OF PRINCIPLES AND ETHICS
LIFEWAY SHAMANIC FELLOWSHIP
By Usen's grace, Ho-dah....
This is an era of decision. Do we allow ourselves to cut the throat of the Mother Who has nourished us as a species since we "came down from the trees"? Or do we work to walk in Beauty and Harmony with Her, and cherish Her, and work to see Her healed? The resurgence of Shamanism, the primal Earth Religion of practically all of the Earth's pre-Agrarian cultures, is an important thing, foretold by the Paiute prophet Wovoka and in the Hopi Prophecies. It was said that both the Red Man would return to the Ways of the Old Ones and that the non-Native would also embrace the Lifeway. There are non-Natives who respectfully have chosen these Ways, and are carrying them on in a reverent way. If the Lifeway was only given for the Native peoples, it would die out within our lifetime. There are simply not enough traditional Elders left.
It has been shown to some of us that Our Mother The Earth is not willing to die quietly. She has demonstrated this by the increase in natural disasters of the past decade, which continue day by day. The Hopi prophecies state that, when the "bowl full of ashes" (most interpret this as the Thermonuclear Bomb) is overturned, that Our Mother shall rise up in Her righteous anger and destroy humanity. This prophecy is coming true, although it may yet be reversable. Perhaps it is we who reverence the Ways and walk in harmony with Our Mother that may stay Her hand.
The Lifeway Fellowship is here for those who wish to honor Our Mother and Our Father, Earth and Sky, and to honor The Giver Of Life, from whence all things flow in the Universe. Our world-view is primarily allied with that of the Navajo/Dineh, Apache/Teneh, and Hopi peoples. However we do not represent ourselves as the keepers of those ways. The secrets of those Nations are for them alone, unless Usen' wishes to reveal them to us. Our mission is to help heal Our Mother, The Earth, and to help each other walk in closer harmony with Her. We also exist to provide a way for urban and sub-urban people to learn and practice the root Shamanic techniques that aid us in finding our True Vision and True Way of Power, and following that Vision and that Way.
We identify ourselves as Pagan (Webster's New World Dictionary "1. b) ... a person who is not a Christian, Moslem, or Jew (by faith); heathen. Pagan specifically refers to one of the ancient polytheistic (or pantheistic) peoples.") and as unashamed Pantheists and Polytheists. The Lifeway is truly a religious commitment. No-one can make a commitment to the Lifeway and to the worship of Life Giver, The Earth Mother and The Sky Father and remain a worshiper of other Paradigms of the Deity, much as one cannot be a Christian and worship the Greco-Roman pantheon. However this does not imply the condemnation of other Paradigms, nor impel a duty to "convert" others.
We stand by other Pagans who do not share our paradigms, IE. Wiccans, Asatruans, Hellenists, and other Shamanic traditions, (African and neo-African(Santeria & Voudoun), Australian, Siberian, Traditional Native American, and Polynesian, to name a few) and even though we may disagree with some or all of their practices and beliefs, they are Brothers, Sisters and Cousins, and in times of persecution as well as times of goodwill we must defend them. We may even share in their open rituals and allow them to share in our open ceremonials. But that which is ours must remain ours, just as that which is theirs must remain theirs.
As our Fellowship is inherently religious, we must declare a The(a)ology. (The strange spelling refers to the fact that we acknowledge a Goddess as well as a God) This is summed up very easily. There are three main powers we worship, Usen' the Life Giver, The Earth Mother, and The Sky Father. The latter Two are emanations of the First, as all, including the God and the Goddess, are emanations from Usen', which is the primaeval First Cause.
Usen': One cannot look upon The Life Giver as either Male or Female, for The Life Giver is beyond those distinctions. Usen', and The Life Giver, are names for this First Cause, this Force that pervades all and caused all to come into being. From Usen', the God, Sky Father, and the Goddess, Earth Mother, emanate, as the lesser Deities emanate from Them.
