Shamanism and Politics
I have given some thought to my role as a shaman, and what it means when I take a political stance. I work as a mediator between this world around me and the worlds of spirits and Gods. Am I imposing my will on this relationship when I take a stand? Am I speaking out of turn for Gods and spirits I work with by standing up for something? Am I doing a disservice to my Gods, my spirits, or those who would walk beside me in whatever stand I am taking?
There’s a lot of weighing on these, and similar questions that I do on a regular basis. I try to keep as informed as I can about issues, political, economical, religious, etc., that I find important, as well as issues I have taken up as part of my work with the Gods and spirits. I can’t just go with what feels right; I have to recognize, especially to people who have never met a Pagan, (let alone a shaman), that I am representing the Holy Ones I work with by my presence. Because of that, part of my duty, both to the communities I serve and to the Gods I serve, is to be as informed as I can be about both sides of an issue. Another is to conduct myself with discipline, and to speak clearly on issues when I raise my voice and when I am silent, to be silent for the right reasons.
There are times where silence is best, and there are times when silence is giving tacit admission for injustices to continue, abuses to occur, and lies to be spread. There are times when fiery rhetoric damages not only your own reputation, but that of what you’re working for. There are times where you walk alongside people who you ordinarily might not associate with, when your views intersect with those who are usually your opponents on other issues. When I don’t know what to do, I pray. I ask the Runes for help. I seek out trusted friends, and colleagues. I look to others who have been in my shoes. Sometimes, when I feel called to say something, I wait until I’m more sure of myself. Sometimes I say it in the heat of the moment. There is nothing that I do that does not have rippling effects. That is a powerful truth in and of itself.
A lot of powerful movements started with religious leaders and people deeply inspired by their religion. Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Richard Austin, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Starhawk, Wangari Maathai, all of these people, and many more, were inspired by their religion to change the world for the better. Abolition of slavery, the Hindu uprising and retaking of their country from the British, the Civil Rights movement, the environmentalist movements of the 60s and 70s, the end of Apartheid, the current environmentalist movement, the Gay Rights movement, and many more, all have drawn inspiration, strength, and/or were in part or in whole, created by people inspired by their religion to make their world a better place for all. What is also powerful about each person, is that all of their movements started small. Very small. A few people gathering around a resolution of nonviolence, a few people huddled in a NAACP meeting, a single preacher struggling to push his congregation to hear the cries of the world, a single woman speaking out in a country ruled by men. Even the Occupy Wall Street movement, which is now sweeping the country, started with just a few protesters.
As I’ve said several times on this blog, and elsewhere, a shaman is involved in their community. Their actions ripple throughout the communities they are in, as surely as any other member’s. To me, to choose to not be involved gives up opportunities for positive change within one’s community, and wider society. Non-involvement takes away a powerful tool for helping one’s communities come into better alignment with the spirits. It takes away your own ability to make your voice heard. It allows policies to move forward without your input. It can stifle what may be the only dissenting opinion, or it can quiet someone looking for others to stand up with them. It might be your voice that pushes the next Mahatma Gandhi or Wangari Maathai to act. It might be your actions that inspire the next Richard Austin or Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It might be your example that pushes people to rise up to a challenge. Anyone, not just shamans, not just religious leaders, anyone, can change this world for the better. You just need to make the choice and follow through on that choice. It may take years for the change to happen. You may not even see the full fruits of it. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would never see the full fruits of his Civil Rights work. Yet, all of us have benefited. The same can be said if you take up politics to change this world for the better.
Where do I see shamanism and politics? I don’t see them as opposed. I see them as potential partners in making this world a better place.
Here are some resources on religious people who, through their work have changed our world:
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.