Shamanism is one of humankind’s’ most ancient traditions, pre-dating recorded history and traceable back at least 40,000 years as man’s first spiritual discipline. Archeological findings provide evidence that shamans existed on every continent, including ancient Ice Age Europe. Separated by land and water, and without means of communication or even the awareness of the existence of other shamanic cultures, we find that essentially the same healing methods, sacred tools and ceremonial approaches were used by shamans to restore balance to their communities. Becoming a modern day shamanic healer is not the result of a career choice; it is the result of a calling. And as in ancient times, the practices and procedures are learned by direct interaction with teachers of a non- ordinary realm who have sought out the apprentice.
Shamanism is not a religion or a philosophy. Unlike a religion that is based upon a belief in the words of another, it is an absolute known, based upon direct personal experience and revelation. The shaman’s practice of direct revelation is the predecessor of all our religious and philosophical traditions, both ancient and modern. To quote Michael Harner, renowned author of The Way of the Shaman; “a shaman is a man or woman who enters an altered state of consciousness at will to contact and utilize an ordinarily hidden reality in order to acquire knowledge, power, and to help other persons. The shaman has at least one, and usually many, ‘spirits’ in his personal service”.
The word shaman comes from the Tungus people of Siberia, meaning ‘one who sees in the dark’. With esoteric knowledge and uncommon spiritual ability, the shaman is one who mediates between the visible world of form and matter and the invisible world of energy and spirits. For the shaman there is no supernatural world – only the natural world exists, with its visible and invisible realms. Like 2 halves of the whole, there is the world of things seen, and the world of things hidden. It is to the hidden world where the shamanic practitioner journeys to obtain information and power for their client.
The distinguishing feature of shamanic versus other healing or spiritual practices is that the shamanic practitioner does their main work in this hidden world, working as an intermediary between the human and the spirit worlds. With the direct experience that all of creation (including illness – physical, mental, emotional or spiritual) is alive and has spirit and voice, the shamanic practitioner moves to that realm to communicate with the spiritual essence of whatever is the focus or challenge at hand.
Using what might be called a technology of transcendence, the unique process of shamanic journey, the shamanic practitioner moves into an expanded state of consciousness and awareness to transpersonal worlds which are beyond the usual limits of ego and personality. While journeying to this unseen world, the shaman has access to her tutelary helping spirits who provide the wisdom of the universe contained in this spiritual realm. The shamanic practitioner works on behalf of the client in a systematic, ritualized fashion to access consistently authentic information, instruction and assistance. It is a path of direct revelation in response to the intention set by and for the one seeking assistance. For example, with intention set, the journey will direct the shamanic practitioner to the spirit of person, place or thing such as: the client’s walled up inner child; a part of the client that is stranded in another time or place; the client’s home and property; the client’s business; the client’s illness, the client’s relative, alive or deceased.