I began my entry into shamanism after a powerful awakening experience in 2016 that revealed to me the depth of Spirit within me and within all things. It was a deep remembering that was activated for me when I was in meditation and dedicated myself to what the Native Americans call “the red road,” or what Dr. Michael Harner of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies calls “the way of the shaman,” and what I now call “the medicine path.”
Fresh out of a semester in a Counseling Psychology PhD program and after living in the academic world for sometime, to begin my medicine path I was drawn to the Foundation for Shamanic Studies—an anthropologically based, cross-cultural research organization that teaches “core shamanism.” It was through the FSS that I took my first workshop in Shamanism. It was also through their listings that I found my first shamanic teacher Kaweah Lemeshewsky—a Native/Asian American woman who combines her trainings from the FSS with her own indigenous cultural heritage and training. Kaweah led me through powerful initiations, taught me foundations, and helped me begin my medicine path with grace, wisdom, beauty, and integrity.
Since those beginnings in 2016 I have had many different teachers and learned from many different bodies of knowledge. Some of my teachers and bodies of knowledge have been in integrity, and some have not. All the while, through this journey, I have been learning more and more about the deep and bloody truth of the roots of white supremacy and colonization, and their manifestation in what we today call “shamanism”. This ancient truth and way of being that is indigenous and natural to ALL peoples of the earth—the first spirituality of humanity—has been oppressed by genocide, corrupted by greed and fear, and commodified and profited off of by capitalism through cultural appropriation.
For instance, the term “Shaman” is the term for a medicine man or woman from Siberia. This is specific to their culture, but has been appropriated by colonial academia to be a blanket term for the medicine person and medicine way (e.g., shamanism) regardless of the cultural origins. From Native American Headdresses made in Bali to Central American Cacao Ceremonies ran for profit by white folx, to imitation Native American beaded earrings and feathers being mascaraed as legit, to buying Palo Santo and sage in the grocery store in plastic packaging, the white western corporate machine has appropriated, capitalized, and profited off of sacred traditions and tools from many oppressed indigenous Medicine cultures. The sacred tools and practices have been ripped away from their cultural roots and marketed as fast and easy ways for white folx to get a taste of some exotic trending Earth based spirituality.
More of the bloody truth of colonization is that it has sought to erase indigenous wisdom and spirituality from ALL of us. Many of the white folx who engage in cultural appropriation do so not out of malice, but a deep hunger for a sacred connection to the Earth, and an unconscious and unrealized yearning for their own ancestral medicine path roots. However, this is not an excuse for the perpetuation of colonization culture, and the continued willful ignorance and oppression of BIPOC through cultural appropriation. For white folx to partake in indigenous medicine practices, tools, and ceremonies when those practices, tools and ceremonies have not been offered freely and with permission by those cultures, and/or have been completely divorced from their cultures of origin and the sacredness of their roots, is simply more of the same violence of colonization, with a new face in this modern era.
As a white woman who has benefited off of the oppression of BIPOC I have struggled with my identity as a healer and medicine woman. I have been a part of the problem and at times I have struggled to see the white supremacy within me and the cultural appropriation and white privilege I have engaged in. I recognize now that I must walk my path with great humility and an ever present awareness of the ease by which I can misappropriate cultures of oppressed peoples, because of the ways white supremacy has benefited me in my life, and taught me that I have a right to appropriate whatever I desire. I am not apart from this disease of our ancestors. It lives and in breathes within me.
My ancestors have been the oppressors and the oppressed. I was born in the “USA” on land that was taken by genocide and violence. I grew up in a culture that didn’t teach me about white supremacy as a problem, but implicitly and explicitly taught me it as a way of life.
Thus as a person of white skin, with much white privilege in my life—and as a medicine woman committed to Healing and Truth—much of my path is about seeing, understanding, rectifying and healing the white supremacy within me. This is the only way I can truly walk my medicine path in integrity and be a real ally to my BIPOC kin and to the Earth, who all need me to do this work.
