The Making of a Shaman
The Making of a Shaman
Problems linked to illness, such as psychic crises, but also pains of a physiological nature, (fever, migraines, rheumatic pains) can be assumed to be just so many initiatory trials. Uncovering the religious significance of illness and physical pain constitutes in effect shamanism's essential contribution to the history of the spirit. Mircea Eliade Journals 1956
The Young Lad
The young lad was feeling quite excited and a little edgy. It was the annual Sunday School picnic and the next race was cross country. Twelve years old and a little overweight for his age, he was called "heffalump" in honour of the elephant in A.A. Milne's Christopher Robin stories. Living on the edge of a small country town, his playgrounds were the nearby paddocks, tall gums and Sandy Creek, an intermittent waterway where he and his friends explored duck's nests and tried to catch rabbits with natural traps made from The Bush Boys Book. Filled with diagrams of things to make such as a stretcher from two hessian wheat bags and small limbs of trees, it was a source of continual fascination. They made billy carts and careered down the hill, broadsiding just before they fell into the creek. Being overweight and not particularly nimble, he was used to not doing too well at sport. The old shoes he wore, with the soles tied on with pieces of string when he played football, didn't really serve to help his movement in that sport.
The race began and off he went. The course went through a paddock, around a billabong, over fallen trees and back to where it beganÑpossibly up to a kilometre in all. Some older boys were also in the race, as were some younger ones.
Years later, he didn't remember very much about the race except for two things. Firstly, he wonÑsomething that had never happened before, and secondly something strange happened to him. He remembered looking at the sun during the race and it was like the energy of the sun entered into him. After that his life changed.
Several months later a mysterious serious illness descended upon him. In the country town of 1950's rural Victoria medical facilities were scarce, and it was decided to keep him at home during the strange paralysis that affected him. He could move only his eyes.
His mother, a devout Christian, could only pray for his wellbeing. His father, a dairy supervisor, was away in the surrounding rural area, staying overnight with farming families, getting up at 4.30 in the morning to test the milk that the cows gave. The doctor could not recognise the symptoms. It didn't seem to be poliomyelitis. After a week, as suddenly as it had descended upon him, his body released the symptoms, and his movement was restored.
It was only in his adult life that he saw the strange conjunction of these two events and the extraordinary transformation in his body energy that followed.
Within two years he was the high school's junior athletic champion and competing against representatives from other schools. He started playing football with the "midgets". He tried tennis, but didn't have his own racquet, joined a cricket team and swam in school contests.
By the age of 16, he was chosen to represent the regional area in a state football competition and was judged best and fairest in the league in which he played.
In cricket he alternated between wicket keeping and bowling. Unable to choose between them, he did both. Continuing as school athletic champion, in one day he won races in 100, 220, 440 and 880 yards and was placed in the long jump, high jump, javelin and shotput. He ran 8 kilometres each morning and organised his own training regime based on a book by Percy Cerruty, who coached Herb Elliot, a world record holder, and Merv Lincoln, a local boy made good.
His 440 race came in under the state record for his age, but the track hadn't been certified for distance so it was never registered.
In winter he would play two football matches a week, train two nights and the two other nights would bicycle 12 kilometres to the family's favourite butcher, for fresh meat for the family's meals. Buses were few, cars were relatively rare and he had energy to burn.