Cover of issue 66, published June-July 1975, edited by Paul Screeton.
The Ley Hunter was a British zine devoted to “earth mysteries” (which could include such things as Fairy encounters as well as ley lines, etc.) published from 1965–1998. As Isaac Koi describes it,
Its website described it as “the longest running journal to cover the ‘earth mysteries’ complex of study areas (it invented the term over 20 years ago!)”, including “‘ley lines;, (earth tie geophysical) energies (studied from both a primary sensing – experiential – point of view and that of physical monitoring), folklore, traditional lifeways, archaeology, all aspects of geomancy or sacred geography, shamanism and other aspects of archaic consciousness, unexplained natural phenomena, and so on”.
There have never been any little girls in my house, so consequently no Barbie dolls, but they cost only about $2–$4 in the thrift stores. So I decided last year to make a neoshamanic Barbie, because I like the idea of “theme” Barbies (like “New Mexico Barbie“) and because the very thought of her reminded me of a certain author and teacher who is “widely acknowledged as a major link between the ancient world of shamanism and modern societies thirst for profound personal healing and a deeper understanding of the pathway to enlightenment.”
I made one and on a warmish day in January placed her way up behind the house in some boulders that I call Ringtail Rocks. She has her magickal assignment, she is hidden by rocks, and I will never disturb her.
Neoshaman Barbie 2 with her necklace of power and her spirit animal.
But there was one more Barbie left, so today, now that the last snow has melted and the trail is dry, she went to a different cluster of boulders with a similar assignment, along with her spirit animal.
These are part of a series of “installations” that I have started. You can tell that I was not a studio-art major, because I cannot produce 3,000 words of art-prose about what I made.
But since producing prose (and editing other people’s prose) is what I do all day, these and the other installations are just thigs that Iet bubble up, and I don’t have to produce a lot of discourse about them. I am not even completely clear on their magickal purpose
A geocacher would spot this as a “suspicious pile of rocks,” but there are no geocaches in the area either.
I put its thesis like this: Instead of chugging through interstellar space to Earth, the UFO-nauts have always been here. “They” appear in many different shapes, some humanoid, some not, as it suits their fancy. Sometimes They just like to mess with us for reasons we do not understand. Or in more refined language,
As an alternative to the extraterrestrial visitation hypothesis, Vallée has suggested a multidimensional visitation hypothesis. This hypothesis represents an extension of the ETH where the alleged extraterrestrials could be potentially from anywhere. The entities could be multidimensional beyond space-time, and thus could coexist with humans, yet remain undetected (Wikipedia).
Back in the 1970s, Vallée and his wife flew to Argentina to investigate the case of Juan Pérez, a 12-year-old boy from a gaucho family in northern Argentina. Sent out one morning to bring in the family herd, Juan saddled his favorite horse, Cometa (Comet), and rode off into the pastures. On his ride, Juan encountered . . . something . . . that seemed to be a typical flying saucer. Tying Cometa to the craft’s ladder, he went up into it, he said.
There he encountered two beings. When he went home and told his story, he soon became a UFO celebrity. Cometa, however, sickened and died mysteriously only a few days after the encounter.
Juan’s life was wrecked. Call it PTSD. Call it a bad case of susto (soul loss). He fled the ufology scene. He ended up a fifty-ish bachelor, living an isolated life with just his dogs, working seasonally on neighboring ranches and otherwise alone.
There he was until an Argentine filmmaker, Alan Stivelman, decided to reunite him with Vallée, with whom he had had a good relationship as a youth. Vallée was enthusiastic about the plan — all he wanted was a couple of months to study intensively to improve his Spanish.
Stivelman’s documentary, Witness of Another World, is just beautiful movie-making. Whether on Argentinian pampas or up north in the jungle villages of Guaraní Indians, who play an important part in the documentary (Juan has some Guaraní ancestry) or exploring the texture’s of Juan’s crumbling house, it is good to look at.
It is a story of a man brought back from the edge, a spiritual rescue mission, where ufology meets shamanism meets a compassionate reunion of old friends — the eighty-year-old scientist and the grown-up but still frightened gaucho boy.
Listen to what Jacques Vallée has to say about “the phenomenon,” his term for the whole UFO/demon/fairy/visitor complex. Watch what the shamans do. And remember that “They” are not necessarily our friends.
M. and I were hunting mushrooms when she found this. “It’s the entrance to the Lower World!” she said.
“For the squirrel shaman,” I responded.
It’s not shamanic, but I have been putting some stuff on Instagram, like this photo. Instagram is not the place for long posts with lots of links, but if you’re an IG user, visit at letterfromhardscrabblecreek.
