What is a Shaman, and What Does a Shaman Do?

Shaman in the tranceBy Ishtar Babilu Dingir

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 completely underground by the Roman Emperor Constantine in the 4th century CE where it remained hidden, until the last decade or so.

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 or she 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-þairl
Ukrainian female shaman — Znakharka
Voodoo female shaman — Mambo
West African spirits — Kontomblé

So how can a shaman help you?

There are lots of  different sorts of healing that shamans do.

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.

Shamans also teach others to contact the spirits, to get their own self-empowering guidance and healing.

In addition, a shaman can help you reclaim your power after it has been stolen from you, and also soul retrieval, in other words, finding and returning a lost soul fragment to you, after it got lost or was stolen.

Some shamans are trained in controlling the weather, others work with the spirits of the Land to support fertility, and others are psychopomps that guide the souls of the dead to their next destination.

In other words, there are many different way of helping and healing available to the shaman or shamanic healer, and you would need to have a consultation with one to discover which therapy would be best for you.


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4 comments

  1. Pingback: How shamanic healing is ultimately about self-empowerment | The Therapy Book
  2. Pingback: Can LSD ease our fear of death? First scientific study in 40 years shows positive results | The Therapy Book

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