Kenn Day discovered contemporary shamanism in his search for recovery. Day, a former art director for a local ad agency, struggled with depression, anxiety and PTSD. His quest for personal healing led him through traditional therapies. Yet he had little success until he explored contemporary shamanism.
The word “shamanism” may conjure images of smoke, voodoo, and rattling bones, but it is simply a spectrum of practices that are rooted deeply in the human condition. According to Day, there is a distinction between traditional and contemporary shamanism. He terms the latter “post-tribal shamanism,” which is different from the practices that were and still are practiced in tribal cultures. In his recently published book Post Tribal Shamansim: A New Look at the Old Ways, he discusses contemporary shamanism as a way to reconnect with our souls, our ancestors, the earth, and other important elements, not by returning to the past, but by moving forward into a deeper understanding of our place in the universe.
“In tribal cultures, the most important unit is the tribe as a whole, while the individual is relatively insignificant. In our post-tribal culture, it is the individual which is predominant,” said Day. He discusses how the ancient practices can be integrated in modern society for greater healing. Day acknowledges that shamanism in the modern context is a growing, thriving path.
According to Hank Wesselman Ph.D., an anthropologist who earned his degree from UC Berkley, today, “the shaman’s path can be partially understood in scientific terms. It is known, for example, that the nature of the visionary experience can be determined, to some extent, by our focused intentionality, but our belief systems, and by the setting in which we find ourselves.”
Both experts on contemporary shamanism emphasize utilizing traditional shamanic practices and wisdom to educate and ultimately heal the society. Day explains a major difference between ancient shamanism and contemporary shamanism is that the former focuses on community while the latter encourages individualism. Thus, there are some individuals who are awakened, but the greater society remains relatively uninformed.
“We’ve laid some good groundwork, though perhaps the greatest challenge is education – the education of our society. There are wounds that impact our whole culture, as well as entire families. We need to find more ways to bridge post-tribal shamanism into the modern consciousness. Our community is all around us, but to most of that community, we are still invisible,” said Day. This acknowledgement of shamanic wisdom is crucial for healing at an individual level, as Day has personally experienced, as well as for a larger, societal healing.
“By utilizing the shaman’s time-tested methodology, we can awaken from the consensus slumber of culture at large, and it then becomes possible to personally experience reunion with unlimited power … ” said Wesselman.