Traditionally, the shaman does not self-identify. A person is called a “shaman” when the community confers that title on him. However, my experience is that all of us have an “inner shaman” – the part of us that relates deeply with the natural world, the part of us that can access the highest and deepest truths of
existence. While we may not call ourselves shaman, any of us may choose
shamanic practice as a spiritual path and a way of relating to Life.
There are several aspects that identify the role of the shaman in indigenous
cultures worldwide as well as in contemporary society. Often the seed of the
shaman’s journey is planted with a near- death experience – an experience in
which the individual confronts the idea of her own death. At this time she
catches a glimpse of reality which is usually unseen – what is often called
“seeing beyond the veil.” This initial experience may lead to an immediate
beginning for shamanic training, or training may start many years later. A shaman is trained by many life experiences, by teachers in the material
realm, and by teachers in the unseen, or non-material, realm. Shamanic gifts may be apparent from the beginning of the individual’s life, or they may show up much later. Shamanic training is about the use of these gifts, the nature of reality, and, especially, about learning to transverse all realms of
reality – learning to walk gracefully and safely with one foot in the material realm and one foot in the non-material realm.
Shamanic ractice is characterized by the communication and assistance of helping spirits who teach, guide, heal, and otherwise support and nurture a shaman and his community. It is also characterized by a close connection and communication – a working relationship – with various aspects of Nature. These aspects include plant life, stone spirits, the elements, and many others.
There are many roles that a shaman may take on – priest, healer, teacher, seer – but the shaman always offers his services for the good of the community. He is personally guided and nurtured by his practice, but individual benefit is never the only goal or the only end result.
Shamanic practice is also – perhaps most of all – filled with gratitude. This is an all encompassing gratitude toward every living being and towards Creator.
Every shamanic practice – every ceremony, every healing, every prayer –
involves a deep and sincere expression of gratitude. From this gratitude
there develops an experience of spiritual ecstasy which pervades the shaman’s being and her life. A true shaman has a light in her eyes which distinguishes her being and her practice.
Shamanic practice works with the flow of Nature and the flow of Creator. It works with surrender to a higher truth, a higher authority. Shaman do not cast
spells or otherwise try to control outcomes. Rather, shaman work with natural law and remain open – and help their communities become open – to positive outcomes. In addition, shamanic practice is never used to bring harm to another being or community. This is the work of sorcerers, not
Shamanic practice explores the depths and heights of a few basic realities.
Everything in existence has a Divine Life, a Soul. This includes everyone and everything – every human, every animal, every plant, every stone – even an object which we may consider non-living, such as a table, has a Soul. This Soul is connected to every other Soul in one great, beautiful web of life. Each Soul has a voice – an expression and purpose – that is unique,
irreplaceable, and important to the whole. Within this Oneness, relationship
between Souls is possible and important.
The four elements are central to shamanic practice. The powers of Fire, Water, Earth, and Air are considered the energetic and material elements that make up all of existence. The human body is made of these elements, powered by them, and completely dependent on them. Consider the sun – the element of Fire – and imagine human life without it. Consider the rivers and streams – the element of Water - and imagine human life without them. Consider the fertile soil of the Earth. Consider the breath – the Air that initiates human life.
Energetically, Fire represents the power of the human spirit, passion, and transmutation. Water represents the ebb and flow of human emotions. It represents fluidity, willingness, and surrender. Earth represents the self-renewing property of the human body, and the stability within the changes of the Mother. Air represents human thought, movement, the Breath of God/dess.
Shamanic Healing takes place within Soul to Soul connections – communication between the Divinity within the shaman, the Divinity within aspects of Nature and the spirit world, and the Divinity within the being requesting healing. Illness and misfortune come about through only a few causes. One cause is the loss of personal power through Soul loss. Within life events, aspects or parts of the Soul leave the body, or even the energy field. This happens because these aspects do not feel safe or comfortable existing within the individual or because they have been taken and held by someone else. The shaman assists the individual in retrieving the lost Soul parts. Then, the individual, being restored to wholeness, is able to thrive. The other cause of illness or misfortune is negative blockages or entities, which stop power from flowing through the body or life of the individual. These blockages may be a result of life events or they may be a result of sorcery.The shaman assists the individual in restoring a positive energy flow in her life and in her being. Because an individual’s environment is so important to healing, shamanic healing often involves an individual’s family or community. An
important role of the shamanic healer, after discovering and developing her
own expression and purpose, is in supporting others in the discovery and
development of their voice in their world. This type of healing supports the
serenity and well-being of the whole community. There is no one way for a
shaman to accomplish this– each shaman has his or her own way of fulfilling
Shamanic practice is both very personal and very public. The Path begins and ends with building committed relationships with Mother Earth and with Creator. Within these relationships, there comes a deepening in relationships with ourselves and with other beings. Our experience of Life becomes more than we everthought possible. Our voices become strong and powerful. We become – as is very much needed at this time - catalysts for healing in this community that is our planet.