I have encountered a few comments about Jungle Svonnis statement about the persecution shamanism has been subjected to in Sweden. The comments point out that Ayahuasca and San Pedro aren’t indigenous to Scandinavia. The reasoning seems to be that since these plants aren’t indigenous to Scandinavia, they cannot be seen as a valid part of Scandinavian shamanism.
What this line of reasoning is saying is that some tools should or could only be used in certain cultural contexts. In this case that would be in South America, handled by healers indigenous to the area. It does not however take into account that we live in a globalized world where people in ever greater numbers are inspiring each other, learning new techniques from each other and letting their own cultural background be enriched in the meetings with other cultures.
Svonni makes the case that Sami shamanism has been almost wiped out by the brutality of the Swedish government that has persecuted the Sami people for hundreds of years. Svonni comes from a lineage of shamans, but to find his shamanic roots he was forced to go to South America, where shamanism is still alive. There he underwent extensive training, in which he learnt to work with Ayahuasca and San Pedro, among other things. But although his training was in South America, he still considers himself a Sami shaman and has returned home to work in Scandinavia.
These plant medicines are truly fantastic, but they are also only tools for the shaman. Today shamans all over the world are connecting in order to rebuild the knowledge that has been lost under the brutality of the inquisition, through to modern day colonialism and today’s repressive drug laws. While regaining the knowledge that is inherent to all people of the earth, they are naturally also learning each other’s techniques. These techniques have been created in a certain cultural context, but are by no means bound to them. On the contrary, each shaman must collect his or her own tools, and might very well be inspired by whomever or whatever comes in his/her way, just as an artist might.
We wouldn’t dream of saying that only Asians should have the right to draw calligraphy, that only Chinese should train kung fu, that only Sami should be allowed to sing jojk, only Indians should do yoga, only Native Americans should do sweat lodges, only Rastafaris should wear dreadlocks or only Westerners use Viagra. But when it comes to plant medicines someone seems to have the notion that certain things should not be allowed outside their original cultural context, even when it is obvious that such plants are helping people of all backgrounds, successfully spreading to new contexts and have a long history of use all over the world. It seems absurd to single out plant medicines like that and say that they alone should be forced to remain within their original cultural context.
That is not the understanding I have of the human experience. My understanding is that the whole world and all the knowledge belongs to every single human being. All you need to do is to reach out and claim it. There is no copyright on sacred plant medicines or our individual spiritual journeys, and I find it repulsive if someone would suggest that there should be.
The whole world and everything in it belongs to us all.
Photo: Portal by Rory MacLeod on Flickrby