"Jez Hughes makes an unlikely shaman. For a start he’s blond and when not healing or teaching, works as an actor. He also radiates compassion and attentiveness and when I sit in the healing space that he is created in his lovely Sussex home, he asks me what brings me here and then listens, really listens to what I have to say.

Which is this: Two days ago I was about to cancel. I’d felt no need for a healing. I was happy, fantastically so. So I’d sent Jez a polite ‘maybe another time’ email. He had calmly replied telling me that if I changed my mind on the day he’d still be happy to see me.

Roll on 48 hours, and I’m on his doorstep, desperate to be comforted. The day before, the on-off man in my life, with whom I’d recently been very much on, decided – out of the blue – that we were off. Again. Is Jez psychic? Does he know something I don’t?

Anyway, here I am. I tell him I have been knocked off balance. And that although I meditate and try to say centered, right now my energy is all over the place. I want to regain my equilibrium. Can he help? And though I have vague ideas about magic and nature and the elements, what exactly is shamanism? And why, despite all the positive thinking or affirmations I’m doing, despite all the work I’m doing, am I in this emotional stew? It’s so frustrating, I say.

‘I feel personally that we can be too hard on ourselves when things seem to go wrong,’ replies Jez softly. ‘Yes, we’re co-creating our reality but we are CO-creating it. The spirits will sometimes take over, if they feel that growth for us in the long term will help us. Chaos is important sometimes,’ he says, using nature as an analogy. ‘Sometimes nature is very calm and peaceful and sometimes it’s frightening, it’s crashing around us in storms. Sometimes you will lose your centre, but you’ll find out more about yourself than when you were centred.’
Shamanic practitioners, he explains, are found in cultures all around the world, and act as mediators between the client and the ‘unseen’ world of energy and spirit to effect healing. ‘Essentially, we are all made up of moving energy. And by shifting deep-rooted energetic blocks – which is what I do as part of my healing work – it’s possible to effect real change in a person’s life. A shaman can help you to integrate the conscious and unconscious parts of yourself, so that you might live a more authentic, freer, happier existence,’ says Jez.

In the corner of the room is his medicine wheel, an altar of sorts. A feather, clear quartz, deer thigh bone, a reddish stone, goblet of water and feather are placed around it to represent the cardinal points and elements. In the middle is a burning candle and a pinch of tobacco, the latter an offering to the spirits.

‘Before I do any healing, I’ll call on the directions to create a safe space. I’ll send out a message to the spirits that sacred work is about to be undertaken. This is to create a protected space, outside of time, wherein transformation, healing and magic can occur. When I do this before a healing I usually get quite a lot of information about a client, and the imbalances in their life,’ he says.

It seems I’m no exception: ‘It’s interesting what you say about being off-centre, because I feel as though your head has been twisted right round.’ Gulp. ‘It feels as though there is going to be a change to your perception in quite a fundamental way. It’s transformative.’ And, he adds, with a conviction that makes me tingle, ‘This is such a big, strong time for you.’
He also tells me he can sense my father’s presence, and that although he is no longer alive, he needs my help to move on – and that when he does my life will get easier. I find the first bit distressing: I don’t like the idea that my father, who died eleven years ago is suffering in any way. ‘Eleven years for you is the blink of an eye in the spirit world,’ says Jez, as we talk a bit about my relationship with him, and my childhood.

Although the talking is therapeutic in itself, there is still the healing to come, and Jez explains what it will entail: ‘ I’ll use drumming and chanting as a way of calling out to the spirits – your and my allies and ancestors in the spirit world – and welcoming them into the space. It’s also my way of going into a trance and inviting the spirit I work with into my body to then undertake the healing.

‘Once he is present and takes over the drumming and the chanting, we’ll then work to open up your energy body. I’ll be shown into your energy field and what blocks need removing.’

