Book Review: The Path of the Shaman, by Anna Franklin
The Path of the Shaman is a book two by Anna Franklin that focuses on the eight paths of a witch/.Witch. It is journey in which few experience and when they do it is one of great calcination and dissolution of ones entire self, and one as Anna herself describes as not wishing it upon her worst enemy. When she speaks of this process it is called a shamanic crisis one in which is a very personal experience and each one who undergoes this transformation does so individually, it is not without experiencing pain to the level of losing all control over your own self, physically. It takes you to the realms in which if you are not strong enough, you will never return.
As quoted directly from Chapter 2; “Though anyone can offer themselves to the spirits, there is no guarantee that the spirits will accept. The candidate is always subject to trial and testing before the initiation in the Otherworld can take place, encapsulating a very real dissolution, death and rebirth in the core of his being, a process entirely out of the shaman’s control and often sudden and violent in its onset.” “The initiation consists in an ecstatic experience, during which the candidate undergoes certain operations performed by mythical Beings, and undertakes ascents to Heaven and descents to the Underworld or subterranean World.” In the same chapter as spoken of from above, Anna along with two others go into great detail their surgery’s by the mythical Beings in which brought them to their path as Shaman. Anna and the others share extremely personal experiences and sufferings in which they endured along their path. In understanding this, then it is easy to see that one of the first known Shamans from the western world would have been Jesus himself. He was born to this world by a woman and that of the seed of an Upperworld mythical being and then was hung on the cross to die at the age of 33, then buried and he descended to the Underworld and then returned to the Middle World and finally ascending to the Upperworld.
There is mention of the the Shamans Cosmos world the three levels in which exists and that only a Shaman may see and know personally. The Middle Earth, where we live, the Underworld and the Upperworld, the Underworld were all must go when we die and are prepared for such hidden knowledge, the Upperworld the world of the Angels and the spirits that aid us and protect us as we travel the path of our lives. She goes into great detail of the World Tree and the Tree of Life with references to all other cultures and their views, which are all very similar from culture to culture. Also, in this chapter she mentions that of the Black Stone, the Meteoric Stone, the meteoric stone which is also called the black stone is not common in knowledge. It is the stone in which is housed at Mecca and part of a yearly pilgrimage in which the Muslims are required to make, they go there for prayers and the asking of healing from the Great Mother. This stone is from the Upperworld and it represents on this earth the Mother of all creation. It is the one that holds all within. There is more on the cosmos, the pole star and more.
There is mention and in great detail of how one travels the cosmos, by the spirit to do the work of healing and learning of old knowledge which is through the astral planes and the different levels of ones consciousness we experience as we go into trance, or in dream states. What we must do to prepare ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually prior to being able to entrée this state as well as different gateways that are available and how to return and protect oneself while out of the physical form. Many points she discusses throughout the entire book draws anyone back to the knowledge of the Emerald Tablet as well as the work’s of Dion Fortune. Which is not common in today’s modern Wicca studies or among the New Age teachings?
Continuing we get to where she speaks of the various spirit worlds one will encounter and the view of other cultures, as I am a Strega I will make reference to her point on the Italian culture. “The Italian carnival society Cavallino assembled under the banner of Erodiade (ero dia de), a name for the Queen of Faeries, possibly synonymous with the witch goddess Herodias. The society grew with prominence in the Middle Ages, appearing in processions, pantomimes and healing sessions, but many have had a very ancient, Pagan origin. It was exclusively male, its members dressed in women’s clothing and wore make up. They always gathered in odd numbers, such as seven, or nine or eleven. The Catholic Church persecuted them as Pagans who worshipped the Goddess Diana.
Anna goes into great deal of the types of spirits and their powers they bestow onto human-folk they may take a liken to as well as power animals and how they come to us in our times of specific need to guide us to understand and to gain understanding in our journeys we are to encounter. There is great focus on the types of plant allies a Shaman works with and a shaman’s view that we are kin to all things and that all things have a spirit that resides within them. Yes, there are those herbs in which are used to obtain a level of trance and they assist us to achieve a level in our meditation and allowing us to journey to the Otherworld, though it is not without a cautionary note. She cautions us on the plant spirits, “However, any relationship with a power plant is precarious, and its spirit must be approached with respect. To use a power plant for recreational purpose is an abuse of its energies and will lead to the subjugation of the magicians will by the plant spirit. Meaning the magician has no control over the plant spirit or his or herself, the plant spirit has full control. This means a loss of your Personal Power. In reading this caution it reminds me of something Dr. Leo Louis Martello wrote in his words of wisdom regarding the Craft. He states the following: “In the Craft, there is no hard dogma. Hard drugs are forbidden. Mindless morons can’t be a compliment to our Mother Goddess. Power is something personal, not to be used over others, which is contrary to Craft ethics. Those who think the Old Religion will make them masters over others are slaves to their own self delusions.
Anna finishes by speaking about what Personal Power is Not and the practices of a Shaman. She speaks of an experiment a Japanese doctor performed using the water element. He took two glasses and placed a crystal in each one, on one of the glass he wrote on a piece of paper the word Thank you and on the other You Fool the crystal inside the glass of water with the words thank you started to grow and the crystal in the glass of water with you fool did not, thus showing the powerful nature of water and how important it is to us. We are 90% water in our body, so imagine if you thank yourself all the time and others, just imagine how we would all grow with a kind word. When speaking of the various types of divination, magic and castings we do as a Shaman even a witch many in this day and age focus on the weather. Myself personally I have had many people comment due to the high levels of heat how they were going to do weather magic to bring rain. My advice always is no, when you are doing magic of this level you need to be aware that unless it is so severe that you need to consider beyond your own selfish needs, to take anything from another region is to ultimately cause harm of some kind. While you may feel you need it, it may be needed more in another region. This goes for any magic, you do not cast just to cast, you do not just invoke to invoke there has to be a reason when you call on the powers and forces of the Otherworld. Magic is not a game but something true and real.
While I was reading The Path of the Shaman I was reminded of many things I have learned and was guided wisely with advise in the past, also being reminded of many journeys in which I have travelled to the Otherworld, the Underworld and the Upperworlds. I have seen many things in my life and as a Witch but I needed a gentle reminder of a few things, it also guided me more in some specific research I have been doing which I will not speak of so much here. What I am saying is that sometimes we need something and the Gods bring it to attention in many ways, a book, a kind word from another, a picture, a quote a journey or a sign in the mundane world that only a witch would notice. Pay attention and you will be amazed.
This is an extraordinary book and one that ever Witch/witch should own and have as part of her/his library.