Few people know that the word "shaman" or 'shamanism" was born here in Russia (Siberia)... and they are certainly proud of this fact. The literal translation of the word(s) shaman/shamanism means "the ability to see in the dark".

From Russia With Love

08.10.2001   © 2001 Wilbert Alix


From Russia With Love
Shamanism and the people of Russia


Greetings friends,

I am in Moscow (Russia) and at the completion of my work here, so I wanted to share with some of you my experiences, as well as my intended plans for the future.


Russian (Soviet) Culture


As Americans we have received a very skewed view of Russia... much more of the "soviet" perspective than genuine images of the "people" of Russia. Actually the old soviet state is non- existent for the most part. Since "Perestroika" was introduce by Gorbechov more than 10 years ago the atmosphere here has changed dramatically. Moscow is steadily moving into a more western way of living. American and European companies are prominent in Moscow. While shopping in the local super markets I routinely find American brand names, as well as popular European items mixed with Russian products. American & European makes of automobiles are common. Mc Donalds Restaurants are everywhere!... and Muscovites go to them is droves. A "Big Mac" costs 38 rubles (approx $1.20), less expensive than in the USA.

This blend of new western culture mixed with the old world tradition of Russia produces an odd, surreal atmosphere. It's kind of strange to see a new Lexus Coup moving down a Moscow boulevard right next to someone on horseback! Young people (especially Russian women) have really taken to western fashion. Their dress is much more European than American, so you typically see young women wearing very sexy, revealing clothing... while their parents still wear clothing typical of the soviet philosophy. It's typical in Moscow to see a mother & daughter together, but VERY different apparel. This picture visually reflects what many Russians famalies are finding themselves struggling with, which is a deep cultural "split"... where the younger generation wants nothing to do with the old world values of their parents. This is similar to western schisms, but deeper. This deleima has come up many times in my workshops. There is a values revolution happening in Russia... mostly in the big cities of Moscow & St. Perersburg.

The People Of Russia

The people of Russia have big hearts... truly. I have never been embraced by individuals so deeply as I have been received here in Moscow. Once you get to know them they will do anything for you... sincerely. Most Russians live in their hearts... but have been trained to deny their feelings. Expressing feelings is a doorway to independence, and independent thinking was a violation of the soviet/communist philosophy. As an example, Russian children who favor writing with their left hand are severely punished... forcing them to write with the right hand. This practice was a product of the communist philosophy, which believes that everyone should be the same. Favoring the right hand forced every citizen into thinking (primarily) with the left brain... which sees the world in a linier, pragmatic way, as opposed to the lefties (right brain) who tend to value a non linier, unstructured (free) way of seeing the world. Whether or not this was a calculated tactic or not I do not know... but it is very interesting. The fact that this right hand favoritism did not push some Russians into total madness is a testiment to their resiliance... and the enormous capacity of their hearts.

The idea of 'independent thinking' is a difficult concept for many Russians to accept... and most Russians cannot grasp the idea of "individuation", since this was a crime not more than 10 years ago. Needless to say, Trance Dance has been an eye opener for everyone who's attended my workshops. The idea that "God" expresses itself to each of us in a unique way continues to be a struggle for the vast majority of Russians (and for some Americans as well). Many are devoted to the Russian Orthodox way (as well as Islam and Judism)... or they are the children of parents who embraced these religious philosophies. Newer forms of eastern spirituality (yoga, meditation, tantra, sufi etc) are becoming more and more the choices of young, progressive Russians. The principles within shamanic philosophy (as well as the concept of neo-shamanism) is still very new yet oddly familiar & entriguing to all the Russians I've encountered.

On a lighter not, the 'teacher plant' of all Russians is vodka!... and they normally do not drink it without a toast, which means that they drink with intention. Every toast has something to do with the integrity of a person, the beauty of their life, the good fortune of their endeavours, or the well being and health of a loved one. I have found this practive to be enormously enriching... and eventually intoxicating, which is probably the point! Of course there are those Russians who drink to bury their reality. All powerful tools can also be used as a vice.

Russians also have an enormous affection for singing... and have taken to the modern technology of home "karaeoke" systems! They all gather, toast to each other health & well being, while singing old Russian and Gypsy folk songs... LOUD!, and into the wee hours of the morning. It's going to take me a couple of months to recover from the sleep deprivation I've experienced through this ritual.

