Pentecost and the Way of the Shaman

Written by Phil Wyman : June 13, 2008

Editor’s Note: Below is the overall grand prize winner for the Stepping into a Violent Wind Writing Competition:

The sacred drum stays out of sight, behind skins and blankets until the old woman has need to travel. She lives among the reindeer herdsman of Northern Mongolia. Inside her oortz (a type of teepee), the Mongolian Shaman begins to beat her sacred drum, and chant. These are the vehicles of her travel as she enters a spirit realm on behalf of those who seek her help. Sometime during her spirit travels she enters a trance, the spirits enter her body, and the old woman dances like a child.

In the changing culture of Mongolia, a country once isolated from the modernization of the rest of the world, the ancient practices of the Shaman are returning to prominence. Once driven underground by the alignment of Mongolia’s communist government with the Soviet Union the Shamans faded into obscurity until Mongolia’s peaceful democratic revolution in 1990.

Like the old woman in the North who lives among the remote reindeer herders, Shamans are now beginning to ply their trade in the cities of Mongolia.

Today this once isolated country is being invaded by the hordes of capitalism and western progress. Yet the way of the Shaman is regaining popularity and is increasingly being sought out by the slowly transitioning people of this slowly developing nation.

It may be, that as the way of the west invades Mongolia, that the way of the Shaman, considered by some anthropologists to be a vestige of the world’s oldest religious expression, is invading our own culture with the swift force of Genghis Kahn.

The Mongolian title Shaman is now a household word, and has become synonymous with the healers, the spirit walkers, spiritual protectors, storytellers, and the tribal historians across the times and the lands of humanity’s earliest religious expressions. It has also become a reference for a type of spiritual leader many people appear to be searching for today.

In my little world of Salem, MA, I have come to know a unique, and growing tribal group called Neo-Pagans. These are the Witches, the Druids, the Wiccans, and the Pagans whose religious preferences have been at a stage of revival in Western Culture for almost 50 years. Among them, Shamans of a new kind are emerging, just as the way of the ancient Shaman is re-emerging in Mongolia today.

My friend Mike from London is a Neo-Shaman. He describes walking in the spirit world seeking the broken pieces of people’s souls to help put them together and bring healing. Witches and Druids I’ve met seek to enter the unseen realm of spirits to bring messages from beyond, and are increasingly identifying with the ancient ways of the Shaman.

I sometimes wonder how different my own spiritual leadership is from that of the Shaman.

I am a pursuer of the ways of Pentecost. I call on that ancient baptism of fire described by the first apostles of my faith. I seek to have my soul catch the elusive winds of the Spirit of God, and blow me wildly in the direction of His choosing.

Through Pentecost I walk on the other side of the veil, which hides the unseen realm from my physical eyes. I speak the language of angels, and pursue the voice of God in the winds of His Spirit. I seek to lead others into the mystical experiences of the way of the Christ. I pray for the sick. I speak words of blessing trusting in some divinely empowered value to those words. I attempt to bring peace to brokenness of people’s souls. I hear their dreams, and their prayers, and I hope to lead them to Spirit encounters, which answer the cries of their hearts.

As I consider what it is I do as a pursuer of Pentecost I find myself wondering if the experience of Pentecost is in some degree similar to the way of the Shaman. Could it be that the ancient Mongolian Shaman prefigured the dynamic work of God’s Spirit moving in wind and fire on that first Pentecost two millennia ago? And, could it be that the Neo-Pagan revival, which appears to be the quintessential expression of postmodern religious experience2 - at once tribal and searching for the ancient, yet elusive and purposely short on doctrinal definition is calling out for religious teachers who can lead by mystical example? Is this postmodern/post-Christian world looking for those who walk in the winds, speak the language of angels, and call for healing from beyond the veil of this physical experience, which traps our souls?

