Shamanism: What Is It?

There are many excellent discussions on shamanism available on the Web. Rather than duplicate their efforts, I’ve compiled an annotated resource list that represents what I feel is a solid overview on the subject.

First, a warning about the terms “shaman” and “shamanism.” The term shaman comes from the Tungus region of Siberia and denotes a traditional healer and practitioner of that region. Certain anthropologists, including kehoe.jpgAlice Kehoe in her book Shamans and Religion: An Anthropological Exploration in Critical Thinking, are highly critical of the term when used outside of its original context. Part of this criticism involves the notion of cultural appropriation. This includes criticism of New Age and modern Western forms of shamanism, which may not only misrepresent or dilute genuine indigenous practices but do so in a way that, according to Kehoe, reinforces subtly racist ideas such as the “Noble Savage.”

She makes the point that what popular writers and scholars of shamanism treat as being definitive of shamanism, most notably drumming, trance, chanting, the use of entheogens and hallucinogenics, spirit communication, and healing, are practices that (a) exist outside of what is defined as shamanism and play similar roles even in non-shamanic cultures, such as the role of chanting in Judeo-Christian rituals, and (b) are unique to each culture that uses them and cannot be generalized easily, accurately, or usefully into a global “religion” such as shamanism. Because of this, Kehoe is also highly critical of the notion that shamanism is an ancient, unchanged, and surviving religion from the Paleolithic era.

That said, I believe the “rediscovery” of shamanic practice is one of the most important spiritual developments of our era. It has been my path for most of my life, even though I didn’t have any language for it, and my concerted practice and field of study for nearly two decades now. And as kalweit1.jpgHolger Kalweit wrote in his excellent book Dreamtime and Inner Space:

Shamanism and similar areas of research have gained in significance because they postulate new ideas about mind and spirit. They speak of things like vastly expanding the realm of consciousness…the belief, the knowledge, and even the experience that our physical world of the senses is a mere illusion, a world of shadows, and that the three-dimensional tool we call our body serves only as a container or dwelling place for Something infinitely greater and more comprehensive than that body and which constitutes the matrix of the real life.

Getting a Handle on the Basics

I’ve found four FAQs or introductory articles about shamanism that I can recommend. Most others you’ll find are either perfectly wretched, or are adaptations of these four:


Wikipedia’s excellent Shamanism article, nicely balanced and well articulated. From its introductory paragraphs:

Shamanism refers to a range of traditional beliefs and practices similar to Animism that claim the ability to diagnose and cure human suffering and, in some societies, the ability to cause suffering. This is believed to be accomplished by traversing the axis mundi and forming a special relationship with, or gaining control over, spirits. Shamans have been credited with the ability to control the weather, divination, the interpretation of dreams, astral projection, and traveling to upper and lower worlds. Shamanistic traditions have existed throughout the world since prehistoric times.

Some anthropologists and religion scholars define a shaman as an intermediary between the natural and spiritual world, who travels between worlds in a trance state. Once in the spirit world, the shaman would commune with the spirits for assistance in healing, hunting or weather management….Other anthropologists critique the term shamanism, arguing that it is a culturally specific institution and that by expanding to fit any healer from traditional societies it produces a false unity between these cultures and creates an idea of an initial human religion predating all others.

When you’re finished with Wikipedia’s main shamanism article, be sure to read their provocative Plastic Shaman article as well:

Plastic Shaman is a pejorative and colloquialism used for individuals who try to pass themselves off as shamans, or other traditional spiritual leaders, but who actually have no genuine connection to the traditions they claim to represent. Rather, plastic shamans use the mystique of these cultural traditions, and the legitimate curiosity of sincere seekers, for personal gain. This exploitation of students and traditional culture can involve the selling of fake “traditional” spiritual ceremonies, fake artifacts, fictional accounts in books, illegitimate tours of sacred sites, and often the chance to buy spiritual titles.

