Archives for posts with tag: Mircea Eliade
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Shamanic Journeys Through Daghestan

BOOK REVIEW

My first experience of this author was reading his book Shamanic Journeys Through the Caucasus and you will find a very positive review here:

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/2017/04/06/book-review-for-shamanic-journeys-through-the-caucasus-by-michael-berman/

I really enjoyed that book because if offered interesting material about an area I could barely pinpoint on the map. That is to say I can locate the Caucasus area on a map but I certainly could not have named individual countries before reading these two books by Michael Berman! (Shame on me, I know!)

Having said that, this book, offers a lot of repetition. A lot of the same material and quotes appear all over again. I just checked which one came first but both books were published in the year 2009.

The author also uses the same lengthy Mircea Eliade quotes again and do not get me wrong, I am a great admirer of Eliade’s work – I often quote him myself to students!!

The actual content of this book boils down to a few stories you will not find anywhere else. It is probably worth reading for that reason alone, definitely so if you have ancestors from this area or if you are a scholar studying this area.

However, assuming that both books will (largely) attract the same audience, I cannot see the purpose of so much repetition. If ever there will be a reprint I would hope that both books are merged and edited sharply so this book becomes a chapter in the more comprehensive Caucasus book.

Michael Berman (sadly no longer with us) did ground breaking work. He brings us stories (and investigates evidence of shamanism) in a part of the world only few of us are likely to visit. For that alone he deserves a lot of credit and his books selling long after his death. I just wish that he’d had a talented editor working with him so the material would have condensed into something less “laboursome” (is that a word?!) for other to read.

I just checked and yes, the word exists!

BUT  you will find some brilliant insights in this book and information I have never stumbled across elsewhere.

A book I am happy to give a good home on my shelf! You can find it on amazon:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Shamanic-Journeys-Through-Daghestan-Michael/184694225X/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497549969&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=Shamanic+journeys+in+Daghestan

Imelda Almqvist

 

About the author

Imelda Almqvist’s book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon Books in August 2016.  She is based in London,UK and teaches shamanism and sacred art internationally.  She is a presenter on Year of Ceremony for Sounds True.

www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk

It is a rare treat to have a book in your hands that offers tales and folklore from countries that, in truth, I barely knew existed. We have all heard of  the War in Chechnya (sadly) and I adore Armenian medieval music, to the point of dreaming of going there! Other than that I could not have named or found the following countries on world map: Ingushetia, Daghestan or North Ossetia. Could you?! Hint: they are situated between The Black Sea and the Caspian Sea in an otherworldly liminal zone that forms a natural border between Europe and Asia.

This book tells ancient tales and describes folklore and customs from this area. The author is actively looking for evidence of shamanic practices – and he finds many indication that indigenous forms of shamanism were indeed practiced here. As a shamanic teacher I always love hearing about the cosmology and spiritual practices of tribal peoples. These countries sit on the mountainous “spine” that divides Europe from Asia and because of their strategic position they have seen more than their fair share of upheaval and ideological persecution. This means that ancient tribal practices go strong in inaccessible regions but also that there are many overlays of other religions and influences (from Zen Buddhism and Sufi Mysticism to Communism trying to impose atheism).

I love the wealth of detail Berman shares in this book. This is information I would simply not have had access to had he not written the book. The book is based on his own travels and a lot of research. I also like the way he frames the stories by actually understanding shamanism “from the inside out” so to speak. (I looked at his author page and he himself trained in core shamanism). This is relatively rare: I have read many books about tribal peoples, cave art and folklore where the author ultimately did not understand the “otherworld dimension” of the material they were presenting. That can make for frustrating reading, to see fundamental concepts misrepresented or ignored.

This book is a gem! The only negative, in my opinion is that Berman tends to repeat chunks of information he has already presented. Some chunks or passages appear three times in the book. The explanations of shamanic cosmology are lengthy too and pretty exhaustive (he quotes Mircea Eliade extensively). Then again, as a shamanic teacher I am very familiar with this material – but most readers will not be. They may well welcome those elaborate explanations!

If you are shamanic practitioner, story teller, explorer, mythology lover or keen collector of folklore and wonderful tales – this is the book for you!

This author has written many other books on related subjects. I have just started “Shamanic Journeys Through Daghestan”. Keep an eye out for my next book review!

