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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello everyone,

I hope that you all are well, and I really want to thank you for giving me the forum to discuss some of the issues that are important to me. I have only recently made the transition to a full vegan lifestyle, and am finding that eliminating animal products from my life is not as cut and dry as I first thought. I have recently begun studying under a shaman trained in the native Incan shamanic tradition, and have found that this has given my relationship with all animals a me a new depth and clarity that it never had before. I find that I have a new perspective about the wisdom of animals, and I view myself as a member of something larger that includes all life, big and small. I believe more so than ever that it is important to treat our animal brothers and sisters with respect, and am becoming increasingly passionate about protecting them when they are unable to protect themselves. All of this being said, I am conflicted about the traditional practice of native shamanism, because it often involves the use of animal parts.

The native peoples who developed the shamanic traditions I'm studying had a different view of the world then we do in the west, that honored and respected all animals as equals. As a result, they viewed the killing of animals very differently then we do today in the West. They did not kill indiscriminately or for sport, and whenever they did kill an animal, they honored it, both in their prayers and in their actions. They also made sure to honor its sacrifice by using every single piece of the animal's body. They continued to honor the animal's spirit after it had passed on by thanking it every time they used something that came from an animal. This tradition continues in the shamanic practice that I am studying, yet as a Western Vegan, I am conflicted. I do not eat meat, or eat or use any products that come from an animal. However, many shamanic rituals involve the use of animal body parts, be they the foot of a wild cougar or the feather of a wild turkey. I don't currently own any of these body parts myself, yet someday, when I am called to do these rituals myself, I will need to own my own as well. These ceremonies are usually done for healing, and often involve the spirits of the animals themselves. They are thanked before and after the ritual, and are honored throughout. Yet as somebody who has sworn to eliminate animal products from his life, I am conflicted about this. Do you in the community have any thoughts or suggestions for me? Thank you, and I best wishes to you.

Warm Regards,

Jonathan
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roninway View Post

I have recently begun studying under a shaman trained in the native Incan shamanic tradition
are you doing this as a hobby, or is it a required component of a course you are undertaking for an academic qualification ??
 

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I'm not full vegan (yet)... I'm not strict enough about avoiding animal industry byproducts (leather shoes specifically). So that limits my credibility in this thread...

I don't see how you could acquire something like an animal's foot without contributing significantly to animal death (although a deer probably wouldn't have minded if you had a minor part in a cougar's death...)


But you might be able to find something like a turkey feather- I know birds regularly molt them and grow new ones. Like I said, I don't have a handle yet on some aspects of veganism so I'm not sure if this would fit in.

Wouldn't it be more respectful not to do harm to an animal, rather than to give his/her spirit thanks for what was forcibly taken from him/her? Native traditions did, and do, give prayerful thanks to wild things, but I've never understood that any more than I understand the notions of "happy meat" or "humane slaughter".
 

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It seems to me, this shaman tradition you speak of has brought you as far as it can, and you have now surpassed it, by virtue of your own heart. If you're conflicted, remove the conflict. The conflict is being put on you from an outside source. Leave it behind.

To say one respects an animal, then kill it, is not respect, but apology at best. This is not wisdom.

I think it's time for you to graduate and take your place in a larger universe.

Peace. Wisdom. Love. Power.
 

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Try only accruing animal parts that have been left by natural means (for example, feathers off ground, teeth or bones from the forest floor, tufts of hair from branches). Ultimately you can consider that birds may need those things for their nests, but if you only take one or two small things from the forest, I think it would be better than the alternative). You may actually have to put yourself out on a journey in the woods to find these things, so make it a meditative event and come back knowing you have not harmed any animal for your spiritual well-being (and the spiritual well-being of others).

PLEASE do not buy or accrue hunted animal parts. I have an understanding of the Thanks and Honor that shamans and First Nations people use in their practices, however I personally would not want the energy of a hunted/murdered animal in my spiritual practice. You can invite the spirits of animals into your ceremony without killing. Perhaps you can find honor in not harming any living thing, and thanking the animal spirits for guiding your rituals from a place of mutual respect?

The cougar's foot is not what brings healing in spiritual ceremonies. It is simply a symbol. You will not lose credibility among those seeking spiritual guidance if you refrain from using animals in your practice. In fact, you probably don't even need to mention that you don't have those items, no one would notice. Simply bring other items that have energy of the natural world into the circle. For example, sage bundles for smudging, particular herbs for healing, shells and rocks and leaves that you've found. Wild turkey feathers are my favourite because they are SO beautiful, and I find them easily on the ground. I always give my "Thank You!" to the sky when one happens to present itself on my path.

So you can do it. I think sticking to your personal integrity is what will make the most difference here. If you believe harming animals is wrong, but animals are harmed for you to perform a healing ceremony, the energy just WON'T be right. You must stay aligned with your heart and mind in order to offer that same alignment to others
 

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I think involving anyone into one's religious or spiritual practice, whether that anyone is an adult human, a young child or an animal, is unethical when it's done without the informed consent of the being in question. In this case: animals don't believe in those spiritual or religious practices and have no interest in it, no matter how important they might be for various human cultures, so they should not be pulled into it. Nor is any kind of feeling of honoring or respect on the part of the human any consolation or comfort for the animals who are killed; that is, again, an entirely human affair, and makes humans feel better about it, not the animals.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Capstan View Post

It seems to me, this shaman tradition you speak of has brought you as far as it can, and you have now surpassed it, by virtue of your own heart. If you're conflicted, remove the conflict. The conflict is being put on you from an outside source. Leave it behind.

To say one respects an animal, then kill it, is not respect, but apology at best. This is not wisdom.

I think it's time for you to graduate and take your place in a larger universe.

Peace. Wisdom. Love. Power.
Quote:
Originally Posted by paisleyjane View Post

Try only accruing animal parts that have been left by natural means (for example, feathers off ground, teeth or bones from the forest floor, tufts of hair from branches). Ultimately you can consider that birds may need those things for their nests, but if you only take one or two small things from the forest, I think it would be better than the alternative). You may actually have to put yourself out on a journey in the woods to find these things, so make it a meditative event and come back knowing you have not harmed any animal for your spiritual well-being (and the spiritual well-being of others).

PLEASE do not buy or accrue hunted animal parts. I have an understanding of the Thanks and Honor that shamans and First Nations people use in their practices, however I personally would not want the energy of a hunted/murdered animal in my spiritual practice. You can invite the spirits of animals into your ceremony without killing. Perhaps you can find honor in not harming any living thing, and thanking the animal spirits for guiding your rituals from a place of mutual respect?

The cougar's foot is not what brings healing in spiritual ceremonies. It is simply a symbol. You will not lose credibility among those seeking spiritual guidance if you refrain from using animals in your practice. In fact, you probably don't even need to mention that you don't have those items, no one would notice. Simply bring other items that have energy of the natural world into the circle. For example, sage bundles for smudging, particular herbs for healing, shells and rocks and leaves that you've found. Wild turkey feathers are my favourite because they are SO beautiful, and I find them easily on the ground. I always give my "Thank You!" to the sky when one happens to present itself on my path.

So you can do it. I think sticking to your personal integrity is what will make the most difference here. If you believe harming animals is wrong, but animals are harmed for you to perform a healing ceremony, the energy just WON'T be right. You must stay aligned with your heart and mind in order to offer that same alignment to others
I think these would both be acceptable solutions. I don't know much about many kinds of spirituality, but I can say that you should do what you are comfortable with and only that. Let your ethics take priority over traditional values, though, please. Things change very often, and if you know it's not right in your heart, it's probably not right.

Also, welcome to VB.
 

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Maybe reconsider Shamanism. It will be difficult to avoid not using animal parts and probably relating to the meaning of the use of animals because as you explained very well Shamanic principals directly conflict with Vegan principals and to embrace Shamanism would technically not be vegan.

as an example: I am intrigued with TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and seriously considered training in this field, however the prevalence of animal products used was hard to avoid as a vegan. It's one of those things that I let go because veganism is more important to me than having a career in TCM.

back to shamanism, unfortunately i have only encountered "Shamans" that were driven primarily by monetary means (why i use quotes bc they weren't real Shamins), it is an area where there tends to be frequent fraud and misgivings. sadly in disguise as guidance and healing...
 

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I take issue with the belief that shamanism as a whole is irreconcilable with a vegan lifestyle. There are easily ten thousand different shamanic traditions and they are so diverse that only westerners put them under the same name.

If the OP wants to stick with that chosen shamanic tradition and the only issue is the traditional use of animal parts, perhaps a compromise could be reached with the teacher. It might be a great learning experience for both teacher and student to find ways to do all requisite ceremonies and medicine preparations without using any animal bits. Experienced shamans always know more than one way to do things and can easily figure out acceptable variations. A vegan variation of that tradition should be possible, even if purists would argue its not a strictly traditional form in the end.
All of that is assuming the teacher is willing to take on the challenge and variance from the norm, if not than perhaps another teacher could be found?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thank you all for your thoughtful comments and suggestions.You all really are wonderful people, and this is a great community.
This shamanic training is part of my spiritual practice, and is very important to me, so I don't want to move on from it. However, I also don't want to compromise what my heart tells me either, which is that killing animals when i have the choice not to do so is wrong. I think the idea of only using those things i find myself in natre to be a good compromise. Parsleyjane, you are right that I don't need the animals body parts to involve its spirit in the ritual process, and that discovering things myself might be a good way of deepening my own practice. I don't think that shamanism itself is antithetical to vegan principles, and I am certain that my teacher won't be offended by any changes I might make. She is very understanding, and I doubt she would object if I used a paper fan to replace the turkey feather during the smudging ceremony, or chose to use rocks, plants, or herbs instead of animal parts in others. Thank you all again for your kindness, and I am very grateful to be a part of your community.

Best Wishes,

Jonathan
 

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Glad we could help!

Actually, your thread reminds me of some passages I read recently in a book about Wicca. I don't know enough about either Wicca or Shamanism to say whether they have that much in common, and I don't know how knowledgeable or credible the author of this particular book was.

But anyway, there was a passage about wands, and how different woods might have different magical properties. The author recommended that a practitioner of Wicca go into the woods and pick up wood from which to fashion their wand, rather than cutting it from a tree. Also, evidently many witches use ceremonial knives, and the author mentioned something to the effect that a knife which had been used for violence would have negative properties, and most likely be unsuitable for any positive magic.
 
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