A Personal Look at Core Shamanism
By Timothy Flynn

Timothy Flynn is a shamanic practitioner and database expert from the Monterey Bay area, California. He is a graduate of the FSS Three-Year Program and the Two-Week Shamanic Healing Intensive. Tim can be reached through his website, where he writes about shamanism and other spiritual practices. Timothy shares his experience of core shamanism and Harner Shamanic Counseling (page 3).

I became a member of the tribe of “shamanic workshoppers” shortly after graduate school. We're spread around the globe, from the United States to Canada to Austria to Singapore. We drag our drums and rattles on planes, buses and through airport checkpoints policed by startled attendants. "It’s a rattle, it’s filled with stones from the stream behind my house. No you can't touch that, it’s my power animal mask and it doesn't want to see the light of day yet."

We save up our vacations and paychecks year after year for the chance to sit in circle with others like us to travel deeper into our experience of shamanism. Some of us offer healing professionally or semi-professionally. Some of us are nourishing our spirituality with one of the most authentic ways to access the sacred we've ever been privileged to learn.


Young, old, doctors, lawyers, blue-collar workers, therapists and everything under the sun, we form bonds that can be made nowhere else. Practicing new techniques on each other, sharing meals, sharing rooms - our bonds are based on experiences we can't even begin to explain to most people. After struggling in silence we're able to finally make sense of events that have baffled us for years. We're lucky enough to benefit from the wealth of the Earth’s shamanic knowledge, made available to us by direct transmission from some living indigenous healers and by the explorations of experienced modern practitioners. Though we spend most of our time far from each other, we are all united by the circles we have sat in together.

It’s impossible to go any further without telling you about Michael Harner. White male anthropologists have not enjoyed a glowing report card from academics, activists, or indigenous people over the last three or four decades. "Cultural appropriation," "inherently racist," and "tools of the patriarchy," are just a few of the salvo's fired at the tradition of Western anthropology, sometimes with good reason. The very term shamanism is thought by some to be a reductionist contrivance of elitist academics crafted to strip cultures of their unique qualities.

Michael Harner is to many of his students the embodiment of the refutation of those critiques. He has managed to use his training as an anthropologist and a shaman for the betterment of indigenous as well as contemporary peoples. After decades of laboring against the tides of academia, Michael was recently honored by the American Anthropological Association for his work both as an anthropologist and advocate of shamanism. In his study of indigenous cultures and training with shamanic healers, he has recognized a unique and invaluable ability that is essentially human. "Core Shamanism," which he originated, researched, and developed, is the practical expression of that ability. A series of shamanic practices that are universal or near universal make up the teachings Michael and the international faculty at the Foundation for Shamanic Studies (FSS) offer. Core Shamanism has made up the heart of the FSS offerings since the 1970's. Over the last fifteen years, I've been privileged to study these practices.

So much has flowed from Michael's original spark. While not all of my training has been through him or FSS faculty, nearly all of my training builds on his work in some way. Ancient traditions have been brought to life, new techniques have been developed, and the ancient and the modern have united in the lives of tens of thousands of people exposed to his work. Core Shamanism allows modern practitioners of shamanism to approach, and with almost no introduction, begin to work alongside indigenous shamans trained in practices that are thousands of years old. It functions not only as a profound remembering, but as a bridge allowing us to reach out to the Earth's ancient shamanic traditions.


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