We are blessed in our small city of Eugene (pop. 138,000) to have a healing circle that has been consistently functioning since 1992. Monthly, our circle offers shamanic healing to those in the community who ask and to those who may not otherwise be able to receive shamanic healing.
This circle was born out of a shamanic extraction training taught by Leslie Conton on Whidbey Island in 1992. The three of us attending from Eugene decided it made sense to work together to raise power and protection for our extraction work. Once back in Eugene, several other people joined our efforts and soon our circle had a meeting place and a schedule.
The Eugene community has many talented shamanic healers and many of them attend the circle to offer their services and help raise power for the healings. Anyone may attend the healing circle as a supporter.
How our healing circle functions:
Typically a potential client comes in contact with someone who attends or has benefited from our healing circle, hears about our work, and decides they would like to be a client at our circle. One of our members, usually the contact person, does an informal interview to find out what they need help with and to explain what our circle offers and how the circle is run. This information sharing is an important step. We do not want clients to come in the door not knowing what to expect both for their own peace of mind and also to make the most efficient use of the circle's time.
Either the client or the contact person calls the scheduler and the client is slotted into the next circle. Clients are encouraged to bring friends and family who are supportive of their healing process.
We have a rotational leadership for the circle and our leadership is comprised of those who have had extensive training in shamanism. This includes a minimum of two classes with the FSS and many other exposures to shamanic teachers. Leaders are typically practicing in our community.
The format for the circle is as follows: The circle gathers at 7:30pm. We start with a shamanic drumming and the leader opens to the spirits. The leader says a few words to define shamanic healing and core shamanism (for the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with shamanism) and then we pass a talking stick to briefly introduce ourselves and say a few words from our hearts. Those who are present for healing are asked to identify themselves as the stick comes to them.
The first client is then asked if they have a practitioner they prefer to work with or if they would rather leave it up to the spirits to decide whom they work with. "Leaving it up to the spirits" entails the client spinning an amethyst egg. All the practitioners willing to work with this client put their drumsticks out into the circle. The client spins the egg and the narrow end of the egg points to their spirit-chosen practitioner.
At this point, the client and practitioner have a conference in the middle of the circle and this is the practitioner's opportunity to ask the client questions about what needs the client brings. Typically, the practitioner decides to do a diagnostic journey and the group drums for this. When the practitioner returns, he or she may announce what healing method(s) is to be used, the client is asked for consent to proceed and some discussion of the healing methods "what they can expect" ensues. The practitioner may either perform the healing alone or, if the spirits have indicated, designate other practitioners to perform the work. After the healing work, the practitioner may ask the circle if anyone received messages or instruction for the client. Generally, we try to keep this sharing brief to avoid overwhelming the client.
After the healing is complete, time allowing, we move on to the next client. Typically, the circle works with three to four clients in a 2.5 hour meeting. Our record for the most clients in one session is seven. Generally, we prefer to work with clients one at a time so we can focus on directing the healing power to one person. When there are many clients needing healing work, we will work in parallel, known affectionately to circle regulars as the three ring circus.
We end at 9:30pm. At this time we hold hands in a circle and if there are many distant healing requests, we speak the names of needy people into the circle and ask our power animals and helping spirits to help them in whatever way is appropriate. We often hold the image of the earth in our center, bathing her in love and thanks. The leader then thanks all the helping spirits who have come into our circle to offer love, compassion and healing. The spirits are then released.
We request that those attending donate at least $5.00 with the understanding that there must be an energetic reciprocity equivalent to what was given to the participants in healing, support, and community.
Practitioners can also offer their phone numbers to the client they have worked with to ensure that follow-up occurs.
Meeting in a private home can sometimes cause concerns. Often, clients have possessions and intrusions removed. If intrusions or other spirits linger, and the inhabitants are especially sensitive, this can become a problem. Ideally, the circle should be in the home of very experienced practitioners or in a meeting facility.
The healing circle is an especially good forum for healings that require large amounts of support such as spirit canoes. Twice, now we have performed the canoe ceremony and it has always given powerful results. A member suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome received major healing from our first spirit canoe ceremony. The attendance for the spirit canoe is always very large as the spirits nudge many people to support this work.
We usually have in attendance between 15 and 27 people with about ten of those being trained shamanic practitioners. I am encouraged that such a large group of shamanic healers have found ways to support each other's work. I am also encouraged that many people in their twenties have become regular supporters of the circle and have developed good mentor relationships with several of the practitioners. We see that these younger people do not have the finances to attend workshops or pay for private services, but are very needy of role models and good spirits in their lives. Some of the circle's most amazing work has been to free these young people of attaching spirits and start them on a good path.
Author: Alida Birch
Published in Shamanism Magazine, Foundation for Shamanic Studies, December 2002
It has been 15 years since I wrote the above article and I am pleased to report that the Healing Circle sponsored by the Hearth of the Dancing Drum is still going strong. We do have a few changes on how we manage the healings mostly due to the large numbers of people who appear at the healing circle each month. We sometimes have 25 people arrive and 15 requesting healing.
To accommodate the high volume, we still pass the talking stick, asking participants to identity whether they are here for a healing, to offer healing, or as a supporter/drummer. We usually do two rounds of healing. In each round, roughly half of those requesting healing are paired with a healer. Once all the pairs have finished talking, the drumming begins and continues until the session is complete. Then we move on to the next round.
The advantage of this method is everyone who requests healing receives. Another advantage is that the healers who attend always get to work on clients. Therefore the circle is a great training ground for newly trained shamanic practitioners to practice within the safety of a well run circle. The disadvantage is that there is no sharing of what the individual issues are and the group may not hear how the session went. (This can also be an advantage as participants do not have to share in front of the larger circle.) We do still close the circle in the old way, sending power to those who need it but are not present, and singing a song. Then we share community announcements. We are usually complete in two hours. Afterwards. we have a brief time to socialize.
Alida Birch, March 2, 2017, Eugene Oregon