The word shaman originated from a word in Siberia and came to be applied to medicine men and women of indigenous cultures who’s practice includes the flight of the soul. Anthropologist studying indigenous cultures throughout the world, began to find that for different cultures, there were similarities in the way the medicine men and women worked with healing and connecting to the spiritual aspect of people and the world. While there were differences specific to culture, there were specific practices that could be found in most cultures. This is sometimes referred to as core-Shamanism – a phrase coined by Michael Harner.
Shamanism is the practice of these intrinsic techniques, either for healing or to gain spiritual knowledge. Shamanism must be studied within its cultures, including our contemporary ones. However, the foundations of shamanic practice do not change, nor have they changed since ancient times. Practice has adapted to fit the times or the culture.
Shamanism is not a religion, not unless you want to make it into one. It has been and is being practiced by peoples of many religions, from Christianity, to Judaism, to Hinduism. You will find shamanic practitioners of every faith.
So what then is shamanism?
It is a direct experience of spiritual knowledge. The direct experience comes through the techniques within shamanism which include shamanic journeying. Because of the direct nature of the work, it tends to facilitate growth in every religious faith. People will share shamanic experiences in groups, but the insight you gain from shamanic practice are unique to you.
Shamanism’s practices usually accompany the belief that everything in the world has a spirit and has wisdom to share. That is why you go on journeys, to communicate and find the wisdom that is within other living and non-living things. Through that experience practitioners of shamanism begin to feel and see they have interconnection to the world around them.
As a healing practice, shamanism has been very powerful for both the people of today and those reaching back into the beginnings of recorded history.
The reason that it is so powerful is because each healing is tailored to the needs of the individual being healed. Western medicine seeks to find one cure that works for many, if the number it helps is too small it isn’t offered at all. The shaman provides unique treatment, which holistically addresses what a person needs at this time.