Urban Shaman Revisited
Amongst many books that inspired me was Serge King's Urban Shaman. For me it brought together what at first might seem to be two juxtaposed concepts, that of shamanism and urban living (which I also equated with an element of westernised contemporary living). It was over 12 years ago that I first read the book and a lot has happened since then. What excited me was that it provided a sense of a bridge between traditional teachings and esoteric knowledge and the modern world. It showed a way that the two things could coexist and, more than that, be of real pragmatic value and have relevance now. Also in the mix was the link to the Hawaiian traditions, particularly the notion of aloha, which for some reason unknown to me at the time seemed to strongly resonate and beckon.
As someone with an empirical and evidence-based background, firmly embedded in modern city living (ok, I live on an island but the similarities with the Hawaiian islands start to run a bit thin after that!) the lure of such a path was not something that was immediately obvious. However, I was gripped, and this was one of the influences which paved the way for me establishing Urban Huna in the UK.
Concepts and Labels
In ancient times the shaman could be considered as a 'fringe dweller' operating outside of conventional norms. This included an ability to see things differently and take new perspectives on situations and relationships. A shaman was also considered to be a 'walker between worlds' with the ability to provide a bridge between the seen and the unseen. In modern times we may also consider that this can refer to someone who is able to provide a bridge between traditional knowledge and modern ways--an individual who can draw on ancient wisdom and patterns and develop new applications and evolve to suit contemporary circumstances.
Despite there being a growing movement of modern shamanism encompassing a variety of traditions, the term 'shaman' may have certain connotations for some which may make such practices seem less relevant to modern life. Of course, this is just a label for particular philosophies and practices and perhaps the use of alternative terms, such as, 'wise woman' or 'cunning man' would be more compelling to some people.
The approach to Huna that I work in is the kupua or adventurer tradition. An extended term, 'kalakupua', emphasises the 'magic' of the adventurer approach. Underpinning this is Aloha, relating to love and connection and provides an inherent ethic. Regardless of terminology, it involves a philosophy, mindset and practices which entail treating life as an adventure and being a healer of relationships in the widest sense. This results in bringing magic into your own life and the life of others.
The Relevance to Modern Urban Living
Despite these types of issues in modern life, I don't buy into a dichotomy of modern being considered as negative and ancient being considered as positive; of urban and man-made being somehow bad and rural and natural being good. Each city has it's own energy field as does each forest. It is possible to communicate with man-made objects as it is with trees and plants. Indeed, stretching the definition, one might consider that what we have evolved into as modern urban dwellers could be considered perfectly 'natural' as it is the natural manifestation of much of mankind at this present time.
The Kupua Approach
"Although shamanism is usually associated with primitive or wilderness settings, its application in urban environments is both natural and needed. First of all, a shaman is a healer, regardless of culture or environment. Secondly, there are more people living in urban areas today than in non-urban areas (suburbs and towns are considered urban), and it is these people who need the most healing.
Consider the population density of Big Island Hawaii which is approximately 45 people per square mile by some estimates. Compare this with Birmingham, the city in which I live in the UK, with an estimated population density of approximately 10,620 people per square mile and this may provide some sense of perspective.
Densely populated urban environments provide great opportunity for healing of relationships. Of course, healing in this sense is not confined here to formal therapeutic or counselling-type approaches. Everything is in relationship to everything else and anything that is done to improve these relationships, on whatever scale, increases effectiveness and makes a difference.
So whether you consider yourself a full blown adventurer, a shaman, a cunning man, a wise woman or simply a clued up, curious, modern person who wants to improve their own effectiveness and help others in the process, the concepts and practices that comprise 'Urban Shamanism' are there to explore. In the boardroom, in business, in the underground railway, in cafes and bars, wherever, I believe we all have the opportunity to be effective and make the world a better place, city by city by city, spreading Aloha as we go.
Pete Dalton ©2018
Pete Dalton is an Alakai of Huna International living in the UK. For more information on his work visit his website www.urbanhuna.org