Oracles, Bones And Stones – Shamanic Divination

March 4, 2013 | By | 2 Replies More

Beth Beurkens, MA, Guest Writer
Waking Times

Have you ever stared at the sky when it was scattered with clouds, searching for an answer to an important question? Or perhaps you’ve sought counsel in Tarot cards, the Chinese I Ching or the Celtic Runes. These are forms of oracular guidance and problem-solving known as divination. The many forms of divination seek to find answers from sources that are hidden from daily life. They show us the “divine will” in answer to important life questions.

Changes, challenges and questions fill our lives. How we respond to them can affect us for years to come. Shall I buy this house? Is this a good location for my business? How can I increase my creativity? How do I slow down to my own natural rhythm?

The ancient world had many sacred sites and temples available for divination purposes. People journeyed there on pilgrimages, seeking advice for their problems. The Delphic Oracle in Greece is perhaps the best known. Priestesses who possessed great spiritual power served as oracles there. They served the great mother goddess, Gaia, performing oracular divinations deep inside the earth beneath the Temple of Delphi.

The Delphic priestesses could see into the future and were in direct communication with Gaia who possessed the wisdom of the universe. When asked a question, the priestess would go into trance while holding a snake in each hand. She would speak an answer in a sacred language. Receiving direct revelations from Gaia, the priestesses were renowned for the accuracy of their predictions.

The Delphic Oracle was part of a time-honored shamanic tradition. As a spiritual problem-solving methodology, shamanism has been in use for the last forty thousand years. Shamans employ the divination tools of the drum, bones, crystals and spirits of nature. They are able to read answers in the rustling of leaves, crackling of fire and whistling of rivers. Nature is alive and spirit-filled. The shaman interacts with nature powers and thus is able to divine weather, diagnose illness, locate lost people and solve problems for individuals and the tribe.

One of the classic techniques used by shamans in the far north is the placing of a dried caribou scapula (shoulder blade) into a sacred fire and asking the spirits for an answer to an urgent question, such as the location of the migrating herds of caribou. The cracked and blackened scapula is then pulled out of the fire and read by the shaman, just like a map. Time and again this method works. The herds are found exactly in the place shown on the scapula. The tribe survives another winter.

Similarly, the shamans in old China used tortoise shells blackened in the fire. These are the origins of the modern I Ching Book of Changes. Thankfully, coins have taken the place of tortoise shells. According to the ancient Chinese, writing was also originally created as a divination tool to connect with divine sources.

Many shamanic divination techniques are used for looking into the future. When a child is born, a shaman can see what the soul of the child is bringing in and what her soul wants to express. Once this is revealed, these talents and gifts can then be nurtured by friends and family.

Crystal gazing techniques are also well known among shamanic peoples. Natural quartz crystals are strong energy magnifiers, and a shaman can look into the crystal for an answer to a person’s question, seeing present circumstances as well as future ones.

The drum is used in many shamanic cultures as a divination tool. Among the best known peoples who used the drum are the Sámi people of northern Scandinavia. So popular was the drum in certain areas in the 1700s, that every household had one. (Drum-Time: The Drums and Religion of the Sámi - 20) They were used in everyday life to discover information crucial to survival. Small pictures and images were painted on the drum face and a ring of brass or a pointer of reindeer antler, was laid on the top. As the drum was beaten, the pointer moved over the figures. (Drum-Time: The Drums and Religion of the Sámi - 20) These pictures included whale, reindeer, boats, skis, elk, mountains, goddesses and so on — depicting important features of the world the Sámi lived in. The path that the brass ring took over the figures and where it stopped, could be read like an oracle.

A household might ask,

“What weather is coming?”
“Will the hunt be successful today?”
“Where are the reindeer herds?”
“Will we have enough food this winter?” (Drum-Time: The Drums and Religion of the Sámi - 20)

In those earlier times, the messages of the drum were known to save people’s lives. Without their council, people would have starved to death or been overtaken by warring tribes. There were no weather channels or cell phones, no GPS or helicopters. The oracular power of the drum was alive with the voices of the compassionate spirits.