The Big FAQ

Second, there’s the comprehensive (some would say exhaustive) Shamanism—General Overview FAQ written for the Usenet newsgroup alt.religion.shamanism (the group is still active, fitfully, but the discussions are rarely cogent or helpful), though unfortunately this FAQ hasn’t been updated since 1996, so many of the resources listed there are outdated.

The document is an embarrassment of riches, with spot-on explanations and discussions of complex issues. For example, here’s how it answers the simple question, “What is shamanism?”:

Shamanism is classified by anthropologists as an archaic magico-religious phenomenon in which the shaman is the great master of ecstasy. Shamanism itself was defined by the late Mircea Eliade as a technique of ecstasy. A shaman may exhibit a particular magical specialty (such as control over fire, wind or magical flight). When a specialization is present the most common is as a healer. The distinguishing characteristic of shamanism is its focus on an ecstatic trance state in which the soul of the shaman is believed to leave the body and ascend to the sky (heavens) or descend into the earth (underworld). The shaman makes use of spirit helpers, with whom he or she communicates, all the while retaining control over his or her own consciousness. (Examples of possession occur, but are the exception, rather than the rule.) It is also important to note that while most shamans in traditional societies are men, either women or men may and have become shamans.

There are a number of relatively common practices and experiences in traditional shamanism which are being investigated by modern researchers. While the older traditional practices are ignored by some researchers, others have begun to explore these older techniques. The emergence of the new field of the “anthropology of consciousness” and the establishment of Transpersonal Psychology as a “Fourth Force” in psychology have opened up the investigation of research into the nature and history of consciousness in ways not previously possible. Outside of academic circles a growing number of people have begun to make serious inquiries into ancient shamanic techniques for entering into altered states of consciousness.

Traditional shamans developed techniques for lucid dreaming and what is today called the out-of-the-body experience (OOBE). These methods for exploring the inner landscape are being investigated by a wide range of people. Some are academics, some come from traditional societies and others are modern practitioners of non-traditional shamanism or neo-shamanism. Along with these techniques, the NDE or near-death-experience have played a significant role in shamanic practice and initiation for millenia. There is extensive documentation of this in ethnographic studies of traditional shamanism. With this renewed interest in these older traditions these shamanic methods of working with dreams and being conscious and awake while dreaming are receiving increased attention.

The ability to consciously move beyond the physical body is the particular specialty of the traditional shaman. These journeys of Soul may take the shaman into the nether realms, higher levels of existence or to parallel physical worlds or other regions of this world. Shamanic Flight, is in most instances, an experience not of an inner imaginary landscape, but is reported to be the shamans flight beyond the limitations of the physical body.

As noted in this article, the call to shamanize is often directly related to a near death experience by the prospective shaman. Among the traditional examples are being struck by lightning, a fall from a height, a serious life-threatening illness or lucid dream experiences in which the candidate dies or has some organs consumed and replaced and is thus reborn. Survival of these initial inner and outer brushes with death provides the shaman with personal experiences which strengthen his or her ability to work effectively with others. Having experienced something, a shaman is more likely to understand what must be done to correct a condition or situation.

The Shorter FAQ

A third resource is the Introduction to Shamanism that was written as a shorter FAQ for the same newsgroup. Some of the Q&As are particularly helpful. For example:

Q: Is shamanism a religion?

A: No. Shamanism is neither a religion nor a spiritual path. It is a set of spiritual practices that may be used by anyone no matter what their religion is. A religion is defined as a set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader or tradition. The creeds of the various religions that shamanism can be found in lack any uniformity, only the practices of the shaman are similar….The word shamanism is loosely used to identify a classification of religions in the same way that monotheism, polytheism, pantheism, and animism are types of religion, but not religions themselves.

Q: What is Shamanic Initiation?

A: Shamanic Initiation varies from culture to culture but in traditional societies usually involves an intense vision or dream of being killed and dismembered (and sometimes eaten) and then reassembled with a new “shamanic body.” This dream or vision is often considered the call to become a shaman. Before being accepted by the community a potential shaman must often also undergo initiation ceremonies performed by the elder shamans of the community. Unlike modern civilized initiations into Lodges or Covens the potential initiate may not survive the ordeal of the initiation ceremony. In neo-shamanism the initial Journey to Retrieve a Power Animal and instructions on Journeying could be considered an initiation of sorts.

