What Is Shamanism

Shamanism is an ancient spiritual path and one of the oldest known healing practices. It is not a religion, although it requires a belief in the spiritual realm. The origins of shamanism predate recorded civilization and go back many thousands of years to before the Stone Age. It is the oldest way that humans sought connection with the Creator.

All indigenous people, regardless of cultural differences and customs, share shamanic practices. These are rooted in the natural life cycles of the earth and the movement of the sun, moon, and stars through the sky. Indigenous cultures ritually marked the seasons of life such as birth, puberty, marriage, and death.

The deep inner spiritual life was honored as they lived closely with the great archetypes of Earth, Sky, Center, and the four directions. Today shamanism still survives on all inhabited continents in spite of the human failures such as materialism, disrespectful treatment of the Earth, determination to control and contain Nature, and dogmatic religious practices.

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The word “shaman” itself comes from the language of the Tungus people of Russia. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, its derivation is from the Tunguso-Manchurian word saman. Anthropologists researching healing practices the world over have applied the term shaman to many indigenous tribal healers and medicine people.

Becoming a shaman is often directly related to a near death experience. Among the traditional examples are being struck by lightning, a fall from a height, a serious life-threatening illness or lucid dream experiences in which the person dies or has some organs consumed and replaced and is thus reborn. Survival of these initial inner and outer brushes with death provides the shaman with personal experiences which strengthen his or her ability to work effectively with others. Having experienced such an event, a shaman is likely to understand what must be done to correct a condition or situation.

I, myself, had a near drowning at age 5. After this I saw my brother sitting in the car between my parents. This was curious as he was not born for another 3 years. After that I saw things others did not – but one does not speak of such things so I remained silent. However, people would ask my advice; I wondered about this because I was just a kid. I noticed that if they followed the guidance I gave things got “better” if not they stayed the same or got “worse.”

At age 12 my grandmother died but she stayed with me whispering in my ear, it was as if she sat on my shoulder, giving guidance. At 21 a group of friends conducted a séance and called for an entity. In spite of closed windows the candles flickered the mandatory three times and the person sitting across from me and I shape shifted. It was years later that I understood the concept of shape shifting. At that time my first guide appeared and I was gifted with accurate information about Stonehenge even though I had no idea there was such a place. At this time there were no teachers, no guidance and the other realms had great interest for me. However, I had a young child so I stopped interacting for many years.

When I heard the term soul retrieval I was most skeptical, not believing that we had a soul but I was somehow guided in all my decisions! I thought everyone was. Later when I studied astrology we journeyed to the planets, our teacher knew and understood shamanism. I had no idea I needed a drum or that everyone didn’t receive information the same way I did, through guidance and inspiration. Now, I am able to guide others and help affect change.

Because of these life-altering events a Shaman has the ability to consciously move beyond the physical body. This is called a shamanic journey; these journeys of Soul take the shaman into the Other-World; these are often referred to as nether realms, higher levels of existence or to parallel physical worlds or other regions of this world. Shamanic Flight or journeying is in most instances, an experience not of an inner imaginary landscape, but is reported to be the shamans’ flight beyond the limitations of the physical body. These journeys are not to be taken lightly and the shaman has protectors, his or her Power Animals and Spirit Guides.

There is an interesting story of how the animals feel “sorry” for humans because we have only two legs. Because of this we are gifted at birth with three totem animals. As a child did you have a favorite stuffed animal? Perhaps this was your totem…

There are three realms which the Shaman visits: the Upper World, the Middle World and the Lower World. These realms are visited by the Shaman and the Power Animals to effect a change in the physical world. The intention of the Shaman is paramount and the attention of the Power Animals important as the circumstances in the other realms are extraordinary and not to be entered carelessly.

One may learn how to journey to affect change in ones’ own life but this does not mean you are a Shaman. In the modern world there is a tendency to trivialize the ability that healers have thinking anyone can do the work. The work of the Shaman is powerful and at times dangerous so deep training is necessary. Please chose carefully with whom you study should you chose to explore the shamanic path.


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