Shamanism. In brief, Shamanism, is a Tungus word from Siberia. The term Shaman/Shamaness (originally called saman/xaman), was given to a man or woman who had the power to heal, and to know past and future events, and who was responsible for the spiritual well-being of the tribe or community. A shaman is an individual sometimes called a Wounded Healer, who has usually encountered extremely difficult experiences in life. As a result of these traumatic and often dangerous experiences, he or she receives a special call to work as an intermediate between the people and the spirits and the community. Through being wounded and re-wounded, he or she heals themselves, and then helps others with their own healing process as a result of his or her direct personal experience but with the help and guidance of assistants from the spiritual world. Shamanism and Shamans usually runs in families but individuals can be chosen for the vocation through illness..
Shamanism as a spiritual practice has changed over the past decades, and the initial ideas and images, which were brought out from the darkness and unknown about Shamanism, by ethnographers and anthropologists from Siberia and the Pacific countries, were mainly concerned with soul flights to other worlds, and battling with harmful spirits.
In the Northern and Circumpolar regions, shamanism has evolved from the ancient hunting cultures and the rites that were related to animal ceremonialism and hunting magic, where the world-view or cosmology of indigenous peoples, several thousand years ago, did not comprehend any kind of division or separation between human beings and the natural world. Sickness and health was portrayed through both positive and harmful spirits. Shamans and ancient peoples who lived close to the natural world, were in close contact with supernatural forces and powers of nature and this balance was maintained through sacrifice.
At particular times of the year, certain totemic ancestors embodied sacred boulders and trees and were appeased by the shaman through sacrificial activities, as a way of establishing contact with celestial clan animals and ancestors who were both animals and guardians of each tribe or clan of people, and who offered power and hunting luck through sacrifice. The basis for shamanism is a term called Animism, which means that everything is alive with with meaning and purpose and has a soul or spirit, in other words, everything is intimately connected together through the 'Web of Life'. Shamans know how to travel within this web, and harness spiritual power either for positive or negative uses. In addition, the powers of nature were personified in male and female deities, which were both localized and collective.
Shamanism & Healing. Although a shaman is a person who has contact with the spirits, he or she usually lives a normal life within society. There has been much controversy about the subject of Urban, Core and Contemporary Shamanism, which is emerging through the fragments of the past. This is in contrast to traditional and much older forms of shamanism, but as is known, the fact that tribal and indigenous societies have been broken down and subject to modernization because of globalization and the pace at which the world is developing, people from the West are now interested in rediscovering their ancient heritage and are subsequently re-embracing the re-emergence of shamanism in a contemporary way. In addition, there is no form of shamanism that remains unchangeable, and the shamans who have been here before, are now returning and working in their own unique and individual ways which are a mixture of traditional and contemporary practices.
There are also many different types of Shamans. One of the common tasks of a shaman is working with the Spirits of the dead when called to do so, who have become trapped between the physical and spiritual side of life, because the life has ended suddenly on physical plane, and the soul of the deceased person may have become trapped and needs to be released. The shaman in this role is sometimes called a psycho-pomp or death-walker, who guides the lost souls to the other side of life. This work carried out with the assistance of spirit helpers, sometimes during sleep in a state of trance, individually or with a group, where the departed soul is guided in order to get the healing power they need to help them across the threshold into the spiritual world. This is also the case with animals and tree spirits who have suffered a sudden loss of life. Another very common way shamans undertake their work is with what is called 'plant spirit medicine', whereby shamans utilize the spirits of different plants through ingestion, and then this application is applied as herbal medicine in cases of illness and disease and for breaking out of the limitations of the ego state or self.
The idea of life being linear, that we are born, we grow old and then die and are gone forever is a belief left over from early thinking from the Judaeo-Christian era, related to linear, not cyclical thinking. Because the concept of rebirth is not considered in most cases, there is a lack of awareness regarding the process of death and dying and the kind of help that souls sometimes need in certain cases. In past times, the role of a psycho-pomp was what both the Shaman and the Witch undertook within the community.