And a Glossary

Finally, there’s the section of the otherwise dull FAQ for another newsgroup, soc.religion.shamanism (now nearly defunct), that contains a helpful glossary of shamanic terms and concepts.

Differences between Shamanism and . . .

. . . Neoshamanism

In a superb article on neoshamanism, Jason Godesky presents a stunning indictment of the aforementioned “plastic” shamans, and a powerful picture of authentic shamanic practice, both ancient and modern. He writes:

The shaman is an ambiguous figure in any tribe. He is touched by the numinous “Other.” The power to heal is also the power to kill, and the benevolent shaman is also the malevolent sorcerer. He wields a power that is frightening. In a tribal society where everyone belongs, it is the shaman’s burden to be the only one that is marginal—the only one that is shunned, alienated, and forever on the outside. The shamanic journey is very often described as a terrifying experience….This is the ordeal that the shaman undertakes for his community. Why would anyone choose such a life? They don’t; they are chosen. The shamanic sickness leaves them with a stark choice: become a shaman, or die.

Godesky goes on to reveal the biases and shortcomings of the work of Carlos Castaneda, Mircea Eliade, Michael Harner and his Foundation for Shamanic Studies, and other important voices in modern shamanism. Then he gets to the crux of the matter:

Shamans undertake a perilous ordeal on behalf of their communities. Neoshamans commit the most cardinal sin of shamanism: to abuse the spirit world for a spiritual joyride, or worse still—for nothing more than their personal enlightenment.

A real shaman never journeys for himself; he journeys for others. “Neoshamans” become nothing more than ecstatic tourists, and the ancient traditions of shamanism become, in their hands, nothing more than the latest spiritual fad, another bullet point in “neopaganism” or “the New Age.”

Shamanism is profound. It is the original religion; it is hard-wired into the human brain. “Neoshamanism,” though, is nothing more than spiritual masturbation—it puts on the pretense of profundity, but in the end, it is nothing but a nest of hucksters and charlatans pretending to titles they have never earned.

Native peoples are often deeply insulted by “neoshamanism,” and with good reason. Castenada couldn’t even be bothered to make sure his fictive account of “a Yaqui way of knowledge” mesh with Yaqui beliefs. Neoshamans strike native peoples as hucksters, charlatans and frauds who, having stolen all their material possessions, are now set to rob their culture, as well. Neoshamans desecrate the last thing they have left—their beliefs.

We, trapped inside civilization, have lost something vital. The shamanic sickness strikes as many of us as it ever has; only its cure is gone from us. The specific traditions of specific cultures are specifically adapted to their situations. We have no right to simply steal them. But we can learn from them.

First, we must build our communities. Without a tribe, there can be no shaman. Once there is a tribe, the shaman’s quest can begin….

Godesky has some other intriguing articles on the Anthropik site, including “The Shaman’s Vision” and “Sacred Addicts.”

. . . Native American Spirituality

In her article “Shamanism: It Ain’t Native American Religion!”, Tori McElroy (aka Starrhawke, not to be confused with the Wiccan writer Starhawk) clarifies one of the most common confusions in popular culture:

Unfortunately, the term shamanism has been misused in popular culture for many years. The entertainment industry has used “medicine man” and “shaman” interchangeably (and usually inaccurately) to describe holy men and women of Native America. The public began to assume that “shaman” was a Native American word, and that “shamanism” was a universal Indian Religion—yet in reality, there is no universal “Indian Religion.” There are hundreds of Indian Nations in North America, each with its own culture, language, and spiritual belief system. Many of these Nations are very different from one another in their religious traditions, and none of them describe their beliefs as shamanism. Even from a scholarly standpoint, few Native systems can be accurately described as “shamanism”—the ecstatic trance-journey is simply not a major part of most North American Indian cultures. . . . [Moreover,] Shamanism is not a catch-all term for indigenous religion, earth-based religions, spiritual healing, or beliefs in totems, animal guardians or nature spirits.