That’s just the beginning. After that, Jez tells me he’s going to do an extraction – meaning he’ll release those energy blockages. ‘Because nature doesn’t like a vacuum, after we’ve taken the negative stuff out, we’ll replace it with positive energy. Shamanically that will come in the form of a power animal – a sort of guardian spirit. We have many and sometimes, for some reason they go missing. When they do we become susceptible to energy intrusions. So this bit is about restoring your power.’

Next, he explains he will journey into my ‘dreaming’( ie the subconscious bit of me that is co-creating my reality which is not serving me) and change the script, so to speak, helping me to dissolve self-defeating patterns.

‘This part of the healing is magical – we’re taking something that is invisible, and altering it in order that it may manifest positively into this reality. This will then filter down into your life. It may take a couple of years to fully integrate – but it will have a profound effect,’ says Jez.

The third, and final part of the healing involves soul retrieval. ‘It’s so powerful, that’s why it comes at the end,’ he explains. Soul loss occurs in life when we experience trauma. ‘It’s a self-preservation mechanism. That bit of our essence that is too pure to experience what is about to happen fragments and breaks off. Psychologists call this disassociation. From a shamanic perspective, something has literally happened – the soul is escaping. Problems arise when the soul parts that break off don’t want to come back or get trapped. That’s when we walk around disconnected from ourselves. So this part of the healing involves tracking and bringing back those parts of the soul – we’ll blow them back into your energy body.’

Without further ado we get started: facing the medicine wheel I make a prayer to the spirits to ask for healing, then Jez smudges me with sage. I lie down, and he covers me up with a blanket. Jez then pulls on a blindfold (which I find strangely reassuring) and begins the drumming and chanting (‘in a personal language that I use to call the spirits.’)

My eyes are closed too, but take I peek now and again. The drumming over, Jez, now inhabited by his spirit guide crouches over me, holds his hands above my body, and begins to make slow, small, precise scooping motions, appearing to cast off what he has scooped up – the extraction. Incredibly I feel lighter when this is done, and drift off. There is more chanting and what I imagine is the journeying and soul retrieval. I feel quite serene when he cups his hands and breathes gently over me. He also occasionally touches me on my forehead and my feet – his touch is soothing.

The session goes on for an hour and a half and when finally I emerge from my cocoon, I’m a bit spaced out. Jez gives me a glass of water to ground myself. Then the information comes fast and thick: ‘Your life has been filled with deep troughs and peaks. I feel that you have suffered a lot, through many lives, and in this life too –. I felt that I had to unchain you. You have had to face death a lot too –’ (yes, two deaths in my immediate family) – ‘ and I felt that you were impaled. I had to free you up, break the past.’ He’s helped my father to move on too, he says, and the power animal that was restored to me was a glossy red squirrel.

As I’m absorbing all of this, he goes on to say that a part of my soul fragmented around the age of 11 and again in my late 20s or early 30s. ‘Something snapped, some part of you left – a response to something that had been building up for years.’ I draw a blank, but then suddenly remember the frightening, non-epileptic seizures I suffered at the age of 10, and 30, episodes the doctor put down to stress.

Jez, who himself experienced seizures in his teens, offers his shamanic perspective on it: ‘Traditionally, in a lot of cultures, seizures were seen as the spirits taking hold of the body of the person being affected, and sending out a clear message that that person was a little too open to the spirit world. They would then be healed by a shaman and undertake training to be one themselves.’

There is much more – Jez’ insights are interesting and meaningful and he is generous with his time. I feel slightly awed at having experienced such an authentic healing and leave with his final words ringing in my ears: ‘The way I see it, the healing journey begins now. The door is open – but you still have to walk through it, and that takes courage, strength, intention, and risk-taking.’ He might be an unlikely looking shaman, but he most certainly is a gifted one."

Recommended reading:

The Way of the Shaman by Michael Harner

Wisdom and Power by Fools Crow with Thomas E. Mails
Coyote Medicine by Lewis Mehl- Madrona.

Secrets of The Talking Jaguar by Martin Prechtel.

The Famished Road by Ben Okri.

-Jini Reddy