means by which the Shaman enters an altered state of consciousness. Through this means, the Shaman enters other realities which are more expansive than the physical plane.  The Shaman ‘travels’ by focussing their intention, usually with the help of animal or other guides and helpers.  


We do not know how an altered state of consciousness was induced in Britain's past.  I think it is possible that at some stage of history they used burial chambers for journeying, using sensory deprivation to enter an altered state of awareness.  Burial chambers are constructed like orgone generators, focussing and increasing the energy within them, thus providing a powerful Otherworld connection.  The bulk of earth used in their construction, and the crystalline structure of the stone would enable the same principles of energy generation to occur.  


Imagine a burial chamber such as West Kennet, near Avebury.  Imagine the whole community gathering at the court area at the front of the entrance where they are feasting, dancing, chanting and drumming.  Meanwhile, the Shaman has been undergoing a process of purification and preparation, possibly lasting several days.  This might involve fasting and taking psychotropic substances from Nature.  At dusk, the Shaman enters the chamber with an elite group of others who are drumming and chanting.

A ceremony takes place as energies are summoned and the portals to the Otherworlds are opened.  In the recesses within the chamber are the long-bones and skulls of important tribal ancestors whose spiritual presence is requested for the task at hand.  Eventually, the others depart, leaving the Shaman in the dark interior alone, and a great stone is positioned to block the entrance.

The Shaman remains inside for a specific period of several days and nights.  The Shaman is in pitch darkness with no sense of time or space.  The energy that has been invoked by the sounds and ceremonial activities create a powerful environment inside the chamber and within the Shaman's psyche.  The Shaman is here to journey to the Otherworld realms where wisdom is attained, questions are answered and healing is sought.  The journey is for the healing and evolution of the whole tribe. 


Previous to the building of the chambers our ancestors seem to have used caves, and there is evidence of ritual within caves in Britain at Creswell Crags in Derbyshire and Paviland cave on the Gower peninsular in South Wales.


There are a number of ways one can invoke an altered state of consciousness. The simplest means is by using breathing and meditation techniques. Another way is with psycho-active substances, however, less than 20% of indigenous Shamans worldwide today employ this means, and I, for one, would not recommend it.  If using halluncinogens, there will be a down side, a payment to make.  We are here on this Earth to have a human experience, and our spiritual practices need to help us to face and enhance our daily challenges, not escape them.


The use of repetitive rhythms to induce a trance state is an ancient phenomenon used by Shamans for millennia.  Percussive sound is effective at altering brain waves, leading to an altered state of awareness.  The required drum-beat needs to be quite fast. According to Michael Harner, the Shamanic drum beat approximates the base frequency of the Earth itself, which can be measured.  Research has found that the deepest levels of shamanic consciousness are accessed on a drum beat of four beats per second.


To journey this way, you may require someone to drum for you whilst you journey, or record yourself drumming, or use one of the Shamanic drumming soundtracks that are available today.  Being the drummer creates a powerful experience of consciousness shifting in itself.  The experience of the beat takes over and the process of drumming becomes expansive.  If you drum for nine to fifteen minutes, keeping to a rhythm of four beats to a second, you can then lie down and start your journey, finding yourself in an altered state of mind. 


Without a drum, try long, slow breathing for several minutes followed by meditation or a relaxation visualisation before you start the journey itself.


Begin by recalling the Shaman’s Stance (see the section on ‘The Wheel of the Year’).

Next invoke the four directions around you, creating your sacred circle of power and protection. 

Now, start your drumming.

When you have created enough energy for the consciousness shift to take place, lie down on your back, or sit in a chair if you prefer. 

Let your breathing become calm and slow. Focus on your breath for a few minutes.

Check your body is comfortable. 

Without the drumming, I would recommend a full body relaxation, so start with your feet and visualise all the tensions dissolving away from them like a fine mist, allowing them to relax, and repeat this throughout each part of your body moving up to your head. 

Do not rush. Enjoy the peace and calm you are creating. Make sure you have placed all your cares and worries aside before you move to the next stage.

The Shaman travels to three main realms, the Lower- or Under-world, the Upper-world and the Middle-world.  The Shaman's Pole or the Tree of the Worlds is invoked for the Shaman to travel between these realms.


The starting point for a journey can be very personal. Visualise yourself in a landscape that feels special to you, and ‘see’ yourself walk to a place where there is a means of entering the Under-world (a hole going down) and a place to access the Upper-world (a tree or structure going up). Alice used a rabbit-hole to enter Wonderland (the Under-world) and Jack used a large beanstalk to reach the giant (the Upper-world).

You may alternatively visualise yourself lying or sitting as you are, then ‘see’ yourself getting up and walking out of the building and going to a place of Nature nearby, then going to a spot where you have previously identified an entry point in your local area.


The first journey is usually made to the Under-world to meet one or more animal guides who are happy to work with you on future journeys. 

When you reach the entry point with your intention or question for the journey in your mind, you will be naturally 'pulled' towards either the Upper- or Lower-world.  You may occasionally feel compelled to stay in the Middle-world, where some experiences also happen.

As you go along, don't force it, or pre-empt it, just allow whatever images come up to unfold before you and go with them, follow them.  Once you have met your animal or spirit guide or guides, call upon them in future journeys and ask them to help and guide you. 

If nothing seems to be happening in your journey, re-affirm your intent, your question or reason for journeying and wait.  If nothing persistently happens, it's the wrong day or the wrong question, so try again another time.

If you go to the Other-worlds with a load of silly or inappropriate questions, then, sooner or later, you will get no help and nothing will happen. Be respectful of the help you are being given. Journeys should be taken when you need clear guidance for your own or another’s personal development or healing.


Here are some reasons you might make a Shamanic journey:-


-To meet a Spirit Guide or Animal Helper.

-To meet and communicate with your gender opposite; your masculine self if you are a woman, your feminine self if you are a man.

-To interact with and learn from a crystal-being.

-To seek clarification about your life-path or clarify your next steps forward in life.

-To develop your spiritual path and contributions to the world.

-To find information about how to support a health need for yourself, another person or an animal.


Before you journey, spend some time considering your question.  Be clear about what you are asking when you want a clear response, although a broad question can be used such as “What is it I (or name of person) need(s) most at this time?”  I think it is important to gain permission to journey for another before you do so. 


One of my favourite ways to journey for another person is to ask them to write down a question on a piece of paper.  Do not look at the question on the paper yourself, so that when you journey you do not know what the question is, then journey on the question, “What is the answer to (person's name)'s question?” 


Afterwards, tell the person about your journey before they tell you what question they asked.  This is a great way to get confirmation that your conscious mind is not driving the process, it helps with gaining confidence in the process.


A word about doubt and scepticism.  It’s ok to have such thoughts, it can be quite healthy and human.  Keep checking in with yourself, “Do I feel that my journeys are genuine?  Am I getting into a deeper state of awareness before the journey begins?  Am I interfering with the journey by using my conscious mind?  Is it ok with me if I don’t completely understand how this works?”  People have been using this technique for tens of thousands of years.  Nowadays, we are so deeply rooted in the physical that we question everything that happens outside our daily reality. 


Ask yourself this; “Am I getting helpful and healing responses as I do this?  Is this benefitting my/others' personal journey through life and providing healing?  If this is nothing more than a psychological process involving my sub- or unconscious mind, is it still useful to me in a positive way?”  Anything that has worth and value needs time to grow and be nurtured within.  Confirmation of your practice will eventually become evident in your daily life.  Learn to listen to and trust your inner voice or intuition.