Shamanism is a practice dating back thousands of years. Shamans, spiritual healers, were incredibly powerful amongst indigenous tribes.
Fast forward to today, and shamanism is still practiced across the world, with ancient traditions taking on new twists and turns, whilst staying true to the core beliefs of shamanism.
So how powerful is shamanism?
I wanted to find out more, so I got in touch with Brazilian shaman Rudá Iandé. He explained where the power of shamanism truly lies, but before we get to his response, we need to first understand the remarkable abilities of the shaman.
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What is the role of a shaman?
A shaman played numerous roles within their community.
As well as being a healer, both spiritually and for physical and psychological illnesses, a shaman also acted as a guide for the people.
They would hold rituals for the community and act as sacred intermediaries between the spirit and the human world.
They were trusted and respected members of their communities (and still are).
Traditionally, the role would have been inherited through the shaman’s ancestors, but that’s not always the case. People can be “called” to shamanism, even if they don’t have a family history of practicing it.
In either case, they will need to study, usually with the help of an experienced shaman, to gain experience and further understanding of shamanism and how they can help others.
So how do shamans heal people?
Well, this will vary depending on the country and culture of the shaman. Just across Asia, there are different practices within shamanism, yet the core beliefs are the same across shamanism around the world.
Generally, the shaman will diagnose the issue the person is facing. They might identify energy blocks or areas of tension in your body, and then they’ll work to restore balance within the patient.
People who have suffered trauma might need soul work, in which case the shaman will use their connection with the spiritual world to help heal the person.
The shaman will continue to guide and heal the patient until progress is made, sometimes entering into trance states to help them on their spiritual journey.
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In today’s world, people still turn to shamans, and in return, shamans have made shamanic healing more accessible, proving that shamanism is relevant for modern life.
Do shamans have special powers?
To be able to heal people, communicate with the spiritual world, even have the ability to manipulate the weather, there must be an element of magic or superpowers going on, right?
Truth be told, when I first heard of shamanism many years ago, I would have agreed (dubiously) that it all sounds quite “mystical”.
But as I’ve spent time trying to understand how shamanism works and how shamans use their abilities, I’ve come to a better understanding:
Shamans have a unique understanding of life. They do things many of us can’t do. They’re powerful, but not in the dominating way that we view power in today’s world.
Shamans are powerful in that they are continuing ancient traditions and beliefs, that work, and have worked for thousands of years. They’re powerful in their connection to the spiritual world, and their deep grounding with nature.
Yet their power isn’t imposing. It isn’t condescending, or forceful.
So where does the power of shamanism come from?
Shaman Iandê explains:
“Shamanism is as powerful as nature is. We are little cells of a bigger organism. This organism is our planet, Gaia.
“Yet, we humans created a different world, which moves in a frenetic rhythm, full of noise and propelled by anxiety. As a consequence, we feel disconnected from the Earth. We don’t feel it anymore. And not feeling our mother planet leaves us numb, empty, and purposeless.
“The shamanic path brings us back to the place where we and the planet are one. When you find the connection, you can feel life, and you can feel the whole extension of your being. Then you realize you are not alone. You realize that you belong to nature, and you feel the nurturing love of the planet pulsing in each of your cells.
“This is the power of Shamanism.”
This is a type of power that doesn’t need to control or coerce people to believe in its teachings.
And it can be seen in those who practice shamanism – a real shaman will never come to you and offer out his services.
If you need a spiritual healer, you’ll seek them out. And although they may accept payment for their services, a true shaman will never charge extortionate amounts or brag about their work.
Now, it’s natural to link the power shamanism has and let’s say, the power religion has. There’s no denying that religion has had a tremendous impact on shaping the world, whether you believe it to be for good or bad.
But in reality, the two are very different.
Let’s find out more:
What religion is shamanism associated with?
Shamanism is believed to be the oldest form of “spiritual” belief in the world.
But it’s not considered a religion or a part of any of the organized religions we know of today.
Shamanism isn’t written down in a holy book, there isn’t a prophet like in Abrahamic religions, and there’s no one sacred temple or place of worship.
