Nature exorcism

© John Russell -Møller 2006

If you, as a city person, venture into the big wild nature and stay there alone for a week or more, you will soon discover that your behaviour slowly changes. You begin to act differently and you begin to think differently; your whole person slowly changes physically, mentally and spiritually. It may feel odd to begin with, but what happens is, that we start to behave more in accord with nature; not just Nature but also our own nature. All ready the first couple of days the part of our behaviour that is in disaccord with our nature begins to create problems. We get civilization withdrawal symptoms.

It is said, that if you take a native from the jungle and move him to the city, he will get a 'civilization chock'. Many city people, who experience the big wilderness for the first time, get a 'nature chock'. It is not so much the vastness, the weather, the mosquitoes and such, that people have a hard time with – it is themselves.

When you have been alone in nature for a while, you begin to catch up with yourself, and self-confrontation starts its merciless process. Many people discover they can't stand themselves. The part of us that wants us to live in disaccord with our true nature, and the part of us that wants us to live in accord with our true nature, begin to pull and tug at us from each direction.
In civilization the unnatural part of us is often the stronger, but here in the wilderness our naturalness gets the upper hand. Some people feel so sick, that they flee back to civilization as fast as possible to avoid the self-confrontation. They are afraid to go mad – and with good reason. You can accept Natures terms voluntarily, or you can resist, in witch case she will make you. It is like the ancient Romans used to say about the goddesses of fate. “He who follows the fates, they will guide – he who does not, they will drag”! The control freak, who ventures into the wilderness, is in for a painful experience.


In psychotherapy you have a process that consists of a meeting between two people, and in nature shamanism the process consists in a meeting between one person and nature. Nature is the healer – the spiritual catalyst. It is important to understand; that it is the person's own nature that drives the process, well assisted by the surrounding nature and Nature.
Alone in the wilderness, we not only carry a physical backpack with baggage, we also carry a backpack full of spiritual baggage, and sooner or later the lid on our Pandora's backpack opens and our demons are released and start to create havoc in our mind.

Fortunately there are good forces in nature who want to help us. So, it is a good idea to get to know the good nature powers and learn how to invoke them.
It is one of the nature shaman's tasks to offer the teachings that are required. He teaches people how they can get help from the animals, plants, winds, clouds and all the other friends, and he teaches people how they can contact the spirits in nature and the spirits in the dream world. Our totem animals and other spirits facilitate the spiritual power we need to face our demons and challenge them.
It is also the shaman's job to treat the spiritual illnesses and injuries that may complicate the nature process.

If all goes well, the self-confrontation, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say nature-confrontation, will result in our getting to know ourselves more – for better or for worse. Self-confrontation may lead to self-knowledge. If you really want to learn to know yourself, it is best to do so a little at a time. I am a great believer in slow progress, but permanent progress. Two steps forward, and then consolidate your progress, so you don't go more than one step backwards.

After self-knowledge comes self-challenge. To come to terms with myself, I must challenge my demons. Now I am faced with the John I really am, the John I thought I was, and the John I want to be.
The reason I have not become the John I want to be, is because I was not the one, I thought I was. If I want a more powerful and soulful life, it is important I get a realistic perception of myself. Illusions lead to failure and weakness.
Now that I know more about who John really is, by challenging him and coming to terms with him, it is possible for me to become more the John I want to be. Become better at being who I am and what I am. Become better at living in accord with my own nature, others nature, and Nature – and live less in disaccord with my own nature, others nature, and Nature.

Self-challenging (dealing with one self) is a struggle against ones demons. As long as we carry them with us, they will disturb our lives. Demons have a strong survival instinct; they are not easy to get rid of. Just think of the compulsive gambler. He has a gambling demon that completely ruins his life, and few gambling addicts recover from their illness.
Another person carries an old bitterness with him that is gnawing away at his soul. Yet another, is dissatisfied with everyone else; they shouldn't be the way they are, they should be the way he wants them to be.


Our demons send negative thoughts into our brain. Fortunately most demons and evil spirits are not quite as destructive, but for the one who has them they are very disturbing. The most common one is probably "the little selfishness" demon.
Regardless of how many large or small demons we have, that are plaguing our soul, it is possible to deal with them and reclaim our naturalness. It is natural to be a conscientious person and a just person.
It is natural to be a loving and caring person, and to have a good sense of humour and a fulfilling social life. It is natural to be happy, powerful and soulful.

