What does it mean to be a shaman? I'm sure that you'll find everyone has a different way of answering that question. What it means to be a shaman depends on the person and what they believe it means. To me, a shaman is a person on a spiritual path seeking knowledge and an awareness of the world around them. A shaman is an intermediary between the spiritual world and the physical world, serving to commune with and help both spirits and people. The shaman is in tune with the land, the spirits of the land, the animals, the herbs, etc. The shaman seeks balance in life and in practice.
As my dear friend AyaIcaro said: "To me a shaman is the person who bridges spirit and the material worlds, and above that bridges all different realities. The symbolic death and rebirth, whether it be a literal brush with death, an ego-shattering psychedelic experience, or profound life-changing circumstances that require you to delve into yourself and reevaluate your entire view of the world are forms of initiation into this practice.
i believe in the traditional role as the healer, guide, oracle, middle-man between the spirits and the people the shaman serves. It is about wisdom and balance and forging for yourself a place in the universe through understanding and respecting the very forces that the universe is comprised of: your fellow human beings and all other spirits, gods, or entities out there. I feel the shaman has the responsibility to act on the knowledge he or she receives from both the spirits they work with and their own higher self. As they say, 'knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit but wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad'. You have to not only be possessed of knowledge but also have the tact and understanding to know both how and when to apply it."
What do shamans do? Again, that's going to vary on the culture, the practice and the shaman themselves. However, some typical things include: healing, working with energy, channeling, mediumship and possession, cursing, communicating with wights and spirits, divination, projection, working with herbs, working with animal totems and spirit guides, soul retrival, reaching altered states (like trancework), and much much more.
Some things you might want to look into: