In order to understand more about what a shaman is, we need to first understand what a shaman does.
Shamanism is a technique through which we contact intradimensional beings, known to our ancestors for hundreds of thousands of years as the spirits. Shamanism eventually morphed into the Mystery religions and then was driven completetely underground by the Roman Emperor Constantine in the 4th century CE.
Shamanism, or shamanic healing, is making a comeback today and I’ve been a practising shaman for a number of years.
A shaman is someone who crosses into other dimensions where he obtains information, guidance and healing from the benevolent entities that he meets in those dimensions. These entities have been given many names throughout history — devas, spirits and gods to name but a few. The shaman then brings this information, guidance and healing that he gleans from these entities back to his tribe or community.
The shaman crosses into other dimensions while in a trance state. This is what’s known as the shamanic journey. It is not a physical journey. The shaman’s physical body does not go on a journey. If you saw a shaman crossing into another dimension, all you would see is his body prone on the floor looking like someone who’s asleep — except for the occasional twitch as power surges through him.
The trance state is also known to scientists as the theta state. They have found that if a person is exposed to a certain rhythm (between 4 and 7 beats per second), their brain will enter the theta state. This is why shamans use drums, and the beating of the drum is the usual, classical way that a shaman enters a trance — although there are many other ways, including the ingestion of psychotropic herbs (datura and ayuhasca, to name just two).
The shaman lives in two simultaneous realities: the inner dream space in which spiritual encounters transform perception of the external world, and the external world which becomes the stage on which the shaman acts out his divine purpose as healer. Each time the shaman enters trance for the good of patients and community and confronts the agents of affliction, there is psychological integration for the shaman. The shaman brings together heaven and earth, spirit and humankind. Shamanism appears in every culture. Amongst Tibetan people, it predates (and is woven into) Buddhist philosophy and practice, and is a vital and living wisdom tradition practiced from ancient times into present day.
From The Ghe-Wa (Tibetan Death Rite) for Pau Karma Wang Chuk Namgyal, by Larry Peters (for Shaman’s Drum.)
Why are female shamans not called a shawomen?
Women shaman are not called a shawoman because the ‘man’ bit of the Siberian word ‘shaman’ does not refer to the male of the species. So it is not a gender specific word and that’s why a bunch of shamans are not called a bunch of shamen. The correct collective noun would be a bunch of shamans. Or a gaggle of shamans … or something like that.
Anyway, as mentioned, the word ‘shaman’ comes from Siberia. But thousands of years ago, there were shamanic practises of one kind or another all over the world, in every populated country. And so the shaman and shamanism was known by many different names, and it might be useful to know a few of them, so if the word comes up in different cultures, we’ll know what they’re talking about.
Andean (Quecha) shaman — P’ago
Arab (pre Moslem) — Baksylvk
Australian shamanism — Wulla-mullung
Australian spirit — Budian
Bedouin form of shamanism — Fugara
Celtic shaman – Druid
Chinese shaman —Tang-ki
Hawaiian form of shamanism — Huna Kane
Indian Vedic shaman — Rishi
Indonesian shaman — Dukun
Inuit shaman — Angakok
Jewish shaman — Baal Shem (in Hebrew, it means “Master of the Name”)
Korean female shaman — Mondang
Korean shamanic initiation — Nae-Rim-Kut
Lakota spirits — Wakan Tanka
Meso American shaman — Nagual
Nigerian shaman — Babalawo
Norse female shaman —Voelva/Volva/Vala/Seidhkona
Peruvian shaman —Sheripiari
Siberian shaman – Shaman
Tibetan shaman — Pa’wo
Tibetan shamanism — Bonpo
Turkish shaman — Sahir-ŝairl
Ukrainian female shaman — Znakharka
Voodoo female shaman — Mambo
West African spirits — Kontomblé
So how can a shaman help you?
There are lots of articles on my blog, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, about the different sorts of healing that shamans do, and to make it easier for you, I’ve listed the main ones below. Basically, shamanic healing would not be the ideal first port of call for mending a broken leg ~ it’s more about restoring the health of your mind-body-spirit continuum and overcoming all the obstacles that no longer serve you in your life’s journey, and it is transformative, rejuvenating and revolutionary. If you’re feeling like you’re in the doldrums, shamanic healing will kick start your life.
If you’re new to shamanism and shamanic healing, please do check out these articles as they will give you a good grounding in the subject and also a better idea of what a shaman or shamanic healer can do for you.
The first article, Fire in the Head, is about what a shaman is, and how being a shaman differentiates us from other spiritual healers.
How To Get A Camel Through the Eye of a Needle is about shamanic counselling, or learning to journey to get advice and healing from your own spirits.
Eating People Is Wrong is about how the shaman can help you reclaim your power after it has been stolen from you.
What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted? is about another role of the shaman, that of soul retrieval, in other words, finding and returning a lost soul fragment to you, after it got lost or was stolen.
The Way of Brigit ~ An Ancient Route to Self-Transformation is about initiation into the Underworld.
The Weather Shamans of Waterworld is about shamans that control the weather.
The Journey of Coming Forth Into Day describes how part of the role of the shaman is guiding the souls of the dead to their next destination.
The Never-Ending Journey is a personal account of how I became a shaman.
And A Greco-Roman Tragedy describes the history of shamanism and shows how it was driven underground by Christianity.