On Being Interviewed

This morning I met with a third group of students from a local college. The students have been interviewing me about shamanism in order to fulfill an assignment for an Ethnology course. Some students are focused on shamanism in the abstract. Today’s group asked a few general questions, then honed in on the role and impact of shamanism in my life.

Being asked personal questions forced me to think about my relationship to shamanism. The questions invited me to reflect deeply on life. They were a gift. They were also the kinds of questions I find myself asking persons who come to me for aid. They were good, weighty, honest questions.

One student asked when shamanism entered my life. Another asked how I, now in my early 60’s, understood the influence of shamanism in my life. Another question addressed how my life in shamanism might be different from that of my teachers, or their teachers. As I listened, I found myself looking within to find answers to these profound questions, and feeling gratitude to the students for asking them.

Over time, the conversation turned to the students’ understanding of shamanism in cultural context. Together we thought about the ways shamanism has become commodified, and in the process, stripped of it’s culturally specific contexts. The students were surprised to discover they had little idea of the living conditions of, and varied threats to, Indigenous, shamanic cultures around the world. They were shocked to hear of the ongoing genocide and displacement of shamanic peoples, and the desecration of First Nations lands and sacred sites in many parts of the world, including the Americas.

In the end, both the students and I learned something as a result of our meeting. During our time together, I was focused on meeting their needs, and only after they left did I became aware of my appreciation of them. Our meeting was truly a gathering of the generations, and I felt well met.

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