Kenn Day Interview

Dec 14th, 2014 | By | Category: Articles, Books for Shamans, Pagan People

kenn dayKenn Day is a working shaman, with a full-time practice since 1989. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, with his beloved wife and daughter and offers workshops covering the teachings used in his practice. He’s a Moon Books author…


Nimue: “Post-Tribal Shamanism”. When I saw that term, it really clicked with me. Many shamanic authors talk about how shamanism doesn’t quite work for various reasons in our modern, non-tribal context. Evidently you are developing new ways of thinking about it. Can you briefly outline where you’ve gone with this?
Kenn: Many years ago, back when I first realized that what I was getting myself into was “shamanism”, I started running into some…disconnects, between how shamanic techniques work in indigenous cultures and how they work for those of us living in this science fiction novel we call “modern life”. There were difficulties that seemed to reflect cultural differences between where I was and where the people who crafted the practices where. In time, I came to realize that the bulk of this was the difference in consciousness and identity between those raised in a tribal culture and those raised in a post-tribal culture. This comes down to how we see ourselves in relationship with the world and the people around us.

In a tribal culture, the most important unit is the tribe as a whole. It is the tribe that all the individuals identify as. This tribal identity is analogous to all the parts of your body identifying as “you”. Your left hand doesn’t think of itself as a separate entity, but is part of a greater whole. Now imagine that your body was chopped up and all the pieces had to learn to survive on their own. They would no longer identify as part of “you” because they would be too busy coping with their separate existence.

Another aspect of this is the soul. Our culture doesn’t really give much consideration to the soul. In tribal cultures, we humans have more than one piece to what we call soul. There is the one that comes from our ancestors –we call that the Ancestral Soul –the part that has lived many previous lifetimes –we call that the Celestial Soul –and the part that thinks of itself as “me” –which we generally doing see as a part of the soul and call the ego or the identity. In tribal culture, the dominant soul piece is the Ancestral, which is communal. In our culture, it is the ego, which is highly individualized.

What I’ve seen from this is that those raised in our culture are cut off from much of what our tribal ancestors had as a birthright. So practices that work well for them, don’t usually do so well for us. We need to first reconnect, before we can use those connections again. We need to recognize and honor that we are in a different place and work from where we are.

Nimue: So, do you view that reconnection work as about engaging with the ancestors, or is it more about the need to develop a modern sense of tribe?
Kenn: Like so many things in shamanic practice, the answer is “yes, and”. The work is both about reconnecting with what our souls are used to from over 80,000 years of being human, which includes engaging with our ancestors, AND about developing a way to meet the need for real community into our current culture. We can’t go back to the traditional tribal setting. It wouldn’t work, because we have become too attached to our individuality. But we can move forward toward a sense of community that embraces the individual.


Nimue: How diverse is shamanism? Some books can give an impression that it’s a reasonably coherent way of working with a lot of commonality across different places and times. I’ve heard people talk about ‘working shamanicaly’ almost as though that was a clear, single way of working – as someone not involved with shamanism, I can’t tell whether that’s so, and have found myself wondering.

Kenn: That’s an excellent question and you will get quite a range of answers from people “working shamanicaly”. But the shaman is always one who works with the soul and with community. There can be many ways to do this work, but because its focus and intent is always directed to a soul level, there will be recognizable elements –something that allows us to recognize a practice as “shamanic”.


The other defining element of shamanism is community. This is almost as contentious as “soul”, since many consider a shaman to be authentic only if he or she is in service to a tribal community. There are at least three different ways in which I use the term“community”. First is in the sense of the traditional community or tribe, in which the collective identity of the tribe is the most important element. Second is in the sense that most people use it in our culture, which describes a spectrum that ranges from loosely organized “special interest groups” and people who gather once or twice a year for an event to closely knit neighborhoods, parishes or small towns. Finally, I use it in the sense of what I envision for the future: A community that has many of the characteristics of a tribe, but which embraces and empowers the individual –a community of sovereigns.


Nimue: What does sovereignty mean for a modern shaman? What are its key features?

Kenn Day: Sovereignty is the curious idea that each and everyone of us is fundamentally responsible for how we respond to whatever life offers us. There is no one to pass the buck to. In practice this means that we need to recognize and respect this as a necessary trait in our shamanic clients as well. At least in this culture. This individuation is a fundamental piece of how our society functions. If we use shamanism in a way that breaks this down in our clients, we do them a disservice, leaving them disempowered, vulnerable and overly reliant on us.

Post-tribal shamanism takes into consideration that part of the shaman’s job is to empower and strengthen our clients, which is why so many of our practices are slightly different from the more traditional versions, which are designed to work in the tribal context.

Nimue: Is there any tension between those who are working shamanically and those who are developing this post-tribal shamanism, or does it all interconnect smoothly?

Kenn: Well, I would say that both are working shamanically, but I get your point. I have never encountered any friction when dealing personally with tribal practitioners coming from traditional communities. We generally sit around swapping stories and techniques. They see that I’m not about to poach on their territory, and so the treat me as a colleague The only time I’ve experienced tension is with some who were raised in the Western culture and have learned and adopted a tribal tradition. I suspect that many of these folks feel an innate sense that they are not entirely in synch with their community, but they resent the idea that there may have been a different choice for them –often out of loyalty to their traditional teachers. I have compassion for this and try to avoid getting into confrontations with such practitioners. In most cases, it is not an issue though.
Nimue: where can people find you online?


Tags: ,

2 Comments to “Kenn Day Interview”

  1. Travis says:

    Id love to read and review this book on my pagan scholar YouTube channel!

  2. Mariliz says:

    IF you have respect for the plant meniicde, and IF you get a strong brew along with a shaman who knows what he/she is doing, it will show you EVERYTING you need to know.Not for the faint of heart, but if you like kicking some ego ass and battle some demons (can be GREAT fun for the warrior in you:) there is nothing like it. I just came back from the Tierra Vida healing retreat in Peru and it was absolutely priceless. Check out my youtube video EAG5bf1cW7g

Leave a Comment