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JOURNEYING to Upper, Lower, Middle, and Inter-Worlds

Shamans journey to all three worlds. Warning: Working with middle world spirits is dangerous, and takes proper advanced training. There are also inter-worlds between upper and middle worlds, as well as between middle and upper worlds. The reason we know this is Michael Harner (2013), since the mid-1970s has been mapping those world by analyzing audio recordings of hundreds of Shamanic Practitioners affiliated with the Shamanic Foundation. Some useful terms:

SSC: Shamanic State of Consciousness

OSC: Ordinary State of Consciousness

OR: Ordinary Reality

NOR: Nonordinary Reality

MNOR: Mapping Nonordinary Reality

In MNOR, Harner and the Shamanic Foundation, have been able to learn effective practices to transition from OR in our OSC to NOR and SSC. A shaman can see both OR and NOR simultaneously. Seeing a spirit is one way to tell if you have entered NOR. 'Seeing' does not just mean visual-seeing, it is all five senses, as some spirits we can smell, others we connect with by their touch, others by sight, taste, or hearing. Besides the five sense, the is seeing with the heart (Harner, 2013: 50).

Power Animals

Shamans journey to Lower World to work with ‘power animal’ helpers. Power Animals are know cross-culturally by other names: "guardian spirits", "animal helpers", "guardian angels", Tutelary spirits", "assistant totems" and "familiars" (Harner, 2013: 76).

Some Power Animals can join the journeyer in traversing all three worlds of NOR (Nonordinary reality) (Harner, 2013: p. 75). Power Animal helpers can be called on for assistance. Besides Power Animals, Shamans also can form journeying connections with "plant helpers', "spirits of elements" (earth, water, fire, & air), "spirits of places", "spirits of heavenly bodies", and "spirits of ancestors" (Harner, 2013: 77).

Power Animals (and your other helping spirits) come and go. "Power animals tend to come and go, just as other spiritual connections may be temporary" (Harner, 2013: 78). As Shamanic Practitioners we engage in regular practice work to maintain our "spiritual power connections for health and success" (Harner, 2013: 78). When things go wrong in our lives, it is likely we have lost our spiritual power connections to hour spiritual helpers. To reconnect, or get help to restore our own personal power connection, we can journey to call upon Power Animals, Plant Helpers, Spirits of Elements, Spirits of Place, Spirits of Heavenly Bodies, and Spirits of Ancestors. The helpers I favor and trust have given me consistently sound advice. Its a good habit to record such advice in a notebook, so that you know the efficacy of your spiritual connection to helping spirits. As you practice, you can also use a tape record, and speak about the journey as you experience it, which is one way MNOR (Mapping Non-Ordinary Reality) has been done.

Lower World

Why Drumming? Auditory drumming in a "steady, monotonous beat of about 205 to 220 times a minute was the most effective for making journeys" (Harner, 2013: 41). Drumming is not the only auditory driving method. Shamans also use, click sticks, gongs, metal bangles (in wet climates), rattles, mouth harps (Mongolia & Siberia), musical bow" (p. 42).

There has been scientific research by Andrew Neher (1962) that found auditory drumming effects brain wave patterns and changes in central nervous systems in two ways: (1) drumming stimulates sensory and motor regions of the brain, and (2) drumming contains low frequency vibrations that can be loud and not do damage (as compared to high frequency amplitude devices). See Neher, A. (1962). A physiological explanation of unusual behavior in ceremonies involving drumsHuman biology34(2), 151-160.

"The first part of the study consisted of gathering reports by anthropologists and laboratory workers and comparing them to see if the initial similarity held true. It was soon apparent that almost all laboratory work had utilized a flashing light for rhythmic stimulation, whereas rhythmic sound is most important in ceremonial settings. Therefore, as the second part of the study, a drum of appropriate characteristics was used as a stimulus in the laboratory to see if similar responses could be obtained" (Neher, 1962: p.152).

"We have seen that the behaviors observed in drum ceremonies and in the laboratory appear to have similar physiological and psychological characteristics which result from rhythmic stimulation" (p. 158).

Another scientific investigation was done by Wolfgang Jilek (1982), who studied Salish Indian shamans, whose drum beat was 4 to 7 times per second, which is consistent with theta-wave EEG frequency range (Harner, 2013: 44). See Jilek, W. (1982). Indian healing: Shamanic ceremonialism in the Pacific Northwest today (Vol. 1). Surrey, BC: Hancock House.

Preparation for Lower World Journeying to find Power Animal.

Select your Intention, in writing. Sandra Ingerman (2014: 41) has advice for making Lower World journey to meet a Power Animal. Set an intention to journey to Lower World to meet your Power Animal. "Darken the room you are in, or put something over your eyes after you find a place to lie down or a place to sit or stand for the journey. Disconnect your phone so you will not be disturbed. Prepare to play a drumming or other musical track you want to listen to. Or sit with your drum or rattle... Take some deep breaths experiencing your breath flowing through you." Notice the sounds, scents, thoughts, and sensations that come up as you begin to journey to Nonordinary Reality (NOR).

How to get to Lower World? Simple, find a hole (cave, lake, etc.)? Choose a specific departure location on Earth you have experienced?

"Suggested departure points include a hole in a specific location, a cave, a spring or well, a lake, a bay of an ocean, a tree with a hole in it (or entering the tree and going down), a whirlpool, and a waterfall's pool (or an entrance behind the waterfall)" (Harner, 2013: 79).

Doing Power Animal Retrieval Solo Relax into the journey. You may travel down a spiraling tunnel, or a waterspout, or a tree root, or some other way. Once you arrive to Lower World, look around and notice the animal spirits, plant spirits, and spirit elements residing there. Notice your heart beat, the quality of the air, the way the earth or leaves or grass feels beneath your feet.

