Linda Neale's Blog

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What is a Shaman?

Linda Neale - Monday, October 03, 2011

On a recent radio show, I was introduced by the well-meaning interviewers as a "shaman".   I was alarmed.  Nothing in my written bio mentioned that word, and I had a minute or so of commercial time to consider how to respond.  Many things went through my head in that minute.  I thought about ceremonial leaders who have let others define them, allowing people to call them "medicine man", "shaman" or "chief".   I thought about Casimirro Mamallacta, an 80 year old Kichwa ayowaska shaman friend who knows the medicinal uses of every plant in his Ecuadorian rain forest.  I thought about the weekend shamanic workshops you can find everywhere on the internet.  I remembered the years of intense training my Dine (Navajo) friend Patrick went through to become a hitaali, or singer.  I could let the interviewers' comments go, and begin the process of allowing others to define me --  after all, some people say that it's the community that defines who is a shaman, who is a medicine person, and who is not.  But I've met real traditional shamans, and I have too much respect for them and their training to allow that to happen.  Read More

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The Korean War -- repatriation

Linda Neale - Friday, September 09, 2011

This is not my "normal" blog post about ceremony, but it's a recent event that affected me very deeply, and from which I learned a great deal.  Here it is:  Read More

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What's the difference between customs, traditions, rituals, and ceremonies?

Linda Neale - Monday, August 15, 2011

Joe Paul emailed me the other day, asking what the difference is between customs, traditions, rituals, and ceremonies.  It's a good question. We tend to confuse these various terms and sometimes use them interchangeably.  Basically, there's a lot of similarity between traditions and customs. The difference has to do with how long they've persisted.  Customs are probably the most common and short-lived practice. One of the origins of the term "custom" has to do with "habit". So, you can think of custom as any frequent or common repetition of a social convention. For example, I have a custom of singing a certain song almost every morning as I begin my day (some of you have heard that song).  Read More

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The Giveaway.

Linda Neale - Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Recently we celebrated my husband Rod's 80th birthday with a barbecue and giveaway.  I've learned to love the giveaway as a way of saying "thank you" and showing appreciation for an achievement or honor. This ceremony demonstrates values that are 180 degrees from American ideals of individual achievement and consumerism.   Instead of individualism, the giveaway honors connection.  Rather than consumerism, the giveaway is  based on what appears to be an almost Buddhist-like philosophy of non-attachment. 
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Vision Quest

Linda Neale - Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Recently Rod and I participated in a vision quest camp in a remote region of SE Oregon where seven men and women sought direction for their lives.  The vision quest ceremony is common among tribal peoples of North America;  there are similar ceremonies in India and Persia, and within the monastic and ascetic traditions of Christianity.  Jesus did a kind of vision quest, when he retreated into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights.   Read More

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Sweat Lodge discernment

Linda Neale - Sunday, June 26, 2011

   In October of 2009, self-help leader James Arthur Ray led a “sweat lodge” in Sedona, Arizona where three people died and nineteen were hospitalized. This “sweat lodge” was the “pinnacle event” at the end of Ray’s five day “spiritual warrior retreat” for which participants paid over $9000. Over sixty people participated in the retreat and the lodge. Two days ago Ray was convicted of negligent homicide for these deaths.  Read More

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A $100,000,000 Ceremony

Linda Neale - Tuesday, May 03, 2011

     Recently, the world witnessed a beautiful ceremony when Prince William and Kate Middleton were married at Westminster Abbey in London.  It was different than the ceremonies in my book, but it was still a ceremony. It had it all -- Listening, intention, preparation, structure, prayer, symbols, and a wee bit of the Unexpected.  The cynic in me thought, "For a hundred million dollars, it had better be good."  Then I watched, along with millions of others, and saw joy in the streets and delight on the faces of people in the church.  My favorite part was the carriage ride -- I loved the horses.  Read More


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