Pagan blog project: when Journeywork isnt Journeywork

Journeywork, shamanism, animal totems… It’s all you read about these days. I see so much of it I would almost assume that this is what everyone is doing, right? And if everyone is doing it, it must be easy, right? And if I can’t do it, it must be an issue with me, right?

Only life isn’t that simple. Shamanism and journeywork aren’t things that everyone can do, they aren’t our heritage or birthright. Look at tribal cultures across the globe. If we imagine a tribe of 50 people, how many of those would be shamans? 2? 1? I want to be very clear here, since this is a controversial topic. IMO, if you haven’t been initiated, you aren’t a shaman. And if you aren’t a shaman, there is a chance you don’t have the mental wiring or spiritual support to do journey work. This is not a fad, this isn’t the next cool thing to do in the pagan community. This is something that I almost died for.

You heard that right. I died and they rewired my brain. On the plus side, I can talk to Gods and spirits and I am starting to see ghosts and other… things. On the minus side, I have sacrificed my chance for a child and my chance to be “normal”. By normal, I mean… not having people look at you weird in the grocery store when you smile at them, being able to follow a conversation at work and not slowly be phased out of the talking because you cant relate and you cant keep up. I wont get a chance to go back to school and finish my degree, I have other things I need to do. This isn’t whining, this is called tradeoffs. We all have them, we all have to chose.

Did I have a choice? I’m not so sure. Somewhere along the line, after a hospitalization for mental illness, homeless for a year and an illness that had me in fevers and hallucinating for appx 3 weeks, somewhere in there choice became a moot point. I have mourned the loss of “normal” and the loss of any children I might have had and then I have picked myself off, dusted off the dirt and moved on down the path.

So here comes the controversial part: do I think that core shamans and shamanic practitioners and little Betty Wiccan/Druid/Kemetic down the road are doing journeywork? No. Do I think that anyone besides shamans are doing journeywork? Yes. They are the witches and seers and hedgewitches and oracles and siedhworkers and spirit-touched and God-chosen. They are the hidden and the unseen and the ones who DON’T talk about their work and WON’T put their latest travel on their public blog. If someone online and in a public setting says “Oh yeah, I do it all the time and its perfectly safe” chances are they have no idea what they are talking about. But if you peel back the layers and you see hints of death and blood and madness and them lying on the floor crooning kill me… just let me die… just let it be over, I guarantee that you have found a true practitioner.

Journeywork is NOT safe. Those spirits don’t care if you come back in one piece, five pieces or at all.

Journeywork is NOT easy. It takes practice and training and dedication. It has taken me 3 years to learn it, and I only get it right about 30% of the time.

You can’t learn this in a weekend class or seminar. You learn it by dying and then learning how to make your way back from the dead.

I can’t teach you if you aren’t already on the path.

Ok rant over.

I can see your sad faces “But Raan, I really wanted to learn how to visit cool places.” Well, you can. Its called guided meditation. Journeying to you inner psyche is still as cool and untamed and dangerous as journeying to NOR, the difference is anyone can do it cause the majority of us have psyches. The trick is it is your own inner landscape. Want to heal? What to unleash your potential? What to give up bad habits and anger and other things holding you back? Want to meet totems and spirit guides? You can do all of that, I promise.

Google guided meditation and close your eyes and click and most of the links will take you someplace good. You can even listen to drumming. I love you guys so much I’m gonna link my favorite MP3’s here. Its in German which I don’t speak or read but the music is awesome.

Its not journeywork, but hey, someone has got to maintain the sanity, yes?



  1. Excellent! It seems 1 out of 3 pagans around here call themselves ‘Shaman’ and I know that most of them are from the IRABO (I Read A Book Once) tradition. Thank you for such a wonderful rant & education.

  2. Cat says:

    Thank you for this post. I don’t have a direct reply to what you said other than the lengthy replies I left on my own blog just now, but I think you nicely summed up the distinction between the (at least) two very different kinds of journeying people are writing and talking about. And while I still sense a healthy(!) amount of anger at people who refuse to accept there isn’t just one kind of journeying nearly all of us can do, I also hear you clearly on why you would insist on the distinction so strongly. I believe if I had (almost) died for something, I’d feel equally strong about people who claimed it was the same as what they learned just last weekend in a workshop which was amazing and great fun…

  3. Cat says:

    P.S. As someone who does read and speak German, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this website (they also claim that everyone can learn to journey shamanically, and seem to be a bit all over the place in their writing). The drumming may of course still be fine.

  4. Raan says:

    Oh you guys are too nice!! I should really learn to not write these when I am just home from work and exhausted, I get ranty and angry. Cat, Thanks for the comment about the website. Since I don’t read the language, I had no idea. I just really like the drumming. I hate drumming+, like drumming and rattles or drumming and humming, so this drumming w/ easy callbacks and nice time limits was how I learned to journey.

