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What is Shamanism

What is Shamanism? 

Shamanism is a term broadly applied to many similar practices and understandings that are found to have developed independently throughout the world. For instance, it has a similar sense of reality, and a similar shamanic world view, which is far different from that in commonly taken for granted in the contemporary world!

What is shamanism? A full answer, even if possible, would take volumes to even begin. However, let's start with the basics. The information below and other pages at this site will at least get you started. Just click on the drop-down menu links in the left margin of each page, or the links within the text.

Shamanism is a generalized term that refers to an integrated number of practices and a general way of understanding the world, the individual, and healing, that is profoundly based on an Earth-centered, ecological, physically natural understanding. The word itself derives from just one of the many diverse ethnic, cultural and geographic groups where such practices and world view can be found. 'Shaman' happens to be a term from the Tungus people in North China, and originally referred to the traditional healers of Turkic-Mongol areas such as Northern Asia (Siberia) and Mongolia. The term literally translates as ‘(he or she) who knows.’ The choice of words 'shaman', however, is broadly applied to many, many people and places throughout the world where this term may not even be known. Perhaps it would have been better to choose a term that had not originated in a particular place and culture.

What makes a 'shaman?' Shamans do something quite particular: they enter an altered state of consciousness referred to as shamanic trance ecstasy, etc., to get in touch with another reality to discern the spirits' answers to questions, get assistance, facilitate the spirits' ability to bring health and healing, and empower themselves and others. Their role has traditionally been to travel to the spirit worlds to access the healing or divination for which the spirits are capable, and connect this back with ordinary reality so that it can be of service to their community.

The shaman 'journeys', and in other ways learns to bridge our ordinary reality and the non-ordinary realms in which the spirit helpers and power animals reside. The shamanic practitioner thus learns to walk in both worlds, and become a conduit or messenger for the healing and divination powers of the spirit world.

If you are motivated to learn these ancient spiritual healing ways, you may be so for many reasons, however it is often because people like you and I want to help in the healing of people, animals, or of our Earth. The shaman recognizes that our world is full of suffering. Shamanic practitioners are in touch with spirit helpers who want to help this world, but can do little since by themselves, they are only powerful in their non-ordinary reality. Thus it becomes a team approach between shamanic practitioners and compassionate spirits, who work together to bring information and healing from the upper and lower worlds to where it can help in our everyday world.

We do have a western shamanic history, yet because of a dark stain on western Europe (and then the Americas), a great number of people whose families derive from Europe have no idea of this. The west has a spiritual past that has been nearly lost due to historical Roman and Church power and politics. In fact, Europe, England, and Ireland had widely shared and thriving spiritual practices that were all but eradicated by Christian religious intolerance, backed by the military power of Rome. If your family line goes back to these places, you may be surprised to discover that your ancestors very likely had shamanic sensibilities!

What is shamanic healing? You are invited to follow this link to get a taste of how illness and its healing is viewed by a shaman. Today, the medical community has a far different concept of illness than did shamanic practitioners. This is understandable, given that the whole nature of reality is quite different between the two.

Contemporary shamanic practitioners are also developing a deep respect for the healer's reminder: 'heal thyself'. They are often motivated by a sense that something is horribly amiss in his or her personal well-being, as well as our social and planetary health. This nagging sense has inspired many people to investigate shamanism, instinctively feeling that there is something of tremendous value to be found there. Shamanism understands what is missing, for it is a world view that preceded what we blithely refer to as 'civilization', and is an understanding of reality that produced healing strategies from a natural, healthy relationship with the Earth. This engages us, at the very least, in a direct encounter with our true self. 

Today's practitioner comes to shamanism aware that we have been increasingly distanced from our natural world and each other. Many of our contemporaries are recognizing the much-needed healing wisdom of reconnecting with our Earth and each other. Today's shamanic student seeks personal growth and re-empowerment as a necessary function of developing as a shamanic practitioner, and recognizes the importance of this as he or she sets forth to serve as a healer. I agree, and though my opinion is not shared by all shamanic teachers, I believe one should have a strong personal foundation of spiritual health, balance and power before turning to facilitate the spiritual healing of others.

What is this spirit help with which shamans are in contact? Let us begin by recognizing first that there are other worlds, and that there are barriers between these worlds. Human beings, in this case shamanic practitioners, must change their consciousness to get to the realities where such spirit help can be found, often called the shamanism upper world or the shamanism lower world. I usually first introduce a very broad and generalized shamanic geography of the ordinary and non-ordinary worlds that is most widely encountered among the many lands, cultures and people around the Earth. There are, however, wonderfully different ways of conceiving reality through shamanism. For instance, there is the Celtic ‘otherworld’. Or, there are some Native American journeying practices, where one is never 'out-of-body', but always connected to the Earth (the source from which all regenerates). 

If you truly want to become a shamanic practitioner, this is what you must do:

1) You must do your work with earnest
2) You must become what the shamans have called a ‘hollow bone’, getting your ego, your sense of self out of the way
3) You must ‘see with the heart,’ always facing the world with compassion.
4) Finally, you must practice responsibly and ethically.

I want to encourage you to follow your instincts if you want to learn to be a shamanic practitioner. Whether you take Shamanic Training and study with me, or whether you study with someone else, I want you to embark earnestly, without your ego in the way, compassionately and responsibly.

Become well trained. Too many of today's practitioners have a spotty, 'a little here, a little there' history of education behind them. If you are interested in bringing more shamanism information and shamanic spirituality into your life, or developing yourself as a shamanic practitioner, look seriously at where you are going for education. Shamanic practice is our most ancient, and continues to be our most extraordinary, path to a very well-grounded and rich life experience that can serve you personally and as a healer.