In 2012, a Peruvian shaman performed a ritual to predict the outcome of the US election, at San Cristobal hill in Lima. The incredible connection the shaman uses between the mind and the spirit can be used for good or evil.
A recent trial at Blackfriars Crown Court in London revealed how one woman, Juliette D'Souza, conned vulnerable victims out of almost £1 million. She masqueraded as a shaman for more than 12 years to con a string of affluent victims. The judge described her scam as the “worst case of confidence fraud” he had ever heard of.
She made wild claims including that Princess Diana was on her client-list and how she warned the late Princess of Wales that she “would never see her sons again after she went to Paris”.
D'Souza conned 11 of her middle class "clients" to hand over thousands of pounds to solve issues such as curing terminal illnesses or problems conceiving a baby.
Rather than sending their sacrificial money overseas to Suriname to be hung from a magical tree, she used the proceeds to fund an extravagant lifestyle.
In one of the worst instances revealed at the trial, the court heard how D'Souza persuaded one woman to have an abortion because the child would be seriously deformed. Her client had already paid a vast amount to help her get pregnant.
Both men and women can be shamans. Shamanism is classically associated with certain Arctic and Central Asian peoples, but today the term is applied to analogous religious and quasi-religious systems throughout the world. As medicine man and priest, the shaman cures illnesses, directs communal sacrifices, and escorts the souls of the dead to the other world. He operates by using techniques of ecstasy, the power to leave his body at will during a trancelike state. In cultures where shamanism occurs, sickness is usually thought of as soul loss; it is thus the shaman's task to enter the spirit world, capture the soul, and reintegrate it in the body. A person becomes a shaman either by inheritance or by self-election.
The facts are a real eye-opener to me. I'd never seen a connection between what I call 'visions' in my novels and the role of a shaman. In the Moonstone series, Liliha wears a star moonstone ring. Over the years, the ring had given her glimpses into other people's lives in the manner of a crystal ball, but deeper and more direct in the form of visions. After a short trip between her location and theirs, she could see through other people's eyes and read their thoughts. She never knew when she'd be called or where she'd arrive. Liliha uses these episodes to help people in a time of need, rather like the little inner voice we all possess.
Here's an example of my work in progress.
I'm flying again. My breath catches although such a thing can't happen when my body's not here. Through the blur, I scan a strange room. I can't make out the details, but after a few seconds, the veil lifts. The way I view the scene reminds me of peering through a telescope. Details come into focus at the center of my gaze, but the edges are blurred. Although the experience is not new, I take a moment to adjust. Taking care to maintain balance through the familiar vertigo, I swing my gaze around the room and concentrate until objects solidify.
Small windows cast light on twin beds covered with aqua quilts matching a deeper shade of carpet on the smooth wooden floor.
At a jingle, a woman discards her paper and reaches for her mobile phone.
With instant speed, I've melded with her. I've never worked out how that happened.
Instead of mine, her head turns. We hold the phone to our ear and gaze at the gray sky outside. Now I know what she thinks.