shamanism overview

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  • 8/2/2019 Shamanism Overview


    Shamanism - Overview

    By Carla Goddard

    This is only a general overview of shamanism. This is only to familiarize you with the

    some of the guidelines and terms used in the both traditional and contemporaryshamanic experiences.

    Shaman is one of the few spiritual paths that has remained relatively unchangedthrough the centuries. While many spiritual paths have evolved into the many practicesof neo-pagan groups and Christian frequency religions, Shamanism has outlasted thetest of time which leads to its continued popularity. There is no way for any website orbook to translate the necessary training nor experience of Shamanism. One must studywith a teacher or Master to truly have the shamanic ecstasy referred to.

    What is shamanic ecstasy? The word itself comes from a Greek term ekstasis meaning tobe placed outside. This is a state of joy that transcends the ability to describe in words. Itliterally means to enter a form of trance or state of consciousness that allows theshaman to journey to stand outside of themselves. During the state of this Shamanicecstasy a Shaman is journeying to engage in a soul retrieve, to guide the soul or thedead, to divine answers or to add their personal knowledge by associating with higherbeings.

    The Shaman may also enter a state that is for pure Prophetical purposes during thisjourney. This form of Divination is seen many times during the workings of John theBaptist. It is a seer ship that is entered in which they are retrieving certain informationin regards to the events of the future.

    The last state we will discuss is the state of Mystical journey. This is when the Shamanenters a state of consciousness to become closer with the Divine Masters. This state oftrance is usually done through the use of mantras and tends to bring a greater or higherlevel of spiritual understanding and awareness. Many Shaman use meditation,contemplation, visualization or spiritual concentration as well as mantras to reach thisstate. This is a state of consciousness that allows the out of body journeys so oftenreferred to by contemporary Shamanic journeys. They invoke physiological, emotionaland intuitive responses. On the physiological response the body will exhibit aninvoluntary response related to being electrically charged. The emotions of the Shamancan run a gauntlet of feelings and emotions that can range from complete overwhelmingjoy to a shocking fear. The mind and body completely blend together allowing the an

    expanded state of consciousness for greater awareness.

    It is important to note that this is not the same state of consciousness that is referred toas astral projection or transcendental meditation that is so popular in today's New Agegroups.

    A traditional Shaman is one who is associated with a group or tribe of gathering orhunting peoples. This can be anything from Native Americans to the aborigine groups of

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    South America. It is not to say that a contemporary Shaman of today that followstraditional practices lives in the middle of the forest by themselves or in a tribe. It doeshowever imply that every Shaman I have met is involved / participates on some level wita society of traditional nature and engage with training within this tribe. For the mostpart, these societies will not train one who is not part of their own tribe. In certain cases,

    this has happened; however, it is the exception not the rule.

    There are modern neo-Shamans who practice principles of Shamanism but have notengaged in the traditional initiations and training of Shamanism. Does this make themless of Shaman's? No. In all Shamanic cultures the basis of a Shaman is a healer andspiritual consultant. Although in many cultures they also have other roles in which theyparticipate such as priest, the primary role of a Shaman always has been the interactionof the people and the Spirit World to enlighten and heal.

    By definition, a Shaman is a person who can enter the described state of consciousnessat will.

    Shamanism is considered by many as the oldest form of spiritual practice. It doespredate all known religions. It is important to understand that Shamanism is not areligion in itself. It is simply a set of beliefs, behaviors and guidelines followed by aselect few. These beliefs and practices allow the Shaman to obtain informationunavailable to others, heal, retrieve souls and seek ancestor guidance. As stated, it is inits traditional form nearly unchanged over the centuries. The best description I haveheard is from Tom Cowan's book Shamanism: As a Spiritual Practice for Daily Life,Shamanism "...draws upon what is best in our society while it reforms those areasharmful to the human spirit and the health of the planet."

    The word Shaman is from the Tungus word to mean "to know". Tungus are a tribe

    located in the Altai Mountains in Siberia. In the Tungus language the word means a wayof life, experience and belief. There are some who say that the word came from a Tibetanword samana which is the word for Buddhist monk. The word is, in relative comparison,a word. The derivative of the word is insignificant as the definition remains the same inevery debate. It has come to represent a variety of persons from Witchdoctors, medicinemen, diviners and healers. The Shaman may go by a variety of names in these varioustraditions, but all practice nearly identical techniques. From the Angakok's of theEskimos to the Geilt of the Celtics, they are persons who have the ability to reach thehidden truth accessible only by journey to the Otherworld.

    What is Shamanism really? It is not a person, it is not a religious path, it is not a

    spiritual calling. Shamanism is a avocation. The ability to reach the altered state ofconsciousness in journey upon stated will is what makes a shaman a shaman. It is whatdefines the term.

    There are two primary ways of becoming a Shaman.

    Hereditary. Literally having a Shaman in the family. This never happens in neo-shamans.

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    The receiving of the Call. This is being appointed by the tribe or choosing to do so ofyour own free will. The self taught, self made Shaman is never as powerful as theappointed tribal Shaman or the hereditary Shaman.

    What is receiving the call? The first is being appointed. The Shaman is selected as an

    apprentice from an early age because of some difference in personality. A solitudeseeker or some sort of fit that causes a mental unbalance. This is not the same thing as amental disorder that is often confused in modern times with epilepsy. The Call is simplya temporary moment of a shift of consciousness unfamiliar to the person. In many casesit comes with other patterns such as being attacked by an animal, struck by lightning ora near death experience. It is common for a hereditary Shaman to receive this call froman ancestral Shaman relative to indicate it is their time.

    A personal choice is a conscious decision that a person makes to study the beliefs andpractices of the Shaman. For most this self appointed Shaman will remain less powerfuland less likely to experience the state of communication with the Otherworld ascompared to the appointed or hereditary Shaman. This is the path that most neo-Shamans follow.

    The traditional apprentice of the Shaman will follow a oral teachings of their ancestrallineage or from their tribal leader. This training can happen in two different methods.One is an ecstatic method which is training through vision and dream. This training isdone by the ancestral guide or spirit guide and involves a definite initiation into theOtherworld. No book or article can exchange this information or even come close todescribing the experience. The second method is traditional training by a currentShaman or tribal elder. This is the typical training of today's Shaman.The neo-Shaman training of engaging in reading how to books or attending a seminarshould only be the journey to lead to a teacher qualified to teach the practice and beliefs.

    The initiation of the Shaman is a phenomenon that is so involved that it has been knownto cause death or permanent disability. In some traditions organs are actually removedand replaced with a crystal or other object. Many do not survive the initiation process. Itis said the reasoning for the physical initiation first is to ensure the readiness andworthiness of the Shaman. This is only the first part of the process. The second is theinitiation into the Otherworld. This is a initiatory dream or vision that includes aritualistic death that last three days. In many cases it has been described as the Shamanbeing dismembered and reconstructed by the Divine.

    Many in the neo-Shamanic belief reproduce this experience through meditation ordrugs. It is vital to understand that in no way does the use of drugs have any place in

    traditional Shamanic belief, ritual or initiation. That is not considered shiftingconsciousness at will by traditional Shaman, but rather the manipulation of free will.The initiation of Shamans regardless of process will have a common theme. The Shamanwill have a ritual dismemberment of the body and the replacement of organs withanother matter such as crystals. It will include time alone in the wilderness, beingsymbolically dead, symbolically descending into the Spirit world through a self inducedtrance, a following of training ending with the rite of passage through torture. It is not ajoyous easy process that is related by some neo-Shamanic groups. It is not a walking

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    into a bright light and a feeling of joyous release. It is filled with highly ritu