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What is Shamanism?


Modern day shamanic practitioners stand in the shadows of ancient shamen world-wide, experiencing the timeless travel of Spirit and accessing higher awareness by transcending OR (ORDINARY REALITY) into SSC (Shamanic State of Consciousness). SSC can be reached through a variety of means—drumming, singing, breath work, movement, aroma, travel to sacred places, meditation, hallucinagins, and many others. The practiced shaman, sometimes referred to as "a hollow bone", can reach states of SSC at will. At this point the shaman becomes an extremely powerful healer and transformer of events.

For more than 30,000 years shamans have been practicing this ancient form of Spiritual contact to assist in the healing of their tribes. From Iceland to South America, from Australia to the American Southwest, the shaman has transcended time and space to travel a scared journey on behalf of those seeking help.

With the rise of the Scientific Age, as man has moved away from his deeper connection with Spirit to explore and develop the left brain powers of reason, the role of the shaman in western cultures became devalued, mistrusted, and misunderstood, (but not forgotten by those whose problems could not be addressed by physical sciences). Hopefully in the future, a balance will be found between the left/right brain, OR/SSC, reason/feeling aspects of being human. Both are extremely valuable assets for creating a more wonderful, safe, secure and happy world.

But just what, or who is a shaman?

The shaman was the original artist, dancer, musician, singer, dramatist, intellectual, poet, bard, ambassador, advisor of chiefs and kings, entertainer, actor and clown, healer, stage magician, juggler, folksinger, weatherman, culture hero and trickster-transformer. Add scientist to this list of talents, as much of the medical knowledge represented in modern pharmaceuticals results from the work of these ancient herbalists and innovators.

What is the difference between a shaman and a medicine man?

A medicine man (or woman) can be a shaman, but only those individuals who are able to access alternate states of consciousness at will, can be considered a shaman. Although our society has separated the shaman's role into many professions, it is this ability to access alternate states of consciousness that sets the ancient and the contemporary shaman apart from all others. While the ancient shaman may have assisted tribal members with every nature of illness, or in locating wandering herds of bison for a hunting party, the modern shaman's journey is not much different. Our needs may have changed somewhat, but the methods used to transcend space and time, have not.

Becoming "A Hollow Bone".

It is important to mention at this point that the shaman does not "own" the power that comes through him or her. A shaman merely acts as a hollow bone to allow the power of Great Mystery-our Creator-to come through the body and manifest in this reality. By working with allies, spirit guides and teachers, and with the help of Great Mystery, the shaman brings healing energies from the Spirit World through space and time, to heal real problems in this world.

Today's shamanic practitioner will assist those who have lost personal power, or those with illness, by helping them regain their personal strength through a variety of methods including (but not limited to) power animal retrieval, soul retrieval, or extraction. The shaman will look for a spiritual cause behind an illness or problem and with the assistance of spirit helpers, determine the best course of action to affect a cure. For those nearing death, or with a great fear of death, the shamanic practitioner can assist them in their passage, providing great comfort to the client and their family. Shamanic practitioners are even called in to perform psycho-pomp work in homes or other locations where spirits who have passed still linger.

How do you become a shaman?

An ancient shaman once said that "you become a shaman once you are given one thousand songs"…these songs come from those that we contact on our journeys. For most, this is a calling of sort; there are many individual and cultural variations on the path to becoming a shaman. Perhaps from a vision quest or as a climax to a serious illness, or a near-death experience; any of these may have led to an altered state of consciousness. Such a radically profound and revelatory experience often encourages the individual to take up the path of shaman. Throughout time the shaman has been known as the wounded healer due to life-changing experiences that bring visions of change.


Around the world many methods are used to access the Spirit World through an altered state of consciousness. Some cultures use hallucinogenic herbs such as Peyote or Ayahuasca, while others might utilize days of fasting and purification ceremonies to induce the trance-like state, yet all retain one common feature-the repetitive sound of a rattle or drum. The age-old tradition of using the drum or rattle to enter a shamanic consciousness is the basic method of transcending normal waking consciousness, or Ordinary Reality (OR) and entering an Altered State of Reality, also known as the Shamanic State of Consciousness (SSC). While some tribal cultures still utilize mind-altering drugs or hallucinogenic herbs, this is not a necessary element of shamanism, but the sound of the drum (or rattle) is NOT optional. Siberian and other shamans sometimes refer to their drum as a Horse or Canoe that transports them into the Lower world or Upper world. The steady, monotonous beat of the drum acts like a carrier wave, first to help the shaman enter the SSC, and then to sustain him on his Journey.


Laboratory research has demonstrated that drumming produces changes in the central nervous system. The rhythmic stimulation affects the electrical activity in many sensory and motor areas of the brain not normally affected through their connections with the sensory area being stimulated. The drumbeat moves the brain to a theta wave EEG frequency range. The theta state is the most effective in producing a trance-like state, or SSC. While in this SSC the shamanic practitioner will meet with spirit guides and power animals during the journey on behalf of the seeker.

Working within a drumming circle, shamanic practitioners multiply their power to heal. Many drumming circles are in place around the world. They are working toward the common goal of creating peace and harmony among all people. Some work on a local level, some regional or international depending on the scope of their circle.  Visit my website at Ceremonial Circles to learn more about this work.

What is a SHAMANIC journey?

A journey is a method of moving from Ordinary Reality (OR) into a Shamanic State of Consciousness (SSC) via a rythmic drumbeat and perhaps a tunnel or hole in the ground, as seen through the mind's eye. The Shaman goes through the hole, traveling through the tunnel until emerging on the other side. This might be in the Lower, Middle or Upper World depending on who the shaman desires to encounter. The shaman will journey on behalf of a client to seek a cure for almost any ailment of body, mind, or spirit. Once the shaman has met with spirit(s) guides and been given information, the shaman will return to OR and present a solution in some physical way to the client. 

Read more about this on the Information Page.

How is the shamanic journey used in today's world?

The shaman looks for the spiritual problem behind the client's problem in OR. The client could be experiencing the feeling of hopelessness and despair, physical illness, confusion, powerlessness, or just feeling lethargic or frightened for no explainable reason. The medical establishment may not be able to find a cause or a cure.  The shaman will journey for a client to try to determine another course of action.

  • If the problem is an imbalance, the shaman might be led to bring back a client's power animals, and teach the client how to work with them to restore different kinds of power and balance to their life.
  • If the problem is a fragmented soul (soul loss), this could require soul retrieval, and preparing the client to receive back lost soul parts is a part of the shaman's duties.
  • If the client feels he is doing something not of his nature, the shaman's journey may show a need for an extraction. The shaman provides assistance by locating the "lost spirit" that has attached to the client, coaxing it from the "host" and sending it on th the Spirit World — thus bringing peace and healing to both.
  • Our culture leaves many people who are nearing death or who have a great fear of death alone and without comfort.  The shaman can lead such clients on a variety of journeys to familiarize them with death and life-after-death issues, thus relieving many fears.
  • Yet another portion of shamanic work is in connecting people with their ancestors.
  • Many shamanic practitioners work with the spirits of nature to help restore balance to Mother Earth. By learning how to transform personal and environmental pollution, and through the transmutation of negative beliefs, attitudes and energy, the earth can be restored to balance. On May 8, 2004 a world-wide medicine wheel ceremony was held with this purpose in mind. People gathered in medicine wheel ceremonies around the world to drum and sing spirit songs to help restore balance to our Mother Earth.  Join my Mailing List to be notified of future events of this nature.

Read more about these on my Services Page.  I am available to help anyone in need by phone or in person.  There is no charge for taking the first step to make that initial contact.

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