Shamanism is a spiritual practice found in cultures around the world from ancient times up to the present day. First and foremost, shamans' practices are practical and adaptable.
Many formalized religions, from Buddhism to Christianity, came from ancient shamanic roots and still bear the shamanic threads of deep connection to the divine in all things. But shamanism itself is not a formalized system of beliefs or an ideology. Rather, it is a group of activities and experiences shared by shamans in cultures around the world.
Nowadays, in non-indigenous cultures, shamanism is studied and practiced as a life path. Following a shamanistic perspective, individuals seek to be in relationship with the spirit in all things. They seek to use information and guidance from non-ordinary reality to intentionally form their own life experience. This perspective is not inherently contradictory of any religious practice that allows a person to be in direct relationship with whatever they perceive as a higher power.
Just as in ancient times, contemporary people consult with modern day shamanic practitioners for practical and pragmatic solutions to problems in everyday life-from personal illness, professional challenges, or family discord to ancestral issues.Shamans work in voluntary, ecstatic trance states, which alter their consciousness to travel to the realms of the invisible worlds. Their ability to gain information and make changes in the invisible realms is dependent upon the working relationships they develop with spirits there. In this sense, shamanism is a relationship-based practice of making changes in invisible realms to impact healing, of individuals or communities, in the realm of ordinary reality.
In shamanistic cultures, all adults are responsible for their relationships with spiritual energies, including those of their home environment (geography, animals, and plant life,) their ancestors, their own personal helping spirits, and Spirit, the creator force.
"'Shaman' is an ancient term for a healer — a person of medicine," Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D., founder of The Four Winds Society, says. "Shamans understand that the material world is an expression of a subtler energetic realm, and are able to interact with both realms at all times. They learned how to dream their world into being within this energetic realm, so they could participate in the creation and stewardship of reality."
Shamanism itself isn't tied to any single culture, but experts say the term "shaman" originated from the Tungus tribe in Siberia. The term "shaman" literally translates to "one who knows."
Shamans work with the spirit or the soul. They heal illness at the soul level. They gain knowledge and insight from working with the spirits of nature such as rocks and trees, the land, and they gain knowledge from working with spirits of animals and humans such as their ancestors. For the shaman, everything is alive and carries information. You can call this spirit, energy, or consciousness.
When it comes to shamanic healing, the shaman essentially works in tandem with spirits, often called ‘helper spirits’, in the spiritual realms. They will ‘summon’ these spirits to repair a soul, who may then experience real, physical healing in the earth realm. In order to contact these spirits, the shaman will have to go on a journey by entering a trance state. The more practice and training a shaman has, the easier it will be for them to enter this powerful state.The shaman might ask their helper spirits to invoke shamanic healing by pulling ‘power’ from the sufferer’s oversoul as well as retrieving lost spirit guides and animals.
People who have been through a life-altering trauma, whether mental or physical, may have lost a part of their soul or damaged their ‘spiritual force field’. This makes them vulnerable to illness, bad luck, and depression. These are the kinds of people who would most benefit from a shamanic healing session. A shaman will go into the spirit world and heal their soul, either through their own efforts or by talking to spirit guides/animals.
Every one of us goes on a ‘shamanic journey’ every night when we go to sleep. When we dream, our soul leaves our body to explore other worlds. This can be considered an ‘unconscious’ journey into the spirit world. We also leave our bodies when we experience trauma, as our soul tries to protect itself. Our souls leave the body for a number of reasons but few of us have the ability to leave the body at will. This is where shamanic training comes in.Before being able to intentionally leave the body and embark on a ‘shamanic journey’, many shamans will first have to go through a near-death experience. This, in a way, shows the shaman what it’s like to leave the body and will make it less likely that they will be alarmed when the time comes to leave the body at will for purpose of shamanic healing.
In order to induce a shamanic journey, the shaman must first enter a ‘trance-like’ state. Special music or drumming may be used to mimic the frequency or ‘heartbeat’ of the earth and put the mind in a more relaxed state. The shaman must also make an ‘intention’ for the journey, call on spirit guides, and make sure they are well-protected before entering another realm.
A shaman might go on a journey for the purpose of shamanic healing, to communicate with spirits, retrieve a soul or to meet with their spirit animal.Spirit animals (also known as power or totem animals) are deeply rooted in shamanic healing folklore. It is believed that every human has a spirit animal at their side – protecting them from danger and negative entities, acting as a spirit guide of sorts. It is also believed that the animal will lend its unique skills and wisdom to whomever they are protecting. For example, someone with a hawk as a spirit animal might have really good eyesight.
If your spirit animal gets lost or leaves your side, a shaman can go into the spirit realm and ‘retrieve’ the animal the same way she can retrieve a lost soul. In shamanic tradition, it is believed that when a human has no spirit animals by their side, they risk illness and general bad luck.
if you feel a little ‘lost’ in life, have gone through a big trauma or are looking for some clarity on what to do about a difficult situation, a shamanic healing session could be hugely beneficial. A shaman will simply act as the connection between you and your guides in the other realms, and make sure your soul is protected throughout the process. Some physical sensations may be felt but it’s all in the interest of healing your soul.
Some people opt to learn shamanic healing for themselves, as opposed to consulting a shaman. The truth is…anyone can take a shamanic healing journey, it’s all a matter of training yourself to get into the right state and knowing what to do once you are in the other worlds.