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About Shamanism

What is shamanism? A full answer, even if possible, would take volumes to even begin. However, let's start with the basics. 
Shamanism is a generalized term that refers to an integrated number of practices and a general way of understanding the world, the individual, and healing, that is profoundly based on an Earth-centered, ecological, physically natural understanding. The word itself derives from just one of the many diverse ethnic, cultural and geographic groups where such practices and world view can be found. 'Shaman' happens to be a term from the Tungus people in North China, and originally referred to the traditional healers of Turkic-Mongol areas such as Northern Asia (Siberia) and Mongolia. The term literally translates as ‘(he or she) who knows.’ The choice of words 'shaman', however, is broadly applied to many, many people and places throughout the world where this term may not even be known. Perhaps it would have been better to choose a term that had not originated in a particular place and culture.

What makes a 'shaman?' Shamans do something quite particular: they enter an altered state of consciousness referred to as shamanic trance ecstasy, etc., to get in touch with another reality to discern the spirits' answers to questions, get assistance, facilitate the spirits' ability to bring health and healing, and empower themselves and others. Their role has traditionally been to travel to the spirit worlds to access the healing or divination for which the spirits are capable, and connect this back with ordinary reality so that it can be of service to their community.

The shaman 'journeys', and in other ways learns to bridge our ordinary reality and the non-ordinary realms in which the spirit helpers and power animals reside. The shamanic practitioner thus learns to walk in both worlds, and become a conduit or messenger for the healing and divination powers of the spirit world.

If you are motivated to learn these ancient spiritual healing ways, you may be so for many reasons, however it is often because people like you and I want to help in the healing of people, animals, or of our Earth. The shaman recognizes that our world is full of suffering. Shamanic practitioners are in touch with spirit helpers who want to help this world, but can do little since by themselves, they are only powerful in their non-ordinary reality. Thus it becomes a team approach between shamanic practitioners and compassionate spirits, who work together to bring information and healing from the upper and lower worlds to where it can help in our everyday world.

What is shamanic healing? You are invited to follow this link to get a taste of how illness and its healing is viewed by a shaman. Today, the medical community has a far different concept of illness than did shamanic practitioners. This is understandable, given that the whole nature of reality is quite different between the two.

What is this spirit help with which shamans are in contact? Let us begin by recognizing first that there are other worlds, and that there are barriers between these worlds. Human beings, in this case shamanic practitioners, must change their consciousness to get to the realities where such spirit help can be found, often called the shamanism upper world or the shamanism lower world. I usually first introduce a very broad and generalized shamanic geography of the ordinary and non-ordinary worlds that is most widely encountered among the many lands, cultures and people around the Earth. There are, however, wonderfully different ways of conceiving reality through shamanism. For instance, there is the Celtic ‘otherworld’. Or, there are some Native American journeying practices, where one is never 'out-of-body', but always connected to the Earth (the source from which all regenerates). {}


Misty Woodland
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