I tend to think this is what many people are looking for, and I find myself wondering if the Shaman might in some way be a positive typology for spiritual Christian leadership in these postmodern times. Might there be a place among the Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers for Christians who become Wind-Walkers – like the ancient Shamans?

Author Bio: Phil Wyman pastors The Gathering, a unique missional community in Salem, MA. Phil has been married to Beverly since 1983, and thinks that she’s a real babe, and the most interesting person living. He plays the guitar and a few other instruments, writes music, writes theological blatherings, and feels bad about being a monoglot American, so he’s learning Welsh.

Image: “Shaman” by M & G

Mark Van Steenwyk is the editor of He is a Mennonite pastor (Missio Dei in Minneapolis), writer, speaker, and grassroots educator. He lives in South Minneapolis with his wife (Amy), son (Jonas) and some of their friends.

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Viewing 8 Comments

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    First to congratulate you, Phil, on your overall grand prize for this great piece. Hope you're not tired of the hoopla!

    Thanks again for putting your soul out there in such a remarkable way.

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    Dear Phil:

    Congratulations on your capture of the grand prize in the JM Pentecost Essay contest! One more plank has been placed, not in a mere parochial party platform, but rather in the bridge you've striven--at considerable personal and professional cost--to build between the Christian and Pagan communities here in Salem. The Carpenter would approve!

    I believe the experiences of the Pagan Shaman and the Christian Mystic are not merely similar but identical in nature, purpose, and outcome. Both involve the emptying-out of the self in order that one may become a conduit for the life and love of Spirit seeking to manifest in the world. My friend Ronnie McPhail, the Scottish "soul doctor" who healed me during my time in Edinburgh and who combines both traditions in his own practices, would certainly agree. The world has great need--now, perhaps, more than ever--of faiths whose demonstration demands the setting aside of the individual ego (and thus of the desire to dominate others) in order to hear and speak what the Source of All would have us do--and be.

    As usual, the mystical poets express such an otherwise-inexpressible experience best and most beautifully. Since you're reading Welsh and learning its verse-forms, here's a bit of Gerard Manley Hopkins along those "lines:"

    Beyond saying sweet, past telling of tongue,
    Thou art lightning and love, I found it, a winter and warm...
    --Hopkins, "The Wreck of the DEUTSCHLAND"

    And T.S. Eliot, whom most readers associate with the negative, nihiistic sentiments of his early work, "The Waste Land," became a Christian in later life and did some of his finest writing in a spiritual mode. He had evidently had a "baptism by fire" of his own, or he could not have penned this unforgettable image of the point where the Divine and the mortal intersect in the instant of mystical rapture: "The Fire and the Rose are one."

    Once again, hurrah for your capture and many more soaring raptures, with Blessed Be from your Christian Witch,

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    Thank you, Rose--well-said!
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    Beth and Rose,

    Thank you. Beth - No not tired - in fact I have found the interaction lively and intelligent. Rose - If anyone would get some cynghanedd in there it would be you.
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    You are welcome, sir.
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    For some reason, when I reposted this article, the comments (which are hosted by Disqus) got "cut off". If you want to read previous comments, go here:
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    Act2 scene 2 of "The Crucible by Miller. (taken from an online summary)

    "John says reluctantly that he will go and speak with Abby, but he is angry that his wife will not drop this mistake that he made by having an affair with Abby. "'I'll plead no more! I see now your spirit twists around the single error of my life, and I will never tear it free!'"

    Verse 11 of Pentecost and the way of the Shaman by Pastor Phil

    "Through Pentecost I walk on the other side of the veil, which hides the unseen realm from my physical eyes. I speak the language of angels, and pursue the voice of God in the winds of His Spirit."

    On the seventh day after the resurrection of Jesus the savior the spirit of God's holy spirit decends upon the 12 apostles..Pentecost.

    Drums and the shaman would really add a nice touch to that moment. I think this writter has a wonderful way with words and deserves the award he's won.

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    Hey Naliah,

    Good to see you here. Bless you.


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