As our first of our four required reading books, my Hive read Chosen By The Spirits by Mongolian Shaman, teacher, and activist Sarangerel. During the class discussion, our teacher told us she'd wanted to show us the roots of our pagan practice through an unfamiliar lense so that we might observe it in a fresh way. And though the words for the tools and practices and deities are unpronouncable, I recognized the drum and incense, the casting of the circle, calling of the directions, and a relationship with a panthean quite familiar to my own experiences as a Witch.
Since the delightful book was so attractive to my best friend, who absconded with it last week, I don't have the copy in front of me. So I shall have to review it from my scattered memory. Which is a good practice for understanding what was an oral tradition— until the persecution and decimation of shamanic cultures forced people to preserve some of the wisdom in written form.
What impressed me immediately about the writing was its plainspoken and encouraging voice. Sarangerel—who was born to a Mongolian family in the US—shares with the ease and generosity of an Auntie teaching you how to bake cookies. "Of course you can do it! Just pour in the milk and stir with a wooden spoon three times clockwise," could just as easily have been a line in the book as any others in there. She doesn't pretend it doesn't take years to master the skills, yet she doesn't withold the practice as mysterious and off-limits. She believes that if you're curious enough to be reading the book, you probably have a Shamanic calling.
The book offers practical descriptions of rituals, trance journeys, and divination methods—just enough to get you going, and always with the reminder that every Shaman has a unique experience, so don't worry if it doesn't match what anyone else reports. Like so many of my favorite teachers, Sarangerel asks the student to seek and try and learn and know from their own personal experience, rather than the swallow-and-regurgitate methods so popular these days.
I think the most fascinating section was about several traditional divination techniques. I am inspired to create my own sets of tools, especially one method that involves assembling an assortment of little rocks into three clusters that represent the person and the spirits affecting her. I love the idea of making magickal tools out of found objects, of recognizing spirit in something one encounters while wandering through life. I've been collecting little doodads for decades, and perhaps a Shaman's kit is already in my possession, just needing to be recognized as such!