What is Shamanism?

Shamanism is a term that refers to ancient spiritual practices occurring in diverse cultures in nearly every corner of the earth. The word shaman comes from the Tungus people of Siberia, referring to one who practices shamanism for the benefit of his or her people. Traditional shamans (and contemporary shamanic practitioners) engaged in spiritual healing, divination, finding herds of game animals, and in helping the souls or spirits of the deceased to cross over to the afterlife or spirit realm. In traditional, indigenous societies shaman’s were the bridge for the people between the ordinary, physical world/realm/reality and the worlds/realms/realities of the spirits. This is also true of shamanic practitioners today.

What distinguishes shamanism from other spiritual disciplines and practices, such as meditation, yoga, etc., is the understanding that the soul, spirit, awareness, or consciousness (or all of these) of the shaman leaves his or her body to travel to spirit realms where the shaman encounters and interacts directly with compassionate helping spirits. This “flight of the soul” (as many scholars call it), this traveling, is what many refer to as the shamanic journey. In the vast majority of shamanic traditions, shamans use repetitive percussive sounds (rattles, drums, click sticks, etc.) to shift their awareness to perceive spiritual reality and to travel to spirit realms. Many traditions also use entheogenic plants (peyote, ayahuasca, etc.) to shift their consciousness and enter a shamanic journey state. I use sound to journey in my practice. However one enters a journey state of consciousness, it is this flight of the soul, or journey, that defines shamanism as distinct from other spiritual practices.

What is Shamanic Healing?

Shamanic healing is spiritual healing. Shamans and shamanic practitioners work with the compassionate spirits to effect healing. The benefits of this spiritual healing can manifest physically and emotionally as well as spiritually.

Shamanic healing usually involves either removing spiritual energy that does not belong in a person’s spiritual self (these are often referred to as spiritual intrusions) and is somehow causing harm or blocking a person’s soul from living him or herself fully or returning something that is missing to a person, such as part of one’s divine essence, or soul, or some of one’s spiritual vitality, or power. The removal of intrusions is usually done through the technique of shamanic extraction, and the return of soul essence and return of power are usually done through the practices of soul retrieval or power animal retrieval, respectively.

Usually, these types of shamanic healing are done by a shamanic practitioner for someone and always in concert with the compassionate helping spirits. At times, though, someone may also journey for him or herself to seek help from the compassionate spirits directly, either on his or her own or under the guidance of a shamanic practitioner.