When you hear the word “shaman”, what comes into your mind? Do you picture an old Native American tribes man chanting by the fire? Or an African Voodoo priest communicating with spirits. Perhaps you incision see Celtic Woman dancing in the moonlight? Or maybe as a scene from a Hollywood movie depicting shamans and paganistic traditions?
But would you ever associate a shaman with a regular looking man or woman wearing a pair of jeans and flannel button down shirt? Or someone who is sipping coffee in Starbucks on the way to work on a Monday morning? I don’t think so.
A shaman contrary to what most people believe is not a person who is just living in the outskirts of town, dressed like a hermit and smoking a pipe all day. A shaman is any person who connects people to the spirit world. He or she can be the guide and communicator of living with those who in the world of spirits and deities.
Who Are Shamans?
Shamans are people who can access the Spirit World through altered states of reality and perception. They can communicate and interact with spirits and relay information coming from the spiritual world. Shamans are people who can enter the Spirit World and see or hear Good and Bad Spirits. They often go into a trance or an out of body experience in order to communicate with these spirits. They do this through rituals.
The word “shaman” is rooted from Northern Asia, from the language of the Mongols and Turks and then later on used by the Russian conquerors to describe the religion in this region. The term “shamanism” was used to describe the religion of the Mongols and Turks and their seemingly magical practices. Basically shamans are seen as witch doctors who cure the body by healing the soul through ritual and trace.
A Shaman is often the person who is seen as the leader or healer in a community. Or she can contact spirits to relay important information to the tribe. This information would include important messages such as what crops to plant, when to harvest, blessings for weddings and births, if a deceased loved one is at peace or who will be punished for wrong doings.
But the religion of shamanism can be practiced by the whole community. This religion is rooted in the belief that everything in the physical realm is influenced by the spirits in the outer realm. It also states that the spirits play a big part in everyone’s daily lives and that they needed to be appeased in order to gain favor from them.
The World of Shamanism
Shamanism is quiet diverse. It has been studied by countless anthropologists and scientists. There are many forms of shamanism. There are shamanic traditions from Europe, Africa, Haiti, North Asia, South America, South East Asia, Polynesia and almost in every corner of the world.
Many places have different practices of shamanism. One scholar, Mircea Eliade said that “Shamanism is the practice of religious ecstasy”.
There are many types of shamanic practices all over the world. From the West to the East, you can see many variations of this spiritual practice. Some religions also include shamanic traditions and the influence of shamans can be traced back to the dawn of time.
In Africa, we have the Voodoo and Hoodoo practices. This is one of the most prevalent practices that show shamanic traditions and practices. The shaman or the tribe priest is the intermediary of the people to the spirits. He or she communicates with spirits and conveys the bests times to marry, plant crops, when a person is possessed and many more.
Native Americans and Native Canadians who the early settlers called Indians were the ones who show practicing shamanism. They have a tribe’s leader to communicates with the spirits. He normally has a spirit animal or a spirit guide that helps him when he enters the spirit world. He cures the sick both physically and spiritually. He also helps in bringing peace among his people and other tribes.
The chief of the tribe among with the elders normally are shamans. They can cross into the spirit world and communicate with the elemental powers.
South American and the Latin Countries
It is very evident among the people of South America to practice shamanism. Many of them mix Christianity and the way of the shaman. They have spirits and superstitions in their beliefs intermingled with one another. The dead is highly honored. Also using substances that induce ecstasy in order to go into traced back since the early civilizations of the Latinos. A good example of this is the Ayahausca plant and magic mushrooms.
The Ayahausca plant has high amounts psychoactive agents that induce trance and hallucinations. This allows the third eye chakra to open and thus allows one to astral project. Magic mushrooms also provide the same effect.
In Asia, there are many civilizations. The Chinese, being predominantly Buddhist also has shamanic roots if you go back to the early parts of it’s history. Tribes on the Nepalese mountains show many shamanic traditions still present. Nomads have spirit doctors.
In Japan, the Shinto Taoist tradition has many gods but it also has parts that show shamanic ways. Worshiping nature is one it’s evidences.
In South East Asia, many countries perform shamanic rituals even up to now. For example would be the Philippines who has “albolarios” or witch doctors who communicates with the elementals to heal a person. An albolario also removes curses and binds evil spirits.
Different Types of Shamanic Gifts
Being a shaman means you have received a spiritual gift. Most shamans can either be born with this gift or they have a near death experience that have allowed them to cross into the spiritual world but they were able to go back.
Shamans are often endowed with different shamanic gifts. These can be gifts for healing, foresight, soul retrieving, receiving and relaying messages and many other super natural powers. But in general there are four types shamans. The types of shamans are based on their gifts are healers, soul retrievers, spiritual healers and messengers.
Shamans can heal physical ailments by consulting the spirits. Some physical pains can be attributed to disturbances from either the mind of spirits. And the shaman would heal this by asking the spirits to heal the body of sick person. He would also use the most bountiful pharmacy: nature. In nature there are many natural cures for sicknesses. He can make ointments, salves, potions, mixtures and plasters that a person can take to cure diseases.
It is said that at times when a person is sick or feels bothered, he or she has a part of his soul gone missing. Spirits may take parts of a person’s spirit which can cause him pains and anxiety. Another person can also steal portions of a person’s soul in order to spite him or when at times when a person does not want the other person to leave. This is likely for example when your mother or father does not want you to marry or work else where. You may feel feelings of distress when a part of your soul is cut away.
In this case, the shaman, will go into the other realms to search for that missing part of your spirit and return it to you.
A spiritual healer is responsible for the psyche of a person. He helps heal the aching heart and fix broken emotions. He can help cure jealousy, anger, worry, doubt, abasement, anxiety and even depression. He can induce hypnosis in order for a person to find the broken pieces of his psyche.
Messengers are tasked to carry the messages of the spirits and departed relatives. Some of the messages are for the future like predictions of what’s to come. You may see psychics having this gift. Messages may also include messages about the past. There are also messages that tell you on how to go about with life. Some messages are also for the community like for planting crops and hunting for food or which tribes to make peace with.
Shamans are often depicted as outsiders. They are seen as weird people by those who do not subscribe in this belief. However shamans can be everyday common people. They can use technology and still perform rituals. They can wear a pair of jeans and shirt and still talk to spirits.