Iandê explains that shamanism is about the individual path. There are no dogmas. No restrictions on what you believe, just the connection you have with Gaia.
And here’s where it gets even more interesting:
Shamanism doesn’t restrict you from following other spiritual or religious paths, so many shamans practice shamanism alongside their religion.
From Christian priests who perform shamanic rituals, to Sufi Muslims, who have a strong connection to the spiritual world and mysticism.
But the fact that shamanism and religion can be practiced together isn’t surprising.
Since shamanism is one of the oldest belief systems in the world, it’s only natural that it would have influences on many of the popular religions around today.
(To find out more, check out this recent article on whether shamanism accepts religion, according to the experts).
And its power hasn’t just reached through religion, shamanism continues to thrive in communities even in the Western world, which had long moved away from spirituality.
What is core shamanism?
If you want to know what shamanism in today’s western world looks like, core shamanism is it. You might also hear it referred to as “New Age Spirituality”.
The term “core shamanism” was coined by anthropologist and author Michael Harner Ph.D.
After studying shamanism extensively, he undertook shamanic training, traveling to different parts of the world to experience the ancient traditions.
He found the commonalities between all the tribal shamanic practices he encountered and put them together to introduce spiritual practices to Western culture. And thus, core shamanism was born.
So, is core shamanism different from traditional shamanism?
According to shaman Raven Kaldera, some elements differ. For example:
Core shamanism is open to anyone who wishes to practice it with sincere and genuine intentions. In contrast, traditional shamanism is open to those who have been accepted by the spirits.
In traditional shamanism, most shamans have experienced a near-death experience or life-threatening experience.
In core shamanism, that isn’t always the case. Core shamans will have probably experienced growth and changes in their life, but not always accompanied by an extreme life-altering situation.
Harner hopes that Western cultures, who lost their roots to shamanism a long time ago at the hand of religion, could rediscover spiritual healing.
And not just the type that involves going to a tribal healing session. A type of shamanism that can be incorporated into everyday lives and can reconnect people with the core beliefs of their ancient ancestors.
The truth is:
Shamanism continues to be a powerful belief with powerful effects on the individuals who go through shamanic healing.
It’s not in competition with science or medicine, but offers healing to what modern technology can’t touch; the soul, the core of our very being.
And now that healing can be accessed without having to travel to far parts of the globe, there’s no reason why everyone who wishes to can’t benefit from shamanic traditions.
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But that’s not all – the workshop also aims to help you discover your inner power. A true source of energy and life that most of us haven’t even scratched the surface of yet.
Because as Iandé mentioned, the power in shamanism is our connection to nature and the universe. But most importantly also about the connection that we have with ourselves.
Powerful facts about shamanism and shamans:
- The term shamanism comes from the word “šaman”, which comes from the Manchu-Tungus language (originating in Siberia). It means “to know”, therefore a shaman is “someone who knows.”
- In shamanism, both men and women can become shamans. In many indigenous tribes, gender was seen as a lot more fluid than it is now (although, that is changing in some parts of the western world). Indigenous shamans from Mapuche, Chile, for example, flow between genders, believing that gender comes from identity and spirituality rather than the sex they’re born with.
- Signs of shamanism being practiced date back some 20,000 years. Shamans could be found in Australia, Africa, the Americas, Asia, and even Europe. Despite the distance between them and the lack of cross-cultural movement between continents, there are incredible similarities in their beliefs and practices.
- Shamans treat illnesses by healing the soul. During shamanic rituals, they may call upon spirits to help them, or use herbal medicines or substances like ayahuasca to open the mind and cleanse the body.
I think it’s fair to say that shamanism certainly holds a place in societies both old and new – and I’m encouraged to see that the power shamans hold, for the most part, is practiced with sincerity and good intentions.
Because the truth is, shamanism is powerful.
It’s a way to reconnect with the world around us, to draw upon the beliefs and wisdom of people who didn’t have the technology but had the unique ability to heal and understand the world on a spiritual level.
And with it came the teaching that since there’s power in the universe, in the shared energy we all have, there’s sacred power within me and you too.