Shamanic Spirituality and Spirit Helpers

Caroline Kenner Profile

Shamans usually work with a number of spirit allies. Spirit helpers are like adoptive parents, or godparents, to a shaman. These spirits are compassionate healers who wish to end suffering here in middle world. The spirits of animals, plants, ancestors, deities and other teachers endow the shaman with spiritual power from their domains in the upper or lower worlds. The shaman is a conduit for this spiritual power, a hollow bone to conduct energy and manifest healing in our middle world.

I personally know more than one hundred shamans. I have noticed some general rules about spirit helpers: both the principle of similarity and the principle of opposition attract spirit helpers. Some spirit helpers work with shamans whose energies are very similar, and thus compatible, to theirs. Other spirits help shamans compensate for an inner lack, with the helping spirit balancing the shaman. The personalities of guardian animals correspond to the characteristics of the animal or plant species, except writ large.

Many guardian animals are top predators, like Bear, Wolf, Lion, or Eagle. Other guardian animals are generous givers of bounty, prey animals we eat, like Buffalo, Wild Turkey or Deer. Sea mammals, Dolphins or Whales, are guardian animals, but rarely fish, except Salmon. Snakes are frequently guardian animals, and sometimes Lizards, but other reptiles are rare. I know Frog shamans, and Turtle shamans. Butterfly, Dragonfly, Bee and Spider are the only insects I have known to sponsor shamans.

Plant spirits adopt shamans, just like animal spirits. Shamans often work with tree spirits, which may be the species of the tree they journey through or may be another species entirely. Medicinal herbs and culinary plants also adopt shamans. Guardian plants are extremely powerful, just as powerful as animals.

Of all the guardian animals, the most frequent one to sponsor shamans is Bear. Bear is very close to humans, so loving, kind and compassionate that Bear is like an ancestor. Spirit helpers are the oversouls of entire species, so for each shaman adopted by Bear, there is a particular sponsoring Bear species. Some people work with Grizzly, others with Black Bear, Panda, Koala or Polar Bear.

I believe Bear was humanity's first totem animal. Archaeologists have found arrangements of Cave Bear skulls (an extinct species from the Ice Age) made by humans in caves, dating back hundreds of thousands of years. Cave Bear skulls have even been discovered arranged on a cave altar, the skulls stained with red ochre, a pigment used by the Neanderthalers to tint the bodies of their dead family members in funeral ritual. No other animal species was worshiped as long ago as Bear. Even before the end of human evolution, Bear had adopted us.

Some of my spirit helpers prefer to remain private but others are not concerned about me talking and writing about them. Each spirit helper has its particular origin and history.

One of my main spirit helpers is Hummingbird. Hummingbird is the Joy Bringer. Hummingbird can heal the saddest heart and make anyone glad to be alive again. Hummingbird can heal any grief or pain.

Many of my spirit helpers, including Hummingbird, have their own particular songs. I have received these songs from the spirits, to call that individual spirit helper and make them manifest. Hummingbird's song is very quick and high pitched, and it sounds sort of like a stream laughing as it crosses rocks.

In the upper world, I have a spirit ancestor who is my teacher. She is an ancestor from 1300 years ago, who lived her life in 7th century Anglo-Saxon England. It was a period of great turmoil, when Paganism gave way to Christianity. My ancestor has told me some fascinating stories about her life in this world.

When my spirit ancestor first came to me, I met her in a wooded clearing with a bonfire. That is all there was: a clearing with a bonfire. As I became more skilled and more dedicated, the setting changed considerably. First, my ancestor had a lean-to made of coarse boards tied to living trees, with spirit medicines and other supplies stored on the shelves. Over time, my ancestor got an attractive cottage. Now she even has a springhouse, as well as other outbuildings.

Spirit helpers have gone through a process of purification so complex that it is difficult for incarnate humans to comprehend. They have a global, or even cosmic, consciousness. Spirit helpers take a very long view of things. They have received the double death: both the physical death, and the ego death, which precedes true compassion. The spirit worlds, both upper and lower, are beyond time and space. Our world is the only realm of suffering, tied as we are to the limits of physicality, trapped in time. The spirit helpers are here to bring an end to the grievous suffering we currently experience in middle world. Eventually, spiritual evolution will enable the middle world to become a true Garden of Earthly Delights, a New Eden, which is what the deities and spirits have always intended it to be.

© Caroline Kenner, 2002