Our first human teacher of shamanism, Michael Harner, left the land of the living to join the Spirits on February 3rd. He left behind him a great legacy. No, not his organization, The Foundation for Shamanic Studies. The legacy he left behind are the thousands of people who have had their lives changed because he showed that the ability to do the shaman’s work is not limited to people living in tropical jungles or on the arctic tundra. The ability to intentionally contact and interact with the World of the Spirits is a human birthright, and Michael’s work helped to show how to do this without the use of drugs or psychotropic plants.

A true academician, he set up a formalized course of study leading to shamanic practice. For many, myself included, this seemed to be antithetical to the spirit of shamanism. In some traditions, it took only one experience of the Spirit World to initiate the shaman. In others, children were initiated as a normal part of their upbringing. But those of us born in the 20th and 21st centuries have many layers of socialization imposed upon us from childhood on, and many of us may be helped by a set structure to learn who we really are and what our true relationship to the Universe is. Others of us prefer a more open, natural way of study where we learn from a tree, a boulder, a moose calling its mate as the sunsets, or an adder basking in the morning Sun. However we come to it, once we learn to contact the Spirits and surrender to their wisdom, they become our true teachers.

We humans, and our Earth-home, have paid a huge price for what we refer to as “civilization” and the accompanying so-called “realism” which is the underpinning of the world’s economy today. This civilized realism has brought us environmental destruction in the name of progress, built on the backs of slave labor while it poisons the Earth, the food we eat and the water we drink. The shaman’s path leads us to other truths and other ways of being: the ways of nurturing, creativity and love.

As followers of the shamans’ paths we take it as a given that our ancestors influence who we are today, though we do not even know their names. Michael has gone to join the Ancestors, and in a hundred years his name may also be forgotten and still he will be part of the continuing change. But one person is not the reason for change. Change comes because of the hard work and dedication of the many. If we are to achieve a world where the bounties of Nature are revered and shared by all, it will be because of all of us. We need to hear the voices of All There Is – and follow their call.