Shamanism Shamanism is humanitys oldest form of relationship to Spirit. As such, it is the underpinning beneath all religion. But shamanism is not a religion. It is a complex set of practices, beliefs, values and behaviors that enable the practitioner to elect a shift from ordinary consciousness into a trance state with a specific goal in mind, such as healing, obtaining information, power, vision, divination, contacting the spirit of the deceased, soul retrieval or guidance for right action. Shamanic work is done with the aid of a helping ally of some sorts that the shaman has befriended.
They work together as a cooperative team, with the ally being an intermediary between different levels of reality and the shaman, an engineer of altering states of consciousness. Shamans throughout the world and throughout time, recognize that the universe is alive, conscious, and filled with spiritual power. Shamans know how to access this web of power and work it skillfully and effectively to address their, and their communitys needs. Shamanism is the use of shamanic practices within a shamanic value system. Traditionally a shaman goes through the experience of a calling, usually through illness, accident or some unusual quality of being, then through an arduous apprenticeship of teaching, training, and testing, followed by some sort of passage rite into their new status. Typically shaman do not define themselves as such. Instead they are defined by their community based on what they do. Becoming a shaman and living as a shaman is a difficult and demanding life path that many indigenous people shy away from because of its formidable requirements.
It is not about fun or glamour. Unskillful and uneducated acts can cause harm, or even be life-threatening, to the practitioner as well as others. For shamanism deals with power, and power can move in many different ways. It is important to move slowly with respect, humility and care. A vitally important aspect of the practice of shamanism is understanding right relationship with power, and the acts and implements of power, such as sage, cedar, feathers, the drum, ceremony, disincarante spirits, totem animals and allies.
Shamanism is the intentional effort to develop ongoing relationships with personal helping spirits by journeying into realms where the spirits dwell. Shamanism is a way of perceiving the nature of the universe in a way that incorporates the normally invisible world of spirit. Shamans have different terms and phrases for the non ordinary reality, but most of them clearly imply that it is the realm where the spirits of the land and the animals, deceased ancestors, the gods and goddesses and other spiritual entities dwell. Shamans employ methods for altering consciousness so that they can send their spirits or souls (consciousness) into the non ordinary reality of the spirits who become their friends, guides, guardians, instructors, and allies. These helping spirits might be the spirits of nature, animals, plants, the elements, ancestors, gods, goddesses, or teachers from various religious traditions. The act of sending ones consciousness into the spirit world is called the shamanic journey, and it allows the journeyed to view life and lifes problems from a detached, spiritual perspective, not easily achieved in a state of ordinary consciousness. One of the most universal methods for altering consciousness for this spirit journey is a persistent, mesmerizing drumbeat The reason for acquiring and nurturing ongoing personal relationships with helping spirits is to gain knowledge, wisdom, practical healing methods, and other vital information that can be brought benefit ones own personal benefit or the benefit of the others in the community.
History of Shamanism The practice of shamanism is derived from ancient teachings and is practised throughout the five continents of the planet. Although ancient, (it is estimated that shamanism may have originated over 10,000 years ago) its practice is also contemporary, surviving in areas such as Tibet, North & South America and within various African tribes. Shamanism is used to restore balance and healing to both people and the planet we live in. The practice of shamanism involves shamanic practitioners making journeys or soul-flights to other realities in order to bring back advice, help or soul-parts for the individual/community. As such, the practitioner acts as a medium through which help is channelled. Shamanism has existed since the beginning of time on every continent of the planet.
A shaman/shamanka (feminine) is an individual that can alter his/her state of consciousness and travel at will between this world and otherworlds to find healing, guidance and knowledge for themselves, the community and the environment. The Shamanic Journey A Shaman is an explorer of doorways- doorways from ordinary reality into non ordinary reality, portals leading from the physical world into the spirit world. In Celtic spirituality these are considered thin places where the two worlds are in closer contact with each other, where the spirit world flows into the physical world, where the spirits and mortals can pass with reactive ease. Also known as power spots, these places are found all over the world, some secret and personal, others world famous, such as Stonehenge in England, the Black Hills in South Dakota, the Skellig Islands off the Irish coast, the Serpent Mound in southern Ohio. In the history of the human spirit of the human spirit ordinary people, whether ancient or modern, are lured to places where they perceive a greater power, energy, or spiritual force.
