The practice of Shamanism centres on practitioners reaching altered states of consciousness in order to interact with what they believe to be the spirit world and channel these transcendental energies into our plane of existence.
Through typically entering into a trance-like state, Shamans are regarded as having access to, and influence upon, the world of both benevolent and malevolent spirits and are able to perform divination and healing.
Shamans are said to enter supernatural realms and dimension which in turn affects the human world.
While the word ‘Shaman’ is widely used, there is in fact no single agreed upon definition of the word amongst anthropologists. The 4 most commonly used definitions of the word are as follows:
- Anybody who contacts the spirit world during an altered state of consciousness.
- Anybody who contacts the spirit world during an altered state of consciousness at the order of others.
- Anybody who contacts the spirit world through the use of Shamanic practices, thereby distinguishing Shamans from other magico-religious specialists such as mediums, witch doctors, and spiritual healers.
- Referring to the indigenous religions of Siberia and neighbouring parts of Asia.
How Shamans Are Initiated
It is believed amongst practitioners that Shamans are called upon through dreams or signs, but it’s possible that Shamanic powers may be inherited.
In societies in which Shamanism is practiced, the training and initiation of Shamans vary in length, but typically takes years – fortunately it doesn’t take this long to master online slots real money Canada!
There is also a phenomenon known as ‘shamanistic initiatory crisis’ in which Shamans-to-be commonly undergo physical or emotional distress brought on by illness or traumatic events.
This distress typically pushes them to the brink of death and this wounded healer is an archetype for the shamanic trial and journey.
The Roles of Shamans in Communities
Shamans are said to gain knowledge and power by entering into the spiritual world as they typically have dreams or visions which convey messages.
Within their culture and communities, Shamans act as mediators and commune with the spirits on behalf of the community, including the spirits of the deceased.
Not only do Shamans communicate with both the living and the dead in order to ease unrest, but also to deliver gifts to the spirits, heal the living, and preserve traditions through storytelling and song.
The Beliefs of Shamans
While there are many variations of Shamanism throughout the world, the study of their beliefs revealed common elements which are shared by all forms.
The common beliefs are as follows:
- Spirits play an essential role in the lives of individuals and human society as a whole.
- Shamans are able to communicate with the spirit world.
- Spirits can be good (benevolent) or bad (malevolent).
- Shamans are able to heal the sicknesses caused by bad spirits.
- Shamans are able to enter a trance-like state in order to go on vision quests.
- Shamans conjure animal images as omens, message-bearers, and spirit guides.
- Shamans are able to perform divination and may foresee future events.