Originally Published in Main Line Today by MELISSA JACOBS
To many, shamanic energy medicine might sound a bit out there.
Cleansing chakras, medicine stones and manipulating energy are hallmarks of New Age hocus-pocus. But when shaman Stephanie Moore talks about pain, what she says makes a lot of sense.
Chronic pain—from fibromyalgia to autoimmune disorders to anxiety and even depression—effects people emotionally, physically and spiritually. Western medicine treats diseases on only some of those levels, whereas Moore attacks it systemically.
For example, anxiety is a mental illness that has physical symptoms. It triggers the flight-or-fight response that causes the release of cortisol and adrenaline. Moore can shut off that response. “But if you don’t understand what’s causing it to go off, you’ll leave here and it will go off again,” she says. “That’s why we do the mystical, magical stuff.”
While clients lie on tables, fully clothed, Moore uses medicine stones and her hands to move their energies. Then, she creates a sacred space by chanting and drumming, putting clients and herself into totally relaxed, trance-like states. Then, the talking starts.
To find the origin of their pain, Moore takes clients through their personal histories. “Energy is like a thread,” she explains. “We have to pull it all and get at the root of it, or we’re just plucking weeds.”
Clients can only talk about what they know. Moore gets the rest of the story by communicating with spirits. They aren’t necessarily dead relatives—angels, animals and various energies surround Moore and each client has their own spirit guides. “I ask my guides to connect me to the clients’ [guide],” Moore explains.
But truthfully, Moore doesn’t need the ceremony to “read” clients. Within 10 minutes of meeting someone, and with 100 percent accuracy, she says she can rattle off a decade old physical ailment, an emotional childhood trauma, and something that happened that morning. So why the chanting? “It’s important for people to relax and tell their story from their perspective,” Moore explains. “That tells me where they are, in that moment, and that can guide what we do.”
Generally Moore helps clients break destructive patterns, find forgiveness and create new personal narratives. That’s true with pain caused by mental and physical illnesses. “You need to shift your perspective for a pattern to clear,” she says. “It’s about not being shackled by the past.”
Moore’s past is surprisingly normal. She grew up in Wayne, was raised Catholic and attended the Baldwin School. She married her college sweetheart and worked as an emergency veterinary nurse after they moved to Berwyn.
One day in 2011, Moore was going about her daily routine when she heard the word “shaman,” though it hadn’t been spoken aloud. The experience was so unusual and the word so specific that Moore went to her local library and found a book on shamanism. She’d stayed up all night reading it. The next morning, Moore told her husband that she was meant to be a shaman and the book’s author, Alberto Villoldo, had to be her teacher. Her husband greeted that declaration with more than a bit of skepticism.
Undeterred, Moore attended local meetings about shamanism, and in 2015, enrolled in Villoldo’s course. The 300 hours of training took place in the Berkshires and Andes mountains. “We slept on the ground for a month in a camp with 20 people and studied for 9 to 13 hours per day,” Moore remembers. “We were on detoxifying diets, we did sweat lodges and other rituals. It was a grueling month of bringing up all of my dark stuff. But my teacher taught us to heal ourselves. Then, we had the tools to help other people.”
Moore returned to Berwyn a changed woman. Now, she makes mindful choices about everything, from relationships to the food she eats. She also listens to her spirit guides, which she can now clearly hear. All of that lead her to Berwyn’s Village Wellness, a holistic healing center, and its founder, Lance David Isakov. He helped Moore start her shamanic practice, which is now thriving.