Let’s face it, all traditional (that word again) polytheisms involved sacrifice, usually of animals. You give to the gods, they give to you, right? There was even carryover into the Middle Eastern monotheisms — Kapparot for some Jews,sacrifices of sheep or cattle at Eid al-Adha, and of course Jesus as the “lamb of God” who is the supreme sacrifice. Some people sacrifice their sanity—less blood that way.
For the first time ever, the shamans of the Russian Federation have come together and elected “the supreme shaman of Russia” – Kara-ool Dopchun-ool, head of the Kyzyl Local Religious Organization of Shamans – done so by an almost unanimous vote (115 out of 166 votes) and called for official recognition as a traditional religion of the country.
And there is a “United Council of the Shamans of Russia.” How do you think that that will turn out? Is herding shamans like herding cats? Still, it is an interesting bid for greater legitimacy.
• Can occult studies make you crazy? Or just a little unbalanced?
The news of Michael Harner’s passing has been going around, and of course some magical practitioners have to react by disrespecting him.
You might well have heard the usual string of insults: he is an academic poser, he’s a fake . . . a cultural imperialist . . . from the “wrong” background . . . caters to the “wrong” people . . . a wannabe. Et cetera.
This is what you call “virtue-signaling,” in which the speaker tries to demonstrate that his or her virtues, practices, cultural connections, and so on are superior to those of the person being denigrated.
And perhaps if all the people doing it were themselves shamans of lengthy lineages, it might have worked. But usually they were not. They were merely jealous that an academic anthropologist could reinvent himself as a shaman, form the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, train other teachers, and try to re-inject shamanism into Western culture.In a way, shamanism still existed in the Spiritualist churches, complete with pious fakery, but that is another story.
Not just Western culture either — this is something that his facile detractors do not know about or chose to ignore.
Although shamanism is a cross-cultural practice, the word itself comes from peoples living in Siberia and Central Asia. And after the end of the Soviet Union, Harner’s Foundation for Shamanic Studies (FSS) had a presence in some of those former Soviet republics starting in the 1990s — teaching shamanism!
Irgit Kalzan-ham’s arrest photo.
Why was that necessary? Because the enlightened Marxists of the USSR approached shamanism this way:
The photograph had been taken by the NKVD [Soviet secret police] when they arrested [the Tuvan shaman] in 1938. Two years later he died in prison.Anna Reid, The Shaman’s Coat: A Native History of Siberia (London: Phoenix Books, 2003 ), 108.
All shamans were criminals for ideological purposes!
Setting out on her research, Anna Reid, author of The Shaman’s Coat: A Native History of Siberiaencounters two elderly Soviet-era anthropologists who disparage the new post-Soviet native shamans as being just “performers.” And she hears Michael Harner speak at a conference in Moscow but mentions only the fact that the FSS charges for workshops in the USA and sells drums.
But you have to start with where you are. With so many shamans executed in the 1930s — although some underground practice survived, the two anthropologists said)— who is left to remember “the right way”?
(You can also see some revived Mongolian shamanism in the 2009 documentary The Horse Boy.)
What about those hotel workshops? I went to two of them. One, indeed, was in a hotel, in Colorado Springs in the mid-1990s, the introductory workshop, taught by Sandra Ingerman, and another on “Shamanism and the Spirits of Nature,” taught at some lodge on the Utah side of Bear Lake by an FSS teacher from Salt Lake City.
I will admit that the first workshop seemed a little awkward — a group of strangers with all the teaching pitched for absolute beginners — and how else could it be?
The “Spirits of Nature” workshop, however, lingers with me still. It was almost non-stop journeying, indoors and out, in a group and alone, and by the end of it, my consciousness was definitely altered. When it was time to go, I drove all afternoon on quiet two-lane roads in Wyoming and Utah, avoiding the interstate highway, the way people feel after immersion in a festival — wanting to postpone the return to mundane world.
But back to Harner. While I dispute some of his ideas on European shamanism (and that will come out in the current writing project), he took a big important step. You can whimper that ours is not a shamanic culture, or you can claim that you learned shamanism from your grandmother, but for a lot of people, step one to learning about shamanism — whether you call yourself a shaman or not — was Michael Harner. And that’s a Good Thing.
• Photographer Rik Garrett (formerly of the Occult Chicago blog, now relocating back to the Pacific Northwest), is interviewed at beautiful.bizarre.
Rik harnesses old, analog photography techniques and a deep sensibility that is both educated and magical. I dare to believe he is opening doors to the past, recreating a cross-section of witchcraft and the earliest technologies in photography, and to the spirit realm—illuminating phenomenon and sparking the imagination beyond the typical scope of artistry.
This cartoon was not part of the New York Times story, in case you wondered.
A campaign to legalize LSD, MDMA, and other psychedelics in Norway reaches for ancient precedents. Didn’t the Sami (Lapp) shamans maybe use entheogens? What about those Viking who allegedly chewed on Amanita muscaria?