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Shamanism: History and Spiritual Practices throughout the World.

"No one culture or group of cultures has a hold on what is "shamanic." Shamanism is a group of skills to peer into other worlds and utilize the intelligence and forces of Creation to bring us to greater wholeness, clarity and self-realization. The words, "wholeness," and "healing," literally are derived from "Holiness." This is the true nature of our path and realization - that we are Whole and Integral beings, Holy Beings of Creation, and Inheritors of Divine Right and Origin, ready, when we are ready, to participate as co-creators in our Universe and in our daily living realities."

- Zacciah Blackburn

Shamanism is the oldest form of spiritual practice known. The shaman acts as a bridge between the worlds. She sees everything as an inter-connected weaving of countless enspiriting forces that take a myriad of forms. Nature is regarded as a vast resource where one can access the transpersonal in the form of spirit intelligences that provide information that confers wisdom and illumination.

There are a number of different shamanic practices. Examples are that of healer, seer, oracle, psychopomp, midwife, magician and sorcerer, The shaman is skilled in the practice of ritual, conducting initiations, blessings, clearings and more. In indigenous communities there are shamans who work specifically with healing herbs, possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of local plants and their uses.

Because of the far-reaching influences of modern culture, many of these indigenous healers are dying without an apprentice to absorb their great body of knowledge. It is in our interest that we endeavor to learn from and support these native healers.

Shamanism is a practice that involves a practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to perceive and interact with what they believe to be a spirit world and channel these transcendental energies into this world.

A shaman is someone who is regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of benevolent and malevolent spirits, who typically enters into a trance state during a ritual, and practices divination and healing.

Shamanism encompasses the premise that shamans are intermediaries or messengers between the human world and the spirit worlds. Shamans are said to treat ailments/illness by mending the soul. Alleviating traumas affecting the soul/spirit restores the physical body of the individual to balance and wholeness. The shaman also enters supernatural realms or dimensions to obtain solutions to problems afflicting the community. Shamans may visit other worlds/dimensions to bring guidance to misguided souls and to ameliorate illnesses of the human soul caused by foreign elements. The shaman operates primarily within the spiritual world, which in turn affects the human world. The restoration of balance results in the elimination of the ailment.

Often a phenomenon called shamanistic initiatory crisis, is a rite of passage for shamans-to-be, commonly involving physical illness and/or psychological crisis.

The wounded healer is an archetype for a shamanic trial and journey. This process is important to the young shaman. They undergo a type of sickness that pushes them to the brink of death. This happens for two reasons:

The shaman crosses over to the underworld. This happens so the shaman can venture to its depths to bring back vital information for the sick and the tribe.

The shaman must become sick to understand sickness. When the shaman overcomes their own sickness, they will hold the cure to heal all that suffer. This is the uncanny mark of the wounded healer.

Shamans claim to gain knowledge and the power to heal by entering into the spiritual world or dimension. Most shamans have dreams or visions that convey certain messages. The shaman may have or acquire many spirit guides, who often guide and direct the shaman in their travels in the spirit world. These spirit guides are always present within the shaman, although others encounter them only when the shaman is in a trance.

The spirit guide energizes the shaman, enabling them to enter the spiritual dimension. The shaman heals within the spiritual dimension by returning 'lost' parts of the human soul from wherever they have gone. The shaman also cleanses excess negative energies, which confuse or pollute the soul.

Spirits exist and they play important roles both in individual lives and in human society.

The shaman can communicate with the spirit world.

Spirits can be benevolent or malevolent.

The shaman can treat sickness caused by malevolent spirits.

The shaman can employ trance inducing techniques to incite visionary ecstasy and go on vision quests.

The shaman's spirit can leave the body to enter the supernatural world to search for answers.

The shaman evokes animal images as spirit guides, omens, and message-bearers.

The shaman can perform other varied forms of divination, scry, throw bones/runes, and sometimes foretell of future events.

An entheogen ("generating the divine within") is a psychoactive substance used in a religious, shamanic, or spiritual context. Entheogens have been used in a ritualized context for thousands of years; their religious significance is well established in anthropological and modern evidences. Examples of traditional entheogens include: peyote, psilocybin and Amanita muscaria (fly agaric) mushrooms, uncured tobacco, cannabis, ayahuasca, Salvia divinorum, iboga, and Mexican morning glory.

The drum is used by shamans of several peoples in Siberia, and many other cultures all over the world. The beating of the drum allows the shaman to achieve an altered state of consciousness or to travel on a journey between the physical and spiritual worlds. Much fascination surrounds the role that the acoustics of the drum play to the shaman. Shaman drums are generally constructed of an animal-skin stretched over a bent wooden hoop, with a handle across the hoop.

The etymology of the word "shaman" is "one who knows."

“Shamanism is not a faith, but a wisdom tradition in which we learn purely from our own individual, collective and personal experience. It is not a religion and is dogma-free; indeed it supports any existing spiritual practice one already has. Many of us deeply desire a connection to our own ‘soulfulness’ and that of all other living beings in a free and natural way. This is the essence of Shamanism.”-John Cantwell, Irish Shaman.

In the Irish tradition, the mythology of the shaman speaks of key encounters with animals, mountains, archetypal gods and goddesses, ancient wisdom keepers who visit the apprentice as he/she wanders both this world and The Otherworld. Anointments in the form of gifts and new perceptual states occur in these encounters, allowing the emerging shaman to embrace and be embraced by the deepest magic and mysteries of life as a Spiritual being, in a physical experience on Earth.

Historically, the female shaman was viewed as using her body as a vessel to allow powerful energies to flow through her for healing and magic. In ancient times, women performed this function in collective rituals and communal ceremonies. Just as a pregnant woman gives over her body for the duration of her incubation, a woman shaman was thought to give over her body for the use of an incarnating spirit or ancestor. Ancient Female Shamanism, was embodied by the Tibetan Dakini (sky-going woman) – a female being who moves through emptiness or flies through space.

The ancient recognition and reverence for woman as the “Givers of Life”, the creators of life both in birth and through the cultivation and cooking of food, naturally positioned women as the Shaman Priestess in their communities.

Shamanism throughout various cultures is viewed as an act of intercession for healing, divination, dispensing of wisdom, and performing of rituals and communal ceremonies which benefit the community. It is the giving of one’s powers as a service to the community.

Although it is common these days to feature men as shamans, the ancient relationship of women with hearth and home and their evolutionary act of developing the land for the production of food, and harnessing fire for cooking, warmth and sustaining of life, draws attention to the fact that Shamanism was originally female.

Women’s ancient, shamanistic and priestess work to facilitate the profound rites of birth and death, and nurturing and sustenance are naturally related to shamanic experiences of soul flight and spirit communication through the dissolution of boundaries between self and other.

The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow 
– Eden Phillpotts

I am dreaming back my sisters Whisper-worn footfalls on the Temple steps Skywalkers Storm dwellers Heavy-breasted cauldron keepers Songweavers Snake sisters Darkmoon dancers

Labyrinth builders Star bridgers Fiery-eyed dragon-ryders Wind seekers Shape shifters Corn daughters

Wolf women Earth stewards Gentle-handed womb sounders Dream spinners Flame keepers Moon birthers

Come home sisters, come home — Marie Elena Gaspar


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