Welcome to the Modern Shamanism Advanced Course.  In Foundations, you learned a core set of shamanic skills.  These skills form the basis of your practice, and in the Advanced Course you will continue to apply what you've learned so far while deepening your experience and expanding your knowledge even further.  It is here where you will move more fully into a process of deep personal transformation and evolution of your consciousness.
We can look at shamanic practice over time as a process of continuous growth.  We can liken this to the creation of a metaphorical building.  The Foundations Course helped guide you to literally lay down the foundations of your shamanic practice; in the Advanced Course you will become more proficient with your tools, gain new materials, and build the framework.  With each new theme, you will flesh out details and add a more complete conceptual and practical understanding of the shamanic process.  Shamanic transformation takes on new meaning as your life continues to evolve and express the fulfillment of your path.
This is a momentous and joyous occasion and your decision to continue on this journey is to be celebrated.  If nothing else, life will continue to take on deeper and deeper meaning as you become increasingly fulfilled in your being and exploration.  Enjoy!

Advanced Ritual Practice

The Foundations Ritual you learned and practiced in the previous course remains a fundamental piece of the learning process throughout the Advanced Course.  While the remainder of the Modern Shamanism Courses will not always explicitly direct you to the Foundations Ritual, it is understood that it or a similar ritual is to be implemented in all the activities that necessitate it (ex. journeys and ceremonies).
Part of developing your Modern Shamanism practice will include the creation of your own rituals.  You will experience this in a couple ways.  One is through the guidance offered in the progression of the coursework itself.  The more you practice, engage the material, and work with your guides, you will also start to uncover and develop your own rituals organically.  As you branch out from the Foundations Ritual, it is essential that you first understand the components of a ritual and what function they serve shamanically.  Because the Foundations Ritual is built on and with these premises, you already have experientially rich source material to begin to deepen your overall understanding of ritual.  The following section outlines the components of a shamanic ritual, using the Foundations Course Ritual as an illustrative example.

Components of a Ritual

Intention: More than just the purpose for doing something, intention in Modern Shamanism also includes the manifestation of the intention.  In other words, your intention is not your reason for doing something -- but it is what you are actually going to do.  As you look through all the activities in the Foundations course, the intentions were always carried out.  The results may not have been exactly what you pictured at the time of stating your intention but your intentions were in fact always carried out. Intentions are statements of action and manifestation, rather than reason or desire.  Each ritual that you perform is based in your intent.
Prepare the space and yourself: This is your prep work.  It's the equivalent of cleaning and setting up your house before guests arrive.  It brings order, calm, centeredness, clarity and focus to your mind and body, as well as the space around you, as you prepare to carry out your intent.  You prepare yourself and the space in the Foundations Ritual through: smudging, grounding, taking deep breaths for relaxation and by calling on spirits to calm you and the space around you.
Define sacred or shamanic space: Once the space is prepared, you formally define or separate it as sacred/shamanic space.  You do this in the Foundations Ritual by:
  • Acknowledging the four directions, above and below you
  • Lighting the candles
  • Rattling and calling the Guardians into the space through specific invocations that support benevolent, safe and ethical practice, as well as your intent.  The specifics of these invocations are important because they define what the Guardians can and will let in or out of the space.  In the Foundations Ritual, these invocations are very clear and simple yet comprehensive.
The final gateway: Once the previous step is performed, you now have and are in shamanic space.  This last step is like the gunshot that's fired to begin a footrace.  This is when you fully enter into the shamanic ritual and from where you carry out your intent by opening the final gateway: your vision.  In Modern Shamanism, you are guided to do this through the blank space of your imagination.  This is the only step that won’t change.  The way you do this step may shift, but the visionary gateway through which you connect will always begin with the blank space.
Closing the space: Be sure to close the space by releasing all the Guardians and acknowledging that the space has returned to normal.  If you are using candles or any other object to represent the directions, extinguish or otherwise define them as no longer active, with the shamanic space being closed.  This is an important step!  It's like shutting the oven off after baking J