A Word about Harner

Michael Harner, who created the term “core shamanism” to describe the underlying cross-cultural principles and practices common to all shamans, gets a lot of undeserved bashing, I think. The hugely popular basic workshops offered by his Foundation for Shamanic Studies, have introduced a hungry public to shamanic practice. I received training from the Foundation and found it tremendously helpful; at the same time, I can see its limitations—mainly in its tendency to make many people think of themselves as shamans and shamanic practitioners (even setting themselves up in business, doing shamanic counselling and whatnot) whose time would be much better spent selling candles and incense in a New Age shop.

Whatever the faults of the Foundation and some of its adherents, harner.jpgthere’s no denying that Harner knows his stuff. I would point you to two articles he’s written that are available online: “Discovering the Way of the Shaman” (actually, it’s the first chapter of his groundbreaking book The Way of the Shaman); and a superb piece introducing his work, “Science, Spirits, and Core Shamanism”:

Shamans have long acted on the principle that humans are part of the totality of nature, related to all other biological forms, and not superior to them. This “pagan” principle was one of the many reasons that European shamans were persecuted by the Inquisition and that indigenous shamans elsewhere were likewise condemned by Western missionaries who considered such a view as contrary to the Biblical account of the origin of man and woman. Indeed, it was not really until Darwin’s The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man that Westerners began, often reluctantly, to return to a general recognition of humankind’s kinship to all other life forms. In other words, the West, through science, finally adopted a position for which it had long persecuted and ridiculed shamans.

Another basic implicit principle in shamanism is that there are two realities and that the perception of each depends upon one’s state of consciousness. Therefore, those in the “ordinary state of consciousness” (OSC) perceive only “ordinary reality” (OR). Those in the “shamanic state of consciousness” (SSC) are able to enter into and perceive “nonordinary reality” (NOR). These are both called realities because each is empirically encountered. Each is recognized to have its own forms of knowledge and relevance to human existence.

NOR is not a consensual reality, and indeed if it were, shamanic practitioners would have no function, for it is their responsibility to alter their state of consciousness and perceive successfully what others do not. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the shamanic practitioner is the ability to move back and forth at will between these realities with discipline and purpose in order to heal and help others.

For Further Reading

Foundation for Shamanic Studies

Anthropologist Michael Harner’s renowned organization for studying, teaching, and preserving indigenous shamanic practices.

The Four Winds Society

Alberto Villoldo’s organization, teaching Incan and Andean shamanic practices.

Dance of the Deer Foundation

Foundation established in 1979 to preserve the Huichol culture and its shamanic practices and traditions.

Sacred Hoop Magazine

U.K.-based magazine on shamanism, animism, and earth wisdom, bringing the ancient traditions of the world to people here and now, in ways that are relevant and practical.

The Council on Spiritual Practices

The Council on Spiritual Practices is a collaboration among spiritual guides, experts in the behavioral and biomedical sciences, and scholars of religion, dedicated to making direct experience of the sacred more available to more people. There is evidence that such encounters can have profound benefits for those who experience them, for their neighbors, and for the world. CSP has a twofold mission: to identify and develop approaches to primary religious experience that can be used safely and effectively, and to help individuals and spiritual communities bring the insights, grace, and joy that arise from direct perception of the divine into their daily lives.

24 thoughts on “Shamanism: What Is It?

  1. Desmond Banner

    I am looking for a shaman who could possibly guide me on my spiritual path. Does anyone know where the first place to start would be?

    Thank you,


  2. Desmond,

    Thanks for asking—it’s a great question, and a very important one.

    The first place I’d start is the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, which was founded by Michael Harner. Their basic workshop in core shamanism is called “The Way of the Shaman: Shamanic Journeying, Power, and Healing,” and the workshops are held throughout North America, Latin America, and Australia (I didn’t see any workshops in Europe at present).

