Monday, March 12, 2012

Shamanism and a Texas Ranger: Guest Post by Author Kristy McCaffrey

It is a pleasure today to welcome historical romance author Kristy McCaffrey, who has written The Sparrow, The Wren, and The Dove. So, without further ado, we'll let Kristy tell us a bit about this fascinating belief you'll see in The Sparrow.

By Kristy McCaffrey

Shamanism is a term for a range of beliefs and practices related to communication with the spirit world. Shamans—sometimes referred to as “medicine men” or “witch doctors”—are the keepers of ancient techniques used to achieve and maintain well-being and healing for themselves and members of their communities. Shamans are considered intermediaries between the human world and the spirit worlds, entering a trance-like state during a ritual to practice divination and healing. They treat ailments and/or illnesses by mending the soul. Shamanic methods are strikingly similar all over the world and are believed to have been in use for tens of thousands of years.
A shaman enters a supernatural realm to bring guidance to misguided souls and to alleviate illnesses frequently caused by foreign elements in a person’s spirit. A shaman moves between an ordinary state of consciousness and a non-ordinary state of consciousness.
A rite of passage commonly initiates the training of a shaman. This could include a physical illness or a psychological crisis, pushing them to the brink of death. This prompts a crossing over into the underworld and a deep understanding of sickness, which can then be used to heal others suffering the same maladies. Shamans can also be called by dreams or signs.
Shamans frequently work with spirit guides while in the spirit world. They help the shaman navigate the non-ordinary realms and energize the shaman while in a trance-state. Shamans glean information through dreams and visions, and through direct dialogue with spirits of all kinds: human, animal, and inanimate (such as rocks, trees, plants, etc.). Spirits help to remove excess negative energies, often from sources beyond the injured person.
Shamans engage in soul retrieval, returning lost part of the human soul from wherever they may have gone. A portion of the soul is free to leave the body and will often do so when dreaming; soul pieces will also flee during traumatic situations as a way of protection. In this instance the soul piece will not return of its own accord and a shaman must intervene to assist in the recovery.
All forms of shamanism share several common beliefs: spirits exist and play important roles in individual lives and human society; shamans can communicate with the spirit world; spirits can be benevolent or malevolent; shamans can treat sickness caused by malevolent spirits; the shaman can employ trance-inducing techniques to incite visionary ecstasy and go on vision quests; the shaman’s spirit can leave the body to enter the supernatural world to search for answers; the shaman evokes animal images as spirit guides, omens, and message-bearers; the shaman can tell the future, scry, throw bones/runes, and perform other varied forms of divination.

The Sparrow
Arizona Territory 1877
In 1877 Emma Hart comes to Grand Canyon, a wild, rugged, and until recently, undiscovered area. Plagued by visions and gifted with a second sight, she searches for answers--about the tragedy of her past, the betrayal of her present, and an elusive future that echoes through her very soul. Joined by her power animal Sparrow, she ventures into the depths of Hopi folklore, forced to confront an evil that has lived through the ages.

Texas Ranger Nathan Blackmore tracks Emma Hart to the Colorado River, stunned by her determination to ride a wooden dory along its course. But in a place where the ripples of time run deep, he'll be faced with a choice. He must accept the unseen realm, the world beside this world, that he'd turned away from years ago or risk losing the woman he has come to love more than life itself.

Visit Kristy: 
ShamanImage:  Evenk shaman with a collection of shamanic objects,
including images of helper spirits, early 1900s.
No. 5659-120
For the Evenks there were images of the shaman's helper spirits, a shamanic tree imitating the world's tree of souls (with nine transverse layers of the Upper World), and a figurine of the substitute of the sick person's soul.
Russian Museum of Ethnography
ShamanDrum: From wikipedia
Redrawn version of the drawing of a shaman's drum made on a 1909-1913 expedition led by Anokhin Andrei Viktorovich, published in 1924 in Materialy po shamanstvy u altaitsev.


  1. I loved this post! I knew most of this information, but only because of my heritage. It's interesting to see what people think and know. Thank you for coming over and following me. Take care and come visit sometimes. Might not be educational but you will get an occasional laugh.

  2. I too found it interesting and was so pleased when Kristy decided to share about it. I'm interested to read how she incorporated it into her book. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. So happy to share this info. When I began writing THE SPARROW I followed my instincts about what Emma was experiencing. At the half-way point I had to stop (for about 2 years) and study the process of shamanism. I had stumbled onto it without realizing what it was. The research (intellectual as well as personal) helped to fine-tune her journey. My goal was to tell an interesting story while honoring this very old tradition.