The term Shaman (and Shamanism) has become widely used in relation to indigenous and historical healing practices. I’ve often used the term Shamanic Practitioner in relation to my own work and have taken part in Advanced Shamanic Trainings in recent years.
But the term Shaman actually originates specifically from the natives of Siberia, and is not a title found in Celtic traditions. The closest Irish Celtic equivalent is An Bean Feasa The Irish Medicine Woman (Fear Feasa for Medicine Men)
What is an bean feasa?
The term An Bean Feasa (pronounced Ban Fasa) translates from Irish Gaelic as The Woman of Knowing, or the Woman of Knowledge.
The masculine equivelant quite simply replaces the Gaeilge woman for man ~ An Fear Feasa (pronounced Far Fasa).
These characters were well recognised within Irish history, as well as folklore and traditional practices as healers that walked between worlds. They worked with deep connection with the land as Seers & Guides, often trusted with facilitating ceremonies as well as their traditional healing practices.
What tools did an bean feasa work with?
Similar to the practices we commonly associate with Shaman today, the Bean Feasa worked with drums, rattles, and herbs, but specifically those native to Ireland.
I’m learning Bodhrain at the moment, and was not surprised to find that An Bean Feasa (and Fear Feasa) worked with the native drums of Ireland, as well as Crotal (traditional Irish rattles), herbs native to the Islands (Luibh Leighis), wands made from trees from their area, and a specific type of Gaelic chanting known as Dichetal do Chennaib.
What tools did an bean feasa use for divination?
The original Bean Feasa would not have had Oracle Cards to hand, but they were still well known for their Seer qualities, and their ability to predict likely outcomes.
They would have used Ogham Staves, Collslat (a type of dowsing stick), Hag Stones (Cloch Chailleach), and Talismans made from animal parts they found (Ortha Ainmhi) to assist them with their diviantion practices.
how did bean feasa work with these tools?
The Bean Feasa would have kept their tools in their Corr Bolg (Crane Bag) ~ the name comes from the myth of the Otherworldly Sea God Manannán mac Lir, who kept his treasures in a magical bag crafted from the skin of a Crane.
If you’ve ever been to one of my online sessions you may well have experienced the Guided Imram. Similar to the modern popularist idea of the Shamanic Journey, the Imram (or Immrama) is a Spiritual Voyage to the Otherworlds to seek Guidance and Illuminated Inspiration (Imbas).
are there specific types of bean feasa?
An Bean Feasa that worked in harmony with the turbulent and somewhat cheeky medicine of the Fae Folk were often known as a Doctúir na Siofrai (Fairy Doctor), and those using Draiocht (a type of traditional Irish magic) were often referred to as Draoi.
The Cailleach ~ The Irish Witch, or Divine Hag of Celtic Mythology, are known to be Draoi, or Bean Feasa.
What does the term bean feasa mean to you?
If you think of the term Medicine Woman (or Medicine Man) what comes to mind? For me it always used to be the idea of a Native American Circle, maybe smoking the Chanupa, but the more I sit with it, the more connected I feel with the idea of An Bean Feasa (and An Fear Feasa somewhat too).
Can you go on your own Imram? Your own voyage of discovery to feel your connection with the Medicine Carriers of the Irish myths and modern legends~ let me know in the comments how this term lands with you.