    I don’t think the Foundation is the be-all and end-all, but I think it would be hard to find any introduction that is more solid. I also recommend some of their advanced workshops, particularly “Shamanism, Dying, and Beyond.”

    If one of their workshops is at all near you, you may well be able to connect with a local drumming or “shamanizing” group. Yahoo Groups and might also list local groups interested in shamanism.

    The reason I’d recommend starting out with a group rather than an individual is to give you the opportunity to get your feet wet, get started in shamanic practice, and learn how to discern what (or more specifically, who) is trustworthy, genuine, and and well-grounded.

    You can run into a lot of big egos out there; spirituality, particularly non-mainstream spirituality, can attract individuals on major power trips. Run away from them. Look for people who are modest, knowledgeable (which you’ll only be able to test after you’ve done a bit of reading and have some shamanic experience yourself), and effective. By “effective” I mean able to heal, move energy, bring back reliable and externally verifiable information from non-ordinary reality (“the spirit world”), and teach.

    Most of all, I’d say, ask Spirit to bring a good shamanic teacher (or group) into your life. Keep your eyes and your heart open, and I promise you a reliable guide will come, one way or another.


  3. Craig Ross: (I had to do that!)

    I posted this on another shamanism site, but I find it is equally appropriate here:

    People forget that a shaman serves his culture, it is not the other way around. Twenty five years ago when I came out of the jungle, trained in classical shamanism, I had to figure out how to serve my people – who live in a world of concrete, stoplights and asphalt. They had no more connection the the jaguars, birds and monkeys I had lived with during my training than the man in the moon!

    I could have clung to the old ways and attracted all the wanna-bees who were disassociated from their own culture, but I wasn’t interested in creating a Mayan sub-culture in the middle of America that wouldn’t be any more genuine than the culture we already had.

    I felt that I that needed to adapt so that I could meet my people on their terms, not the other way around, and I am glad that I did. I can now relate to my people where they are, and then invite them to go deeper spiritually without asking them to forsake the good parts of their values or accept an alien belief system.

    Don’t misunderstand me, there is a lot here that I’d like to change. My native friends who criticize Western society have much heart and truth in their words, but I have always found that I could get a lot farther getting an elephant to move with peanuts and encouragement than through pushing and yelling.

    The truth is that regardless of the cultural wrapping, all legitimate shaman teach the same things. To the outsider the cultural wrapping obscures that truth, but I have worked with shaman from all over the planet and we understood each other implicitly, even through we could hardly speak because of the language barrier.

    And, yes there are “pseudo” shaman out there. Some of them are just phonies trying to usurp the title, others have taken training but not truly absorbed the teachings. There are lousy ministers, therapists, lawyers and physicians out there too.

    You might be interested in my books. Healing The Shadow, Truth, and my third just released, Journey to Enlightenment.

  4. Ross, I agree with you completely. I’ve never studied under a tribal shaman, and all my training comes from cross-cultural shamanic teachers (and books). Your note that “there are lousy ministers, therapists, lawyers and physicians out there too” is absolutely on target. Unfortunately, a bad physician or minister doesn’t make people distrust all doctors or clergy, while a new ager who brands him- or herself a shaman while charging thousands of dollars at a pop has a way of tarnishing all Westerners who are using authentic shamanic practices in their work. It’s a shame, of course, but that’s why I think it’s important to shore up the differences between the real and the pseudo.

    For me, it all comes down to the first line in your post: “People forget that a shaman serves his culture, it is not the other way around.” An authentic shaman isn’t a lone wolf; in fact, I’d go so far to say that only the healer’s community has the authority to say, “This person is a shaman; this is our shaman.”

    Thanks so much for your post, and I look forward to reading your books.

  5. Drumdancer

    Now for something completely different:
    Don’t take classes.
    Don’t seek a teacher.
    Don’t pay anyone for it.
    Stop reading books.
    Go outside & look at the sky.
    Listen to the song of a bird.
    Breathe deeply.
    Simplify & purify.
    Let go of all wanting.
    Especially let go of wanting this path.
    It’s hard, and you will suffer.
    If you are meant to do this work, you will not be able to avoid it.
    The drum will call you.

