Shamanism can be a controversial topic, one laden with misconceptions and burdened by cultural misappropriations. For me personally it has ranged from the anthropological writings of Mircea Eliaae through the more practical aspects of Michael Harner's work, and includes one witch telling me confidently that the 'fourth degree' of witchcraft is that of the shaman. So, it's been a bit all over the place, and I can be more than a bit mistrustful of new authors' climbing on board the shamanism train. In my experience there are very few authors writing about shamanism and shamanic techniques I can whole-heartedly recommend.
So let me start by saying that Spirit Walking: A Course in Shamanic Power is a truly excellent, practical, book. There are numerous introductory texts on neoshamanism available, and most have the usual material — what is shamanism, how to journey, what are the three worlds, how to find a power animal, etc. Evelyn Rysdyk offers up her own interpretation of these ideas.
Shamanism, according to Rysdyk, is a 60,000 year old technique for accessing the unseen world and using it to provide insight, guidance, and healing for oneself and others. She states clearly that it is not a religion but a methodology grounded in nature and animism. As a result, it can exist as a series of techniques that do not interfere with one's personal religious beliefs. A Buddhist or a Christian can use these techniques as comfortably as a witch or pagan.
The shaman's role is to facilitate communication between humans and the spirits inhabiting other realms. It is a role based on alliances and harmonious give-and-take rather than (for example) the ceremonial magician's power-over paradigm. It is not a path of ego, but deep understanding of one's Self and inner nature. It is a path of confidence and thoughtfulness, one of caring for other's as much as of oneself. Rysdyk's shaman lives in a world of creation and connection, one where every living thing has an impact on every other living thing, right down to the DNA.
I do have a few small quibbles: I wanted more caution regarding meeting the various spirit beings and testing of their intent before accepting their relationship. I also wanted a little less hyper-romanticism of prehistoric living. But, as I said, these are small quibbles. There is an excellent bibliography and footnotes, although no index.
~review by Lisa Mc Sherry
Author: Evelyn C. Rysdyk
Red Wheel/ Weiser, 2013
pp. 246, $21.95