Defining your Rituals

If and when you choose to explore a different or modified ritual, just be sure that your ritual satisfies the main components.  These components are not just for "going through the motions."  Each part of a shamanic ritual is functional and practical; they fulfill specific roles in your shamanism.  The Foundations Ritual has all these core elements in order to promote safe, ethical, and effective practice.  To hold this same intent, what you create on your own should do the same.
Remember, rituals are not carried out as a response to belief or dogma.  The movement in Modern Shamanism is away from belief, dogma and doctrine and towards creativity, connection and authenticity.  The way that you practice is sourced in an internal authority, derived from your own unique experience and expression of shamanism.  This means that there is no right or wrong way to practice.  There is no tradition that you have to format your experiences and rituals to.  There is no definite prescription that you have to follow.  The Foundations Ritual and components described above are offered to you as a way to ensure that you are getting the most out of your shamanism, and that it is being carried out in the safest and most responsible way.  This ultimately lends its support to the intention of Modern Shamanism as a path of self-transformation and evolution of consciousness.  Rather than take this on as a belief in the context of "I have to do it this way," you can look at the ritual itself and the components as supportive elements on your path.
The idea is not to be too rigid with how the rituals flow, allowing yourself the flexibility necessary to express your shamanism with authenticity.  The important part is not so much how you incorporate the components, but that there is meaning in how you do it.  This will make not only the ritual, but your shamanism effective.

Example Ritual Modifications

The following offers a few examples of how the Foundations Ritual can be modified or changed in the ways we described:
Intention: This is pretty self-explanatory because you will already have an intention before you start performing a ritual.  The modifications in this context refer to when and how to declare your intent in a ritualistic way:
  • Instead of saying it aloud, you can write out your intent before you start, or make the action of writing it part of the ritual itself (ex. doing it once inside the sacred space).
  • You can repeat your intent more than once.
  • You may want to say your intention in your mind instead of out loud; or both.
  • You can keep a journal of all your intentions and make that a sacred ritual object.
  • You can state your intent before preparing and defining the space.
  • You can state your intent at multiple points throughout the ritual.
Prepare the space and yourself:
  • Use incense or oil instead of white sage for smudging.
  • Use other relaxation or visualization techniques to calm yourself.
  • Guide yourself verbally when grounding.
  • You can incorporate a feather or fan to clear the space, along with the smudge or by itself.
  • Play relaxing, meditative music (ex. ocean waves or flowing stream music).
  • Call in spirits that you know will help prepare the space (ex. the Spirit of the Wind).
  • Incorporate an instrument that soothes you, like a medicine bowl or chimes.
Define sacred or shamanic space:
  • Come up with your own invocations to call in the guardians and directional gateways.
  • Use a drum instead of a rattle.
  • Rather than candles, use stones to mark the four directions.
  • Instead of candles, simply visualize the gateways and the shamanic space around you.
  • Create an altar that represents your shamanic practice: power animal statues, crystals that you work with, a place for the smudge, etc.
  • You may choose to sing, hum or chant rather than verbally speak the invocations.
Other modifications:
  • Perform your ritual outside
  • If you are in a public place and want to do a journey, perform the entire ritual without the objects, visualizing and guiding yourself internally
  • Add movement to your ritual.  For instance, when you call in the guardians and define the gateways, perform some kind of dance to invoke and acknowledge them.
  • Try sitting during your ritual rather than lying down.
  • Try different crystals for visualization.
  • Rather than hold the crystal, place it over your Third Eye while journeying.
The fundamental idea here is that you are not bound to the specifics.  Adhering to strict or rigid concepts in this shamanic context is not so important as understanding the meaning of and expressing this meaning in your practice.  This will enhance and facilitate your continued growth.  The Advanced Course is open for you to explore your own rituals.  It is highly recommended that you implement the main ritual components, while also intending safe, ethical and benevolent practice throughout the entirety of your journey in Modern Shamanism.  (If you need a refresher, please refer to Step 9 of the Foundations Course.)
If at any time you are unsure or don't feel ready to branch out from the Foundations Ritual, it will always be here for you to integrate into your practice; this is literally your Foundation.  Feel free to contact the Community with your questions or concerns.

Advanced Journeying

In a similar manner that the space is open for you to modify and expand upon the Foundations Ritual, the Advanced Course will not always explicitly direct you to every element of journey protocol.  In this section we are going to outline the main components of journey protocol, and then leave it up to you in terms of how you want to work these elements into your practice.  You are by all means welcome to continue following the same format as the Foundations Course.  However you decide to journey, make sure that you are incorporating these main components in ways that have meaning for you.
As it is with rituals, the journey protocols are here to help guide you in the most responsible and effective manner.  This is for your overall benefit.  The idea here is twofold: to maintain safe, ethical and effective shamanism, and to also support and empower you in your path of transformation so that you become adept at learning, practicing, and ultimately becoming a Modern Shaman.  So while the specifics of how you journey are not important, the definitions and implementations of the components are.