    • Wow! Is this ever the truth! We don’t pick this vocation. It picks us. Sometimes, one must walk a long way for a simple drink of water, only to find that we were not as thirsty as we thought, but the water still fulfilled a need within us.
      Thank you for those wise-words and for sharing your views with those that are destined to walk the path of the shaman!

    • Medicine Bundle

      This comment was meant for DrumDancer, got glitchy and went below next post initially.

    • Medicine Bundle

      Thank you 🙏

    • This is amazing, and blew my hair back.

  6. Crazy! I didn’t expect to find such a good site! really good information, thanks a lot!

  7. Wow, such a wealth of information! I’ve been searching for a good blog with valuable information on Shamanism and I’m glad that I was able to find yours through the Spiritual Blog Reviews. Thank you so much for all of this information, it’s extremely helpful. Keep it up!

  8. The way of the shaman is an excellent book! It discribes a vision quest to the tee. I went on a vision quest just recently in the first week of August 2009. The Shaman that conducted the quest Was Ross Bishop author of Healing the Shadow, Truth, and Journey to Enlightenment. If you want to heal the inside contact Ross Bishop today.

    Jay Rau

  9. peter van den nieuwenhuijzen

    Living in Belgium We got introduced to Siberian shamans from the Golden academy of tantra and shamanism/ golden altai/Royal academy of tantra (all these names and more for same group lead by altai chi/guru pfasky/ bogomudr) . My wife continued working with them against my advice. It all didn’t make any sense to me (expensive, coldhearthed… ??) .
    After her last trip from there I really started to worry , and now I seek help in the form of information on the genuinity, honesty, … of this group. It seems they were in law trouble in the past for dangerous cult practices?!

    Can you guide me towards some more clarity about this group? redirect me to more infochannels? advice??

    Thank you,

    Peter van den nieuwenhuijzen, a worried husband


    Is this still an active site? I live in the Colorado mountains, and I had to kill a young mountain lion a couple of months ago. I really bothers me, in that I feel that I have unfinished business with this cat. I hate to kill, but it was a threat to my family. I feel very bad about what I had to do, and thought of some kind of offering or something that would tell the world that I was sorry. thanks b.

  11. Thanks for posting.

    Yes, the blog is still active, if you define “active” rather loosely. I haven’t seemed to have much to say lately, though I really ought to apply myself a bit more.

    Your note is intriguing. Could you tell us a bit more about the mountain lion? Was it actively menacing—that is, was there a threat of immediate danger? Or was it more that the mountain lion was close by on your property, and therefore could attack at any time?

    Either way, on one level it was just two creatures trying to survive, and the need to protect one’s family is usually stronger than the desire for personal safety—certainly among all mammals. So your actions were fully appropriate: its job was to hunt for food, your job was to protect your family. If you were out hunting and came upon a bear, it would be the same situation in reverse. This time, you were the survivor. Both of you were honoring life to the utmost.

    You might want to do a simple ceremony where you get a small amount of loose tobacco, some small squares of cloth (2 or 2½ inches square), and some string, and go to the place where the mountain lion was killed. Create prayer bundles or prayer ties by putting a small bit of the tobacco on each square, and tying it up.

    If you have access to different colors of cloth, you may wish to fold that into your bundle-making. Each Native American tribe or nation has its own color correspondences; the Lakota use white for north and wisdom, yellow for east and beginnings, red for south and healing, and black for west and death. But you should use whatever colors resonate with you or have some meaning you want to express.

    With each bundle, say a prayer. It could be to the mountain lion, to the Great Spirit, to the rocks or the mountain, to the trees, to the spirits in the area, to the Directions—whatever your intuition leads you to say.

    When you are finished, if there are any bushes, trees, or rocks nearby, you might want to string the bundles together and hang or drape them, as a sort of memorial. Or you might build a small fire and burn them, as a way of releasing the prayers back to the Great Spirit.

