‘Inglakesh’…’Namaste’… This may sound like gibberish to you, but these words are some very special types of greetings. 

The Mayans say In Lak’ech’ meaning “I am another yourself”. The Tibetans say ’Namaste’, which translates into “The Spirit in me salutes the Spirit in you” or “I bow to the God within you”.  

Man Shaman

Wouldn’t it be lovely if we all said hello this way? These cultures that are based on shamanistic practices, recognize the spirit in everyone and the connection with others.     

We think it’s about time we set the record straight! At Clinical Shaman, it is our mission to give you the best information about this once-mysterious practice. 

Various studies show that shamanism and shamanic healing have been around from 12,000 – 30,000 years, with Paleolithic cultures showing evidence of shamanic practice. 

According to John Matthews in The Celtic Shaman, because shamanic practices are spiritual beliefs, instead of a religious system, it cuts across all faith and creeds. It is a primal belief system that precedes modern established religions.

But enough about the past; let’s bring this spiritual practice into 2021.

Many people are becoming disillusioned with the fast-paced, artificial lifestyle they live. They are looking for a way to reconnect with nature, and the shamanic way of life has been proved to be a fulfilling option. 

If you feel you would like to follow this path of healing and learn how this power can help you as a shamanic practitioner or healer, read on!  

Who Is a Shaman? 

Academically, the name “shaman” is applied to healers and religious leaders in indigenous cultures. They hold positions of power in the community and enter trance states to benefit individuals in the community.   

The word shamanism is derived from the Manchu-Tungus tribe’s word šaman, meaning “one who knows.” 

Said to be founded in Siberia, the prehistoric religion does not worship any god or deities, neither does it have places of worship or holy scriptures. 

Shamans of old focused on the spiritual connection to something higher than oneself and desired to reach a state of higher consciousness. 

In this modern, digitally connected world, the definition of a shaman has evolved. There are approximately eight to nine million people who practice shamanism worldwide, and it has become widely popularized. 

There are five key features that should be included in defining a shaman:

  1. Shamans can voluntarily enter altered states of human consciousness.
  2. Shamans can leave their bodies and journey to other realms.
  3. They use these journeys to acquire knowledge to help their communities.
  4. Shamans can openly interact with spirits. 
  5. They can contact a normally hidden reality. 

Some people may be predisposed to these abilities to a certain level, but true shamans need to learn how to harness these skills. 

The Making of a Shaman

Although one can go through some training to become a shaman, many believe shamanism is a calling. 

According to Alberto Villoldo, “Shamanism is not a course, but a life journey.” And that begs the question, how do you become a shaman?

Dr. Roger Walsh, author of The World of Shamanism, says the traditional ways of becoming a shaman involves the initial call, initiation crisis, training, and culmination. 

Take a look at these three phases:

The Initial Call

The call to shamanism usually begins with some type of omen that comes in many forms. Often during adolescence and early childhood, a would-be shaman may:

  • Develop a striking physical feature,
  • Develop epilepsy or a similar illness,
  • Have an unexpected recovery from a severe illness, 
  • Dream about spirits or deceased relatives,
  • Experience a call during a vision quest, or
  • Have a near-death experience.    

Some people may try to decline this call, but many shamanic tribes believe that refusal can result in physical and mental illnesses or death. 

Not everyone wants to defer this decision to a spiritual call. Anyone can technically declare themselves shamanic practitioners through “buying knowledge.” This has rapidly gained popularity in the Western world. A weekend workshop or a few days of training can turn thousands of students into certified shaman practitioners and healers.  This is occurring at alarming rates and is concerning, to say the least.

The Initiation Crisis

Shaman Fire

The initial call can sometimes be ignored, but the shamanic initiation crisis is life-shattering. It is often characterized by disturbing psychological experiences. Some include heightened perception and sensitivity and often involve more dangerous behaviors that can last from a few days to years. 

In Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, Mircea Eliade describes this crisis as “sicknesses, attacks, dreams, and hallucinations that determine a shaman’s career in a very short time…”

Eliade goes on to say that the candidate will exhibit certain behaviors that in the modern world could be seen as evidence of psychopathology, including:

  • excess sleep,
  • absent-mindedness,
  • prophetic dreams,
  • extreme solitude, and, 
  • seizures.   

This psychological disturbance eventually leaves the individual, and Eliade adds that a shaman “is not only a sick man, he is a sick man who has been cured, who has succeeded in curing himself.” 

To look at this in a larger context, Plato said, “…in reality the greatest blessings come by way of madness, indeed of madness that is heaven-sent.”

Training

So, once the initial call is answered and the crisis overcome, then training can begin. This is the stage where students work to face their fears, increase endurance and concentration, and eliminate cravings. 

Master shamans teach apprentices various aspects of shamanism, such as cosmology, rituals, myths, and shamanic culture. Internally, they learn to interpret dreams and either battle or befriend spirits.

Culmination

This is the final step on the path to becoming a shaman. Two common signs that the quest is complete are experiences of light and those of death-rebirth.  

Light

An experience of light, commonly referred to as “enlightenment,” can be defined as being filled with an inner light and is often a result of long periods of concentration and meditation. 

Death-Rebirth

Many shamanic cultures and religions believe that followers must have a confrontation with death – both in the physical world and death of the ego. This represents the death of the old self to create a new identity that is in line with their new belief system. 

This is also evident in many religions, such as Christianity when converts are said to be “born again.” 

For shamans, the process of death and rebirth is taken as the destruction and reconstruction of their physical bodies. The practitioner may experience visions of physical torture, dismemberment, death, and decay. 

After this destruction of the self, reconstruction happens through a healthy mind free of limiting habits and patterns. During this period, shamans experience visions of birth and spirits reconstructing the body. 