The Earth Mother: We live and walk and are sustained from The Earth Mother, which is our Earth. She is alive, and we all exist within Her as part of Her structure. Science, through the Gaea Hypothesis, has finally acknowledged Her existence, and some even have learnt the lesson that our duty in this life is to care for and honor Her. This is a lesson that all must learn, for as long as we despoil Her, we risk Her wrath. She is expressed through the faces of White Painted Woman, Who is The Woman Warrior, through Corn Mother, Who is The Nourishing Mother, and through Spider Woman, Who is The Wise Woman, The Ancient One, The Custodian of Wisdom. Women are acknowledged as being human representatives of The Earth Mother.
The Sky Father: Just as among we Humans, there is both Man and Woman, so there is no Earth Mother without Sky Father. Sky Father is the air we breathe, the flame that gives us warmth and cooks our food, and brings forth the rain that fertilizes Our Mother and allows Her to provide us with the crops and animals that sustain us. Sky Father is also expressed as The Hunter, The Warrior, and First Shaman, and is also expressed in Killer Of Enemies and The Child Of Water. He is also present and acknowledged as being present in every Man.
There are other spirits that exist in the Universe, some beneficient, some maleficient. But most important is Usen', Earth Mother, and Sky Father. By walking in harmony with the God(esse)s, one can tell the Good from the Evil, welcoming in Good, and protecting each other from Evil.
We have our code of Ethics. It is neither lengthy nor overly restrictive. We do not include ancient taboos in this list, such as Mother-In-Law avoidance or the taboo against Fish, because they may not apply nowadays. If you wish to not eat fish or to avoid your Mother-In-Law for religious reasons, it is your perogative. But it is not a requirement.
1.) If the action does not harm yourself, other people or intelligent beings, or Our Mother The Earth, you are free to do as you wish.
2.) To charge for healings, sweats or ceremonials is totally wrong and extremely offensive. Also, to charge excessively for teaching is equally offensive, but a modest fee over expenses is allowable. Your conscience is the best guide, that and the Will of the Deities.
3.) Magick should be limited only to protection of Self and Loved Ones, and to healing and helping those in need, provided that permission is given by the patient and that help other than healing does not interfere with the Will of others. Magick that is used in a coercive (IE. Love spells) or destructive (harming or killing magick) way is patently wrong and is considered Black Magick.
4.) Contact of spirits by any means other than Shamanic journeying or the Vision Quest is very risky, and Possession is a real possibility. The practice of mediumship, or "channeling" has no place in the Lifeway, and exposes not only Self but others to danger.
5.) Permission must always be asked of the spirits of plants and/or animals before taking them for either sustenance or for medicine.
6.) One's visions and one's personal ceremonies are one's own. Personal visions should not be spoken of, but shared visions are for all of the group.
7.) It is wrong to criticise another within the group or outside the group. Racism, sexism, xenophobia or general disrespect of others has no place in the Fellowship. Individual decisions about lifestyle and other ethical issues not covered here are an individual's own affair.
4.) GROUP STRUCTURE AND INITIATION PRACTICES
There is only one Initiation, which is the Initiation that makes one Kin within the group and in the sight of The Deities. It is given after one has taken their first Vision Quest, has found their Power Animal(s) and has met the Shaman Within. It can only be denied to those who have met these requirements, is younger than the legal Age Of Consent (in most places, 18 years) is not of sound mind, and/or is under suspicion of being a Law Enforcement Officer or other person antipathetic to Pagan and/or Shamanic belief who requests initiation for fraudulent purposes (usually to infilitrate to either sabotage or publically discredit the Fellowship) Initiation must not be denied on account of physical disabilities, blindness, deafness, or sterility, nor on account of sex, race, nationality, political belief, or sexual preference.
There are no set offices within the Fellowship. Ideally, leadership should be by consensus, with true leaders being temporary and purpose-oriented. Facilitation of rituals may be done by any Initiate of the Fellowship. ANYONE WHO REPRESENTS THEMSELVES AS A HIGH PRIEST/ESS OF THE LIFEWAY SHAMANIC FELLOWSHIP IS A FRAUD, AND IS DOING SO CONTRARY TO THIS STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES AND ETHICS.
Support of the Fellowship is done on a purely voluntary and mutual basis. No tithe or dues should be assessed unless they have been agreed upon by all members, initiates and non-initiates alike.
