THE 12 STEPS AND SHAMANISM
by Matrika co-sysop of PAN – the Psychic Awareness Network at
1-703-362-1139 copyright by PAN and Harvest ( a pagan newsletter at
box 228 S. Framinham MA 01701 – $13. per year)
Author’s note – this article was first published by me under the name JUKNO in
Harvest’s Yule edition, 1989.
Recently a local character in Alcoholics Anonymous here in the Worcester MA.
area died. His name was “John the Indian” (he identified himself this way) and
he was well known as an AA speaker all over the world, although he lived near
central Massechu-setts. John had about thirty years of sobriety and was a great
power of example to many people including Betty Ford who told him she had
listened to tapes of his talks while she was in detox.
John’s story intrigued many people. An Indian who had been orphaned on the
reserva-tion when Tuberculosis wiped out his family, he had ended up on skid row
after serving in the Canadian army during World War II as a dishwasher. He came
to AA in his mid-twenties, an illiterate wine. (my note – this is NOT to imply
that most alcoholics are on skid row. In fact most of them are people with nice
families, a place to live, a car or even two, a job, etc. etc. etc. Less than
2% of the alcoholics in this country are on skid row). He ended up owning his
own construction business after learning to read (from an elderly woman in AA
who was a school teacher) and marrying a lady in AA with whom he raised a lovely
Because John had inspired me and so affected my life with his gift of
simplicity, I was inspired to do a shamanic-style rite in his memory. I had
always felt sorry for John because, in the process of his recovery, he seemed to
have lost touch with the beauty of this heritage. Then it hit me; John WAS a
shaman and anyone who truly worked a 12-step program was one too.
In BIRTH OF A MODERN SHAMAN by Cynthia Bend and Tayja Wiger (Llewelyn
Publication box 64383, St. Paul MN. 1988) it states ” A shaman is hard to
define. There are no two alike….. what happens, a shaman goes through a
catastrophe or a string of catastrophes that enhance certain abilities within
him ( or her! )
…..Most often the Shaman has to go through a severe trauma, a severe illness
or a severe psychosis and recover from it before he learns the recovery process
that he can use.”
The authors are quoting Tsonkawa, Tayja’s teacher on the Shamanic path. (A
Native American Medicine person)
Many other authors on Shamanism; Sunbear, Lynn Andrews, Amber Wolfe and Michael
Harner, to name a few: echo this truth. A shaman is a person who goes through
great suffering, usually in the form of a mental or physical illness, and then
goes on to heal himself or herself. They are then able to use that same process
to heal others.
This is what happens in a twelve-step fellowship. Through the process of healing
oursel-ves, we come to the point where we can help others by “carrying the
message” after having had a “spiritual awakening” as the result of taking the
first eleven steps.
Here are some books that can help any Pagan, Shaman, Druid, Witch, Practitioner
of Feminist Spirituality, or other Magickal folk as they walk the steps in the
process of recovering, while retaining their own unique spiritual path.
TRUTH OR DARE by Starhawk (San Francisco, Harper and Row, 1987) This contains
many references to the 12-step programs, especially Alcoholics Anonymous and
Adult Children of Alcoholics, in a work on Wicca by a well-known priestess of
the Craft who is also a psychotherapist.
CRYSTAL CLEAR by Connie Church (Bew York, Willard books 1987) It contains a good
section on how to use quartz crystals to help in relieving yourself of bad
habits, compul-sions, and obsessions, specifically for use with the various
twelve-step programs. (note – amethyst is traditionally said to help in all
BIRTH OF A MODERN SHAMAN, mentioned above, tells the story of a blind Native
American woman who was a survivor of Child abuse and had been Psychotic as well
as Alcoholic. This is the story of her complete recovery, including her
eyesight, (document-ed by doctors) and the discovery of her Psychic gifts with
her Native roots. Her healing occurred through a process that began for her in
THE TWELVE STEPS FOR EVERYONE published by Compcare (Minneapolis MN.)
This is a non-sexist book on the steps by a grateful recovering member of
Emotional Health Anonymous written in non-sexist language. The author draws
heavily on the Eastern traditions of spirituality as well as the traditional
Western monotheistic ones.
EVERYDAY A NEW BEGINNING Published by Hazelden corp. (Also in Minneapolis, MN.
I believe) This is a daily meditation guide BY women in Anonymous fellowships
and FOR women in these same self-help groups. Unlike the TWENTY-FOUR HOURS A DAY
book (published by the same company and widely used in AA) it doesn’t use quotes
from the Bible. Instead it uses quotes from various women authors. Many men
also claim to have benefited from it due to its non-religious approach.
PAGANS IN RECOVERY a networking newsletter for Magickal folk, Shamans, Druids,
Feminist Priestesses, Witches, Pagans, Pantheists, etc. who are in recovery via
a 12-step fellowship of any type. It has contacts, reviews, articles, recovery
techniques and more. It is a great source of support and inspiration to any
Pagan in any of the Anony-mous support groups. It is $8.00 a year and the
address is P.I.R. c/o Bekki 6500 S.R. 356 New Marshfield, OHIO 45766
ADDITION TO READING LIST
REFLECTIONS IN THE LIGHT by Shakti Gawain, published by New World Library, San
Rafael, California 1978. While not ONLY for the 12-step programs this book does
go into the problems of addictions in light of the New-Age, Psychic Awareness as
well as many other subjects. It provides a inspirational message and/or a
creative visualization exercise with a non-sectarian affirmation for each day.
The book is neither sexist nor sectarian and is truly a beautiful aid to anyone
seeking to work the program of recovery. It is also a great way to share what
you are doing with friends who share your spirituality but not your program, as
it makes no direct references to the 12-step groups at all. It is very useful
to those of us who prefer a daily meditation to the “prayer” people in the
monotheistic Churches and Synagogues tend to use in their application of the
program to their lives.