shamanism Faqs

What is Shamanism?

Shamanism is NOT a religion; Shamanism is a spiritual practice. Believed to be the most ancient spiritual practice known to humankind, many anthropologists believe Shamanism dates back over 100,000 years. Shamanism teaches us that everything in our existence is alive and has a spirit -- from the rocks by the stream to the clouds in the sky. Shamans speak of a web of life that connects all of life and the spirit that lives in all things. Everything on earth is interconnected and any belief that we are separate from other life forms including the earth, stars, wind, etc is purely an illusion. Thus, what we do and how we live affects all of life and no action is without consequences -- for good or for not-so-good.

What is a Shaman?

The word “shaman” comes from the Tungus tribe in Siberia, and refers to a spiritual healer or "one who sees in the dark." A shaman uses the ability to see “with the strong eye” or “with the heart” to travel accross time and space to mysterious, hidden realms. The shaman interacts directly with helping spirits to address the spiritual aspect of illness and perform spiritual healings, such as finding and restoring lost parts of one's soul, retrieving lost power, and removing spiritual blockages. The shaman also may divine information for specific individuals or for the larger community. The shaman’s role in the community is to keep harmony and balance between all people and the forces of nature. Part of the shaman's role in the community is perform ceremonies that celebrate the changes we all experience during life on earth. Shamans lead ceremonies to welcome children into the world, perform marriages, and help people transition to a good place at the time of death. They lead ceremonies to mourn the death of loved ones. There are important initiation ceremonies performed to mark certain transitions in a person’s life such as from moving from childhood into being an adult. Today, shamans continue to act as healers, doctors, priests or priestesses, psychotherapists, mystics, and storytellers.

What is a Shamanic Journey or Journeywork?

One of the major ceremonies a shaman performs is called a shamanic journey. The shaman goes into an altered state of consciousness -- much like self hypnosis -- and travels outside of time into the hidden realms that many term non-ordinary. Non-ordinary reality is a parallel universe to our day-to-day reality. Australian aborigines refer to these hidden realms as the Dreamtime. It is also referred to as the Other World in Celtic traditions.

In these hidden realities there are helping spirits, compassionate beings who offer guidance and healing on behalf of all life on earth. Each shaman works with a specific group of spirit teachers who helps the shaman during the journey, leading and protecting him or her as they travel through hidden realms. Typically shamans use some form of percussion, especially drumming or rattling, to go into an altered state that allows the free soul of the shaman to journey into the invisible worlds.

What tools does a Shaman use?

The central tool of the Shaman is the drum. The Shaman's drum is connected to his or her spirit, and is typically the primary tool used by the Shaman to travel across time and space to other realms. Most Shamans do not like their drums to be touched or handled by others; some ancient practices purport that when another touches a Shaman's drum, the Shaman will die soon after. Many Shamans, including Tess, prefer to make their own tools so that the bond between them is strong; during the creation process, the Shaman's intention and healing energy becomes part of the tool. It is for this reason that Shamans would prefer that no one else other than him- or herself touch their tools used in healing; when you touch a Shaman's tool, you are mixing your energy with the Shaman's, which can cloud or derail the healing process for a client. Shamans also use rattles, typically made of animal skin and wood and decorated with powerful symbols. The rattle may also used to support the journey process, and is also used to "seal in" energy that is brought back to a client during a healing session. Shamans use smudge, a type of incense made from fresh grasses and herbs, to create a circle of protection around the client during a healing session or to prevent negative spirits from joining a community ceremony. The talking stick is used when working with a group; only the person holding the stick is allowed to speak and must speak with truth. Shamans may also use crystals, stones, or other items to help with ceremony and the healing process.

What do you mean by Spirit Teacher?

A Spirit Teacher is an ancient spirit that connects with the Shaman in the other worlds for the purpose of helping him or her administer healing and to protect themthe Shaman from harm during the healing process. It is very important that the Shaman never work alone when working on a client; the Spirit Teacher is always present for guidance and protection. A Spirit Teacher may be in human or animal form, and is a trusted teacher and guide for the Shaman during his/her time on the earthly plane.

What is a Spirit Council?

A Spirit Council is the gathering of a Shaman's Spirit Teachers, Spirit Animals, and Spiritual Guides. On occasion, a Karmic Master will join the Council. The Karmic Master is there to ensure that the client's healing session does not interfere with his or her Karmic Destiny. The Council members and the Karmic Master will then work together to come up with a healing strategy that will help prepare the client for his or her Karmic destiny.

What does a Shamanic Practitioner do?

A Shamanic Practitioner works with Spirit Teachers to help clients heal on a spiritual level, which promotes healing in the emotional and physical bodies. In the words of Sandra Ingerman, award-winning writer and internationally-known teacher of shamanism: "In shamanism healing work is performed to deal with the spiritual aspect of illness. There are three common causes of illness in the shaman’s worldview. A person may have lost his or her power, causing depression, chronic illness, or a series of misfortunes. In this case, the shaman journeys to restore that person’s lost power. Or a person may have lost part of their soul or essence, causing soul loss, which sometimes occurs during an emotional or physical trauma, such as accidents, surgery, abuse, the trauma of war, being in a natural disaster, divorce, the death of a loved one, or other traumatic circumstances that cause shock. Soul loss can result in dissociation, post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression, illness, immune deficiency problems, addictions, unending grief, or coma. Soul loss can prevent us from creating healthy relationships and the life we truly wish to live. It is the role of the shaman to track down the parts that have fled and been lost due to trauma by performing a soul retrieval ceremony. Another cause of illness from a shamanic perspective would be any spiritual blockages or negative energies a client has taken on due to the loss of his or her power or soul. These spiritual blockages also cause illness, usually in a localized area of the body. It is the role of the shaman to extract and remove these harmful energies from the body. "A shaman heals both the living and the deceased. In healing those who died, the shaman performs a psychopomp ceremony of helping those who have died cross over to a comfortable and peaceful place. The ceremony may also include clearing a home or land of spirits that are in a state of unrest. A depossession might need to be performed to clear a person of unwanted spirits."

Tess Snyder

Shamanic Practitioner & Certified Hypnotherapist

Avon Lake, Ohio

Please note that Shamanic healing is spiritual healing, and should never replace or be substituted for medical care. Shamanic healing is a complement to your doctor's care, not a replacement. Please consult a physician for your condition before pursuing alternative healing.

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