During our struggle against the demons, our cooperation with the spirits is put to the test. It is now we will discover if the shamanic preparations we have made are strong enough. Perhaps we return from the mountain with a wing-shot soul, but that doesn't matter. In collaboration with our totem animal and other spirit allies (and possibly a shaman), we can learn from our experience and rise again. The wilderness will still be there next year.

If all goes well, when you come in from the wilderness, you discover the changes the nature-process creates in your everyday life.
First of all you become a spiritually more powerful person with stronger integrity. You stand in your own power-circle, and you decide for yourself, when you want to allow someone to enter your circle, and when you want to close your borders.
The strength you used to carry your destructive baggage is released, and can now be put to better use. When you return to civilization you bring your true nature with you into your everyday life – and that of others too.
You will find it easier to respect other peoples circle and their borders. The quality of your relationships changes. They get healthier.


For practical purposes, I distinguish between nature shamanism and nature religion. For some decenniums, an atheistic shamanism has arisen in the western world. For some people the word religion has a foul flavour, and looking back in history it is not difficult to see why. Some people, who claimed to be religious, have committed outrageous atrocities. To distance themselves for these people, their deeds and their god, some people have chosen to completely avoid the word religion. It is true, that religion and spirituality are two different things, but some people seem to have intermixed the two and now call all of it spirituality. In my opinion this is unfortunate.

For me, religion first and foremost is to believe something to be holy. Since nature is my religion, everything in nature is holy to me. My religion is about what I believe and about my attitude to nature in and around me; and it is about how I express these things through ceremonies, rituals etc., alone and together with others.
My spirituality is about, how I treat other people. Am I honest or dishonest, helpful or indifferent, patient or impatient etc? Religion is about what I believe. Spirituality is something I do.
What a shaman believes is important – also to his clients.

In nature shamanism the religious side of the nature process is just as important as the spiritual side, and the physical side. The nature shaman is also nature religion priest. He deals both with people's beliefs and their behaviour. More often than not, people will do, what they believe gives the best payoff. However, the shaman must pay equal attention to people's beliefs as to their behaviour.
Sometimes people who live in nature for extended periods of time have strong religious experiences. It is part of the nature shaman's job to help such people embrace what has happened to them. Sometimes these events are followed by religious initiations, and the nature shaman is expected to conduct the appropriate rites.
Obviously the nature shaman himself must have been initiated by nature, during his own many long lonely ventures into the physical and mystical corners of nature, her dreams and shadows, her hart and soul.


This type of venturing into nature is not a kind of vision quest. Its purpose is not to receive inspiration, a vocation or mission, but to be rid of unhealthy baggage. Thus, the purpose of the venture is exorcism. Nature exorcism.
The nature process that happens to us in the wilderness is not a substitute for the spiritual fellowship we enjoy together with other people – but a supplement to it. Neither is the nature process something we will someday have completed. It is a process that lasts the rest of our lives. It is a matter of choosing nature as the path you want to walk – and then the rest is two steps forward and one step backwards.

And remember – it is only if you do all the necessary shamanic work while you are in nature that the things I have written about can happen.

Nature is not just out there – it is also within our harts. You can be a spectator to nature; you can be a participant in nature; and you can be nature. Nature is me and you! Nature is all of us – regardless of where we are!

We breathe. We dance. We fly. We live. We are still here!


During a vision in October of 1989, John Russell -Møller (born 1946) was apprenticed to be a shaman by two spirit shamans, and they have been his mentors ever since. After 7 years of training with physical and spirit teachers, he was asked by his mentors to start a shamanic summer camp on a mountain in the wilderness in Lapland, in northern Scandinavia – 200 km north of the Arctic Circle. John made a covenant with the spirits to do so 3 months every summer for 10 years and ran the camp from 1996 until 2005. For those 10 years the Midnight Sun Circle served as a shamanic practice; 'hospital'; and teaching circle. During these 10 years, John was taught shamanism by nature. His teachers were the Ravens, Eagles, Mice, Mosquitoes, Spiders, Lynxes, Winds, Snows, Sun, Buttercups, Junipers, Clouds, Stars, Northern Lights, deceased humans and animals - and many many other neighbours. Because of this experience, John calls what he does for nature shamanism and himself for a nature shaman. John's spiritual love affair with the Scandinavian mountain wilderness began in 1977. Since 1992, John has had a private shamanic practice in Copenhagen - Denmark. In the summer he practices in Sápmi (Lapland) in the Giron (Kiruna) area.


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