Day two of the course.
I was hoping to be in better shape for today’s activities as Simon had said we’d be focusing on working for the community, with the emphasis being on working. It’s what shaman do, their raison d’être.
Exhausted from the previous day I’d gone to bed at 9.30 p.m. Despite the noise and sirens on Kilburn High Road I slept like the proverbial log. I stirred when I heard a key in my door lock but drifted back to sleep thinking that maybe I’d imagined it.
Alas no! I hadn’t. There followed a few minutes later a very determined effort by someone on the other side trying to turn a key in my lock which was clearly not designed for it. Rather than question the lack of fit the person just kept trying.
I was awake now, and even more so after I bellowed at him ‘It’s the wrong room!’
‘Oh, sorry, sorry,’ came a very slurred Irish voice from the other side of the door. Obviously another resident uncertain of the location of his room; convinced he knew where it was when he went out and now wondering why it had moved.
I trust he remembered in due course as he stopped trying to get into mine, but now that I was awake I became aware of the heavy thumping music somewhere outside. I’m pretty certain the barman told me the Black Lion (the pub I was staying above) closed at 1 a.m. Were they having some kind of lock in? Even so he’d told me the noise wouldn’t travel up to the second floor, and indeed it hadn’t the night before.
I checked the time on my phone. 1.35. I look out of the window and note with dismay that The Good Ship opposite the Black Lion is a night club.
At 3.30 was hoping, no praying that they would end at 4.00, but that prayer went answered. I used the next hour to catch up on my journaling before sliding into exhausted oblivion at about 4.30.
I did think though that there’s no such thing as too much noise – just not enough fatigue. When we’re tired enough we’ll sleep anywhere.
At 7.30 a.m. when my alarm woke me all was quiet and peaceful outside.
I only mentioned all this to give an idea of the state I was in when I arrived for day two of the course. I was incredibly grateful Simon said our first exercise would involve a lot of movement.
He referred to it as voluntary possession, explaining that the word possession has been a given a bad name by Hollywood, with film like The Exorcist, The Shining and many others.
Possession is essentially allowing spirit to work through you. By allowing your spirit teachers to merge with you, you save your own energy, because you don’t have to do the work.
It was one of the things he said anthropologists found baffling when studying indigenous shaman who could perform rituals for hours, sometimes for days without fatigue.
Becoming voluntarily possessed basically means allowing spirit to move you in whatever ways it feels appropriate, and to speak through you. Very much like trance mediumship.
The first exercise involved all of us standing up and moving around the room in a clockwise direction to the beat of drums – four experienced drummers from the group were enlisted to supplement Simon’s drumming.
‘Just allow yourself to be and to do,’ he encouraged. ‘Allow yourself to become completely merged with the animal or the human teacher you met yesterday.’
We began with a power song that we all sang while standing and holding hands.
‘Come, fill me, give me a song, move me.’
We sang this three or four times before the drumming began and we started to walk around the room.
I connected with the music straight away as it was very reminiscent of the reggae beat. Within a short space of time I became the beat again, as I did in the journey to the upper world. I was stamping and twisting, jumping and spinning, snaking and sliding.
It reminded me of how I get sometimes on the dance floor when I’m lost in the music, when I dance all night without a break, even for a drink.
That bit was familiar. What wasn’t was the sound that started some somewhere deep in my belly and worked its way up through my chest, became amplified in my throat and boomed out of my mouth.
It wasn’t a song as such, more of a deep moan, a groan that sounded ancient even to my own ears. I’d never made a sound like that consciously, and it came over and over again, until I realised that my skin was wet with the sweat of dancing and my face from the tears that flowed from a previously untapped source.
The music became faster, more insistent, and something inside me felt ready to burst out, to find life in the outside world after eons of being trapped. It felt as if I was in that space for days, not just the fifteen minutes Simon said.
When the drumming stopped I was breathing heavily, as if I’d been running a long race. It took a couple of minutes for my breath to return to normal.
It reminded me of something that happened to me when I was seventeen, but that was a long time ago.