Searching for the European Shaman
First some background. Europe's shamanic tradition, in my opinion, mostly evolved into other forms before it was lost, and this makes it a bit obscure... To the degree that some scholars have insisted that Europe was never a shamanic culture. I disagree, and I explain in detail in the fully researched article on this subject.
Not to mention that this statement does not apply to all European cultures, as we know that shamanic practices continued strongly among the Saami of Lapland, the Magyars of Hungary, and among pockets of ethnic minority groups in rural areas of the Slavic lands, such as the Mari of Russia.
The Three Tiered World
Shamanic cultures tended to view the world in three-tiers:
The realm of the gods and higher spirits above, the material mortal world in the middle, and the underworld below. Anyone familiar with European pre-Christian tradition will find this familiar.
In this view of the cosmos, these three realms are connected by an axis, and it is by this axis that communication and journeying betwixt the realms can occur.
This axis is often viewed as a World Tree. (Germanic myth aficionados will be screaming "duh, Yggdrasil!")
"Shamans, Sorcerers, and Saints" is an excellent overview on the topic of worldwide shamanism as well as its presence in European culture. (It is also available used at a discount, click the image to view on Amazon).
The Evolution of the Shaman
In the European tradition, it is my opinion that the role of the shaman evolved into the role of the Wise Person.
There are many names for this, and among them, the Anglo-Saxon language, were "Wicce" (Witch-uh) and Wizard. Wicce is remembered as the Witch.
In archaic English, the "ard" ending was indicative of a name given to a person who embodied the attributes of whatever adjective was joined to the first part of the word.
So, a Sluggard is a sluggish, lazy individual. A Wiz-ard is one who is wise.
We view these figures as very silly today because they have only been remembered in fairytales.
But, let me tell you something, therein lies the keys to our ancient cultural unconscious. Deep spirituality is remembered in our own folk and fairy tales.
We now know that fairy tales have origins dating back thousands of years, far more ancient than we ever imagined.
While it's often said that paganism died out in Europe, I argue very strongly that our ancient spiritual beliefs were very much alive in the folk culture.
The Wandering Wizard
This is explained a bit more in my article on this, but the Volvas were "magical" women whom you might also call witches or shamans. They wandered the lands in Scandinavia offering their services, and the staff was one of their accoutrements.
Today, we have lost the connection between wandering shamans and wandering musicians. You can read about the ancient pagan roots of Christmas Caroling, which is related to this, and a tie in between caroling and traveling pagan healers that lived on in Hungary in my article The Hidden History of Christmas Carols. But, this is a topic that I will need to explore more deeply in future.
Suffice to say that when I saw Annie Lennox's Christmas Carol music video, either the director knew of this ancient connection and they purposefully represented it, OR this is a prime example of the cultural unconscious remembering deep and meaningful parts of our past without our own knowledge that we our doing it.
The Significance and Symbolism of the Wizard's Staff
In the European tradition, the Wizard carries a staff which is viewed as an emblem of his other worldly power. Why? Because the staff symbolizes the axis betwixt the worlds!
The staff symbolizes the Wizard's ability to transmit energy and his ability to draw upon forces that regular folk, uninitiated and untrained, cannot see with their eyes focused only on Middle Earth.
For the Wizard, the staff symbolizes inter-dimensional communication and astral travel.
Who else carries such a symbol? You've got it! The European Witch with her broom stick, upon which she has the ability to soul-journey!
I'm here to tell you right now that we have not been cut off from our own indigenous spiritual roots as ethnic-Europeans. It has been present with us this entire time in our own folk tradition. All we need is someone with the keys to unlock the hidden treasures that are locked therein. And I am working very hard at developing these keys which I will gladly continue to share with you.
More on European Shamanism
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