What about Rumplestiltskin?
It’s an interesting conversation...fairytales...how much have we got it wrong?
How much have we twisted them to fit our own agendas over the centuries?
What if they were never morality tales at all but teaching tales, what would be the difference?
What if every single Being we meet in them actually exists or has existed just as we do but in the Unseen Realms?
That there stories are valid, as vital as our own?
How would our relationship to them change?
How differently would we treat them?
What if Rumplestiltskin was never the bad guy but a wronged guy?
How would that change things?
I find myself falling down the figurative rabbit hole, which is an interesting thought in itself given the subject matter of linking fairy tales and shamanism.
Though not strictly a fairy tale, Alice in Wonderland is a fantastic example of a shamanic journey experience in story form. With journeys into the Lower World, we always begin with a hole in nature we have personally visited, be it a toilet, a grave, an actual rabbit hole. When I started searching for websites and articles in response to the questions above that I had been asking myself, I found I used the term with a sigh – I am falling down the rabbit hole, then smiled at the obvious comparison, I am beginning a shamanic journey, my mission to find where fairy tales and shamanism meet.
Shamanism never leads us where we quite expect to go.
I realise I say it a lot, but I will come back to this, and I promise, it is on my list of topics, I will keep coming back here again and again, I smile once more, I see how it weaves the different aspects of me together too, answers the question of where I meet myself, how the Faerytale Apothecary and Elizabeth Jane Lovely can interact.
But despite a hugely fascinating path to stick with, I don’t want to stray too far from my beginning point, what or rather who started me diving deeper.
There is a saying in core shamanism (I promise I will explain these things further, you will just have to keep coming back, cheeky winking face!) where we refer to our spirit, our nature and our human teachers.
My mind wandering to thoughts of Rumplestiltskin came from my wonderful human teacher Zara Waldeback (Scandinavian Centre for Shamanic Studies). She used this story of an example that when we ask for help from the spirits, we do not break the bargain. Ever. That his story would have originally been used as a message from the spirit teachers, a teaching tale of how best to conduct business, how to interact respectfully with these beings from Other Realms.
Okay, hold on, let me back track slightly, with an apology. A dear friend reminded me that what is everyday and normal for me is probably not everyday and normal for other people!
Core Shamanism in one sentence-ish!
In the late 1960s, an American anthropologist Michael Harner spent time with indigenous cultures in South America. He soon realised that simple observation just wouldn’t work in understanding the spiritual belief systems of the people he visited, he would have to experience the practices alongside them. Fast track a couple of years to the early 1970s and he is in Connecticut teaching what he has learned so far to small groups of people. One of these techniques was the use of repetitive drumming to alter brain states and open the way to connecting with what Carlos Casteneda referred to as Non-Ordinary reality. Harner went on to start the Foundation for Shamanic Studies and explore what shamanism across the world had in common. It always came back to one thing...no spirits, no shaman...the ability to communicate, to interact with these other worlds. I am incredibly fortunate that my other human teacher from the Scandanivian Centre for Shamanic Studies Jonathan Horwitz was one of Michael Harner’s early students alongside Joan Halifax, Sandra Ingerman and other notable practitioners in Western Shamanism.
Core Shamanism is the term Harner coined to group together the commonalities he found in his research and is the basis for how shamanism is practised in the west today. Of course, there is a heap of criticism about it, about the use of the term, about our right to practice shamanism at all in western culture...I can only speak for my own journey, my own experiences, my own respect for the work.
Then I sidetrack again to how fairy tales were so vastly different before the witch hunts began in the 1400s to how we know them today. And let’s not even begin to go there on how religion shaped them to there own agenda.
However, this is another intersection between fairy tales and shamanism, both seem to adapt to the needs of the community. Is how we find the stories and the practices in this modern era how we need to work with the stories and the practices? We can never ever be sure of how any of these things were in their original state, even archaeologists will admit often it is simply best guesses and nothing more.
Or we can go to the source and simply ask them – how is it best for me to work with you? What do I need to know at this time?
When we begin a shamanic journey, begin intentionally contacting the other worlds, we set just that, an intention or mission. I think of it like a phone number. I’m finding what I need to dial to make sure I connect properly.
Maybe we can approach stories this way too?
I had it so clear, I wanted to rewrite his story, show how he was a benign spirit helper who has been wronged, tricked out of a bargain, just as my human teacher told me he had been. Then as I read the Brothers Grimm version, I felt myself getting angry at how the miller and the king exchange the daughter like a commodity. I began to see something else too. That his asking her to find his name is an invitation, an extended hand to learning the true language, what underpins all of it – both stories and shamanism – not a picked apart rationalism but a poetic heart speak.