In the West, thanks to the life-long work of Dr. Michael Harner, we have a curriculum of core shamanic workshops and residential programs, which serve as a solid foundation for students of shamanism, and on completion of which, students move forward with the work in ways that are shown to them by their spirit teachers, and which are unique to them.
As a member of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies faculty, I teach all of the basic and advanced workshops, and I am currently the assistant faculty for the Two-Week Intensive and the Three-Year Program in the Bay Area. I tell participants again and again that they are their own spiritual authority, and encourage them to journey to their own helping spirits for the answers to questions that are beyond the specific content of the workshops.
For the past year, however, I’ve been looking for a way to pass on more of what I have learned, and desiring a small group of advanced and profoundly committed shamanic practitioners to work with one-on-one. Some indigenous cultures provide us a model of individuals who seek out master shamans and become their apprentices. They embark on a course of study that can last for years, and for which they pay, either with money or some other form of exchange.
While the shaman-and-apprentice model does not translate into western culture, I believe there is much that we can learn from this example. It has worked well in indigenous cultures for millennia, providing apprentices with guidance and knowledge from one who has walked farther down the path, without undermining their spiritual autonomy or authority, or diminishing their professional responsibility.