Thursday, October 23, 2008

Glossalalia and The Sacred Language of the Shaman: Christians as Pre-Mortem Psychopomps

Communication with the spirits beyond the curtain of our visible/audible/tangible world is a skill belonging to the most spiritual, and perhaps the most insane among us. Those who hear the voices of gods and goddesses, angels and demons, ancestors and ghosts have been revered, feared, and ridiculed through ages and cultures of human history.

These holy men and women appear to see and hear things the average person does not. Sometimes with the senses, sometimes beyond their senses they experience a tie to a realm invisible to human eyes, and inaudible to human ears.

What distinguished these holy people from the common public was not only having ears and eyes, which perceive things most people do not, but even their speech hearkened the unseen realm. These mystics of the other world spoke the language of the spirits, and their communication traveled in both directions. They heard the secrets of the heaven and hell, and somehow spoke the secrets in languages unknown to the uninitiated.

During the initiation of a Shaman, he/she often must learn a new language. It is a language of the spirits - sometimes a language of the earth's creatures. Especially common among the Northern Asian, and Arctic Shamans this secret language was also found among Shamans of Sumatra, Borneo, South America, North America, and Guiana.

The ability to communicate with spirits and animals set the Shaman apart from others, and gave evidence to the ecstatic, and supernatural component of his or her healing and blessing activities.

The Shaman is a psychopomp. Lost postmortem souls are supposed to be led by the Shaman to their place of rest. The fact that the shamans communicate with the unseen realm is evidence to the uninitiated that they truly walk in the unseen world - the place to which our souls travel after death, and therefore know the paths of death which the uninitiated are forced to someday travel alone.

I am a Pentecostal/Charismatic Christian, and I find that there is a connection to these shamanic languages within my own faith. I speak the languages of angels, and men - languages which I have not learned through education, but which have spontaneously flowed from my tongue in times of worship and prayer.

Could it be that Charismatic Christians have become secret speakers who like the shaman speak the languages of men and angels, and declare divine mysteries hidden in the dark recesses of human history?

The shaman was required to communicate in the secret language of the spirits, and as such it was evidence that he held special communication with the realm of the Spirit.

Could it be that the Pentecostal languages of men and angels are God's way of giving evidence to the mystical, other-worldly travels of the souls of His followers? Could it be that it is evidence to a dying world that there are people who have mapped the way to a place of peace beyond the grave? Is this a portion of what Paul meant when he said that, "tongues are sign to the unbeliever?"

If Moses had been the leader of a Siberian tribe, he might have cried out "Oh, that all the Lord's people were [shamans] and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!" (Numbers 11:29) But as a leader among the Hebrews he called for us to be "prophets."

God's heart is the same toward shamanic cultures as it is toward the culture of the prophets, and He as such is developing leaders after His own heart who speak the languages of heaven, and know how to communicate the messages of heaven here on earth

This newly paganized, urban western culture requires people who hear the voice of the Spirit. Although every person will be forced to travel the path of death alone, those who have discovered the mysteries of the unseen world are called to become the pre-mortem psychopomps to those who fear that day of death. We are called to map the way to eternal peace for the uninitiated soul. The ecstatic languages rising from my innermost being declare that I have walked on the winds of the Spirit, and know the paths of life and death.

This gift is not limited to a few initiates of a special class, but to the common follower of Christ, and as such it demands of us that we take on the role of the shaman, and map the way toward eternal peace.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Drum Circles, Witches, Children, Belly Dancers, and Drunks

Last night (Saturday, October 4th) we held a drum circle at church. Mamadou Diop the Senegalese drummer, guitar player, rocker, and band leader from Salem offered to help run the drum circle for us. Every drum circle needs a couple really serious drummers. Mamadou and his team are really serious drummers, so we were going to rock.

We put out flyers. We sent info to our mailing list. On the day of the event Carlos and I sat outside The Vault (the name of our church location), and beat some drums as advertisement for the upcoming drum circle. Little kids stopped with their parents and beat along on the bongos. A few people said they would be back, and a local Witch said she wanted to come and belly dance. We had billed the event as: "Bring your Drum, borrow a drum, learn to drum, come and dance, join the party." So of course, Belly Dancers were welcome too. This was an open event for anyone who wanted to join in.

At 5:45pm Mamadou and his troupe of drummers arrived. There were about eight of them, and then some of the gang from The Gathering arrived. I suggested we move the circle outside. It was a warm Fall evening, and we thought that it would be a good crowd gatherer. The tourist season is officially in full swing in Salem, and the crowds were here indeed. We set a half circle of chairs in the open square just outside the church doors and brought out the drums.

The drumming began, and the crowds started gathering. We had extra drums for people who wanted to join in. Three to six year old children sat down and banged out rhythms to Mamadou's African beats, which I was trying to keep up with.

There were pentagram T-shirt wearing older women, little kids, teenagers, old hippie guys, and then the belly dancer arrived, and the crowds got bigger. The Witch belly dancer has angel wings tattooed on her back from her shoulders to her lower back. Then a drunk guy sat down next to me and had a hard time sitting up straight, but looked like he was having fun. After about 30 minutes the drunk guy said, "I dare you to get naked," through his crooked smile.

I said, "I don't think so."

Then he said, "Can I get you a beer?"

"Um, no thanks, I think I'll pass."

Then he meandered off only to return 15 minutes later with a six pack. Not a good move in downtown Salem, but the police didn't come around, and he seemed to keep in six pack in the canvas bag he carried. I think the drum circle kept his attention, and he forgot about his beer.

So the drums pounded out their rhythms in downtown Salem. The kids and parents joined in. The crowds stood around, and dropped dollar bills in a box Mamadou's people set out. People cheered. The belly dancer came in and out of the church with costume changes.

I live in a weird world. African drummers, little kids and their parents, old hippies, pentagram T-shirt wearing grandmothers, Witches in full garb, a Pagan Belly Dancer, and a drunk. This is who shows up when we throw a party at The Gathering. Acceptance is a messy, and beautiful thing methinks.

This church location we have is an experiment. It is an experiment in acceptance toward the whole community of Salem, and the strange characters who live here, and I guess "I is one." It is an experiment in trying to be an enhancement to the businesses downtown. It is an experiment in living out our Christianity in a post-modern, post-Christian world. I guess this is part of what the experiment looks like.