I have just gotten back from a shamanic workshop at the Domaine du Fan in Haut-Vienne. Now, as things in these conservative times go, a shamanic workshop may seem kind of out there, but be not afraid. No drugs, at least not here, apologies to those of you who are seeking the ayahuasca experience at an affordable price. Instead you will find a lot of really nice adults with rattles, communing with nature and the spirits.
Shamanism has been around for eons but there is no question that the current iteration has a bit of a New Age vibe. I have yet to take a position on shamanism, except to say that it works for me. So you rattle or drum, or listen to a recording of someone drumming, at a specific tempo. This facilitates your slipping into a deep, meditative state, which in shamanism is called journeying. Scientists have studied the brain wave patterns of experienced shamanic practitioners and have found that they can within just a few minutes achieve a meditative state equal to that reached by experienced meditators — Zen monks and the like — after several hours. So you go into this with a predetermined question and you come out, I kid you not, with an answer. It happens fast, 15 minutes, tops. So there you go; it is also a lot faster than therapy.
So how does that work? Well you may ask. If you are journeying for yourself, it is easy to see this in psychological terms. Jungians would call it active imagination. Come to think of it, Jungian theory might already be kind of out there. Growing up in California kind of skews one’s frame of reference. Anyway, it is easy to attribute archetypal attributes to spirits you encounter and all. Where things get a little spooky is when you journey for others. You can get answers for them, too, ones that may not make sense to you but so far invariably have to the other person. No way can I explain that.
If this seems like your kind of thing, you might want to take a few classes. That’s what got me out to the wilds of Haut-Vienne this weekend. My first evening I was fortunate to have dinner with the woman who owns Domaine du Fan. She told a story similar to mine — she just fell in love with the place and had to make this happen — except that she has more buildings, bigger buildings and nearly 68 hectares of land. Well, plus she is in deep country, la France Profonde. She was accused of starting a cult, of being a witch, all sorts of things. Why she ever actually said she was doing a New Age thing is beyond me; I’d have said “wedding venue” and left it at that. She had to chase hunters off her property; if some poor soul were shot while hugging a tree, she’d be out of business immediately. It wasn’t easy, but it worked. The place is booked nearly every weekend.
This part of France has not been important for centuries. On the way home I found Gallo-Romanic ruins, as well as modern ones. Seriously, if you wanted to emulate Ruth Rendell, say, might you not choose the place below as the scene of your crime?
Of course if you are more like me — get the shot, shudder and move on — you might prefer oh, say, the place below. The Chateau of Bourg- Archimbault is privately owned and not open to the public. It was built in the 15th century, renovated once in the 19th and again in 2003. While the place above deserves a novel, the one below must have a real-life story that is absolutely fascinating. Whose money? Why choose this remote location? Inquiring minds…..