Shaman: Myth and Fact
The beating of drums as chants are sung and danced out around the fire echoes through the night. Maidens and warriors alike join in the celebration of the hunt. The blind crone shakes her rattle in time with the pounding of the feet that surround her as she offers up her thanks to Mother Earth and Father Sky. The howl of the wolf in the distance is an answering tune, hauntingly beautiful. These may be some of the images that are conjured when the word “Shaman” comes up.
Shamanism has long been associated with the Native American people however, many indigenous cultures have a shamanic healer amongst their tribe. "The word shaman originates from the Tungus tribe in Siberia. Anthropologists coined this term and have used it to refer to the spiritual and ceremonial leaders among indigenous cultures worldwide. The word shamanism
can be used to describe the ancient spiritual practices of these indigenous cultures. Clearly, the countless similarities between various ancient traditions played a role in the continual generalization of the word." -from Dance of the Deer Foundation. The Shaman or "Medicine Man or Woman" is typically revered and holds a high place with the elders of the tribe. Shamanism is shrouded in mysticism so let’s look at the myths and facts related to this practice and learn what it is to feel the Call of the Shaman.
Myth: Shamanism is akin to witchcraft and Paganism.
Fact: Shamanism is a healing tradition that holds no religious ties to specific deities and no
spells are performed. Shamans do work closely with Spirit and spiritual energies such as animal spirit medicine. Shamans direct these spirits or spiritual energies into the physical world, for healing or other purposes.
Myth: Shamans use drugs like peyote to have their visions.
Fact: “Shamanism is a practice that involves a practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to perceive and interact with what they believe to be a spirit world and channel these transcendental energies into this world.” from Wikipedia. Most journey work is done through simple meditation techniques and not the use of mind-altering substances. Shamans are people that have the natural ability to “walk between worlds”.
Myth: Only indigenous people can be shamans.
Fact: Being a shaman is a calling. It is an awakening to the other orders of reality and an opening up to the visionary realms that form the essence of Shamanic vision. If a Caucasian American female feels The Call to learn and practice the shamanic path, then so be it. This is a contract between the soul and Spirit.
Myth: The tribe chooses the shaman.
Fact: In some cultures, the shaman is chosen through lineage. In other cultures, it is through specific external signs and proclamations of what those signs mean. Shamanistic cultures are incredibly diverse and there is no single way a shaman is identified. Shamans are also awakening outside of the indigenous tribes and showing up in modern-day suburbia. They are seeking out teachers and mentors to help them answer The Call and walk the Medicine Wheel.
Myth: Shamans shouldn’t charge a fee.
Fact: Shamans are performing a service to another, so exchanging money, goods, or a trade of services is entirely acceptable.
Myth: Modern shamanism is a career choice.
Fact: Shamanism, “as expressed through a universal archetypal soul expression”, is not a career choice; it is a calling from Spirit. Shamans are defined by specific experiences and through specific signs. These signs can be culturally defined or through personal investigation, but they are essential for defining a shaman as a specific type of healer who works in specific ways.
Through the ages, the practice of Shamanism has remained vital. Shamans not only work to heal individuals but also the community and the land. Do you feel The Call of the Shaman?