Shamanic Moon

 Return to American Shamanism Main Page

Shamanism - A General Summary of the Spiritual Tradition

By Gwendolyn Toynton

copyright 2007

Shamanism consists of a variety of practices and beliefs of the spirit world. Shamans are messengers to and from the spirit world, treating illnesses by mending the souls of the inflicted individuals. Anthropologists categorize Shamans as "archaic magico-religious phenomenon". Shamans manifest various specific magical talents (control over fire, wind, and other natural resources), with healing being the highest probable talent according to the historical percentages.

An increasing number of researchers (academic, modern healers of neo-shamanism, and traditional societies) have been acquiring about ancient or the traditional shamanic ways in reference to lucid dreams, out of body experiences (OOBE), near death experiences (NDE), dreaming while awake, and "Shamanic flight" (expanding the body's physical realms).

The Shamanic calling is an understated unique occurrence. By being in the spiritual dimension Shamans acquire the knowledge, understanding, and strength to assist the ill. The Shaman has spirit guides that act as travel guides throughout their visit within the spirit realm. The spirit guides gives the Shaman the power to enter the spirit dimension. While in the dimension the Shaman performs the healing by returning lost parts of the soul and repairing, charging, and cleansing the soul of pollutants and negative energies. Many have attempted to analogize the event unsuccessfully due to the severity of the experience. A few attempts however have touched the surface, such as the following:

Having your organs removed while conscious.
A severe fall from an extremely unrealistic height (The Empire State Building).
Being struck by lightning.
Being conscious and lucid while experiencing a massive MI (myocardial infarction or heart attack).
One comical individual's attempt at humor on a particular site on the web compared the Shaman's initial experience as a man being pregnant, experiencing labor for a week with minute to minute contractions, and when he finally delivers he has triplets.

Post Shamanic personal experiences strengthen the Shaman's abilities to help others. The Shaman's adventure through the spirit world breaks down the Shaman to the point of sure death. This experience benefits him, the sick, and his people with knowledge and comprehension. To become a good basketball player one must play basketball. To comprehend and assist the ill one must become ill. Having gone through horrific experiences themselves, the Shaman can sympathize and assist the afflicted from multiple areas of the issue. Once the Shaman has recovered from their illness only then will they know the cure to assist the ill.

Functions of Shamans differ with location, needs, and culture. Some various functions that Shamans perform are as follows:

Leading a sacrifice.
Dream interpretation.
Entertaining and educating the area by storytelling.
Interpreter of Omens

The main function of the vast majority of Shamans is the healing of ailments. There are physical and mental afflictions that require healing. Physical afflictions such as diseases may be handled by teasing, threatening, or fighting the spirit. With both various physical and mental ailments the Shaman may find trickery to be useful. Faking a displayed extraction of an element of the disease may draw the spirit from the sick, believing that the initiation of the complete extraction has begun; the spirit will vacate the body.

To become a Shaman one must have more than a dream or two under their belt. One must spend a significant amount of time under a mentor in a culture similar to the location he or she plans on residing in. Shamanic ecstasy is essentially required to be of the highest level of operation, specifically pertaining to techniques and navigating within the spirit realm, as a Shaman is our link to the other side. There are three possible ways to become a Shaman. One is spontaneous election or selection, meaning a personal choice of a member of the society. This selector is known to be less effective due to their lack of traditional initiation to the program. The second way to become a Shaman is blood line. If one's father or family member is or was a Shaman it is known to be with your blood line. The third and last option is through dreams or through an ecstatic experience.

The following is a list of various beliefs of Shamanism:

Infertility in women can be cured by retrieving the soul of the expected unborn child.
Shamans can communicate with spirits in the spirit world.
Shamans can treat illnesses caused by spirits.
A Shaman can enter the spirit world by leaving the body to find answers needed to help assist the ill.
Shamans can go on vision quests by entering a trance through techniques and visionary ecstasy.
Most Shamans work alone.
Shamans are able to create and become members of associations.
Both physical and spiritual methods are used to cure the ill. Sometimes both are used simultaneously. The Shaman enters the person's body to defeat the spirit and also uses physical remedies as well such as plants and other agricultural items.
At times there are Shamans who choose to perform evil tasks therefore, when the good Shaman enters the spirit world to help the sick, he or she is putting themselves at risk from harm from the evil Shaman who inflicted the sick.

The term Shamanic ecstasy has been used throughout this document. Shamanic ecstasy relates to movement of the consciousness into lower or higher realms of existence and consciousness. The role that Shamanism plays has been commonly known to be localized within Asia however, this is not true. Shamanism also has been known to be practiced universally.

The plants referred to being used with physical illnesses are as follows:

Psilocybin mushrooms
Salvia divinorum
Moring glory
Hawaiian Baby Woodrose
San Pedro cactus

The drum is used by many Shamans in Siberia and numerous other locations throughout the globe. The drum is used in Shamanistic séances and is used to create an altered state of consciousness and to travel from the physical to the spiritual world. The drum is constructed of animal skin and a wooden hoop with a handle.

The decline of Shamanism in the world is due to the vastly wide spread religion of Christianity. Christianity has a major influence on all parts of the world, being ranked number one covering about 33% and 2.1 billion of the world's population. Some relate Shamanism to a primitive way of thinking therefore communities are choosing to move "forward" into the modern and more acceptable times.