Components of a Journey

The blank space: Every journey begins from the blank space.  Once your shamanic space is setup, your first step is "going in" to the blank space. This is where you connect with your guides and define both your intent and where you are going on the journey.
Spirit guides: After going into the blank space, you invoke your main spirit guides.  For each journey you are going to be accompanied by (at least) your:
  • Principal Guide (PG)
  • Principal Power Animal (PPA)
  • Principal Protective Guide (PPG)
  • Protective Power Animal (Protective PA)
  • Layers of protections (ex. domes, pyramids, or whatever else you need depending on the specifics of the intent)
Depending on the journey, you may also include:
  • Guardian Angel (GA)
  • The Archangels and Angelic Warriors
This may seem like overkill -- but it isn't.  It is as simple as connecting with the spirits, and calling them to accompany you on your journey.  You may not use some of these spirits very often, and perhaps some of them rarely (especially the Angelic Warriors).  But the idea is that you have your tools with you so you are ready for whatever comes up.  A masterful plumber or electrician doesn't go to a job site with one or two tools.  They come with their truck and toolboxes fully equipped.  They know what they need and they have it with them.  It doesn’t matter if they think they are going to use it or not; what matters is that they have it when they need it.  The same idea applies here.
The gateway: Once you have your spirit guides all with you, you precisely define the gateway to where you are going.  This will be implied if not stated directly in your intent.  Based on your intent, you know where to go and you define the gateway leading out of the blank space to your intended destination.
The return journey: Return to the blank space by following the same path that you took out of it.  Close the gateway, and acknowledge the end of the journey.  Proceed with closing the remainder of the shamanic space.
If you have any ideas, questions, or comments you would like to share, the community is always here to receive your participation.

A Note on Invocations

For the majority of Foundations, your invocations were provided for you.  The specificity of invocations in shamanism need to be precise, as can be discerned throughout the previous course.  But as you learn and grow in your own shamanism, what you need to invoke and how you invoke it will become very personal and idiosyncratic to you.  This will be more applicable as your work in the Advanced Course progresses.  But for now we are introducing the concept that your invocations are based on your process and cannot always be determined for you.  Because this is a non-traditional path of shamanism, the need for ever-increasing intricacy and case-specific invocations has been satisfied through your Principal Guide -- your PG can bring ANY spirit that you need.  So rather than knowing what spirit you need by name, as in some traditions of shamanism (ex. calling on a Lion for strength and courage), you will be calling on the spirit or spirits you need by definition.  So rather than calling directly on a Lion, you connect with your PG and invoke through your PG "a spirit to give me strength," and then receive whatever the PG brings you.  It may be a horse, an ant, or a lion.  Or you may just feel stronger.  Another example can help illustrate this:
You are in an Underworld Journey and are suddenly very confused.  The visions and feelings and thoughts are chaotic and you have no idea what is going on, other than that you're confused.  You call on your PG to help you, by saying, "I call on my PG to help bring clarity to my mind, space, and to this journey.  Bring me spirits who can cleanse my mind and this space of confusion, bringing calm and centeredness to my thoughts, visions, and the space around me.  Help me connect with my heart, and bring clarity to my entire being and the entire space."
A few moments go by and you start to feel better.  Your PG tells you to light more sage.   Of course!  Sage is a spirit that can accomplish what you need.  You light the sage and connect with its spirit, repeating the invocation.  In your vision you can feel the wind, like a gentle blanket surrounding and centering you.  A sweet fragrance of lavender fills your senses.  You are calm, and the vision is clear.  These are the spirits your PG brought you.  And now you know what these spirits can do.  So if you are in a similar situation, you can also call on sage, lavender, and wind directly.
The principle here is to base your invocations on what you need, and your Principal Guide (and Principal Power Animal for animal spirits) will bring you the spirits that fit those definitions.  This is one of the most powerful tools in Modern Shamanism, as it connects you with an unending supply of resources that can help you address and deal with exactly what you need in the moment you need it.

The Advanced Course and Live Workshops

The Advanced Course maintains the structure of MS Foundations.  There are 14 themes, each with a number of steps and shamanic activities related to that theme.  The themes build on and interrelate with one another.  Where Foundations explored the basics, the Advanced course gains depth, breadth, sophistication and intensity.
The support structure is also maintained: The Modern Shamanism Community, other members, local community groups and live workshops.  The workshops are complementary to the course itself, offering new and expanded themes that not only offer greater depth to what is presented in the Advanced course, but covering a host of new material that directly relates to shamanic practice in the modern world as a path of personal transformation.
Welcome, once again, to the Modern Shamanism Community.  Best of everything to you as your journey of personal transformation continues.