I should know, because I was a gullible follower of those "plastic shamans," as the Native Americans call them, for years.
I used to be obsessed with anything Native American.
Back in Germany, where people are easily duped by so-called "shamans" and "spiritual Indian teachers" touring the country, I had a Native American teacher (who later ended up in jail for defrauding and mutilating women in his alleged "rite of passage" ceremonies). There was also an "official spokesman of the Hopi" who used to give made-up messages from the Hopi Elders.
Bavaria is also a hub for a huge number of followers of Dhyani Ywahoo, who runs the Sunray Peace Village in Lincoln, VT.
But let's start from the beginning, and I'll tell you the whole story.
When I still lived in Germany, I absolutely LOVED all things Native American (still do, but now I have much more respect and don't spend my hard-earned money on those fake ceremonies and workshops anymore.)
Through friends, I found this Native American teacher, a very interesting character, to say the least. He seemed genuine, but I learned later that:
a) he had a habit of marrying younger German women who could financially support him;
b) that he couldn't go back to the US because he'd be arrested at the border (for what, I still don't know)
c) he went to jail because in some kind of self-styled "puberty ritual," he sowed women's vaginas together (without anaesthesia, of course, because true Indians aren't afraid of pain).
Unbelievable? Maybe. More unbelievable, though, may be that women were naive enough to allow him to do that.
Though I can see how that happened. I had one ritual with him (NOT the puberty one!), and his reasoning was very compelling. He basically said that in today's Western societies, so many people are emotionally and spiritually stunted because there are no real rites of passage anymore for kids (which I think is true).
In traditional Native American tribes, the boys' rite of passage was the "vision quest" at the age of 12-14, and the girls' rite of passage was a celebration when they got their first period and so became women. In our over-modernized Western world, we don't have those anymore, he said, and so many people would stay "boys and girls" throughout their entire lives and never reach full maturity.
There IS something to that, I must say... when you watch old movies from the '40s and '50s, you never see a grown man who still acts like a juvenile, whereas today it seems to be almost the norm. And I know many women -- for some reason especially those without kids -- who seem to stay girls perpetually; that even goes for some that I know that are in their sixties now.
(Some text omitted for brevity. You can read the entire essay here
Anyway, I went to those Elders Gatherings for three years, and it was great. I totally loved it. They have two ceremonial arbors there, which are decorated for the gatherings; the bigger one is the regular arbor, which you have to enter clockwise after being smudged, and then find a seat to hear the teachings and speeches, and participate in the ceremonies and dances. The smaller arbor is the so-called "Moon Arbor," where women who have their period must go since they can't be with the others in the regular arbor. As far as I know, traditionally women in their moons were excluded from ceremonies because, according to what I've heard, their power in that time was so chaotic but strong at the same time that they could wreck an entire ceremony and cause havoc for the other participants... hence the "Moon Arbor."
It was a great experience to go there; for the Elders Gatherings, people would come from all over the US, Canada, France, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, etc. and gather for a few days in peace and harmony. It was beautiful.
HOWEVER, after I'd gone there for three years or so, I happened to stumble over this Native American message forum on the Internet called "New Age Frauds and Plastic Shamans" (NAFPS)
, which was established by *real* Native Americans. I learned a lot through that website -- actually more than I ever wanted to know, to be honest with you.
First of all, it turns out that most Native Americans hate white/semi-white/native people who twist and warp their traditional ceremonies and sacred teachings and supplement them with New Age mumbo-jumbo. They call these people "Twinkies" and have nothing but contempt for them. What they basically say is that learning about true Native American spirituality is a way of life and takes years if not decades; it's not something you do in a weekend workshop.