Being in the world of animal welfare as a shamanic practitioner I commonly get asked the question, “Can you talk to the horse and help him understand?”
From a shamanic point of view, the animals do not speak our language. Historically, it was the job of the shaman to learn how to speak the language of the land, the animals, the elements, and the ancestors. The shaman communed with these spirits and surrendered to their cosmic view, so she could work with them on behalf of her tribe. She learned how to communicate in metaphor and story, empathy and wonder.
Many superstitions did and still do surround the telling of the shamanic experience because shaman understood that in the telling the power may be lost. Some cultures forbid the unveiling of one’s power animal while others believe that sharing the name of one’s spirit guide can cause illness. Shaman often would act out their journeys for the whole tribe but refuse to narrate the same to anyone. The shaman was both leader and hermit. This traditional way of being must have weighed heavily on the healer, but carries some important lessons.
The spirit world is not polarized. There is no right or wrong, up or down, inside or out. It is all one. In contrast, our language is inherently polarized. Think of how many times a day you use the word “good”. When I embark on a shamanic journey I am entering into a rich, multi-layered experience that is felt and loved. I put the experience into words as a way to remember so that I can revisit the learning over and over again for deeper levels of understanding. I do this knowing that even my own words read to myself change the experience. I am taking pure white light and shining it through a faceted crystal so that I may follow the rays of color back through the crystal and into the light.
Now, consider this process in relation to another living, breathing autonomous being. When I journey to them or for them I am in the spirit world. This allows me to empathize their experience with more clarity, but I am still a human connected in part to my experience of being human. Now if I take what I experience as them during the journey and translate it into human language I am twice removed from the actual form. I am twice removed from the truth that is that being’s experience. And the being is twice removed from me.
From this standpoint, all that is being had is a hopelessly garbled conversation. Like a foreigner trying to order dinner I will first try to select a dish I think I would like from a menu I can’t read. Then, with much difficulty, gesturing and mispronunciation I will ask the waiter to confirm that I have made a good choice. Not satisfied with his answer I will order it anyway. He has the chef make what he makes everyday and what arrives on my plate is no where near what I would have guessed.