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.