Shamanism is an ancient system of healing, whereby a shaman enters an altered state of consciousness allowing him to consult with guardians and helpful spirits. When this takes place the shaman is able to slip through a doorway and enter otherworld dimensions, he is guided by his guardian spirit and spirit helpers, while in the spiritual dimension he draws upon enormous power and can see the cause of disease in a patient and also know the cure. When the shaman helps a recently deceased person cross over, this work is called psycho pomp.
The premise of shamanism is that the visible world is permeated by invisible spirits which affect the lives of the living, the shaman is able to leave his body to enter the supernatural world to gain wisdom and answers. Shamans are said to treat ailments by mending the soul, and in all forms of healing the shaman will call on their power animals for the spiritual guidance they offer.
To heal illness at the soul level the shaman uses knowledge from the spirits of nature, spirits of animals and through ancestors, he attends to the specific needs of a person at any given time, making each healing session entirely unique and crafted for the individual. Traditional shamans develop and use lucid dreaming techniques to enhance their work.
Shamans can astral project, and the shaman has divining abilities which he uses to ensure good hunts and prosperity for a tribe or village, the shaman communicates with the spirits on behalf of the community, including the spirits of the deceased. Elaborate seances for the benefit of a community or tribe are created to express the shaman’s mystical communion with the spirits, this provides a way to share his experience.
The non ordinary reality is as real to shamans as the ordinary reality and they function comfortably in both realities. To attain the non ordinary reality the shaman enters a deep trance state called State of Flow, while in this state he can shape shift into his spirit helpers and fly through the air. The shaman attains this altered state by chanting, drumming, singing, using bells, music, fasting, vision quests and dancing. The shaman has mastery of energy and fire as a medium of transformation, performing many fire rituals.
Revered for his knowledge the shaman enjoys great power and prestige in the community and has a belief in witchcraft and sorcery, known as brujeria in South America, it is part of many shamanistic societies. The word shaman originated among the Siberian Tungus (Evenks) and means he (or she) who knows. The term yachay, in shamanistic societies denotes magic and magical forces. It is believed that a shaman must overcome life threatening sickness in order to gain the wisdom to understand sickness and heal others.
The primary role of the shaman is the healing of body and mind, and shamans throughout the world share a core belief system that they are the intermediaries between the human world and the spirit worlds. The shaman has the ability to remove negative or blocked energy within the body, and can re-empower a person by removing the blocked energy through “shamanic extraction,” thus bringing the body back into balance.
Shamans believe that part of the soul is free to leave the body, it is the axis mundi, the center of shamanic healing art, the free soul travels to retrieve ancient wisdom and power. Sometimes during trauma a soul piece may not return to a person’s body, and a shaman will intervene and perform a “soul retrieval,” returning the soul essence of the afflicted person. When the shaman helps a recently deceased person to cross over this work is called psycho pomp.
The shaman will also attend to psychological or emotional imbalance, by realigning the body with the assistance of spirit guides. When the shamanistic work is done the shaman re-emerges from the otherworlds back into ordinary reality. A shaman is credited with the ability to control the weather, interpret dreams, and astral project, and it is through his traversing of the worlds that he gains his knowledge.
Operating primarily within the spiritual world, shamans share the common goal of restoring balance to the human world, a shaman is able to do things in the spirit world that are impossible in ordinary reality. Different forms of shamanism are found around the world and practitioners are also known as medicine men or women, and witchdoctors. Some shamanic powers are inherited, while in other instances the shaman is said to have been “called.”
Shamans are experts in herbology but will only prescribe a herbal regime after meeting with the spirit of the plant and getting its permission, they also work with gemstones and auras. The shaman’s goal is to create a balance and harmony of energy and spirit. The use of totemic items, such as rocks with special powers and an animating spirit, is common practice among shamans. Special stones were used by shamans to manipulate the weather and with these stones they could attract rain or repel snow. In many shamanistic cultures birds are seen as messengers of the spirits and feathers are often used in ceremonies and individual healing rituals. The drum is used by shamans and the beating of the drum allows the shaman to achieve an altered state of consciousness, assisting his journey between worlds.
Although most shamans are men, many women become shamans and are extremely powerful. Often those who become shamans are people with shamanistic gifts and they are chosen at a young age, trained and initiated, some shamans are involuntarily chosen by the spirits. The guardian spirit is known as a power animal, totemic animal, tutelary spirit or animal familiar. When the animal spirit connects with the shaman, it brings with it the powers of an entire species, the guardian spirit protects the shaman from untoward forces in the other dimensions, acting similarly to a guardian angel. The shaman’s guardian spirit is the source of his spiritual powers and essential to all his work.