"To see the preciousness of all things, we must bring our full attention to life." ~ Jack Kornfield
What is Shamanism?
Shamanism is an ancient spiritual path that has been practiced all over the world for at least 40,000 years. Remarkably it is still being practiced today! Shamanism is based in animism, which is the understanding that there is an energy that organizes and animates, or gives life to everything. This includes everything here in our ordinary reality and in parallel realities that co-exist along with our own, (something that quantum physics have also agreed upon).
It is the unseen realities, sometimes known as the Spirit World, Non-ordinary Reality, the Collective Unconscious, imagination, or the Dreaming, that the shamanist connects and relates with by tending to relationships with helping and kindred spirits. These may include ancestors, animal or plant spirits, angels, or luminous earth beings, land spirits.
Shamanism as a Spiritual Path
The Shamanic Path is a path of initiation and knowing - not the knowing of our current world, which is "information" for our mind, but the knowing that results from "experience". The types of experiences one might have on the shamanic path include: spirit flight journeys, ceremonies, healings, rituals, meditation, prayer, pilgrimage, initiation or trials, tests, and challenges. When one goes through these experiences consciously, then a process of trans-formation occurs. We are not the same as we were before the experience, who we were has died, and we are now reborn with new knowledge.
Over time, the shamanic path can be a powerful way to gently and gracefully navigate along the river of Life, in a harmonious, caring, and reciprocal way.
Because shamanism is trans-cultural, as a spiritual practice, it can support you to:
- re-member and explore lost spiritual or ancestral roots
- discover a new spiritual path that feels authentic
- enhance a spiritual or religious practice you may already have.
"When we discover the rich, fertile landscapes of the soul of Life, our own souls, and our spiritual threads to our ancestors come alive with wisdom. We can then find practical ways to bring this wisdom to the families, homes, and communities of our surface dwelling lives." ~ Angela Prider
Shamanism is not a religion but it has a life view that is common around the world
Everything is alive
Everything has a soul
Everything is interconnected
What is a Shaman?
The word shaman (pronounced sha-mahn) comes from the Tungus tribe in Siberia and there are a number of translations such as, "one who knows," "the master of the fire," "one who sees." So a shaman is one who has mastered the ability to work with the living energies of the human body, or land, or animals, while being in reciprocal alliances with helping spirits. They are masters of entering and exiting altered states and parallel realities and dimensions at will to gather guidance, information, or healing for the good of individuals, communities, or places. In order to be able to do this, they have learned to temper and come into right size with the ego - to become a clear and empty vessel.
"Of course it was not I who cured. It was the power from the outer world, and the visions and ceremonies had only made me like a hole through which the power could come to the two-legged. If I thought that I was doing it myself, the hole would close up and no power could come through." ~ Lakota Medicine Man, Black Elk
The word shaman is not gender specific and both men and women have been equally called to the path. In some cultures two-spirited people, or men and women working as couples, are the shaman as this is seen as the balance of the sacred masculine and feminine energies.
A personal viewpoint on "Shaman" from Angela
These days there are many points of view about what being a Shaman is. My personal viewpoint is that the term "Shaman" is honorific. This means that one's community has bestowed the title, and the responsibility upon them. Sometimes, because of the responsibility that comes with the work and title of Shaman, one may actually not want it.
Traditionally, a shaman has been through near-death experiences, or was born into the work because their parents or grandparents were the Shaman. They have been through many years apprenticing and many initiatory experiences. These days, many people say that if someone calls themselves a shaman, you should turn and run the other way. I don't have an opinion about that, but I don't call myself a shaman.
I think what is most important today is that the person who is working in a shamanic way with other people has these things:
- roots - they know where they come from and who their people are
- elders and teachers who can ask them tough questions and support them in keeping their ego in check
- a stable and solid homelife and good balance in areas outside of spiritual work
- permission from the Land they are working on and acknowledgement of the custodians of that land
- a clear understanding, empathy, and honouring of the many people who have suffered and experienced great loss in order to practice shamanism.
- and last but MOST importantly, they have "done their work."
I am not the judge and jury on all of this though. I am only going on my own experience and the wisdom that has been shared from my teachers who have gone before me. I have heard that many cultures do not have a "label" or word for the medicine person or the "shaman" because it is not needed; one can feel their medicine just through their presence.
With warm blessings
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We would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the Squamish, Kwikwetlem, Tsleil-Waututh, Kwantlen, and Katzie Nations, whose ancestral lands we live, work, and teach upon.