    I just… I don’t want to water down experiences and whitewash labels. In western culture we are told that everyone can do everything. All children can be whatever they want to be. All people can earn the amount of money they want and those who don’t, who need government aide, are just lazy and greedy. The truth is we aren’t equal. Our brains aren’t all equipped to do the same thing. So when I read your post Cat, I saw someone who was banging her head against a wall and might be missing out on the other amazing stuff there is. Did you know I suck at reading tarot? I really suck. I can’t do it without a guide book to tell me what the pictures mean. But you do it intuitively and it flows so beautifully. That is a gift. That puts you more into a seer or oracle seat. You should look up seidhwork, oracles, seers. Did you know that there are more and more people inventing their own oracle system? I assume you read/have read Sarah Lawless and Juniper and Dver.

    So I guess my point should be less “don’t touch my stuff” and more “lets find your stuff”. Thats a good conversation to have.

    1. Cat says:

      It may be a little ironic, given my skepticism about the Foundation for Shamanic Studies (FSS), but their single/double drumming CD is still the best one I’ve encountered for the kind of journeying I did so far. At least I’m fairly sure they haven’t just looped a few drum beats by computer but actually had someone bang on their drums for the entire duration of the tracks.

      I fully agree with you on the myth that all of us can do the same things if only we try hard enough. A myth that has caused quite a few problems for me because it made me think that my experience of certain (non-spiritual) things was normal and that everyone who couldn’t do it the way I could was just lazy. Which was a serious disservice to everyone concerned.

      I’m also flattered by your compliment for my tarot reading skills. I suppose that’s yet another area where my measuring stick problems come in (see my post “E is for Easy…” for details)!

      And thanks for recommending those other writers. I only recognize one of the names (Dver), so I may have missed the others – links would be appreciated!

      Finally, thanks for supporting me in finding “my stuff.” I’m really a lot more interested in that than I am in continuing to bang my head against a wall (and yes, that’s exactly what it’s felt like!). I will try and repay the favor with speaking up about the existence of more than one kind of “journeying” and the need for less confusion of them.

      1. Raan says:

        I love your blog. You make me think. Which kicks my ass and keeps me humble. Keep up the good work.

        And anyone who likes my blog should go read Cat’s blog:

      2. Cat says:

        Thanks for recommending me! You also make me think, so I think we’re even. 😉 (Which reminds me that I need to create a new link subcategory iin my blog where I could list your blog.)

        By the way, Google has helped me find the other writers you recommended. I have indeed come across all of their blogs before, but I will take a closer look now that you pointed them out.

  5. ladyimbrium says:

    “because the majority of us have psyches” HAHA that made me laugh. Because it’s true.

    I’ve experienced a few odd little visions (and sensations…) that I did absolutely no prep work, research or asking for. Sometimes They really do just reach out and smack you with some new information. Most of the time…. not so much. I think I stand with a majority (which is an unusual feeling for me) in that yes, I do have relationships of some kind with entities other than the typically fleshy kind. I do feel and react to energies outside the traditionally listed senses. I have learned the hard way to trust my dreams. I know pain. But I am not a Shaman- not in the sense that you or some of the others around here are. I think there is room for a wide variety of skills, and a range of sensitivities to things Other. I think there is a use to be gained from every perspective- including the mundane.

    I have not lived your life and I am not going to play the “but me…” game. Because I’d probably lose. I’m truly and deeply moved by your will to survive and your ability to adapt to what sounds like a series of drastic life-altering events. Most people can’t do that.

    1. Raan says:

      Oh I love that you brought up this point cause its something else we tend to miss in the discussion of journeywork: Just cause Betty LongList can’t journey outside of her body to meet the spirits and Gods doesnt mean they cant journey here to meet her.

      I think that your glimpses and visions are very very real and legitimate and are probably the Gods and spirits reaching out to you. Intuition, dreams, visions, empathy are all amazing ways to connect with the Other World. I will say that while I have some empathic ability (mainly a survival holdover from my childhood I think) I am not in any way shape or form psychic. I don’t have that gift, I have this gift and I am in awe of people who can and do reach out to the spirits in other ways.

      I don’t mind the “but me…” game. 😀 I’m not the worst (I work with some patients who have had lives that make me thankful for my life), I’m not the best, but I’m right where I am supposed to be. Yeah its not all sunshine and roses and its taken me 30 years to become an adult and be able to take care of myself. *shrug* Its a roller coaster and I am lucky to ride.

      1. ladyimbrium says:

        Everything Other is so constantly influx and so wholly out of sync with our usual framework, it’s nothing short of miraculous if we can pull any useful information into this world without getting ourselves killed- or worse.

        I’ve run into people that shook me to the core with their stories. It seems like the ones who just can’t talk about it anymore are the ones that I felt for the most. My jobs require me to deal with people from all walks of life every day- usually in negative situations. It keeps things in perspective for me.

  6. Mi-Shell says:

    Thanks for that blog post!
    Tradeoffs: Yes, in these times few people ever talk about the tradeoffs that those, that have been ordered to serve by the Spirits will inevitably have to cope with somehow.

  7. Soli says:

    I’ve been meaning to say something to this for days, and now all I can think of is: very nice work indeed.

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