Through more than 30 years of investigating the art and practices of Shamans from many countries throughout the world Dr. Maggie Atkinson discovered that her Irish heritage includes a resurgence of Shamanic practices stemming from ancient Celtic traditions. Based in art, poetry, mythology, reverence for the land and its spiritual/medicinal qualities and ceremonial practices Shamanism plays an important role in contemporary Irish culture. Dr. Atkinson, re-discovered her familial roots in Ireland and rekindled her early interest in Shamanic practices through experiential and practice based research as well as scholarly archival research. These ongoing studies sustain and build on her work as an art historian, shamanic practitioner and artist.
While the intrinsic multiplicity of Shamanism might evade definitive categorization, it can be viewed, in part, as a tradition in which practitioners achieve altered states of consciousness in order to retrieve information not readily available in ordinary states of awareness. Dr. Atkinson discovered that "Shamans accomplish meditative states of consciousness using many methods including ritual use of sacred objects such as drums and rattles." It is this cultural object base, and its aesthetics, designs, and uses, that link the practices of Shamanism to Dr. Atkinson's art historical research and to her earlier work on pioneering women spiritualist artists in the United Kingdom. Her first introduction to Shamanism was during her time spent in the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut, where she gained firsthand knowledge of some Inuit spiritual and ceremonial practices. "Those early experiences increased my sensitivity to issues of colonialism, globalization and politics of appropriation, and also led to my understanding of Shamanic traditions as cross-cultural."
Dr. Atkinson connects with national and international scholars, shamanic practitioners, artists and activists in varying fields in her research of the recovery of sacred ceremonial practices that create new ways to re-connect with nature while supporting sustainable living and environmental protection. She conducts Shamanic gatherings that utilize drumming, rattling as well as various relaxation techniques and encourages attendees to spend time in nature as much as possible. The creation and use of Shamanic objects, including drums and rattles and practices such as ceremonial smudging, singing, praying or dancing are used as a conduit to the discovery of new ways of understanding. Yet her research work also seeks to understand the trans-global prevalence of both historic, traditional, and resurgent Shamanic practices, from Tibet to Ireland, Europe and Indigenous cultures, including reasons for its revived interest amongst a wide variety of differing contemporary practitioners.
Dr. Atkinson writes that her "research indicates that contemporary reestablishment of important connections between spiritual rejuvenation through nature has the potential to regenerate health and well-being in individual lives and by extension communally. Human beings are not separate from nature as has been taught in many western versions of spirituality and our relationship with our natural environment, we are nature and so need to spend time in nature in order to remain physically, mentally and spiritually healthy. Shamanic practices in concert with art practices, human ecology research and environmental studies have become fundamental strategies towards adopting a more healthy, harmonious and sustainable world."