What is a Shaman?

"A guide, a healer, a source of social connection, a maintainer of the group’s myths and concept of the world." (R. N. Walsh, 1990).

Their activity is directed towards healing, curing. From a general point of view, their tasks can consist in :

1. Restoring health

2. Cleaning

3. Purifying

4. Repairing

5. Improving the relationships of the individual with his group and his surroundings

6. Giving a meaning to what is happening, explaining it or setting it in a meaningful way

7. Conducting ceremony or rituals

Sulana Stone writes:

From Alaska to the Andes, from Tibet to Tanzania, shamanism is a worldwide phenomenon. Virtually every religion has its roots in shamanism, although shamanism is not a religion. It's a perspective,a way of seeing all things as sacred. Shamanism does not preclude any religion. It simply says that anyone can have a direct experience of the divine without an intermediary. By honoring the sacred essence of everyone and everything, one's whole life can truly become a spiritual adventure.

Shamanism is actually practiced all over the world in virtually every culture on the globe throughout time. Witchdoctor, Medicine man, Spiritualist, Rabbi, Priestess and Priest are just some of the other names for Shamans. Archeologists have even found cave drawings of Shamanic practitioners.

The Shamans primary role is to be the go-between for the Spirit World and the members of the Tribe. A Shaman is able to enter into "non ordinary reality" through a technique called "journeying". Journeying is similar to daydreaming but with intent to seek help or understanding.

 Although the practices for the Journey vary, the purposes are the same. A Shaman journeys to reclaim lost soul fragments in Soul Retrieval...to manipulate energy to affect the physical world and to seek the guidance of helping Spirits.

The concept of soul retrieval is that, whenever we experience great physical, mental or physcological trauma, a piece of our soul breaks off to protect us. If this happens, we find ourselves becoming disassociated with our reality or unable to heal old wounds. The shaman retrieves these soul pieces during journying and helps to reintegrate them and heal the wounds that have held us back from realizing our full potential.

Some other traditional functions of a Shaman are to interpret visions and dreams, to name members of the Tribe and help them to find their path, to conduct ceremony and ritual, connecting individuals with their Power Animals, healing and prophesy. Shamans are intimately connected to the forces of nature and the elements. They work with Animal Totems and Spirit Guides to help them in their efforts. They follow the seasons and the cycles of the moon and sun. Shamans use many tools, such as the rattle and the drum to help in their practices to connect to the divine. It is this connection with Grandfather and Grandmother that allows the Shaman to pierce the veil between the worlds and affect change in the waking reality.


A shaman is a bridge between this world and the invisible world of the spirit. A shaman is very anchored, very present in this world. Being so centered and grounded, a shaman can assist a person to travel into dimensions and see things from a much bigger perspective. Then people can heal because there is more room for them to expand and open to fresh new realities. This expanded awareness from the shaman creates a strong foundation for people to awaken to their own healing power within. The goal of the shaman is always to support the awakening of the soul. The shaman acts as an anchor so the person can reach their own depth and move through their own cellular transformation.

Shaman Frederick Wolf concurs. "People really know how to heal themselves. It's an illusion to think that someone is going to come and heal them. But what will happen is, when they feel the support and safety that the shaman can hold for them, they will have faith enough to go into that place inside of them that knows how to heal. It's not some magical thing that happens. It's very natural."

The shaman brings their sacred visions of ancient spirits and power animals out as ritual. By this ritual process, most similar to prayer, imagery, and art, the shaman heals themselves, others, and the earth. By having visions of healing, and doing sacred ritual, the shaman makes the visions come true. The shaman manifests reality in the outer world, from the visionary world.

How does someone become a Shaman?

 Shamans usually get their calling in one of three ways:

a) The calling of some disease. It is evident that in order to learn something, it is best to work hands-on, practice it, live it intensely or suffer it. In this sense, one of the primordial ways of learning about a problem is having passed through it and having surmounted it. In the concise case of a disease, surmonting it with good results would be one of the principal ways of knowing it and how to manage it.

The ex-patients stop being "patients" and turn into experts,with sources of information about a process that has taken them to unusual forms of living. Contact with pain and death are powerful ways of exposure to knowledge or to the necessity to know about critical situations. The shaman has also been defined as the "wounded healer", in the sense that the scars are signals of his transformation in the quest for knowledge to cure.

In this way, the psychoanalyst who passes his own psychoanalysis before beginning to work represents another manifestation for learning. The person who is part of a self-help group shares his experiences and is a first-hand example of this knowledge put to the service of others.

b) The family Shaman calling. The fact of having close-by and accessible models to imitate helps any process of learning. Family transmission would be another of the elemental forms of acquiring knowledge. The place where shamans usually work is normally the place where they live and where their family or group is. It is a traditional system of transmitting experience, especially in tasks that include craftmanship. This family vocation may follow a female line, like among the Voguls, or male, like with the Ostiacs and Siberian Samoyedans.

c) The calling attributed to the spirits. They are signals with a profound value for a particular individual. Frequently this calling is felt like from "above".

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1 comment:

  1. Dear Rhianna,

    I am delighting in your wisdom and your writing on this blog :) I have am observation regarding the Walsh quote. Shamans also have to help groups and individuals transcend the myths that no longer serve them. Is this your experience as well?


Thank you so much for taking the time to leave me a comment, Rhianna

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