Recently, I asked shamanic practitioner Wade Prpich
for an interview in order to learn more about shamanism. He countered with an invitation to experience a session first and asked me to think of an issue I wanted healed. I thought for days. Sometimes, I had 50 issues; other times not one.
Wade is the father of three, a hockey dad and coach. In addition to holding an honours degree in psychology, he has a masters in environmental science. Personable and smart, he’s also a passionate organic farmer on his family’s land near High Prairie, Alta. And his office is calm and inviting. There, he asked questions about my issue — those that I might expect of a minister or psychologist. But that’s when the expected stopped.
While I remained in my chair, he used a rattle to invoke the change of consciousness desired for this work and to invite in compassionate spirit helpers. I was relaxed, yet alert. Wade then explained that as babies, our souls are whole and beautiful. As life progresses, we sustain soul wounds: some small; others deep. That seemed logical to me, of course. And shamans can help to heal these wounds.
Next, by candlelight, I lay on a mattress on the floor, covered with a soft blanket. He instructed me to remain open and observe images or thoughts that arose as he chanted and rattled. When that part of the session ended, we talked about what had arisen for each of us. Finally, he thanked the spirit helpers.
Later, I went home with a feeling of wellbeing and of wonder, and I’ve recalled some of the images that arose several times since.
During our interview two weeks later, Wade spoke of how "our wounds can hold us back from greater spiritual development." Our — and Earth's — physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing are connected to our spiritual wellbeing."
Interestingly, his interest in shamanism first came from research for his science degree. "Inherently, it doesn't make sense for humans to degrade their environment," he explained to me. "I wanted to understand this. I concluded that many of us are spiritually unhealthy or have arrested spiritual development. Environmental ‘dis-ease’ is a reflection of our own. Degradation of the planet is a spiritual issue."
Wade's psychology background led to a similar conclusion: "Psychologists and psychiatrists can help us deal with the mind, but psychotherapy cannot heal everything. Some wounds go deeper than the mind into the spirit. Spiritual healing can be the next logical step toward overall health."
I asked if people expect him to be a "ghostbuster" or exorcist. He laughed, saying: “Occasionally. Some expect me to dress differently, have long hair or use drugs." I'd wondered about drugs.
"Only about 10 per cent of traditional shamanic cultures use plant medicines, such as ayahuasca or peyote, to alter consciousness," he said. "The rest use percussion — a drum or a rattle. The object is letting go of the ego so that we might have spiritual experience or even union with the divine. Plant medicines potentially move people quickly and dramatically into a state where the ego is left behind. Once started, there's no stopping until the plant medicine runs its course. That is different from percussion, where the individual is in control."
For my United Church heart, learning through a science-based hockey dad about the wisdom of the ancestors provides the right balance of traditional healing in our modern world.