Black Panther delivered. We all know this. It was packed with black excellence and a cast with amazing talent. For some reason I had missed that Forest Whitaker was in this movie (I do not know how exactly), and had to double-take when I saw him on screen as Zuri, a Wakandan Shaman. We watched him connect T’Challa to his father in the afterlife more than once, and transfer the spirit of the Black Panther between T’Challa and Kilmonger.
Now, my best friend is a Shaman, and although I know a little about his practices, seeing Zuri’s character made me realize that I never quite understood the full scope of what exactly it meant. So I sat down with Craig to discuss Black Panther’s portrayal of Shamanism, what it’s like being a modern day Shaman, and how being a Shaman of color in such a homogenous white area has impacted his work.
Me: How did you begin your spiritual journey?
Craig: My spiritual journey doesn’t have a conclusive “beginning”. As a child I understood that I felt and saw things about people that I was not able to effectively explain. The passing of my father and brother within a year of one another was the major catalyst that propelled me on to my spiritual journey.
As a result of these tragedies, I moved in with my grandmother where I was overcome with feelings of depression and abandonment. With death as an intimate part of my childhood, I began to question the meaning of life, and how to improve my own life as well as the lives of others. In the deepest parts of my depression I realized I didn’t want anyone to ever feel how I felt. In middle school, I practiced Wicca and it helped me to hone my gifts and abilities. I actively started utilizing my intuitive gifts to give clients readings and help them make more informed decisions. During my time working as a professional intuitive I crossed paths with a Shaman who helped me to remember who I was, and my divine purpose. Upon meeting her doors opened in my life that brought me to my current practice of Shamanism in the Peruvian tradition.
Me: Can you walk us through a day in the life?
Craig: The first thing I do when I wake is take 10 belly expanding breaths.
Next I let out my pug, and make myself a strong cup of coffee. During my cup of coffee I begin to envision what I want for the day. What do I want to experience? What do I want to create? What do I want to align with? Then, I spend five or ten minutes in meditation connecting with source (Some people would consider source God). After that I catch up on my favorite t.v. shows and finish getting ready for work. Before beginning work with a client I open sacred space inside of my work space. I smudge my office with Palo Santo to remove any heavy (negative) energies. While I’m waiting for the client to arrive I begin to connect with their energy. Through this deep connection I am able to devise the best methods of assisting them in standing in their wholeness. After the session I smudge my office space again to clear out any lingering energy or vibrations to prepare for future work. Throughout the day I do a presence check with myself and ask if i am acting or sourcing from a place of fear or love.
Me: You saw Black Panther. What did you think of Zuri’s portrayal of shamanism?
Craig: I enjoyed Black Panther, it was a great movie. In my opinion, it was not their mission to portray “shamanism” they were honoring the traditions of the African diaspora which are rooted heavily in ancestral veneration. While there are components of shamanism, the entirety of the character and his function were more reminiscent of African tradition.
Me: How has being a shaman of color in a predominately white area affected your work?
Craig: Being a Shaman of color in a predominately white area has illuminated peoples perpetuation of stereotypes. Rather than being in the moment and receiving what I’m offering they are fixated on “props” and other inanimate objects that say “Shaman”. Legitimacy is not perceived unless they feel you look like, move like, talk like, or perform ritual like ceremony in line with their own narratives. Also, this area is heavy in organized religion.
Me: Any advice for those starting out on their own shaman journey?
Craig: My advice to anyone beginning their own personal spiritual journey would be to start listening to their heart more. Allow whatever you are experiencing in your “inner world” or your “outer world” to be a catalyst that is emerging at this moment in your life to support you standing in your greatness. The universe is constantly and consistently conspiring on your behalf. Perception is a powerful thing. When one makes the conscious decision to journey with a greater depth of awareness and to change how they are choosing to witness situations or people that are showing up in their life, they are actively participating in the conscious creation of their reality. Choose to spread love. Choose to see love.