A Complete Guide To Shamanism & Shamanic Healing
As a Shamanic Healing Practitioner, naturally I get asked various questions about shamanism. So here, I’ve collated all the questions I’ve been asked, and taken the time to carefully answer each one.
What is the meaning of shamanism?
Shamanism is the oldest form in which humans have connected to the spiritual world for access to wisdom and healing. It is the art, tradition, and science of gathering information from spiritual reality and grounding it in physical reality to support personal growth and community well-being. It is not a belief system or a religion, but rather a way of healing, based on direct communication and personal experience with Spirit.
In sum, it can be described as a family of traditions focused on voluntarily accessing “non-ordinary” states of consciousness to bring back information that empowers individuals and communities.
What is a shaman and what do they do?
A shaman is someone who can enter and exist spiritual reality at will, with the intention of gathering useful information for healing purposes. He or she is able to see beyond physical reality into the realms of energy, potential, and intention. As an energy healer, a shaman signs a contract with Spirit: “When I call, Spirit listens. And when Spirit calls, I listen.”
Like in ancient times, one can consult with a contemporary shamanic healing practitioner to embark on a journey of personal healing and growth. Modern shamans utilise ancient wisdom teachings in their practice to locate and remove energetic blockages, restore energetic pathways in the body, remove ancestral and karmic karma, recover soul parts, and expand the realm of possibilities available for love and a life of purpose. This is what we call shamanic energy healing.
As many shamans refrain from giving themselves the title of ‘shaman’, I will use the term shaman and shamanic healing practitioner interchangeably.
Where did shamanism come from?
Shamanism is the oldest form in which humans have sought connection with nature and the creative forces; there is evidence that shamanism has existed for at least the past 20,000 years and ancient traditions carry shamanism even further back into our collective past. Shamanism has been documented on every continent and seems to have been a common tradition amongst all hunter gatherer and indigenous communities, suggesting that it may have emerged as an evolutionary ‘tool’ of the brain for survival.
What is meant by a shamanic journey (including a basic beginner’s guide to shamanic journeying and meditation)?
Shamanic journey is a practice common to all shamans throughout history in which the shaman enters an altered state of consciousness to retrieve information from helping spirits. Using a form of rhythmic percussion such as a drum or rattle is the safest and most accessible way to reach this state of consciousness. At the rate of about 4 to 4 1/2 beats per second the brain is able to enter a theta state, the state in between being awake and asleep where clairvoyance and creativity can be fostered.
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You don’t have to be a shaman to engage in a shamanic journey; it as a practice that is accessible and empowering for all. A simple way to begin this practice is to find a quiet space, set an intention, play a recording of a shamanic drum beat or drum/rattle for yourself, and visualise yourself entering nature to find information that will help you in terms of your intention/request. A great starting point for setting an intention is the question: What do I need to see right now? Over time you may develop connections with helping spirits, power animals, angelic elements and other ‘teachers’.
With time you will find a specific shamanic journey method that works best for you. While there are very few ‘rules’ in shamanism, two guidelines are important for shamanic journeying are:
- Always journey with an intention
- Always journey with a spirit guide (you can ask to meet this guide on your first journey)
What is ‘shamanic healing’?
While shamanic journeying can be used by anyone in order to get answers to personal questions, shamanic healing on the other hand, is practiced responsibly only by those who have undergone training with a shaman and are ready to utilise a vast array of traditional shamanic techniques in the service of others.
Shamanic healing involves a shaman using appropriate shamanic techniques to assist a client in moving through various stages of life to find more purpose, clarity, and balance. A typical shamanic energy healing session includes a conversation with the client to determine where the client is on their soul’s journey and what can be done for their highest good; a shamanic journey to find the energetic roots of their current state, an energetic release, and a closing conversation to ground the spiritual work into reality for practical results.
What (and who) is shamanic healing good for?
Shamanic energy healing is appropriate if you:
- Desire to create more meaningful relationships with yourself and others
- Want to create genuine change in your life but feel ‘blocked’ and are unsure as to how to move forward
- Are ready to move beyond old patterns, habits, and belief systems that no longer serve you
- Feel called to explore new levels of self-awareness and seek a deeper relationship to nature and everything around you
- Feel helpless, lost, confused, or discouraged and seek genuine self-inquiry to move into greater emotional health, clarity, and balance
Often in Western society we struggle with the common feeling of there’s something missing. Without proper resources, we can stay in this mindset of scarcity and sadness. Shamanic healing provides the support and tools for genuine healing through the muddy waters of confusion, doubt, fear, depression, and overthinking.
Since we are continuously on a healing journey (we are always experiencing a various phase of the ‘medicine’ wheel) working long-term with a shaman is a responsible and empowering choice to remain committed to personal and spiritual development. Amongst the community of shamanic healing practitioners it is common to get a healing session from another shaman at least once a month to remain dedicated to personal ‘work’.
What happens in a shamanic healing session?
In terms of what to expect during a shamanic energy healing session, it’s important to note that every shaman has a unique way to practice shamanism. However, there are a few elements that you can generally find in a shamanic healing session:
- The creation of ‘sacred space’ i.e. a safe space devoted to healing and energetic/emotional release. Physical touches and tools to create sacred space may include candles, the lighting of incense or palo santo (holy wood), an altar with stones or crystals, a comfortable massage table or mat to lie down on, and soothing music.
- A conversation regarding your soul’s state at the present moment. Expect the shaman to ‘hold space’, i.e. actively and neutrally listen allowing you to discover and release any available energy. A well-trained shaman may say very little; their presence and ability to nurture sacred space will inspire you to dive deeper into your story to hunt for truth and healing potential.
