From a strict Core Shamanic perspective time and even age do not exist in any ordinary sense. The experience of many who journey is that time and space can be both compressed and conflated while in an altered state of consciousness. This can also happen in everyday life while day-dreaming and of course, in dreams. Humans, it seems, are hard-wired to be in more than one place at a time.
Traditionally, shamans have been both the Walkers Between Worlds – those aware of Essential Time – and the keepers of the community calendar, guardians of seasonal cycles and Material Time. This dual role reflects the dual nature of humanities’ relationship with time and age. Paradoxically we are both in and beyond time, part of the cycle of life and death and simultaneously outside and beyond it. Shamans have always been a bridge between material time and essential time, which we also know as non-ordinary reality time. Part of a traditional shaman’s role is this merging of interior/spiritual and exterior/material histories.
Since The Fall, The Flood, the end of the Dreamtime, the stories suggest that we have lost connection to the origin of Time and now are left only with an awareness of material time. This in turn affects the ways in which age and ageing are perceived; mostly, in the West at least, as a inevitable, and even frightening, decline towards death and non-being.
Time v. Age
Surrounded as we are currently by a cult of youth, age and ageing are becoming increasingly taboo subjects, as death already is. However we regard time, there is something impersonal about it. Age on the other hand is very personal, affecting each woman or man differently and having different implications.
What is it about age or the prospect of ageing that affects us? Is it a loss of youth, a loss of physical beauty, the end of childbearing, an increase in infirmity and weakness, the onset of ill-health that will gradually drag us towards the grave? Most people will experience anxiety about one or more of these things. Shamans are as much part of this process as anyone; unlike most people however, the true shaman has always known that time and age are merely perceptions. This knowledge is a privilege, but one that is gained by making a journey that only the dead ordinarily make. By leaving this world and returning to it with knowledge and power the shaman proves that she is spirit, because she is able to transcend time and space and exist in a place where these things have no meaning.
Dr. Zoë Brân
Dr. Zoë Brân has worked with creativity for fifteen years and is the author of eight books, which include travel literature, guides to sexuality, and fiction. Zoë was a Writer in Residence at London’s University of the Arts from 2004-2008 and lectured in both Creative Thinking and Travel Writing at City University in London. As a travel writer and journalist Zoë travelled extensively, focussing on troubled areas of the world such as Burma, Bosnia and most recently, Cuba. She has been a speaker, teacher and presenter at conferences, academic institutions, charitable organisations, companies and businesses and has worked with media on topics as diverse as AIDS – the subject of her doctorate – sexual behaviour, Vietnam and shamanism. She has appeared on BBC TV and national and local radio, including ‘Panorama’ and ‘Woman’s Hour’. Currently director of Shaman UK, Zoë has been involved with Core Shamanism since 1998 and is one of the UK’s leading practitioner/educators. She offers one-to-one shamanic counselling and healing and leads shamanic seminars and workshops on a range of subjects, including: Sex and Gender, Death, Soul Retrieval. Her weblog is among Europe’s foremost resources for contemporary shamanic practice and has a worldwide readership. Zoë lives in London with her lurcher, Arlu.
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