Meet each Animal Spirit. "Are you my Power Animal?" Watch how they respond. If not your Power Animal, ask "Can you take me to my Power Animal?" We recommend seeing the same kind of animal or a group of them, three or four times on your journey to know for sure they are your spiritual connection. "Do you have a message for me, or something to show me?"

When you come back from the Journey, record your experience in your notebook.

Doing Power Animal Retrieval with Shamanic Practitioner The Shamanic Practitioner will take you through a process. You lay down or sit down and relax. They know the steps to take. They will find your Power Animal, and bring them to meet you.

Doing a A Group Spirit Canoe for Power Animal Retrieval. This is adapted from Harner, M. (1990). The Way of the Shaman. Available online for Free.

“The Coast Salish spirit canoe method…. can be adapted to serve as a valuable group experience, with a large number of persons joining together to constitute the canoe to retrieve someone’s power animal. This persons should all have successfully completed the work” of Power Animal retrieval. Have someone be the client, who is in need of healing or really in need of power. Here are the basic steps Michel Harner describes (Harner, 1990: p. 92).

1. Start by Dancing Your Power Animal while drummer plays, and participants may have their rattles and drum, in the tempo set by the Shamanic Practitioner leading the session.
2. Have client lie on their back, on a blanket. The participants form the Shamanic crew in the outline of a canoe around the client, pointing in the same direction as the client’s feet. Those on either side of the client, are paddlers, and form a human chain. At the rear of the canoe, sits the drummer, setting the beat for the paddlers into Lower World.
3. Darken the room, and place on candle behind the drummer, who now steps into the middle of the canoe.
4. Person in role of Shaman, does Journey to recover Power Animal. Shake rattle four times in six directions (East, South, West, North, Up, and Down). Whistle four times, shaking the rattle in slow but strong and steady tempo. Sit shoulder-to-shoulder, hip-to-hip, foot-to-foot next to client. Cover your eyes, undertake the journey to Lower World. The rest of the steps are known to Shamanic Practitioners.
5. Group can sing Power Song, together. As song concludes, the crew paddle once again, to the beat of the drum

POWER SONG (p. 73)
I have spirits,
Spirits have I.
I have spirits,
Spirits have I.
I have spirits,
Spirits have I.
I, I. I.

My spirits
Are like birds,
And the wings
And bodies are dreams.
I have spirits,
Spirits have I.
I. I. I.

Resource on Canoe: See Harner, M. (1990). The Way of the Shaman. PDF Available online for Free. or PDF avaialble free MediaFire. or Buy used copy by mail. or Kindle edition. FOR MORE see Journeying


Each world, has levels. CORE Shamanism does not take any official position on exactly how many levels there are in each world (Harner, 2013: 69). There are also Inter-Worlds with their own levels, in-between Middle and Lower World, and in-between Lower and Upper World. Levels are 'transitional zones' or 'barriers' which can be crossed with the help of drumming. Power animals cross between worlds, and their levels, with ease. A barrier between levels and worlds, can take many forms: cloud layer, membrane, hole, and so on.

As you explore each world, and each level, it is sound practice, to map the experience in your journal. Shamans kept a map in their minds, with specific departure sites to Lower World and sites for ascending to Upper World.

Middle World

Middle World has two departure sites. One to Lower World, and the other to Upper World.

Journeys to Middle World can be to visit with Nature Beings. Ingerman (2014: 52) describes it as a way "to learn from the trees, plants, rocks , minerals, and animal life where you live.. Open all your senses to the journey. You might get a sense of a message in your body, hear an auditory message, or see a symbol in your mind's eye when you communicate with this nature spirit." My own practice is to walk to a nearby arroyo, and head through the plants, the juniper, the tall grass, the trumpet vines along the edges. I sometime see a tortoise. I built a Medicine Wheel just off the trail. Each tribe using a Medicine Wheel has different placement of Earth, Water, Fire, and Water in the cardinal directions, depending on the directions such elements are to them. For me, the Organ Mountains are EARTH to the East, the WATER is the Ocean to the SOUTH, the FIRE is WEST, and the AIR comes form the NORTH. Each tribe sets these directions differently. There are three more directions: Up, Down, and Within you. I set some symbols, in my drawing of the Talking Stick made for me by a wonderful local artist, in this depiction of Medicine Wheel. More info at Talking Stick INFO

Various tribes and peoples do the symbols and meanings differently.

Upper World

Preparation Select your Intention, in writing. Sandra Ingerman (2014: 45) has advice for making the Upper World journey to meet a teacher. "Prepare for the journey and clear your mind. Let go of ordinary concerns. Darken the room or place an eye cover over your eyes. Disconnect your phone. Set up the Shamanic music you wish to use for your journey or find the drum or rattle you will be using... Take some deep cleansing breathes... Notice the thoughts, images, feelings, and sensations that come up as you breathe. Notice the sounds around you."

Select your ascension point. Michael Harner (2013: 102-107) tells us that Upper World ascension points can be trees, mountains, rainbows, whirlwinds, tornadoes, waterspouts, and so on. First ascension: explore and report, and journal what you find. You can journey to seek compassionate teacher-spirits, ancestor-spirits can be there (they are not guides). “Visitors treated by a teacher in the Upper World are frequently surprised to have lost their symptoms (such as a chronic backache) immediately upon their return to the Middle World” (Harner, 2013: p. 153).Notice the way that Upper World presents itself.

"Focus your intention that you wish to meet a teacher in human form" (Ingerman, 2014: 46). Ask some questions: "Are you my teacher? What do you have to teach me right now? Do you have a massage to share with me or something to show me?" (IBID.).

On and other journey to Upper World, explore the many levels. Make a Map of Non-Ordinary Reality (MNOR).