    The specifics aren’t important: ritual is a vehicle for you to connect with Spirit in a meaningful way, and the more strongly you can craft it so that the symbols or actions involved have emotional resonance and express what is inside you (even if what is inside feels confused or still unclear about meaning), the more effective your ritual will be.

    Please write again and share what you decided to do.

    .:. Craig (Sewa Yoleme)

  12. Pingback: Yom Tov « BLT

  13. Betty Lou Kishler

    I am reading The Red Face Buddha. I am interested in Dreamtime.
    Could you explain what it is

  14. The Dreamtime, also called The Dreaming, is a term that comes from Australian Aboriginal spirituality. It describes three things: (1) a time before history began, when the mythic beings lived; (2) the body of Aboriginal myths—their entire belief system; and (3) the spiritual realm in general, which is accessed chiefly through dreams and visions. It is in this third sense that I use the term most frequently.

    Anthropologist Michael Harner calls it “non-ordinary reality” or “shamanic state of consciousness.” It’s an altered state in which one feels as if one is, to some extent, leaving one’s body and traveling to a different place, or perhaps a different state of being. There one is able to receive information and guidance, find tools for healing, and do spiritual work for others.

    If you have any specific questions, I’d be happy to answer them.

  15. mary

    i really love your description of “atonement” for the mountain lion. i have on occasion killed a creatures and profoundly regretted it; now i know how to go about gaining forgiveness. thank you ps do you have any rituals to follow for forgiveness of anger against fellow humans? x

  16. Just stumbled on your blog and wanted to thank you for this great home page full of info – and some very provocative thoughts – on Shamanism. I am currently studying core shamanism and am definitely aware of the “plastic” shamans, spiritualists, etc out there. I will definitely read more of the resources in greater detail. Thanks again.

  17. Mary Edwina

    I truly appreciate all of your work for this post. It was balanced, well researched, and honest. I struggle a bit with search engines (so much of the results are based on marketing and search engine optimization) and have been desperately been searching for a clear definition for the practice of shamanism, and you have provided a beautiful and concise response. I have been wanting to go deeper in my understanding of shamanic practice for my personal journey of self healing so that I may have better grasp on how to help others. I have been praying and yearning for a teacher/guru and feel that I have been called to take a more “independent study” until my path crosses with the right person. Studying yoga in India has taught me that every person we meet is a teacher in some capacity and that ultimately we ourselves are our best guru. I agree with those ideas, but I feel there is a whole world of earth-based spirituality I want to explore and so much of those sacred stories and knowledge is passed down directly through teachers and guides. I have limited resources now and am very far removed from any of the workshops offered by The Foundation for Shamanic Studies (I currently live in Costa Rica). I was wondering, if you had any suggestions for online courses that could guide me in doing the inner work? I have a close friend here who is working her way through the course. I trust her opinion of the program and she seems to be learning the things she is seeking and deepening her relationship to Mother Earth. I was wondering if you or anyone else was familiar with this program? I am really grateful for any guidance and advice anyone has to offer. Muchisimo Gracias xx

  18. A.M. Pietroschek

    ‘Plastic Shamans’ are certainly a phenomena of ‘healers who volunteer to become a spearhead of the disease instead’.

    People SHOULD be warned that the entire ‘visualize it, imagine it aka it is harmless’ routine is made to sell books and paraphernalia to the masses. It is a sales-trick, no service to the community.

    Especially because the ‘dismemberment or death’, which is one rumor about shamanic initiation, is NOT a mere daydream. Anyone with real understanding will know that the nervous system is connected to the chosen few ‘visions or visualizations’ we environment-butchering capitalist-spawns may receive, and that pain, fatigue, and effort belong to ANY form of dedicated work, for the community or for oneself.

    And the immaturity of people who can’t admit they just make excuses to smoke some dope, gulp down some mushrooms, or cactus, has become a befouling cliche by now, too.

    Right now I can only share my latest note on the topic:

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