This cultural Disease of Supremacy that teaches us that being white, heterosexual, gendered, rich, able bodied, and a man is the best way to be, has infested the very fabric of our lives. It has created millennia of violence, war, genocide, slavery, systematic oppression and ecological devastation to our Earth. It lives and breathes in the collective unconscious, our cultures, our media and institutions, our psyches, and our DNA. While we all have a sacred responsibility to address this in ourselves and in our communities, as a medicine woman this is a foundation of my path. It has taken me some time to get to this point of understanding, but I am grateful to finally be here.
As a white skinned medicine woman dedicated to addressing the white supremacy within me, it is also essential that I reclaim my own ancestral roots and indigenous medicine practices, which white supremacy has sought to erase from me as well. There is a deep call within me to connect to the roots of my Celtic and Druid Ancestors, my Germanic Ancestors, my French Ancestors, and my Cherokee Ancestors. There has been fear and shame around my ancestors for me. Because of the deep trauma I have experienced in my own family, I have been angry towards and resistant of my familial roots. While I understand these feelings, and have compassion for them, I also understand that my ancestors need me, and that I need them. We are in this together and it is only through a living and breathing connection with one another that we can heal the trauma and disease within our family line and create a better future for our descendants. I have come to the point in my journey where I hear the call—it is time to deeply dive into relation with my ancestors. I have begun to connect with my ancestors and am truly humbled and blessed by their presence and power in my life. They have so much to teach me and I have only just begun to listen and learn.
I am human. I know that my bones and my blood are my gift from my ancestors and my responsibility for my descendants. I am not an island. I am but one stream in a long and ever flowing river of life blood on this Earth. In the great web of time I have lineages on this Earth that call out to me from my very DNA to be remembered and renewed. I have lineages yet to be born that call to me from my womb to take responsibility and to do the work, for them and for all life on this beloved and beautiful Earth.
I recognize that while I am human in this incarnation, that I am also not simply a human. I am of the stars. My soul lineage goes far beyond this beautiful Earth Mother, and my soul is a medicine soul. Through many lifetimes I have been a healer and medicine being walking the good road of being a servant to Source, and a vessel for Spirit, in many places and planes of existence. Part of my medicine path in this lifetime is also to deeply connect with my soul lineage beyond the Earth plane—to connect with my true soul essence and my relations from other stars and dimensions. I am called to be a conduit for them—for their wisdom and healing to be shared through me—for the benefit of all life on this Earth and throughout the cosmos.
With all of this, there is something new and unique that wishes to be birthed through me. A sweet and righteous synthesis of all that “I AM”—human and spirit, starlight and stardust, body, mind and soul. As we exist in the time of the Sixth Sun, it is a time of remembering our roots and honoring our ancestors, but also for us to be the portals through which Spirit births new ways of being and connecting with the Divine here on Earth. As we connect with our ancient roots, we are also being called to become the newancient roots for the great growth that will come through our descendants into the heights of the next Golden Era. New traditions are needed. New ways of being. New medicine paths.
As I continue to do the work—to dismantle and heal the white supremacy within me, to connect with my ancestors and my heritage, to honor the unique expression of my soul and its own ancient Truth renewed and reimagined in this lifetime—I weave together the tapestry of me. Of my own healing and liberation. Of my own medicine path.
And so I pray:
I bow to the Great Spirit within me and within all things. I pray for grace and compassion. I pray for forgiveness and integrity. I pray to purify myself, mind, body, and spirit so that I may be a pure vessel for Divine Love and Truth to root through me and into the Earth. I pray for my Ancestors—be healed and be at peace. I pray for my Descendants—be whole and be in hope. I pray that I may heal and reawaken so that I can be in right relation with all of life. I pray to the Benevolent Star Nations who are Ancestors of this Earth and watch over us—please bring us guidance and healing so we may be free. I pray for patience. I pray to the Angels, Ascended Masters, and my Benevolent Earth Ancestors to guide me and be with me on this path. I pray to the Divine Mother to help me release my burdens and to be as you are in all that you are. I pray to the True Father to help me stand tall and take right action, and to be like you and use my power for the highest and greatest good of all. I pray to the Sun within me, to my True Essence and beauty, to ever be my light showing me the way, in all ways and all things.
And so it is. Amen. And Blessed Be.
With love and gratitude,
Alicia Sunflower (aka Alicia Gleason, MS, LMHC, NCC)