Ever wondered how shamans become shamans? Are they born to it? Did they wander the ends of the earth seeking knowledge? How does this happen? In this anthology, forty-seven different shamanic practitioners share their personal stories of awakening to the call of the spirit realm. The first few essays lay the groundwork of what shamanism can be: direct experience with the spirit realm for emotional and physical healing, learning, building relationships, feeling one with nature/the universe/deity. From there each chapter follows a different author's personal journey. Common themes are being called to the path but not being willing to accept it, experiencing a momentary oneness with all, or conversely entering into the realm of the spirits though trauma or a near death experience.

The term shamanism is used loosely, referring to modern ways that the practitioner interacts with the spirit world and not specifically to the Asian cultural traditions from which this word comes. Traditions from the Americas, both North and South, have the spotlight. These include Pachakuti Mesa Tradition, Pachamama and Andean traditions, Mayan, Ute, Dine, Cherokee, Huichol and others. Some writers have studied Eastern systems such as Qi Gong, Yoga, reiki and Chinese medicine or Eastern spirituality like Vipassana meditation, Sufism and Zen Buddhism. A few Christians also speak of mystical experiences. While there is a broad array of shamanic practices represented, I would have liked to see more African and Asian traditions included.

My idea of shamanism was very traditional in which a seeker finds a teacher through perhaps extraordinary means or personal connections but many people today are learning through big public workshops. New age or modern developments of shamanic methods and philosophy that are not directly connected to a particular cultural tradition are well represented. These include shamanic psychotherapy, Shamanic Breathwork, hypnotherapy and eco-shamanism and others. No matter who the author is, whether coming from a traditional or modern training background, they all agree that beginning this journey is transformative.

As much as this is a book about the ability to see beyond this reality, seeing the truth within this one lends credibility. Alberto Villodo's essay Shamanic Ecstasy impressed me. He humbly admits to being driven out the Amazon and into the Andes due to intestinal parasites. So much for the imagined glamour of distant locales! Thomas J. Mock's Raptor Medicine: A Portal to Shamanic Beginnings humorously relays how a series of very unlikely events with dead birds eventually led to an acceptance of his special relationship with a spirit animal. Misha Hoo's A Doorway Called Africa and Julian Katari's Into the Red Path, honestly share how youthful missteps and drug use were part of the twisted path to their awakening. Bezi's Rappers Don't Go on Meditation Retreats, one of my favorites, explores what it means to be a black man called to Vipassana. Rita Baruss' Pine Spirit Medicine recounts how she became aware of the consciousness of plants through Pine Spirit. Lane Wilken's A Visit by Apo Lakay retells how he found his connection to Filipino ancestral traditions including the art of tattoos and their cultural significance.

I enjoyed many of these stories. The short essay format makes for easy reading but it can be a little overwhelming. Read 2 or 3 at a time. This is a great book to have on your bedside table or to read while waiting somewhere or just stealing a few moments on a lunch break. Either as a gateway into your own personal journey or simply for a good overview of modern day shamanism, Shamanic Transformations is a great read. Highly recommended.

~review by Larissa Carlson

Editor: Itzhak Beery
Destiny Books, 2015
pp.310, $18.95