A degree in Shamanism? More New Age BS…

* Note: The New Age Mexikah are just as guilty of this nonsense…

New Age spirituality has been building momentum for more than a century, according to scholars—who don’t like it any more than Native people do. Author Harold Bloom called New Age practices “the American religion” that “has been emptying our politics and our private lives of meaning.” A reviewer of another author, Catherine Tumber, said New Agers are “fungus-like, out of our uncontrolled capitalism.”

There is one thing the critics missed though, and that is what New Agers are doing in Indian country. Like the emperor’s new clothes, they have made a popular culture of the sacred invisible, and are selling it to the highest bidder.

A case in point is the Divine Blessings Academy, which objectifies and quantifies spirituality as a product for sale. Though an Internet outcry quickly forced the academy to take down its “Native American Shaman” program from its website, it had offered a four-year degree, a master’s program, and post graduate degree in Native American Shamanism.

This image shows a screen capture from the Divine Blessings Academy Course Catalog for Introduction to Shamanism.
This image shows a screen capture from the Divine Blessings Academy Course Catalog for Introduction to Shamanism.

Shamanism is a term used often in South America for one who is able to obtain healing through communication with spirits. Native Americans commonly refers to North American Natives, who do not use the term shaman for their spiritual teachers, leaders, or healers.

Divine Blessings is apparently accredited by the International Natural Healers Association, whose website warns, “Please use your judgement when selecting a school or practitioner. Accreditation through the INHA does not mean that these schools have received accreditation through the US Department of Education.” So, basically, it’s one New Age institution approving another.

A perusal of the course catalogue, which was obtained before it was deleted, shows that Divine Blessings Academy offers courses in: The Hopi Prophecy Stone, Smudging and Basic Tools, Finding Your Power Animal, A Form of Reiki Using Native American Principles, Creating and Using Feather Fans, Native American Mantras and Prayers, receiving a Magikal name, and dozens more. Graduation entitles the student to join the Native American Shamanism Society and to receive “a personalized full-color certificate, which will be mailed directly to the student’s home.” (Where else would they mail it?)

All of these courses are offered through downloadable PDF files. In Native cultures, all such training would be offered by a medicine person who had dedicated their life to understanding that which they teach.

“It’s cultural trespassing,” said Carol Iron Rope Herrera, Lakota elder and spiritual advisor. “And its been going on a long time. A few years ago, we had a lot of the New Agers coming into Pine Ridge and Phyllis Swift Hawk was dealing with them.”

A call to Swift Hawk shed light on the way some traditional Lakota people have dealt with the problem. “We talk to them, and let them understand the consequences. I always pray with the non-Indians. My grandmother was real traditional, and she talked about the black nation from Africa, and that they have a pipe and prayer ties. The yellow nation has a pipe and prayer ties, and we do, too. But the white nation doesn’t know which way to turn.”

Unlike the online activists, Swift Hawk’s concerns were not only about the appropriation of culture, but that unsuspecting New Agers may find themselves in danger. “Practicing ceremonies without understanding is dangerous,” she said. “We see so many deaths.”

RELATED: Native History: A Non-Traditional Sweat Leads to Three Deaths

Other problems include local tribal members charging non-Natives as much as copy,000 for sun dances, and hundreds for sweat lodges. “If people didn’t have the money to pay, some were forced to give up family jewels and heirlooms,” Swift Hawk said. “It is up to our people to pray with all people, but when we start charging, that is not the Lakota way. I don’t hate the white race; I don’t want to see them get hurt. We have to pray together for world peace.”

So what is a spiritually starving American to do? Swift Hawk said she wishes New Agers could understand that living a spiritual life doesn’t happen right away, and said, “You have to learn the language to make the connection” with the elements, the ancestors, and relatives.


About Kurly Tlapoyawa (1010 Articles)

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