A SHAMAN IS ONE WHO WALKS BETWEEN WORLDS
Norman W. Wilson, PhD.
“Oh, great,” you say, “Now we can travel to Mars.” The word is worlds; not planets. Some say a shaman travels from one world to another physically; while, others say it’s the shaman’s soul that does the traveling. Yet, some shamans have felt they physically moved from one world to another.
Shamanic travel has been called many names. Among these are journeying, astral travel, and guided meditation, visualization, traveling, and altered states of consciousness. In recent years a new term has been added to the list: hedgecrossing. Apparently, hedgecrossing is based on the Old Saxon word, haegtessa which is said to mean “hedge-rider.” Kelden in “Hedge-Crossing, Astral Projection, and Guided Meditation: Differences” points out that haegtessa originally meant a hedgerow that divided property; that today, however, it functions as a metaphor. The metaphor references the boundary which divides our world from others. And, as you know, boundaries can be crossed.
Not everyone agrees with all the categories listed as shamanic travel. Sarah Anne Lawless is one such person. In her “Walking Between Worlds” Lawless states, “visualization and guided meditations are NOT walking between worlds or trancework—they’re painting a lovely picture of doing so in your head.”
From a personal perspective, I choose not to use the words crossing over because of its past use relating to death. I prefer the word traveling or journeying when talking about both the physical and soul movement from one world to another. This brings me back to a potential question raised in the first paragraph: What do we mean by worlds?
Traditionally, shaman believed there were three worlds: the Lower World, the Middle World, and the Upper World. These are sometimes referred to as realms. Briefly, the Lower World was inhabited by the dead who were waiting for reincarnation; the Middle World contained incarnated human spirits, and the Upper World housed ascended masters, teachers, and other enlightened entities. Besides this traditional view, I believe there are two other areas open for shamanic travel: an area in which the spirit world and the natural world interconnect, and second, is parallel universes.
During hypnotic sessions, a hypnotist will suggest you visualize a place with which you are very familiar. You are to look for a tree with a hole you can crawl into, a large rock (large enough so you could sit on it), a hole in the ground to enter. Other times the suggestion might be a hill or a mountain for you to climb. Upon arriving at one of these physical locations, one is expected to meet a spirit.
A shaman, in a trance, may travel to another universe. Here, he or she will find a duplicate of the current physical world. Things may be either slowed or speeded up. It is here the shaman may change things: prevent something from happening or learn what it is that has caused a client’s issues.