Shamanic Community Building through Social Media

By Mera Szendro

 Originally presented at The 11th Conference of the International Society of Shamanic Research, September 6-9, 2013, Guiyang, China


 

In 1944, the village Mayor's wife, Julianna, on the night of the deportation of the Jews called out the whole village on the streets to protest against the deportation. Photo courtesy Elod Szabo

In 1944, the village Mayor’s wife, Julianna, on the night of the deportation of the Jews called out the whole village on the streets to protest against the deportation. Photo courtesy Elod Szabo

Facebook is an Internet website and social media network where people write messages to each other, share photos, post events, create groups and chat in real-time. This social media tool helps us connect and create with each other globally. My father and I are both of Hungarian origin and currently living in the USA. We created a Facebook group named “A Te Legendad” in March of 2013 with the intention to reconnect the evacuated Hungarian villagers of Nagygéc and the neighboring village, Komlódtótfalu. “A Te Legendad” in English means “Your Legend”. For centuries in these villages, inhabitants preserved and cultivated shamanic traditions through storytelling.

The Legendary little boy, Gyuri, at then-time a daring boy, snuck a sapling tree from neighboring guarded woods, and planted in their village. Now the giant tree is called "The Heroes'Tree."  Photo courtesy of Zsigmond Gaal

The Legendary little boy, Gyuri, at then-time a daring boy, snuck a sapling tree from neighboring guarded woods, and planted in their village. Now the giant tree is called “The Heroes’Tree.” Photo courtesy of Zsigmond Gaal

The villagers of these two towns were forced out of their homes and lands during a flood in 1970. My father participated in the rescue at this time and learned about the community’s mythology. Today, these people are living in nearby cities and towns. When my father and I discovered that a rebuilding of the Nagygéc village would occur we felt that we could support the rebirth of the village by building their community. Our idea was that by helping recover ancestral legends, a rebuilt community could recreate a new myth from the old one, and at the same time personal legends with new heroes in the group.

Our shamanic online community building holds and empowers sacred space for community members to create a mythological cradle the conversation and proposes that we are living out our legend every day. We supported group members in expressing their hopes for their personal and collective future. We also encouraged inter-generational dialogue. This shamanic community building initiative is a collaboration spanning generations which successfully helped this online and offline community participate in the historic rebuilding of their ruined villages. The Facebook group had 180 members in September of 2013 and grew to 523 in May of 2015.

This context of living a legendary life stroked people’s curiosity and interest as many felt called to expand their own storyline and create a legendary narrative for their own life. The expression of sacred and empowering  new myth healed old wounds in the souls of elders who during the flood were evacuated and never allowed to turn back again to their homes, The context also helped some of the youth become acknowledged as emerging leaders.

Once a troubled teenager, now a head nurse, Edit, takes the youth into the ruined village, to tell them the old legend of the village. Photo courtesy Edit Szegedi

Once a troubled teenager, now a head nurse, Edit, takes the youth into the ruined village, to tell them the old legend of the village. Photo courtesy Edit Szegedi

The newly discovered personal myths enhanced the group’s intergenerational storytelling. Several people’s participation in the Facebook group shifted at that point. They became “online legend tellers,” regularly posting pictures and poems about their ”mythologized life events”. The online platform became a space for people to live out their imaginations, dreams and expand themselves through these dialogues.

Our first “legendary collaboration” in 2013 was to initiate rebuilding the bridge of Nagygéc village, which was blown up four decades ago during the communist dictatorship. Enthusiasm from the Facebook community inspired people to take action and collect money for this cause.

The old story teller,of the ruined village, Zsiga. Photo courtesy Zsigmond Gaal

The old story teller,of the ruined village, Zsiga. Photo courtesy Zsigmond Gaal

Leaders emerged in the group as they shared memories. A psychiatric head-nurse who was once a troubled teenager declared herself a legendary

helper. She took under her wings teenagers who were struggling to develop their identity. She brought them to the ruined Nagygéc to share the ancient shamanic legends of the village and her own chilling and uplifting adventures from her childhood in the flood-destroyed land.

A man, who was born in Nagygéc became an administrator in the Facebook group. He shared a memory of his grandfather who as a daring boy snuck a sapling tree past the border guards. He was caught and punished by the guards but then went back across the border to retrieve the sapling. He planted the tree on the side of a village church. Today, the oak tree is higher than the church and now is called “The Tree of Heroes”. His grandson also played an active role within the Facebook group by helping people who were in conflict recognize common interests.

A young today follower of the old shamanic traditions, Csaba. Photo courtesy Csaba Simon

A young today follower of the old shamanic traditions, Csaba. Photo courtesy Csaba Simon

Great community strides were made within the context of these new myth and the personal legends. After hundreds of years Nagygéc had lost its crest but a local historian found it’s old copy on a very old seal in a local Museum. He repainted the crest and gave a symbol of rebirth for this renewed community. On the lower portion of the crest there are tools of toil and on the upper part, synchronistically the ever growing oak tree, an ancient symbol the Hungarian shamanic “Tree of Life” and a reminder of the daring boy.

Katica’s idyllic dream-village from the old times, and probably of the future. Photo courtesy Katica Erzsebet Kiss Imrene

New visions and new mythological contexts continue to emerge for this community. Members feel that while their myth began with a dark chapter they are now rebuilding together and creating a powerful and hopeful continuum. The “A Te Legendad” Facebook page has become a modern day fireplace, where new legends are born and wisdom is passed on.  

 


 

See Mera Szendro’s original presentation slides >>


 

 

 

 

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