Shamanism has been of interest to me for quite some time ever since I found out that the Shamans of Inuit culture were able to astral travel through their dreams. That seems like a very long time ago now. Long before anybody in the mainstream was talking about ayahuasca and journeying to the jungle to connect with mother Gaia. I suppose that is where my particular journey began in a way. Not on an ayahuasca trip, on a quest for something deeper and greater than myself.
This quest initially lead to travel and engage with others who had been burdened with the same quest for belonging. That naively it might be a geographical location rather than where belonging might reside in the soul. I was a very long way from discovering what it might be to be off in search of people. What they might look like and who they might be. What I largely found was people medicating by location. The extremes that one might go to solve a problem by ways of distance and more than this the nihilistic recourse of escaping from escapism (that’s a thing).
It always fascinated me the lengths that people would go to, to belong, the places and subject that they might be engaged with in order to find themselves. Smoking opium and Buddhist mountain retreats seemed to flawlessly to stitch together the synergy of new-age consciousness and the sparks of spirituality. As ideas of The Global Village settled into our being one long haul flight after the other. Global Soul’s and Global Citizenry only now seemed to be entering the Global Consciousness now as part of the great pause.
To that end, I always felt very blessed that I had a religious upbringing and too some concept of a spiritual practice, even if I didn’t maintain one. In more recent years I found it deeply humbling to be blessed with the knowledge of where I actually come from geographically and how much comfort that has brought me.
You see while everyone else was running off to India and indeed foraging in the jungle it perplexed me deeply; What they would do when they got home? When they had transplanted the wisdom of another culture onto their own, completely denying the one that already resided there, which was, for the most part, Christianity, where I came from.
In later years it became clear that the quest for self-knowing and belonging was caught up in the idea of consumption, that we had to be somewhere else. Have something other and in many ways idolise the exotic in order to experience growth. It all seemed like fooey to me. Yet at the same time, I was deeply lost myself. Being endlessly evicted from my life and circumstances with the weight of emotion that nobody seemed to bear. I didn’t understand education. The idea of business seemed preposterous and more than that everywhere I went and no matter who I spoke to I was being asked to be everyone other than myself. All to fit in what was clearly a highly destructive system, that nobody else gave a fuck about. That everybody else had resigned themselves to be complicit in, while self-medicating and dreaming of escape and refusing to change anything. I was confused perplexed, disgusted by the consequences of these actions and the selfishness that drove them. It was clear we all lived in a deeply interconnected system that everyone was ignoring. How is the name of fuck was anybody motivated to participate in a life that benefitted the minority and question our right to exist anywhere beyond the space of corporate greed?
My quest for knowledge has pushed me into the depths of history, specifically the history of Scotland. In order to gain a better understanding of self and mitigate the rage I’ve been navigating all of my adult life. It was in this process that I begun to understand colonialism and even instigate my own form of decolonisation that worked around a better understanding of time in the personal sense, rather than the historical.
In recent months I’ve been thinking about Shamanism in relation to Scotland and in essence our lost ancient wisdom. I mean is it still there or just some kind of pseudo sacredness that has been derived from the ancient texts that weren’t burned in the fires of the reformation, along with our wise witches. We might use words like witches or even more recently Cailleach. The Scottish destroyer Creator Goddess of the Storms that each wise woman somehow embodies. The Cailleach certainly resonates with me even though my own ancient culture is lost to me. I’ve been calling in Kali for quite some time now. Finding divine feminine power all stirred together in the great boiling cauldron of creation seems therapeutic and appropriate.
As I grew up when we talk about Scottish wisdom it was barely a whisper. The oral histories were strong and women were stronger and the men were broken with the bars of their intoxication. Most of our wisdom is lost to us and at best hidden from us, the Scots. Unless you are Gaelic, speaking and even then it’s an archaic unfolding of what was a vanishing language, scattered among the isles.
I can hear the uproar now. For a woman that has been living outside the country for nearly twenty years I can understand why. Anyways I’m back now and ready to claim the ancient wisdom that I have to say I’ve been so desperately searching for all my life. You see that’s what they don’t tell you. That we are all misplaced. Even the book I was recently ready about witchcraft in the mid to modern period talking mainly about women using English folk magic. Which tells you a lot.
I have yet to unpack exactly what the use of an English Wisdom Keeper by richer English immigrants might have meant during this time. I’m doing my best not to jump to the conclusion I might want to. That Scottish magic was already being quietly pushed to one side in the prevailing geographic identities. That an internal xenophobia of the native might well indeed be the reason why the witch hunts started. A wee bit jealousy as a result of the local shamans being placed on the sideline. Of course, it is pure speculation. It is also pure speculation that magic-making was driven firmly underground.
Maybe this is how we lost magic. Maybe a war on between magicians started in Midlothian and spread globally. You see I write things and I find odd truth in them. Then you need to be open to the idea that JK Rowling was channelling something. Here in Edinburgh? Hmmm now, that had really given me food for thought.
The thing is even though Scotland may be all sorts of famous for out myths and legend we’ve lost our magic. Maybe that’s why the Scottish highlands is a placed renowned to be steeped in mystery because we simply don’t know who we are anymore or where our true power lies.
After finding out about the journey of the Sanusi I found out that you need to be called 9 times. Called to do what exactly, is still beyond me. Then I thought about it a bit more. Maybe it’s being called back to yourself. It made me think of the many Scottish people that I have met on my road through life specifically Scottish men. They were all in search of something. More than this they seemed to embody the wildness they were running from. They were lost in their own wildness. It was this that brought me to muse on The Lost Shamans of Scotland and how I might be one of them. You see on all my adventures through Scotland I’ve never met a psychic that did smoke and drink. Yet it’s not the story people want to hear. That where I come form whiskey is not just expensive it’s sacred. It holds our stories our values and it’s the glue that binds most relationships, both friendly and menacing and intimate together. Sometimes all at once
You see we do know our own magic in ways that can’t be fully explained, with a sadness and joy that can’t be diluted for easy consumption. It makes me think about Billy and one of the song’s he wrote. It expresses more about systemic trauma and displacement than I ever could with the idea of life on the road.
It reminds me of the working men I knew that would often go off on a bender maybe for a weekend sometimes for a month. Those wild men might wander out onto the road and accidentally stay there. Starting out with nothing more than a tweed blanket, some walking boots and a longing to be found. I’ve met so many of them on the road scratching at their soul and itching to get away no matter how far from home they might already be. These days I greet them as lost faithful friends, who share the same scratching at their soul. These are The Lost Shamans of Scotland.