Russia's Economy

Along with the hearts and souls of Russians comes the stark reality that Russia is trying desperately to adjust to the breakdown of the old soviet (communist) system, which regulated every aspect of life... including the acquisition of property and wealth. A huge percentage of Russians make 3000 rubles (the equivalent of $US100 per month). In contrast there is a small but growing number of enterprising Russians who are millionaires. There is a definate lack of a "middle class" here in Russia... a class which typically provides the financial stability of any culture. Therefore poor Russians do whatever they can to make money. "The worlds oldest profession" is alive and well in Russia. In fact, many countries of the region will not allow single Russian women to enter... for fear that they will begin to marry local men as a way of finding a more stable lifestyle. For this reason (and others) Russian citizens have a very difficult time acquiring a visa to travel to the west. Clearly, there are millions of women & men in Russia trying their best to find a way out of Russia.

As I do business here it is obvious that there is one price for Russians and a different price for Americans. Russians see all Americans as wealthy... and if you make 3000 rubles a month that's true. Navigating this duel pricing structure has been a chalenge, but clearly not a hinderence. I've found this to be true in every culture that lives in poverty (Mexico, Cenral America). Experiencing how people live so minimally is sobering for westerners, who take for granted our luxuries. We have much to learn from countries like Russia, and they certainly have much to learn from us.

Russian Language

Unless you plan to make it your lifes work you should give up the notion that you will ever master the Russian language. It's the most complex assortment of alphabets and phonetic sounds I've ever witnessed. There are 33 alphabets in the Russian language (our English alphabet has 26)... and 4 of these Russian alphabets HAVE NO SOUND! There purpose is to change the phonetic stucture of the remaining alphabets. Go figure!!

Another interesting feature of Russians (language) is that when they speak it always sounds like they are arguing. Even the simpliest conversations or negotiations can sound like a downright fight. It takes a while to get it that this is just their form of expression. They are a passionate people, and their vocal style reflects this. Since I come from a creole/cuban family (who believes that "freedom of speech includes volume!!) I have found this form of communication oddly nurturing :). Both creole's & cuban people are passionate as well.

As in most parts of the world... Russians recognise that the language of business in English, so they are desperately trying to grasp our language. Almost everyone who has acquired any wealth in Russia has some command of the English language. Another interesting fact is that the most successful, wealthiest of Americans are decendents of Russia. Clearly these are an enterprising people, and given half a chance they will turn water into wine... or at least vodka..., which sells pretty well on the world market!

Shamanism


Few people seem to know that the word "shaman" or 'shamanism" was born here in Russia (Siberia)... but Russians certainly do... and they are certainly proud of this fact. The literal translation of the word(s) shaman/shamanism means "the ability to see in the dark". This makes sense when you realize that Russia (especially Siberia) has long, cold and DARK winters. Their environment, therefore, creates a demand to explore their shadow... which is the basis of all shamanic spiritual/transformation work. Russians seem to have a deeper understanding of this concept... having never been away from living in the dark for too long. We (western cultures) live in a more temperate, sunny climate... so we yearn for light. This is one of the reasons that I am so interested in bringing our to cultures together spiritually... we have much to learn from each other.

Trance Dance


Everyone who has attended my workshops here in Moscow have been overwhelmed with the power of their experience. I've offered programs both inside and out of Moscow... and both have been well attended, usually to full capacity. Moscovites (personally) find me intriguing... a black man from America who seems to understand the deeper roots of their spiritual culture. I have appeared on Russian TV four (4) times so far... one being a mini-documentary on my work in contemporary shamanism. While here I've also spoken to businesses and large educational institutions, as well as appearances at local bookstores and organizations which focus on culture & spirituality.

The average younger Russian (18-30 years of age) is much more contemporary in his/her spiritual beliefs, but have close connections to old world healing techniques... especially if they were born into a family that originates from the one of the many rural villages which populate all of Russia. Russians call this type of spirituality "Black Eye"... and every village has (or had) someone who practices these old ways of healing (shamanism). My future trips to Russia will revolve around learning from and working with these people, and inviting them into my future retreats as teachers.

Future Programs & Retreats

My intention is to offer travel programs & shamanic retreats designed to explore the many mystical sides of Russia (Tuva, Siberia) as well as a chance to experience the emergence of Moscow into the world community. More details about these programs will be available on my website within the next few months. If you are interested in traveling to Russia please let me know and I will place you on a primary list to be informed of the details of upcoming trips. The first is planned for July, 2002.

It has been, and it continues to be, my intention is to study, explore and learn from the various (genuine) forms of shamanism still remaining in the world today... both indigenous & contemporary... and to make it possible for you to experience and learn from these cultures. As with my work in Hawaii, Brazil, the Carribean and other regions of the world... Russia is clearly an important piece in understanding the roots & healing powers of shamanism. I look forward to sharing with you the mysticism & spirit of Russia.

With Passion & Respect,

Wilbert Alix