Helping spirits in the form of power animal allies, spirit teachers and ancestors all help the shaman and the modern day shamanic practitioner to uncover guidance from hidden sources, information not readily available otherwise. Questions like, “To where should we move?”, “How do we prepare for the coming winter?” and “What crops do we best plant this spring?” are important divinational investigations. The shaman is like a human tuning fork, singing the truths of prophecy and divine wisdom through her bones.

Last year I was in a huge transition and wanted to have all my power and energy in one place. I needed to sell my home in Santa Cruz, and my tenant was creating havoc with the process. Distressed, I went out to walk in the hills in Mount Shasta, seeking the wisdom of the helping spirits. I was wrestling with the question of whether to pay a moving company to move my tenant out. Clearly I didn’t invite this extra expense, but she experienced it as a hardship to live in a house that was going on the real estate market.

Suddenly a magnificent bald eagle flew right across my line of vision, cutting through all my uncertainty. The answer was immediately clear. Be kind, do the right thing, share your resources. The movers were able to move her out within two days and the house was easily readied for sale. Serendipitously, a month later I learned that there were allegedly illegal things being grown in my backyard. This confirmed that I’d made the right decision. The helping spirits were in possession of even larger information than I knew at the time.

Shamanic divination methods help us see big truths about our past, present and future. When we ask the compassionate spirits for what we truly need, vast healing and wisdom open to us. We can change our story from being victims of circumstance and move into our empowered, whole selves. We can remember who we are, what our soul’s purpose is, and what gifts came with us into this lifetime.

References

Westman, Anna and Utsi, John E.; Goábdesajgge (Drum-Time: The Drums and Religion of the Sámi) 1999. Print.

About the Author

Beth Beurkens, MA, has been a teacher of shamanism and a vision quest guide for 22 years. She is a faculty member at the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, instructor at Rogue Community College and the School of Women & Earth (Switzerland), and a teacher of creative writing. Beth leads dynamic seminars in North America and in Europe and has a shamanic healing practice in Ashland, Oregon and Basel, Switzerland. Beth has taught religion and spirituality courses at numerous California colleges for thirty one years and holds an M.A. in philosophy from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Beth has studied extensively with Michael Harner, Alicia Luengas Gates and Sandra Ingerman. She is the author of “Shaman’s Eye” and “Shaman: Spirit Walker” 2010 and 2011 wall calendars.

This article is featured as part of a partnership with AllThingsHealing.com.

All Things Healing (allthingshealing.com) is an online portal and community dedicated to informing and educating people across the globe about alternative healing of mind, body, spirit and the planet at large. We are committed to bringing together a worldwide community of individuals and organizations who are working to heal themselves, each other, and the world. We offer 39 healing categories, 80 plus editors who are experts in their fields, a forum for each category, and an extensive “Find Practitioners” listing. Our Costa Rica Learning Center and Spiritual Retreat is coming soon. Join us!

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Comments (2)

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  1. halderon says:

    I used to live near Santa Cruz,but had no idea of a Magic Mountain and a bald Eagle could help>I was going to college in San Jose,and I could have used this to help me pass Advanced Statistics. What Nonsense! Know what occurred? An Eagle flew by. That’s all! Shamanism existed in primitive times to provide answers to questions that were hard>Like Advanced Statistics, but they did us no favors. They delayed the process of Scientific inquiry which helped to discover virus-which is the one thing that God forgot to give Adam dominion over. Chinese acupuncture started with Shamans. They discovered the wonderful Meridian System that has no basis in science or Physiology. Throw Bones if you must-you will only project your own desires on the outcome-just like you did when you saw the Eagle from Magic Mountain>

    • EagleEyes says:

      Climbing up on Solsbury Hill
      I could see the city light
      Wind was blowing, time stood still
      Eagle flew out of the night
      He was something to observe
      Came in close, I heard a voice
      Standing stretching every nerve
      Had to listen had no choice
      I did not believe the information
      (I) just had to trust imagination
      My heart going boom boom boom
      “Son,” he said “Grab your things,
      I’ve come to take you home.”

      now we know why you are such an agnostic Halderon, it’s those statistics.

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