What is Shamanism? There are so many views of what shamanism is that it can be confusing to come to a definitive list of what it is and what it is not. While I am not a student of theosophy I can almost certainly say that it is not a theosophical practice, rather it is an experiential practice. The fundamentals of shamanism can be taught through reading and discussions. The experience of shamanism however has to be lived. What I teach grows out of my own deep understanding of what it is and what separates it from other practices.
Shamanism can be interpreted as non-rational, not irrational but non-rational. We cannot spend all of our time studying shamanism simply studying the technicalities that surround it. Technicalities do not necessarily fit into an experiential practice. Shamans were born out of the necessity of humankind to make sense of the world around them. Shamans were given the role of being the intermediary between the land of the spirits (the unknown) and the land of the living (the known). Shamans were considered to be the go-betweens. How humankind made sense of the senseless was by developing a cosmology that explained everything. We have subsequently lost the language to fully comprehend the first glimpses humankind had into the unexplainable, however, we still have techniques available to us to traverse the same spirit worlds our ancestors had and establish relationships between the known and unknown, the rational and the non-rational, the natural experiences and the supernatural experiences. Shamans as intermediaries were able to interact and move within the spirit world thereby influencing the outer world. The influence can be seen in such experiences as divination, soul retrieval, extraction healing or simply understanding a mystical connection you have been seeking for years.
Most of us can identify with the drum because we all began hearing the original drum, our mother’s heartbeat. The sound of the drum calms us at the same time as it allows us the opportunity to open our inner awareness with the intention of exploring our inner landscape. Many of the ancient priestesses who played the frame drum functioned as oracles. The sound of the drum drove their brain waves into an oracular state in which they could see the past, present, and future; in the present moment.
Scientists have measured the rhythm of our thoughts with an EEG and they have labeled the vibratory rates of these. The fastest is the beta wave commonly described as our ordinary everyday type of attention. The second is our alpha state which is a relaxed meditative state. Lower still is the theta state often known as the hypnagogic state – the state between waking and sleeping a time where one could have a visual and auditory non-rational experience. The delta wave is the slowest and usually occurs when one is in deep sleep. Scientists have found that paranormal activity generally takes place in a lower alpha or theta state. Falling asleep during journey work is when the brain slips too quickly between the theta and the delta states. Under the influence of an auditory driving mechanism – a rhythmic sound – the drum, you can stay awake and interact with the unseen world around you.
I found it important for me to understand that both the left and right side of the brain have different wave patterns emanating from them – most of the time these brain waves are not synchronized – generally, one hemisphere is dominant from anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours and then it shifts over to the other hemisphere of the brain. Under the influence of an auditory driving mechanism – drumming – rhythmic sound ostensibly both hemispheres of the brain can start resonating to the same rhythm and this is where people experience paranormal capacities. Under this influence, most people experience the oracular state described above. A mystical experience is not uncommon, this is called an awakened brain state – I think this is why people have drummed for thousands and thousands of years.
Other resources you may enjoy:
- For more on the Medicine Wheel.
- Free shamanic music and drumming.
- Or if you’re new to journey work and wish to develop your own relationship with spirit, get started with journey work here.
- Our Meditations home page.
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