I just finished the first episode of my new blog talk radio show, “Going Shamanic”. It was a lot of fun! We explored the topic “What is Shamanism?”
Here is the link if you want to listen to the show.
The next show will air at 10 am PST on March 27. You can also listen to the podcast archive at a later time.
Here is the essay I wrote for the show:
In beginning research on this question of what shamanism is, it became clear to me that it is almost easier to start with what it isn’t. Although some countries such as Mongolia identify shamanism as their state “religion”, shamanism does not completely fit into the “religion” definition. Indeed, the word “shaman” is from the Evenk (Tungus) language spoken by Chinese, Mongolians, and Russians even today. While shamanic practitioners know there is an organizing force in the Universe and all interact with that force in various ways, there is no dogma or one system of belief to follow in shamanism.
So in an effort to clarify what shamanism is, I set out to gather definitions of what shamanic practitioners experience it as being by asking friends and researching books and internet sources. Here are a few examples:
From “Shaman, Healer, Sage” By Alberto Villoldo:
“Shamans are people of the precept. When they want to change the world, they engage in perceptual shifts that change their relationship to life. They envision the possible and the outer world changes. This is why a group of Inka elders will sit in meditation envisioning the kind of world they want their grandchildren to inherit.”
Ann Dickie (shamanic student):
“Shamanism has helped me see the magic in every moment of my life, by connecting with the spirit in all things. Through my Shamanic practice of prayer and ceremony, I have learned to dream big and make those dreams real in the world.”
“Shamanism encompasses the premise that shamans are intermediaries or messengers between the human world and the spirit worlds. Shamans are said to treat ailments/illness by mending the soul. Alleviating traumas affecting the soul/spirit restores the physical body of the individual to balance and wholeness. The shaman also enters supernatural realms…to obtain solutions to problems afflicting the community. Shamans may visit other worlds/dimensions to bring guidance to misguided souls and to ameliorate illnesses of the human soul caused by foreign elements. The shaman operates primarily within the spiritual world, which in turn affects the human world. The restoration of balance results in the elimination of the ailment.”
From Michael Harner:
“Shamans are often called ‘seers’ or ‘people who know’ in their tribal language because they are involved in a system of knowledge based on first hand experience. Shamanism is not a belief system. It’s based on personal experiments conducted to heal and to get information. People ask me, ‘How do you know if somebody’s a shaman?’ I say, ‘It’s simple. Do they journey to other worlds? And do they perform miracles?'”
From Lori’ Nelson (shamanic coach and student):
I would say shamanism is working with mind/body/spirit to return to balance. There are many layers of imbalance that occur before they show up in the physical. Shamanism is sourcing the disconnectedness and facilitating a return to harmony which prevents dis-ease.
In a book I co-authored called “The Magic Circle: Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within”, we defined shamanism this way:
“Shamanism is a term to describe a general practice of using the wisdom of the natural world and the Earth’s energies to heal oneself and to add beauty to one’s life. Shamanism includes many spiritual practices and does not have one doctrine of belief to follow.”
What is clear is that shamanism is ancient and has been around much longer than the monotheistic religions (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism). So-called “pagan” cultures practiced various forms of shamanism. Indigenous people all around the planet still practice shamanism and for many, shamanic medicine is the main way to heal body/heart/mind/spirit. Wiccan traditions are also strongly shamanic in essence. Although all spiritual traditions hold wisdom and lead back to Source (God, Goddess, Great Spirit, Allah), shamanic traditions tend to preserve the practitioner’s autonomy and freedom of choice because there are few rules to follow. Practitioners are in their own free will and live the consequences of their actions with awareness that they are creating it all. This means that they also know they have the power to change their realities by changing inner processes. The one rule of thumb that seems consistent in shamanism is to do no harm to others, self and the planet. Of course, as humans, we do do harm. Shamanic practitioners work WITH the balanced energies of the Universe to correct energy imbalances that have manifested in the physical world.