- Energetic work involving assessing the various energy centers of the body. This may include accessing energetic information about the chakras to see where energy is being stored and where there is potential for releasing stagnant energy and cultivating empowering energy.
- The shaman journeying via rattle or drumbeat to access ‘non-ordinary’ reality and retrieve information to help you in your healing journey
The most important expectation is to have no expectations. Every healing session is different, even if you have a long-term relationship with a particular shaman. Even the shaman cannot expect what will arise in a shamanic healing session.
How do I prepare for a shamanic healing session?
In terms of preparing for a shamanic healing session, on a physical level it is advisable to wear loose-fitting clothes to comfortably lie down and sit, as well as layers since body temperature changes as energy shifts and is released.
The rest will unfold in the session. Most importantly, do yourself the gift of showing up!
What are shamanic healing rituals?
There are various shamanic healing ceremonies and rituals that one can incorporate into daily life for more joy, clarity, cleansing and grounding. These rituals can include:
- Burning palo santo (holy wood) in the morning and any time you need grounding to connect you to the present moment and remind you of your connection to nature
- Burning sage when you feel the called to energetically “clear” a space or energy field – inviting the archetypical energies of animals into your life (For instance, inviting hummingbird to teach you selectivity, or the serpent to teach you the shedding of the past)
- Honouring the full and new moon by setting intentions on the new moon, and releasing energies on the full moon
- Learning to track emotions in your body; for instance, if you feel a strong emotion, ask yourself – where do I feel this in my body? Then, see if you can describe the physical sensation of this emotion. This cultivates mind-body connection and begins a journey into understanding the roots of emotions.
- Beginning to communicate with the natural elements. This can mean engaging in conversation with trees, with the wind, with the sea, with the Earth. You’ll begin to notice that nature has been talking all along. All you have to do is listen!
Does shamanic healing work?
Shamanic healing only works if the client is ready and willing to undertake the personal work it takes to create genuine change. The shaman cannot ‘will’ a client to undergo a personal transformation. True change happens from within; the shaman’s role is to guide you along this journey.
As for the after effects of shamanic healing work: Spirit works in mysterious ways. You will notice the side effects of your healing session at various moments throughout the day. Remain open – and trust! Everyone is different, but as a guide, you may feel lighter and brighter, a greater connection to their intuition or at peace with old pain. Some people find that they feel a bit tired from the emotional release after energy healing, while others may feel a bit sick after energy healing. Know that this all of is all normal as you release what no longer serves your body, shift into a new mindset and expand your capacity to honour your truth.
Are there any dangers of shamanism?
Shamanism is a very safe form of healing. It is recommended to research the shaman who you choose to work with and trust your intuition in regards to suitability for your healing journey.
A danger of any spiritual practice is to fall into the trap of ‘spiritual bypass’, or becoming so entranced by spiritual reality that one forgets to live in physical reality. Shamanism is a tool to enhance your physical life on this planet, thus the goal is to bring back relevant and effective information for the improvement of your life. Using shamanic techniques to journey into spiritual reality without intention or purpose is wasteful and ineffective.
How do I find a shamanic healer?
You may be surprised to find a shamanic healing practitioner living nearby as contemporary shamanism is a growing field. As mentioned, it is best to do research and trust your intuition before committing to engaging in personal work with a shaman.
Because shamans work in the energetic world, it is not necessary to live close to a shaman in order to experience shamanic healing. In fact, ‘remote’ healing sessions – or sessions done at a distance via video or phone call – are equally as effective as sessions done in person. I offer this option and highly recommend it for clients to experience the profound capacity of humans to connect energetically across distance.
How do I know if I am a Shaman?
Wondering how to tell if you are a shaman or shamanic healing practitioner? Shamanism may be part of your soul’s journey if you:
- Experience moments of profound connection to the natural elements and feel like you have an innate ability to access wisdom from all that is around you
- Feel drawn to ancient traditions and indigenous cultures
- Prefer contemplation, introspection, and self-inquiry over societal habits that include the numbing of our human experience
- Feel inspired to embark on a lifelong commitment to your own personal development that includes the shedding of old belief systems and patterns; it is only with this commitment that you can then serve others
As a side note, it is not a valid reason to become a shamanic healing practitioner only to ‘help’ others. A true shamanic healing practitioner realises that the true journey is his or her own personal healing work. It is from this humility that the true capacity to hold space for others grows.
How do I become a shamanic healing practitioner?
If you’re interested in learnings how to become a shamanic healing practitioner it’s necessary to study with a shaman. The Naughty Shaman Center for Shamanic Arts in Connecticut (USA) is a beautiful example of a healing center dedicated to teaching shamanic techniques and cultivating highly trained and ethical shamanic healing practitioners. There are various other institutions around the globe offering similar programs. You can study one-on-one with a shaman as well. The teacher appears when the student is ready.
There you have it! If you have any questions or comments please share them below. For more on shamanic healing, stay connected with me via Instagram, for soulful tips and inspiration.
P.S. Do you know someone interested in what happens during a shamanic healing session? Be a pal and share this article with them now. They’ll thank you for it later.
P.P.S. Have you downloaded the (free) Natural Remedies eBook yet? If you’re interested in taking steps to living naturally and in wellness, this is a great resource to have handy. It’s a complete A-Z guide of natural remedies using naturopathy, traditional Chinese herbs, natural medicine and nutritional healing principles. Grab your copy here.
*Main Photo Credit: John Tyczkowski Photography