Imelda Almqvist

About the author:
Imelda Almqvist’s book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon Books on 26th August 2016.  She is based in London,UK and teaches shamanism and sacred art internationally.

www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/

http://shamanismsummit.com/

 OTHER WORLD JOURNEYS: IMELDA ALMQVIST ART

In the mythology of ancient Egypt, there is a constant battle between Ra, the Creator Sun God and the Chaos Serpent Apep. The Sun God travelled in his barque across the sky. During the night hours of darkness,  he travelled through the underworld, where he meets the demonsand the deities of each region, as well the blessed dead and the condemned. Throughout the night Ra had to contend with his arch enemy Apep, but inthe last hours he himself entered a great snake, from which he emerged rejuvinated, to be reborn at dawn. The sun’s cycle was celebrated daily in many temples

 

A few months ago I had a dream about The Tower of Initiation. It is a skyscraper in the spirit world where there is a room for every single person alive to work through their process of initiation at any time. I was taken on a tour and observed many teenagers working through issues of initiation in a padded cell where they could kick and scream – with their family bearing witness and holding them in unconditional love. I was shown larger rooms, that looked like a meeting or conference room, where adults were working through initiations in the form of traumatic encounters with significant people in their lives. Angelic and human beings witnessed this and filled the room with Divine love but no judgement or interference whatsoever. It was understood that initiation is a sacred process and needs to unfold in sacred time, not human time. We can never judge or hurry another human being  who is working a great process of ‘soul transition’ – thinking here of what physicists call  ‘phase transitions’ (like a fluid becoming gas etc.)

This morning I woke up and realised that I had revisited the same dream or the same Tower of Initiation but this time the dream had gone one step further. I realised that the Tower of Initiation is also the ‘Tower or House of the Rising Sun’. (And yes, that is the title of a song by The Animals and I will post a link below so you can hear the music!)

Last time I had the dream (in March this year) I walked my youngest son to school at the exact time that the sun would have risen to the point where it hits a local tower so it looks as if this tower is on fire. The building glows in an otherworldly way and the sun is reflected in many separate windows. I will post a photograph at the bottom of this piece.

It showed me, in very visual form, that every initiation in a human being’s life is a space between ‘sunset and sunrise’ in the internal world. Encountering pain and darkness and not being sure you will find the way out – but ultimately rising, like a phoenix from the ashes, reborn, a different person with a different set of values and priorities, a different perception of life.

Initiation is not always understood in our society. By becoming obsessed with youth and looking young we have deprived ourselves of elders – who traditionally hold initiation rites for teenage boys. Some would say that we have traded going to church for going shopping (visit any UK shopping mall on a Sunday morning!) When people  go through a great personal crisis, we feel sorry for them or even avoid them at times – as if such things are contagious. We do now always know how to see them in their divinity and hold non-judgmental and unconditional love for them.

Initiation is never easy. In indigenous societies there is no guarantee that young boys or shamans in training will survive initiation. Just as a century ago there was no guarantee what women would survive childbirth. Modern life has become ‘sanitized’ and obsessed with what so called  ‘Health & Safety’ regulations in the UK.

What my dream showed was both that no one escapes initiation – there literally was a room for EVERYONE ON EARTH in that huge tower. That initiations unfold in sacred time, not on human timelines. And most importantly that there were sacred witnesses in every room of that tower (human as well as angelic and divine) observing with unconditional love and no interference. We do not help people by short-cutting or fool-proofing their process of initiation.

My dream was suggesting that we create sacred space in both our hearts and communities (i.e. physical space) for initiation to unfold in sacred ways) and that we look upon this process as natural and essential as ‘sunset and sunrise’ in a person’s life.

And of course we all know that the sun sets (from earthling point of view) but on another level planet earth moves around the sun and sunset/sunrise are opnly a window of perception and perspective.

Ultimately all of us are held in unconditional Divine Love always – but it doesn’t always feel like that here on earth. My dream told me that without the ‘book ends’, without those sacred times of initiation, we DO NOT LEARN on Planet Earth.  We get stuck in our personal comfort zone and we get busy with urgent things, not important things (like shopping!).

I wanted to share this dream as I think initiation is a concept that needs to return to our awareness. Just as a colleague and I have returned initiation to shamanic work we are doing with young people:

http://www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk/info2.cfm?info_id=204756

 

Here is a summary of what Mircea Eliade says about  initiation in his book ‘The Sacred and the Profane’, from http://www.bytrentsacred.co.uk/index.php/eliade-sacred-and-profane/4-sacred-self

Initiation

Initiation now comes to occupy Eliade’s attention. Regarding his primitive cultures, he distinguishes between age group initiations, in which everybody had to take part, and secret society initiations, which had restricted admission. He also emphasises the role of initiation in informing religious consciousness.

The phenomenon of initiation reveals archaic man’s religious idealism. It shows that he felt a need to rise above his natural self, by imitating the initiation rites of the gods, heroes or ancestors described in his mythology.

Typically, archaic initiation rites imparted three kinds of revelation: about the sacred, about death and about sexuality. They meant subjecting initiates to some kind of symbolic death, followed by rebirth as a new person. Eliade refers very briefly to various examples of both puberty and secret society initiation rites, revealing that at the level of detail the symbolism varied from culture to culture.

Amd here is the Tower of the Rising Sun in New Cross Gate…

Sun Tower London 2014

THE TOWER OF THE RISING SUN (NEW CROSS GATE, SE LONDON)

The House of the Rising Sun by The Animals:

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRXb7K7k7bQ

Imelda Almqvist

 www.imelda-almqvist-art.com

http://www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk