What is a Shaman? What Can a Shaman Do for Me?
I’ve observed that the Universe seems to send out memos on topics, as I will go ages without an inquiry about a particular theme then receive several at once. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve encountered people curious about shamanism. On the whole people do not stumble into shamanism, whether that is feeling led to study it or to receive shamanic healing. Even in the world of energy work and holistic medicine shamanism still seems to elude many. In hopes of addressing this spiritual curiosity I am reworking a hand out I give to new clients, information that is also on my website. That information is: What is a shaman? What can a shaman do for me?
There are all kinds of academic, even poetic explanations of what shamans are and what they do. In fact, a very detailed FAQ on shamanism can be found at various locations on the web. Detail or no, the questions from most people are, “What is a shaman? What can a shaman do for me?”
A shaman can help you heal whatever you are open to healing. Shamans are intermediaries with the spirit world, not just links to the spirits but explorers of the spirit realm, itself. “Aren’t we all?” you ask. Yes, we all have the potential to be, though not all of us readily know how. We are not all active participants in the worlds within and around us, though we all have the ability to be.
Shamanism is not a religion; rather, it is a perspective entailing that everything is alive. A base shamanic view holds that everything, everything has a soul, and is connected to every creature and energy. Through that connection we are able to travel out of our bodies beyond our egos to communicate with souls of the dead, ourselves and other humans; plants, animals, Earth, the elements; even “higher” spirits, such as guides, helpers, our own High Selves, and our Higher Power. How shamans accomplish this act is perhaps most telling, and most individual.
There are some basic tenets of shamanism that pervade ancient, indigenous cultures, and neoshamanic practice such as we all have animal guides and spirit guides; the concept of soul retrieval; extracting an illness or entity from the body for physical, emotional, mental or spiritual healing; psychopomp work, or death walking–guiding the dead to Spirit; and divination. Beyond the basic functions a shaman performs the similarities across cultures largely stop there. Shamanic cultures are diverse, as every cultural history records a social role of a person performing some facet of the role of shaman. Called medicine men, wise women, skywalkers, nagual, and many more titles and roles, today the purpose of the shaman is no different. Neoshamanic work draws on these same primary tenets creating many outlets for learning indigenous and contemporary shamanic practices for daily life.
Given the range of techniques shamans use, it’s important to understand how these skills apply to everyday life. In the most broad perspective, shamans promote healing. Opening communication with the spirit realm can open you to your own healing ability, body, mind, soul, and emotion. Bear in mind that no shaman, doctor, surgery, or medication can heal you. You heal yourself. You make the conscious decision to allow whatever healing modality you receive to actually heal you. Healing is your personal agreement between yourself and Spirit. Know that when you interact in the journey state, which is the theta brain wave level of deep cognizant deep dreaming, you are in the space to directly access yourself at the central levels of being. You can reshape your physical and spiritual DNA, taking command of the creative ability with which Spirit blessed you. With shamanic healing you are an active participant in your wellbeing. Through understanding your ability to co-create your own life with Spirit, you not only improve your own quality of life, but that of All Life.What a shaman can do for you depends on your reasons for seeking one. Perhaps you have a chronic illness that doesn’t seem to abate. Perhaps you are depressed, or want to be rid of a disruptive pattern, relationship, belief, or habit in your life. Perhaps you feel you have unlimited potential, but can’t seem to manifest it into what you need in your life. Perhaps you just want to find meaning in your life, or want insight into your own abilities. Maybe you want to meet your spirit guides. The reunion with your guides can help in each of those things, as well as the reunion with your High Self. Remembering these relationships allows you to reconnect to Spirit, empowering you, and giving you intimate knowledge of your own strengths, abilities, and love. You will never feel alone again once you have remembered your spiritual allies.
Additional work could also help, such as a soul retrieval, in which spirit aspects that left due to trauma are returned and integrated, allowed to heal and age to your current maturity. In some cases soul aspects aren’t returned to the Earth consciousness but move on to Spirit. The effects of this technique usually include ending the pattern of chronic illness, depression, or other pattern that you have become locked into. In some cases, memories are returned, and certainly abilities that you may have missed as you have aged.
Another way to specifically address patterns, thoughts, or habits that have become harmful, such as addiction, obsessive behaviour, a disruptive relationship dynamic, or even chronic illness is life regression and progression. Often seeing the origin of these patterns helps one to clear them, as well as talking with a future self to see the healing as it has manifest and carried through one’s life.
In some cases, an extraction of an intruding entity is needed to release a pattern or offending condition. Some refer to this as depossession or exorcism, though it is rarely theatrical as it is depicted in fiction. It is, however, quite profound. In the most base terms such interferences are merely energy that is no longer functional in its current place. Symptoms of this may be physical issues, radical shifts in mood or temperament, an imbalance of power in a relationship. When the energy is removed and health flow to the etheric form restored the flow balance on all levels can be better maintained.Another way to bring about balanced flow in your life force is a technique called “dismemberment”. In this technique, your animal guide is asked to do the dismemberment, and allowed to completely destroy your physical body. The animal may “re-member” you immediately after, or it may recommend that you take time in this re-membering. The end result is your body fully re-membered, without the affliction. It is new.
These are just a few of the techniques shamans use, and only a vague description of the reasons that you may feel led to a shaman. Wildspeak is a great resource of articles on shamanism, animism and a quite extensive animal totem dictionary. As well, for insight into working with helping spirits, Lupa’s DIY Totemism: Your Personal Guide to Animal Totems is brilliant.My book, Gift of the Dreamtime: Awakening to the Divinity of Trauma gives a thorough presentation of shamanic healing in a useable modern context and may be very helpful in determining if shamanic work is appropriate for you.
I wish you deep healing and prolific power!