Shamanism and Trance Work For Overcoming Queer Trauma
Shamanism as a spiritual practice has deep roots in indigenous and tribal traditions. Humans have used shamanism for millennia to communicate with the spirit realm to bring through information and healing. Shamanism is believed to have originated in the Siberian religion of Northern Asia, but shamanic practices have been found in almost every continent and culture. Each region would have their own unique rituals and traditions, however certain common core elements were found in spite of these differences across distance and time. It is these core practices that inform shamanic work today and that the Unnamed Path also integrates into its workings. Ancestor worship, spirit-based healing and transformation, and developing relationships with spirits are elements that the Unnamed Path embrace as practices through the path of Shamanism.
To be respectful of the indigenous cultures that Shamanism originates from and the role of the Shaman itself, Unnamed Path initiates do not name themselves as “Shamans” but will will say that they are shamanic practioners, do journey work or spiritual courtship.
A shamanic journey is undertaken to connect with deities, ancestors and nature spirits in order to gain insight and wisdom and also bring healing to oneself or others. There are many different ways to journey, but all involve entering into an altered state of consciousness. In this state we are more receptive to signals from spirit. Typically this is accomplished through the use of a sonic driver such as the beating of a drum or other rhythmic musical instrument. The repetitive beat can assist in shifting consciousness from an alert and active state to a more meditative state. In the past, shamans also used plant medicine that permit access to higher levels of being. Dance and other ecstatic practices can also assist in accessing altered consciousness. Once in an altered state of consciousness, the shamanic practitioner will craft an intention and then journey through the three worlds and make contact with their spirit helpers and allies. Receiving messages or healing experiences can take place and be integrated once the journey is completed.
Trance work is a complementary spiritual practice to shamanic journey work that also entails entering a meditative state to commune with spirit. Trance work can be done individually but is often led by an experienced practitioner who will lead a group through a guided visualization.
Overcoming Queer Trauma
In their tribes, Shamans were the healers and would conduct journeys to bring medicine or do soul retreivals as a form of healing from trauma. Shamanic practices are used today for the same purpose of recovering from psychological wounds and trauma.
As a gay or queer individual, childhood is often marked by the wound of otherness and isolation. Fear of judgment or shame can result in repressed feelings, self-worth difficulties, and traumatic incidents. Despite advances in LGBTQIA+ rights and representation, many societies worldwide still do not openly accept queerness, making one’s identity appear “wrong” from a young age. Negative religious messaging can also split queer youth from their connection to spirituality and spirit. Despite moving into new environments that can be more accepting, individuals may carry over past limiting beliefs that keep them from living as fully and authentically as they would like.
Shamanic journey work can be an empowering and healing experience in addressing queer trauma. In the Unnamed Path, we journey and connect to the tribal current of the Ancestors of Men Who Love Men. Around their bonfire, we find connection, love, healing, purpose and can reclaim the gifts of what it means to be part of this tribe. Wounds can be transformed, shame and fear transmuted, sexuality and spirituality can be integrated.
During apprenticeship in the Unnamed Path, students are guided in shamanic journeys and trance work to make contact with the deities of the path as well as with the Ancestors of Men Who Love Men. Relationships are made with helping spirits and with the shadow part of ourselves. This healing and integration is a powerful experience which makes journeywork a foundational practice in the Path.