Membership is extended to all. But initiation is reserved for those who meet the criteria mentioned above. Non-initiates can participate in open ceremonials and in basic workshops, but may be denied participation in certain ceremonials and advanced workshops.
5.) THE QUESTION OF RECOGNIZING SHAMANS
In traditional societies, the title Shaman was not just an honorific, or recognition of talents. Nor was it the highest initiatory level in a Shamanic society. The Shaman was, in most cases, above the Chief in decision-making power and was judge, doctor, father-confessor, and intercessor with the Deities for the tribe. Some Shamanic societies are now providing their membership with "Shaman training seminars" and "Shaman apprenticeships" that can be had for an exorbitant price. This implies that the cost of being a Shaman can be paid in money and in a set amount of time. This is not the case. Many tribes believe that the office of Shaman is not one that is earned, but one that one is born into. Certainly, the skills are never something one is born with, and this is not merely hereditary. Rather, when a child is born, the current Shaman would recognize that the child had the POTENTIAL of being the next one, and the child's training would begin when they were considered ready by the Shaman. At adulthood, they would be tested. If they passed the test, they would become the next Shaman. If they failed, usually the test was such that they would either die outright, or they would go insane. Many "heroic quest" tales, and most notably the Arthurian legends have echoes of this practice within the ancient Shamanic traditions of Europe.
But the point that is being made here is that we should not go back to that sort of way of doing things, because in this society it is nigh on impossible. The stand I am offering here is that recognition as a Shaman can be conferred only through shared vision, and signs from the Deities. It is not my place to say what the signs are ... it will be obvious to the Fellowship. I am not Shaman myself, and will not brook anyone calling me that. This is something I place in the lap of the Deities to decide. I cannot do anything more. It is a mockery of those people that can truly be called Shamans, who are respected, powerful people of traditional tribes, to do anything less. In any event, to claim such a title is definately not enough, and is punishable by withdrawing Fellowship from the one who claims to be Shaman falsely.
6.) FESTIVALS AND WORSHIP DAYS
The festivals are reckoned as they have been for centuries by most Southwestern tribes, by both the Sun and the Moon. The seasons begin on the first full moon after a Solstice or an Equinox. The Solstices and Equinoxes themselves are times of celebration as well, and perhaps the period between the two (which usually works out to be no more than a week or so) could be considered a time of Holiday. Lesser ceremonials are held on New Moons and Full Moons between the first Full Moons of the seasons. Optionally certain Pagan festivals could be celebrated in conjunction with other groups, but they are not to be adopted as official Lifeway Fellowship ceremonial days.
There are other ceremonials that are personal in nature, and can be held at any time, although synchronizing them with the Festivals and the New and Full Moons is advisable. They are Naming, where a newborn child is named in the presence of the group and their Life-beads given; Coming Of Age, where the child's physical maturity is acknowledged, and where, for a short time, they become Child of the Water (if a boy) or White Painted Woman (if a girl); Initiation, where a person becomes a full-fledged member of the group, given after a person becomes a legal adult; Joining, where a man and a woman consent to be married; Unjoining, where a man and woman who are married consent to have the bond dissolved, which is to be done only after four reconciliation attempts fail or after evidence of marital infidelity or abuse is given before the group; the Moonlodge, which is a special sweat for women in their Moon-time; and Release, where a ceremony for a dead member of the Fellowship is done to guide their soul Back Home. Other ceremonials that are dreamed or envisioned by a person or group are also encouraged.
7.) SUMMING UP
A few quick ones: One can be either clothed or unclothed at ceremonies, but it should be known that none of the Southwestern tribes did ceremonies in the nude. However, one should disrobe for the sweat lodge, as clothes are not only uncomfortable within the sweat lodge, but interfere with the cleansing process of the lodge.
This Statement can be accepted or rejected by individual groups that federate themselves with Lifeway Fellowship. But federation can be denied to those groups who stray too far from some of the basic guidelines, or do anything that would sully the reputation of the Fellowship in general.
... this is finished.
May these proceeds please Life Giver Usen', and the Mother and the Father.
Chihacou White-Puma, 1988.