And when we have felt the transformative and invigorating presence of the invisible powers, we long to experience them again and again, to be back in those realms where eternity meets the temporal world, where we know that there is more to the universe than we can perceive with our physical senses. In seventeenth-century Scotland, a young boy known as the Fairy Boy of Leith took his drum each Thursday night into the hills outside Edinburgh. The historical account reports that men and women from the nearby towns joined him to pass through invisible doorways into the faery landscapes where they faested, danced, drank, and sang, then flew to far-off lands for more adventures before returning to Scotland and ordinary reality. The Scottish journeys returned to their homes in the city and waited until the following Thursday, when they reconvened. It seems life was far from dull or grim in Scotland on Thursday nights! Modern shamanic practitioners, as well as tribal shamans from other cultures and centuries, would recognize in this practice the classic shamanic journey into the spirit world. What makes a shaman different from other mystics and visionaries is the intentional journey- soul flight- into the spirit world.
In other words, unlike the common perception that mortals must wait for spirits of nature or the dead to make contact- an occurrence that happens more frequently than most people realize- the shamans initiates contact by going directly into the spirits world. Rather than waiting for the spirits to visit us, the shaman becomes the visitor into their invisible realms. Because they know the entry points, shamans can cross the borders of ordinary and non ordinary reality at will, enter the spirits reality, and develop the skills, understanding, and competence for functioning in that dreamlike world. Tribal Leaders In tribal cultures, shamans serve as healers, spiritual advisors, diviners, conductors of souls into the land of the dead, herbalists, dream interpreters, ceremonialists, storytellers, and keepers of the folk memory. These shamanic services are secondary to and dependent upon the shamans relationship with his or her helping spirits to interpret dreams, prescribe healing herbs, lead ceremonies, or tell stories.
If a person performs these activities without the help of spiritual power that derives from shamanism. What distinguishes the shamans ability to do these things is the shamans intense relationship with helping spirits and the knowledge of how to proceed that is received from those spirits helpers. At the heart of a shamans power and reputation, therefore, is his or her spiritual practice. The shaman is not the only on in the community who has visions and spirit helpers. In animistic societies most people participate in visionary activities that involve contacting and communicating with spirits, such as vision quests, fasts, sweat ceremonies, night vigils or extended periods of dancing and chanting during which participants unite with their personal spirits.
Most people maintain ongoing relationships with their helping spirits throughout their lives by these means. What distinguishes the shaman from others is the intensity, seriousness, dedication, and calling to the aspect of life which far outweighs those of others in the tribe. In this respect, shamans are no unlike monks, ministers, and mystics in other religious traditions who may be engaged in the same spiritual practices as average men and women, but who have dedicated their lives to those practices and perform them with more rigor and devotion, often out of a profound sense of calling or vocation. Prayers The Medicine Wheel is a mandala, a symbolic map, a cartography of psycho- physical- spiritual space. It represents a multi-dimensional, interpenetrating web of relationships that are constantly in communion with each other.
It exists simultaneously in a vertical and horizontal axis, as well as in a continuum of past, present and future. The Medicine Wheel of the Four Niericas, or Doorways, serves as an opening to consciously enter the cyclic, time-space unfolding of Great Mystery through a practice of respectful, harmonious, right-relationship. It is based on the belief that the universe is alive, conscious, filled with power, intelligent and always communicating its wisdom to who ever makes the effort to listen to its myrimid unfolding of cosmic guidance. Each direction of the Wheel, each Nierica, is an energy field with its own unique being, teaching, information, as well as its test and challenge. To move around the Wheel learning about the working with each of these Four Great Teachers, is to step out of the comfort zone and step onto a learning path that will reward for the rest of your days. Conclusion Shamanism is the oldest spiritual path on Planet Earth of healing, maintaining balance and harmony in society and the individual and keeping our connection with Mother Earth and All Creation.
A Shaman knows that all things are alive and walks with one foot in this world and one foot in the spirit world. Our outer world may be different, but our human inner landscape has the same components as always. Our outer health and wholeness is an expression of our inner health and holiness. We are here to bring spirit into matter and matter to spirit. Many prophecies have been made about this period as a time of great change when the world as we know it will end and a new world will be born.
We can see the inevitability of these changes in the state of things around us- the pollution of the air, toxic waste buried in the earth and sea, nuclear radiation leaks, demolition of the rain forests, reduction of the protective ozone layer, extreme weather patterns and so on.