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Motorcycle, Modernity, and Shamanism!

Motorcycle gangs have existed since the 40s, and became popular in the 90s. They started as a brotherhood between motorcycle enthusiasts from returning soldiers from WWII. Hells Angels might be the biggest and most famous of them all, it was created in California in 1948 and is known for being the group responsible for some acts of violence in our modern times, normally against other bands.

The name itself “Hell’s Angels” was used as a nickname by World War II bomber crews and as the title of a Hollywood film (1930) about World War I aviators.

Some motorcycle bands are famous for fraud, illegal trafficking, and other acts which eventually translate to violence between bands to control a certain territory. However, there are many questions raised about the magnitude of their implication as “criminal gangs”, as the Cinema and some movies popularized this fascination and imagination about them.

The truth is that not all bands are violent and criminals. Some follow a goal to become a haven for the homeless and help substance abuse users. They also share some values that I find very similar to spiritual values we want to develop and share, here are some of them:

1. They are initiated!

The initiation process to join the bands normally includes missions to show their worth and dedication. then the members are accepted if they pass the tests. These tests and steps allow the initiates to test their will and to examine their motivations, Are they ready to go till the end? How passionate are they? What are their values and do they hold the courage to go for what they want? In a global society where steps are ignored and solutions are asked for right now and here, initiations teach us patience and courage, wisdom and discipline.

2. Brotherhood

They are brothers bonded by a passion for motorbikes and, they support each other and are self-organized, which makes them also independent of laws that can be external, they have the capacity to be self-ruled. They work as a brotherhood that will protect each other against different threats, like a big family where all members can count on each other. This is exactly what is missing most in our own modern families, to feel secure and cared for.

3. Values!

The feeling of unity is a big factor in these bands, members aspire to feel they belong to a group where they are respected, valued, and supported. They also learn to respect the hierarchy and the structure of the group, which brings efficiency and discipline, members follow instructions from the leaders and rank up when they succeed.

I believe that these values constitute what is most needed for our Modern men, who learned individualism and competition over collaboration. These groups offer what Men are hungry for, partnerships, a space where to develop true friendships, and a feeling of belonging and of respect, which business companies and governments failed to offer despite their ultra-organizing and controlling structures.

As the groups develop truer and higher values (in the case of non-criminal gangs), they develop also a critical opinion about the reality we live in as a society, its politics, and economic policies. They can express their opinions highly and share them with others. And, it is clear that this aspect can constitute a threat to any dominant authority or totalitarianism that exists.

4. Healing!

Motorcycling can be a great healing journey, I just love being with motorcyclists and feeling and watching their brotherhood and commitment. I respect them, I discover new scenes, and most of all… I unwind… I heal and “repair” what does not want to be mended by usual meditative or energy practice.

While preparing this text, I discovered this book whose introduction expresses exactly this: Healing on the back of a motorcycle.

Motorcycles Moose & Magic: The Ride to Self Love by Tracey Rogers

As she winds her way on her motorcycle through Northern Ontario, Canada, Tracey Rogers

reflects on the most difficult periods of her life, courageously sharing how she overcame events that led her into the dark depths of self-loathing.

Rogers opens her life story like a wide-country road, revealing how she emerged from severe childhood trauma, and an incredible addiction odyssey through small towns in Canada, to big cities and beaches in the United States. This is the journey of Rogers' extraordinary life - a tale too unbelievable to be true, and yet, it is. As Rogers experiences people and places, she rises out of the darkness of her past and into the light of healing.

Motorcycles, Moose & Magic: The Ride to Self Love culminates with Rogers joining the Women Riders World Relay in Thunder Bay, Ontario, with dozens of kickass warriors on motorcycles, taking part in three days of the largest motorcycle relay in history.

Rogers is living proof that a life can change with curiosity, courage, faith, spirituality, and self-love at the handlebars. Her life story is an inspiration to all those struggling with self-doubt and self-sabotage; to those searching for the courage to forgive and reinvent; and to those needing a how-to map of motivation to rewrite their self-love love story.

4. Are they modern shamans

For those who practice shamanic journeys, I am sure you recognize the HUGE similarity between our own “ spiritual tools” and “machines” to ride freely in the spiritual realm to do healing ceremonies, oracles, and healing journeys. Observing the bikes just fills my heart with immense joy as I feel their aliveness and energy steaming light! Light of love and dedication. I am certain that bikes become magical engines and animated objects!

Every one of them can have its own spirit, rebellious, funny, helpful, old, etc. Every object that decorates it amplifies its “powers” and has a unique significance.

Dreaming about motorcycling could very much mean a need to embrace Freedom and Adventure, these could be terrestrial or in other realms!

In the famed Harley ethnography “Subcultures of Consumption,” John W. Schouten and James H. McAlexander identify also four factors they believe contribute to the spirituality of the motorcycle-riding experience which confirms the idea I have about their Shamanic side!

“ + the increased closeness to nature, + the heightened sensory awareness, + the mantric throbbing of the engine, + the constant awareness of risk + and the concomitant mental focus.” they liken Harley-riding to “a modern equivalent of the shamanic experience of magical flight. Under certain conditions (e.g., in fog, snow or heavy rain; on deserted streets at night; pursuing mirages on a desert highway; or at the leading edge of a storm front), the whole experience of riding can seem particularly magical or otherworldly.”

Indeed it is a whole magical experience!

Finally, if you get the chance to see some motorbikes, and observe their symbols, you will learn so much about their ways of being and seeing the world. One of the most famous symbols Motorbikers use is the skull, which symbolizes fearlessness in the face of danger. It also protects against danger and death. If a person already has this symbol on the motorbike, Death will think that it has already been here and leaves the person alone.

You can find many other symbols, attributed to their non-conformism and rebellious sides, but also to their own belief system.

Further reading:

John W. Schouten, James H. McAlexander, Subcultures of Consumption: An Ethnography of the New Bikers, Journal of Consumer Research, Volume 22, Issue 1, June 1995, Pages 43–61,

With love,

Ouassima Issrae,

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