Shamanism – A Brief Overview

In the Tungusu-Manchurian language, the word shaman means, “to know.” What researchers have found is that many early cultures had their own and often unique forms of shamanism. Some of the cultures evidencing shamanism are the peoples of North and South American, Asia, India, Africa, the South Pacific and Australia. We can see through the artefacts, local myths and stories that each early culture throughout the world had its own shamans and shamanic practices. Often times the shaman was thought to be the only person in the tribe able to communicate with the spirits of ancestors and the various Gods and Demons. The Shaman had the role of being the communicator and translator of the Spirits and the unseen world to the people of the community/tribe/village. The treatment of the shaman socially often varied from group to group, but not many envied the role. There were then, and still are, so many superstitions and fears surrounding communication with the Spirit World and the unseen that few people wanted to travel this road.

Studying and practicing shamanism today gives us a great advantage over our Ancestors. Via books, long distance travel, the internet to name only a few methods of communication and interaction we have at our disposal many ancient techniques that allow us to transcend this physical world and re-member again our connection to the Source, to experience again Unity with the Universe. Because I am a child of the World and not one small tribe I can safely learn and teach universal or near-universal shamanic techniques. The term universal or near universal simply means the techniques which are found common amongst many of the cultures.

Globally Shamans experience ecstatic trance brought on by the sound of the drum or the rattle, by dancing, by meditation, you get the idea. As well as global commonalities there are also individual techniques shown and given to each person who seeks them. It has been my experience that each of us has the ability and the opportunity to develop a wonderful and close relationship to Spirit.

Shamanism may be the oldest of all the healing arts. Archaeologists and anthropologists have dated shamanistic practices as ancient as 40,000 years. Evidence of shamanic practice can be found on all the continents in the form of rock paintings and carvings. The oldest archaeological evidence of shamanistic practices comes from the Altai and Ural Mountains of western China and Russia. These practices have been concluded to have been some sort of religion, a word that I would not associate with shamanism. Shamanism is not a religion, but a spiritual practice that involves a relationship with all things in nature, be they animate or inanimate. Maintaining a regular practice of shamanism builds our awareness of the unity we have will all beings. When we make this connection we can truly access our healer selves. Shamanic healing is a different approach in that it often restores something missing from our lives; a union with the Divine, a union with our WHOLE SELVES.

One of the first things people ask me is “Is this real” or “How do I know this is real and not imaginary or in my head” Okay I am paraphrasing a bit but you get the idea. Too often people focus in on what’s ‘actually’ true, or ‘real’, when in reality such a thing has no merit or basis in the work that we do shamanically. Spirits and humans have existed as social relations or as family, for thousands of generations. Our understanding of that relationship is based and interpreted on experience. Most of this experience has nothing or little to do with the outside world.

Shamanism is non-rational. Not irrational, non-rational. If we try too much to force theoretical ideology into it, it will not “fit”. The rational framework for shamanic work comes largely from experience.

My experience of shamanic practice is that what we can teach well to others is that which grows out of our own deep understanding. Then we teach not just from our head but from our being. Shamanism is not theosophy. It is a practise that is based on experience; experience of the spirits and experience of life. My understanding of Spirit and Spirit work is based on my spirit kin’s teaching and on my life. It works for me. It is different from my understanding of that even a short year ago. We all have our own spirit teachers and they are not the same.

There is no separation between yourself and the world around you. Instead of reaching out to find it, become more aware of your surroundings.

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