What is Shamanism?
What is a shaman and what does a shaman do?
In order to understand how a shaman can help you, you will first need to know what a shaman is and what a shaman does, because we’re really not like anyone else.
Shamanism is a technique through which we contact intradimensional beings, known to our ancestors for hundreds of thousands of years as the spirits. Shamanism eventually morphed into the Mystery religions and then was driven completetely underground by the Roman Emperor Constantine in the 4th century CE.
Shamanism, or shamanic healing, is making a comeback today and I’ve been a practising shaman for a number of years.
A shaman is someone who crosses into other dimensions where he obtains information, guidance and healing from the benevolent entities that he meets in those dimensions. These entities have been given many names throughout history — devas, spirits and gods to name but a few. The shaman then brings this information, guidance and healing that he gleans from these entities back to his tribe or community.
The shaman crosses into other dimensions while in a trance state. This is what’s known as the shamanic journey. It is not a physical journey. The shaman’s physical body does not go on a journey. If you saw a shaman crossing into another dimension, all you would see is his body prone on the floor looking like someone who’s asleep — except for the occasional twitch as power surges through him.
The trance state is also known to scientists as the theta state. They have found that if a person is exposed to a certain rhythm (between 4 and 7 beats per second), their brain will enter the theta state. This is why shamans use drums, and the beating of the drum is the usual, classical way that a shaman enters a trance — although there are many other ways, including the ingestion of psychotropic herbs (datura and ayuhasca, to name just two).
The shaman lives in two simultaneous realities: the inner dream space in which spiritual encounters transform perception of the external world, and the external world which becomes the stage on which the shaman acts out his divine purpose as healer. Each time the shaman enters trance for the good of patients and community and confronts the agents of affliction, there is psychological integration for the shaman. The shaman brings together heaven and earth, spirit and humankind. Shamanism appears in every culture. Amongst Tibetan people, it predates (and is woven into) Buddhist philosophy and practice, and is a vital and living wisdom tradition practiced from ancient times into present day.
From the Ghe-Wa (Tibetan Death Rite) for Pau Karma Wang Chuk Namgyal, by Larry Peters (for Shaman’s Drum.)
Why am I not called a shawoman?
I am not called a shawoman because the ‘man’ bit of the Siberian word ‘shaman’ does not refer to the male of the species. So it is not a gender specific word and that’s why a bunch of shamans are not called a bunch of shamen. The correct collective noun would be a bunch of shamans. Or a gaggle of shamans … or something like that.
Anyway, as mentioned, the word ‘shaman’ comes from Siberia. But thousands of years ago, there were shamanic practises of one kind or another all over the world, in every populated country. And so the shaman and shamanism was known by many different names, and it might be useful to know a few of them, so if the word comes up in different cultures, we’ll know what they’re talking about.
Andean (Quecha) shaman — P’ago
Arab (pre Moslem) — Baksylvk
Australian shamanism — Wulla-mullung
Australian spirit — Budian
Bedouin form of shamanism — Fugara
Celtic shaman – Druid
Chinese shaman —Tang-ki
Hawaiian form of shamanism — Huna Kane
Indian Vedic shaman — Rishi
Indonesian shaman — Dukun
Inuit shaman — Angakok
Jewish shaman — Baal Shem (in Hebrew, it means “Master of the Name”)
Korean female shaman — Mondang
Korean shamanic initiation — Nae-Rim-Kut
Lakota spirits — Wakan Tanka
Meso American shaman — Nagual
Mongolian shaman – Boo
Nigerian shaman — Babalawo
Norse female shaman —Voelva/Volva/Vala/Seidhkona
Peruvian shaman —Sheripiari
Siberian shaman – Shaman
Tibetan shaman — Pa’wo
Tibetan shamanism — Bonpo
Turkish shaman — Sahir-þairl
Ukrainian female shaman — Znakharka
Voodoo female shaman — Mambo
West African spirits — Kontomblé