A Modern Shaman

Modern day shaman West wears a locally-made headdress he uses in rituals he says are designed to help people experience the "Divine Entity". PICTURE: MARC MCCORMACK
Modern day shaman West wears a locally-made headdress he uses in rituals he says are designed to help people experience the “Divine Entity”. PICTURE: MARC MCCORMACK

Kuranda’s modern day shaman talks witchcraft, drugs and finding God

A CAT skull adorns his forehead and long strings of taipan vertebrae sway beneath his feather headdress.

Today is Friday the 13th, a diabolical date when the superstitious masses nervously watch the sky for lightning strikes or a falling coconut.

But, for this Kuranda father, trained wildlife keeper and park ranger, every day is enshrined in the supernatural.

He goes only by the name West – the “direction of the gods”, he explained – and he is a modern day shaman.

“I don’t think it really matters one bit whether a person is religious or not religious … I will show them the entity ­either way,” he said.

West grew up in South Australia and the Northern Territory, where he said that as a teenager he spent several years in the desert with the Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal people and two old shamans.

“I have also lived with the Gumatj tribe in Arnhem Land and learned their magic,” he said.

Surrounded by rainforest in the Kuranda hills, West lives in a modest home where he homeschools his 11-year-old daughter and takes willing participants on “vision quests” to discover the meaning of life.

He is well-spoken and hospitable, in contrast to how one might imagine a vision-seeking shaman. He practises a mixture of shamanic rituals and beliefs from around the world, including Siberia, Indonesia and Northern Europe.

“I absorb everything. I even absorb Christianity,” he said.

He explained shamans had for thousands of years used plants like ayahuasca and the San Pedro cactus – powerful psychedelics illegal to consume in Australia – to enter trance-like states supposed to show them higher meaning.

“I don’t see myself as a witch – maybe a wizard – but I represent everyone and assist anyone … whether Christian, Muslim, witch or atheist,” he said.

“My job as a shaman is to show people that nature is conscious – if they’re Christians to show them God, prove it to them.”

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