One of the practices most common to shamanism around the world is the Shamanic Journey to ask for wisdom or healing. This journey may take many different forms.
In a number of cultures worldwide, the shaman uses a spirit boat or canoe of some sort to transport their spirit through the Lower World. In Siberia, the boat takes the form of a raft, in aboriginal Australia it is a “serpent canoe,” and among the Conibo of South America, it is a river steamboat. In North America, some Native Americans use a pair of canoes to transport a group of shamans together through the spirit world.
In Core Shamanism, the Spirit Canoe Journey is used primarily to help empower healing for a person by enlisting a group of shamanic practitioners and their helping spirits to support the work. When people gather in community, in sacred space, with compassion and a healing intention, the power and involvement of the helping spirits grows.
The Spirit Canoe Journey brings people together with the spirits in a very tangible way, as everyone helps paddle the canoe together to bring the patient, shaman, and the group to a healing place. When the healing has been done, everyone helps paddle the canoe back to Ordinary Reality where experiences and healing messages may be shared with the patient and each other.
Often, the Spirit Canoe is used specifically to retrieve a power animal – a compassionate healing spirit in the form of an animal – for someone who is “dis-spirited” in their life and therefore open to physical and emotional imbalance. The restoration of spiritual and personal power through a power animal retrieval helps heal the spiritual aspect of illness and restore well-being in the patient, allowing them to heal further.
As we each develop our own spiritual path, and we use our own healing experiences to guide us, most of us are drawn to help others in their healing process. We are innately social beings. By helping others, individually or in community, we often experience additional healing and spiritual grounding for ourselves.
Today, in our society, the Spirit Canoe is one way for us to come together in community for healing, compassion, and appreciation for the spiritual connection in our lives.