Shamanic practitioners, on the other hand, do not necessarily undergo these intense mental and emotional processes. So, there is a distinction between those called to be shamans and shamanic practitioners. But what exactly is the difference? 

Difference Between a Shaman and Shamanic Practitioner

Vision Quest

A shaman’s healing capabilities are only possible because of their interactions with nature and the spirit world. It is a title ordained by the spirits to make them authentic healers, and the belief is that someone cannot call themselves a shaman without being called by the spirits and undergoing the traditional process.

Sometimes, it might not be optional to be a shaman. The sacred title can be passed down through generations, and one cannot stop the call of the spirits. As we mentioned before, some consider it a prerequisite for shamans to have to go through a near-death experience to be chosen by their ancestors. 

Shamans usually have tribal connections, having grown up in tribal communities that follow the traditional shamanic way of life. They usually live in a rural area in an environmental setting that is in line with their ancestral history. Most importantly, they first spend years as apprentices to a master shaman teacher

Shamanic practitioners are people who become shamans but may not have gone through the traditional apprenticeship. However, they are skilled ceremonialists and teachers and actively engage in shamanism. 

They often live in urban areas while also spreading the practice as a viable world view. 

Out of respect for the practice, they do not call themselves shamans but instead, refer to themselves as shamanic practitioners. 

Can Shamanic Tools Be Practiced Clinically?

In a small hospital in California, you are likely to come across shamans in the hallways, complete with badges and uniforms. 

Previously, the non-native Vietnamese Hmong dwellers struggled to communicate with their doctors, and this often resulted in situations spiraling into emergencies. 

Anne Fadiman wrote a book about the effects of miscommunication in the community and the hospital. Just after the release of the book, a major Hmong leader was hospitalized but was deemed to be too ill to save. 

His wife and a nurse requested for a shaman to be allowed to perform a ceremony, and upon finishing, the elder began to recover. 

Mercy Medical Center now encourages shamans to visit their patients, within hospital policies. 

By combining the ritual and ceremonies used to heal souls with modern technology, the benefits have been exponential. 

This is one of the more dramatic way tools used in shamanic practice have been successfully integrated into modern medicine. But what does this mean for you? 

According to a study by the American Journal of Public Health, there could be a correlation between psychotherapy and shamanic practice. 

This can help a psychotherapist or counselor with training in shamanic energy medicine use shamanic techniques in their practice

Strategies such as hypnosis, behavior modification, and cognitive restructuring can be used by shamanic practitioners in a clinical setting. 

What Healing Abilities Do Shamans Have?  

Buffalo

Shamans sometimes need to go on a shamanic journey, also known as a “soul flight,” where they enter into a trance-like state. 

Some scholars state that shamans are unique from mediums in that they actively seek out souls and can be defined as “one whose soul ascends to the sky or descends to the underworld.” 

Others note that many cultures in Siberia and North America do not leave their bodies but wait for the spirits to arrive. This form of classical shamanism that involves spirit possession includes physiological phenomena such as convulsions, yells, and uncontrollable motor directions.   

Regardless, being able to enter a visitation trance is key for fulfilling the purpose of shamanic healing. This gives shamans the ability to retrieve a soul or communicate with animal spirits. 

Native American cultures believe that people go into a type of shamanic journey in their dreams, and their souls leave the body to explore other worlds. 

This unconscious journey into the spirit world also happens during traumatic experiences as a form of protection. Few people can do this at will, and this is where a shamanic training program comes in. 

For healing purposes, a shaman works with helper spirits to repair a soul and hopefully heal the individual on a physical level. 

Anyone who has faced life-altering trauma may have lost part of their soul. There could be damage to their spiritual forcefield and can lead to depression, bad luck, and physical or mental illness. 

In an interview with a Mayan day counter, Bob Makransky wrote about two types of spirits that humans possess: the pixan and the ool

The pixan is the forever soul that lives and comes back during reincarnations in different physical forms. The ool is the life force, or human soul, and is similar to the Chinese concept of Chi.

According to the day counter, after a traumatic experience, the ool can leave the body or be weakened, and this causes illnesses. 

The void that the ool leaves behind can be filled by another soul, making the person depressed and often angry. This is called “soul loss,” and according to the shaman, can be linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Ceremonies for soul retrieval using offerings such as candles, resins, sugar, liquor, and tree bark may form part of the healing rituals. 

Some people may be able to coax their ool back into their bodies, but it is better to have help from someone trained in the aspects of the spiritual world.

Another aspect of shamanic healing practices is the retrieval of lost spirit animals. Also known as power or totem animals, everyone has a companion by their side that protects them from danger. If your spirit animal disappears, you will be prone to illness and bad luck. 

There may also be wounds and challenges passed on to you by your ancestors. 

Christina Pratt who has spent over 30 years performing shamanic healing practices, also says that using shamanic healing work can heal the unhealthy patterns in your life that may be caused by those ancestral wounds. 

What Is the Next Step for Shamanic Practitioners?

Clinical Shaman helps members step into their calling as shamanic practitioners and overcome the stigma associated with shamanism.  

We teach you to integrate shamanistic practices and knowledge into your everyday life. Join our Shamanism Membership and be a part of this thriving community.

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  • About Angie

Angie Ates is a Public Speaker, Natural Health Practitioner, Trainer, and Culture Creator Dedicated to Empowering others. She achieves this through education, whether via speaking, training, or hands-on Shamanic work.

International Speaker and a Trainer

Angie is an International speaker and has trained over 10K Practitioners worldwide. She has worked with over 5k clients internationally and is featured in over 200 natural health training videos.