The 12 steps and Shamanism
by Matrika co-sysop of PAN - the Psychic Awareness Network at
1-703-362-1139 copyright by PAN and Harvest ( a pagan newsletter at
box 228 S. Framinham MA 01701 - $13. per year)
Author's note - this article was first published by me under the name
JUKNO in Harvest's Yule edition, 1989.
Recently a local charecter in Alcoholics Anonymous here in the Wor-
cester MA. area died. His name was "John the Indian" (he identified
himself this way) and he was well-known as an AA speaker all over the
world, although he lived near central Massechusetts. John had about
thirty years of sobriety and was a great power of example to many
people including Betty Ford who told him she had listened to tapes of
his talks while she was in detox.
John's story intrigued many people. An Indian who had been orphaned
on the reservation when Tuberculosis wiped out his familly, he had
ended up on skid row after serving in the Canadian army during World
War II as a dishwasher. He came to AA in his mid-twenties, an il-
literate wine. ( my note - this is NOT to imply that most alcoholics
are on skid row. In fact most of them are people with nice famillies,
a place to live, a car or even two, a job, etc. etc. etc. Less that
2% of the alcoholics in this country are on skid row) He ended up
owning his own construction business after learning to read (from a
elderly woman in AA who was a school teacher) and marrying a lady in
AA with whom he raised a lovely familly.
Because John had inspired me and so affected my life with his gift of
simplicity, I was inspired to do a shamanic-style rite in his memory.
I had always felt sorry for John because, in the process of his
recovery, he seemed to have lost touch with the beauty of this herita-
ge. Then it hit me; John WAS a shaman and anyone who truly worked a
12-step program was one too.
In BIRTH OF A MODERN SHAMAN by Cynthia Bend and Tayja Wiger (Llewelyn
Publication box 64383, St. Paul MN. 1988 ) it states
" A shaman is hard to define. There are no two alike..... what
happens, a shaman goes through a catastrophe or a string of
catastrophes that enhance certain abilities within him ( or her! )
.....Most often theShaman has togo through a severetrauma, a
severe illness or a severe psychosis and recover from it before he
learns the recovery process that he can use."
The authors are quoting Tsonkawa, Tayja's teacher on the Shamanic
path. (a Native American Medicine person)
Many other authors on Shamanism; Sunbear, Lynn Andrews, Amber Wolfe
and Micheal Harner, to name a few: echo this truth. A shaman is a
person who goes through great suffering, usually in the form of a
mental or physical illness, and then goes on to heal himself or her-
self. They are then able to use that same process to heal others.
This is what happens in a twelve-step fellowship. Through the process
of healing ourselves, we come to the point where we can help others hy
"carrying the message" after having had a "spiritual awakening" as the
result of taking the first eleven steps.
Here are some books that can help any Pagan, Shaman, Druid, Witch,
Practitioner of Feminist Spirituality, or other Magickal folk as they
walk the steps in the process of recovering, while retaining their own
unique spiritual path.
TRUTH OR DARE by Starhawk (San Francisco, Harper and Row, 1987) This
contains many references to the 12-step programs, especially Alcohol-
ics Anonymous and Adult Children of Alcoholics, in a work on Wicca by
a well-known priestess of the Craft who is also a psychotherapist.
CRYSTAL CLEAR by Connie Church (Bew York, Willard books 1987) It
contains a good section on how to use quartz crystals to help in
relieving yourself of bad habits, compulsions, and obsessions, specif-
ically for use with the various twelve-step programs. (note - amethyst
is traditionally said to help in all these areas)
BIRTH OF A MODERN SHAMAN, mentioned above, tells the story of a blind
Native American woman who was a survivor of Child abuse and had been
Psycotic as well as Alcoholic. This is the story of her complete
recovery, including her eyesight, (documented by doctors) and the
discovery of her Psychic gifts with her Native roots. Her healing
occured through a process that began for her in Alcoholics Anonymous.
THE TWELVE STEPS FOR EVERYONE published by Compcare (Minneapolis MN.)
this is a non-sexist book on the steps by a grateful recovering member
of Emotional Health Anonymous written in non-sexist language. The
author draws heavily on the Eastern traditions of spirituality as well
as the traditional Western monotheistic ones.
EVERYDAY A NEW BEGINNING Published by Hazelden corp. (Also in Min-
neapolis, MN. I believe) This is a daily meditation guide BY women in
Anonymous fellowships and FOR women in these same self-help groups.
Unlike the TWENTY-FOUR HOURS A DAY book (published by the same company
and widely used in AA) it doesn't use quotes from the Bible. Instead
it uses quotes from various women authors. Many men also claim to
have benefitted from it due to it's non-religious approach.
PAGANS IN RECOVERY a networking newsletter for Magickal folk, Shamans,
Druids, Feminist Priestesses, Witches, Pagans, Pantheists, etc. who
are in recovery via a 12-step fellowship of any type. It has con-
tacts, reviews, articles, recovery techniques and more. It is a great
source of support and inspiration to any Pagan in any of the Anonymous
support groups. It is $8.00 a year and the address is P.I.R. c/o
Bekki 6500 S.R. 356 New Marshfield, OHIO 45766
ADDITION TO READING LIST
REFLECTIONS IN THE LIGHT by Shakti Gawain, published by New World
Library, San Rafael, California 1978. While not ONLY for the 12-step
programs this book does go into the problems of addictions in light of
the New-Age, Psychic Awareness as well as many other subjects. It
provides a inspirational message and/or a creative visualization
exercise with a non-sectarian affirmation for each day. The book is
neither sexist nor sectarian and is truly a beautiful aid to anyone
seeking to work the program of recovery. It is also a great way to
share what you are doing with friends who share your spirituality but
not your program, as it makes no direct references to the 12-step
groups at all. It is very useful to those of us who prefer a daily
meditation to the "prayer" people in the monotheistic Churches and
Synagogues tend to use in their application of the program to their
Next: Divine Circle Scam