Shamanic Practitioner or Shaman?
In terms of definition, there isn’t much difference between calling yourself a shaman or a shamanic practitioner. (Unless your talking about web search results.*)
As I mention in the Shaman Link’s page on Shaman Names, not everyone chooses to call themselves a Shaman. However, some healers will only call themselves shamanic practitioner*, and avoid the word shaman.
So is there a reason that some people call themselves shamanic practitioners?
The answer for most cases is: Out of respect.
You can only be a shaman if the spirits support you. Some people believe that a healer can never call himself a shaman. The people being healed can decide to call their healer a shaman, and the spirits can decide.
In some ways this is true. In a very real sense, the choice about whether to be a shaman or not is out of an individual’s hands. Shamans can only heal through the energy that is given to them by the spirit world, and they don’t get to decide if the spirit world will offer that or not.
Choosing a Title
However, for healers in our time and place, its still necessary to call yourself something. You might need to make a website, or try to explain to other people what type of healing you do. At that point whether you call yourself a shaman or a shamanic practitioner may be more of an academic one. However, for those people who choose to call themselves a shamanic practitioner it is out of respect for the fact that the healing is in the hands of the spirit world.
Now, that doesn’t mean that a person who does call themselves a shaman is being disrespectful. There are many valid and authentic reasons to use the word shaman instead of shamanic practitioner. Perhaps that particular healer suffered from seeing himself as “less than” other people. Perhaps calling himself a shaman is a way of moving past that. For some, it may be a way of telling the spirit world “I have committed to this job.”
The Right Shamanic Name
In the end what the healer calls themselves has to do two things:
- It has to allow others to know what healing will be offered if you come to them.
- Selecting a title is a means of thoughtful reflection.
It answers the question: “Does this title embody the work I do and allow me to embody the work in turn?” It is a way of coming to learn and to understand the work the healer is meant to do.
The title is informative for others, but in some ways unimportant because it is the work itself that is important. As long as the healer has selected a title in a way that is thoughtful and genuine, that is what really matters.
*Note on web searches: Using the term shaman or shamanic practitioner can change the search results you see in some regions of the country. Its worth searching both terms.
In terms of respect I think it would be more disrespectful for someone to forbid another person to use a word to describe themselves than it is disrespectful for someone to describe themselves with a word that did not fully originate within the culture that they are part of. Don’t forget the English language is full of all sorts of a words originating from a massive variety of cultures and had we had a word at the time of adopting the word that meant the same as Shaman we would not have adopted the word. If I were to call myself a “shamanic practitioner” it would feel like I am only a shaman when explicitly practising it, but for me it is my entire being. It is who I am, not only what I do.
I really appreciate this very thoughtful commentary on the debate about terminology. I was calling myself a shaman before I realized it was a controversial topic, namely for the purposes of conveying what I do in the simplest terms possible. It has given me much to chew on, however…will need to check with Spirit on this front! (:
As a shaman I call myself one…. easy as that no dribble about why or why not. When asked what I do I just say I’m a shaman like a man that works with electricity says he’s an electrician or one that works with wood a carpenter.
I am a shaman… easy said easy done. If people would like to speak to me more about I discuss it further otherwise just move along…. I once said I was a shaman and he said that I wasn’t because I called myself one which made no sense to me. What was I to call myself then the boogieman?
I think where the identity crisis is with women… they are shamanas. Drop the whole practitioner thing…. If you are a shaman or shamana — it is what it is. And then live it out…
I think one day the shamans and shamanas will be more recognized at earlier ages then we have today but we are just regathering ourselves and coming out of a time where the recognition was not heard of and made to be forgotten.
If you are shaman or shamana it’s ok to say shaman/shamana especially when speaking to others that are looking for one or are in need of healing and or ceremony.
For much tooo long we were just called nuts… no longer! We have awoken to who who we are and in this time of being take ownership again of the energy that is titled and belongs to the peoples that too are in need to know who we are.
Walks With A Dream
I call myself a Shamanic Practitioner out of respect for indigenous healers who have grown up within a paradigm of shamanism. I am anglo but have the honor of being guided on the spiritual Red Road of the Lakota. But as non-indigenous there will always be a cultural gap, a deep place I cannot go and I am always conscious of walking the edge of cultural appropriation.
I use the term “shamanic” to denote the techniques I use to help people access the healing power of their minds. (I’m Harner trained. I’m also a Peer Support Worker, so I can relate to Peter’s feeling of stigma). Unfortunately, the word has become so New Age La Di Da, –heck, I’ve even heard it used more than once as a pick-up line– that I really cringe at hearing it anymore.
My grandmother was Potawatami from Wisconsin, my mother was an earth shaman, I have walked in other worlds all my life. I studied with 4winds and went to Ireland and studied Celtic shamanism, I have been working as a healer for 47 + years but I still call myself shamanic practitioner, out of respect for those who live in tribal nations. I am a shaman but I think those who learn today are sometimes run through “shaman” schools ie. 4 winds etc and they have no innate talent. If you can’t really communicate with the spirit world you can’t be a shaman.
Schools are cranking out what native Americans, call plastic shaman.
I agree with Susan. I have had several personal teachers that I have learned from. And although I have a natural gift, I prefer to refer to myself as a Shamanic Practitioner out of respect for the people that have are trained in tribal settings. While one is not necessarily better than another, it is a matter of respect for the elders that have walked this path before me. Also, the term Shaman, was used by the Siberians. Medicine people is a term used more often by American Indians. I want to be as accurate in terminology as possible so I don’t mislead anyone.
How is it known that the spirit will be willing to work along side of someone and that someone is exceped by the spirits?
In some society, it is the elders who recognize signals that the spirits have accepted and wish to work with someone. However, in societies without such elders, completing a shamanic journey with a drum can be the best way. First you start with of asking for protection from your guardian spirits, asking them to surround you and protect you, these may be like guardian angels or the wise and loving ancestors. Then you go on a journey to make contact with a helping spirit that can answer your question.