Within Shamanistic Philosophy, the term 'Soul Loss' is a common concept, used to describe the loss of a part of ones personal power or spiritual essence, needed in order to live a healthy and consistent life. Soul Loss can manifests in a number of ways but is typically experienced as numbness in the physical body, and/or disease and illness, especially depression and a feeling of being empty, with no purpose in life and void of any feeling or emotion. Individuals can be born with this condition from previous lives, but in the physical sense soul loss is caused by trauma and illness caused for example by a serious accident, violence, sexual trauma, shock, the death of a friend or relative, and also surgery and comatization. Also, people can lose soul parts if they have become intoxicated with alcohol, nicotine, sugar, violence or narcotics, and can also become possessed by the spirit of the substance, where they lose their power because of consistent and prolonged usage.
The soul has been identified and described in a variety of ways, in different cultures throughout the world, but perhaps the simplest description of what the soul is, would be to describe it as the Spiritual essence of a person, the core inner-self, which is a vehicle for human consciousness. Shamans believe that human beings have a free soul, which leaves the body during sleep and illness, and can be in the form of an animal, plant or tree. This free soul is sometimes referred to as the Shadow. The physical soul on the other hand, oversees the bodily functions.
Power Animal Retrieval: When a person comes for help to restore power, the first task is to find out how the power-loss has happened. Power Loss, often manifest as physical illness, is related to a loss of power. One way of losing power is by giving everything to everybody, and to keep nothing for oneself. There are also people who take other peoples' power so that they can feel 'power filled'. This also happens through sexual gains between two people. Also in couple relationships and friendships, concerning the giving and taking of power...all give and no take = power loss. This condition is called Codependency.
The Shaman's Drum. Traditionally drums have been used for healing, community and ritual work. The drum is also used as an oracle and an animal guide as it is beaten. In northern cultures the drum is also ridden by the shaman when put between the legs. The beat of the drum has been compared to the hooves of an animal running through the forest or across the tundra. The drum is seen pictured in rock art, rock carvings, story telling and narrative; each one having a story behind it.
Typically, and for example, the oldest type of drums seen in Finland, the segmented types belonging to the Sámi people, are divided into different layers, which represent a map of the shamans cosmos that is divided into between three to five levels depending on the area. Some later types, bowl drums in Swedish and Norwegian Sápmi, which are heliocentric drums are sometimes divided into three or five levels. It is traditional that a power song is whistled and/or sung to accompany the drumming, which helps to synchronize the ritual act with the rhythm of the shaman's own consciousness, and his/her breath. It is with the combination of these elements that the shaman meets his helping spirits and changes that brings about a change in the perception of reality in order to make the journey for healing purposes or divination into another dimension of reality. The drum is used too for divination and as a medium for bringing both the physical and spiritual worlds together for healing and creating change.
Drumming has been recognized as one of the oldest forms of expression and communication. There are two sides to a drum: the public side and the private side. Before drumming begins, in some ceremonies, a rattle is used to invoke the shamans helping powers. The rattle is used like an antenna to the realm of spirits, and also a tool, which signifies a shift from one level of consciousness to another. It has a similar function to a telephone; like a radar. In ancient times in the North, the Shamans drum was outlawed (especially in Sápmi) as an instrument of the devil, and a great many persons were persecuted for possessing one. Hundreds of drums were collected and burned, and those that survived were taken to various museums around Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. There are approximately 70 Sámi divination drums in museums around Europe.
The work of the shaman if different from the work of other healers. Traditional shamanic practice is concerned with ecstasy-altered states of consciousness and divination where the shaman with the help of assistant spirits, travels into the world of the spirits to seek information in matters relating to divination, and for recovering lost soul parts and power. The shaman may also seek help from the world of the ancestors under certain circumstances.
It has been suggested, that the Spiritual practice of Shamanism, will be a phenomena, which will in time, unify all cultures throughout the whole World.