An Introduction Shamanism

The teachings of traditional shamanism are being revived in our times and have permeated many fields of contemporary life and work, with deep roots of connection to practises such as mindfulness, and a host of healing and therapeutic techniques.

‘Shaman’ is a word originally used by the Tungus tribe in Siberia, and is translated as ‘the one who sees’, ‘the one who knows’ or ‘the one who sees in the dark’. A shaman can be female or male.

With evidence of practise as far back as the Paleolithic, shamanism is a spiritual tradition, a mysticism, more than a religion. It is a way of understanding and perceiving reality that has similar traits in tribal cultures across the globe: Everything has consciousness and soul, everything is alive and is animated. Therefore all manifestations of life are to be respected, whether rivers, mountains, trees or stones. They are an expression of a greater mystery that links us all.

There is a visible world, ‘this reality’, as defined by the senses and the rational mind. There is also an invisible world, the world of spirit and energy accessed through psychic ability, meditation, trance, and contemplation. For there to be harmony and balance in life and in society, both realms (the visible and the invisible) need to be given their proper place. The shaman is a messenger between these two worlds, and knows the art of travelling back and forth between them, bringing messages to and from the spirit world in order to heal what needs re-balancing, to create equilibrium in the community, and in the greater cosmos. Thus shamans have the ability to transcend: to see and understand that which is hidden. When bringing healing to people, the shaman works as a vessel for spirit, and is not the source of the healing.

Tradition of Shamans

Traditionally a shaman is chosen by the spirits, and undergoes an inititation by them, often in a very severe way that can last several years. Finally a shaman is confirmed by people in the community. In some cases a person may feel a calling and seek to become a shaman – the power of intention can be very strong - or may experience a calling but choose not to follow it.

Initiation is sometimes described as ‘dismemberment’. The flesh is stripped away until only the bones remain, then a new body emerges. This represents the death of the old self, the ego, and the birth of a wiser individual empowered with healing abilities, capable of travelling between worlds and dimensions, with access to direct guidance from the spirits. Now the time has come for the shaman to be of service of the people and the community, integrated and socially functioning.  Read a longer article on Shamanism by Chris Lüttichau