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Shamanism discussion

Forums ► Other Paths ► Shamanism discussion

Shamanism discussion
By: / Novice
Post # 1
***This is intended to be a brief introduction of shamanism and provide basic answers to the most common questions concerning shamanism. It is not intended to be an in depth explanation simply a quick reference.*** Please feel free to add to or critique any of the information provided as there are so many differing views and knowledge on the subject, the more information the better.

Shamanism is the second oldest religious practice in human history; the first being burials with marked grave stones and some embalming routines. Shamanistic roles differ between cultures in areas such as gender specifications and societal roles. However the main rifts seem to be in initiation, or how to become a shaman, and what constitutes as a shaman. The first half of this will discuss a more religious view of shamanism the second half will discuss an atheist view.
(Spiritual shamanism)
Becoming a shaman
The most common belief of shamans is that they are chosen from birth and lineage. In addition they undergo a “life altering event” either physical or emotional in which they first cross over to the spirit world and are enlightened. This can be close to death experiences such as extreme illness or great emotional pain, either one provides the shaman with a deep understanding of the world and life itself and the most important trait of a connection to the spirit world (in religious traditions). Once a “shaman to be” has gone through this phase, he or she is then trained by an elder shaman. Typically this training takes many years as the duties of a shaman can be numerous. However in some cultures anyone can become a shaman. In some South American societies all males learn shamanism and are taught its basics although they are not given the formal title and rights as a shaman unless they complete all of their training. *In tribal cultures most shamans are men however there have been plenty of women shamans and in no way are they any less adept at shamanism than males. This is simply a cultural tendency/practice* Today most neoshamanism shares the belief that anyone can become a shaman if they have a spiritual calling to do so.
Possible signs of a shamanistic calling
-Extreme natural empathy (knowing how another feels without their explanation and sharing that feeling)
-Physical disability or other body markings
-Life altering event as described above
-Linage and family history of shamanism
-Spiritual medium abilities
-natural musical talents with instruments such as drums and flutes
-other psychic abilities such as visions and astral projection.
These are just a few of the many that can be considered possible signs of shamanism. However none of these for sure indicate such, if you feel you have a calling to become one and have experienced more than one of these signs, it’s something you may wish to research further.
Duties of a shaman
As a shaman you have either been chosen with (or born with depending on your beliefs) the power and duty to bring balance to the world. The main role of a shaman is to contact and know the will of higher beings and/or spirits so that they may maintain and guide this world. However there are many other roles and powers of a shaman as well. Some very from culture to culture and some person to person. Responsibilities of a shaman include, but are not limited to,
-Contacting spirits
-Providing healing, both spiritual and herbal
-earth keeping/ environmentalism
-maintaining the balance of darkness and light
-religious and ritual guidance such as ceremonies, offerings to higher powers, burials, cleansing, blessings, etc
Shamanistic powers
The powers of a shaman are as varied as the cultures and shamans themselves. All of which are used to accomplish the shamans task of maintain balance between the worlds. A few of the most common abilities are
-spiritual medium
-astral projection
-clairvoyance (visions)
There are many tactics a shaman may use to accomplish their duties. Totems act as a form of shamanistic sigils. Spirit guides, (animal, human, higher being, etc.) act as messengers, guidance, and lessons to the shaman. There are also many rituals, songs, and chants that a shaman may make use of. The most important however is reaching an altered state of consciousness often referred to as spiritual ecstasy. This is achieved through means such as rituals, meditations, chants, etc. and is the state used to accomplish and make use of all spiritual responsibilities and powers.

(Atheistic shamanism)
Even if one does not believe in higher powers and spirits, one can still follow the path of shamanism. Many of the duties of a shaman are still the same.
They can still accomplish the duties of medicinal, herbal, and physical therapy healings. They can also provide guidance (emotional, financial, political, etc) and serve as both a leader in their community and environmentalist. It does not require spirits and higher powers to study and conserve the earth or to provide healing, to create and perform music, and to keep peace between people.
Psychic powers use of totems as a form of sigil magic also do not require higher beings nor does other forms of magic.
Lessons can still be learned from animals and nature. For example a shaman can learn courage by overcoming their fear of spiders if the encounter one. Patience can be learned from many predators and many more lessons by observing nature and none of which require a divine intervention.
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Re: Shamanism discussion
By: / Novice
Post # 2
sorry for the cluster. I wrote this on Microsoft word first and when I pasted it some of the spaces did not translate between formats
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Re: Shamanism discussion
By: / Novice
Post # 3
Medicine bags are essentially a shaman toolbox. It is typically constructed from leather and carries the most meaningful and useful items of a shaman. These can include totems, herbs, ritual tools etc.

Intro/creation of medicine bags
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Re: Shamanism discussion
By: / Knowledgeable
Post # 4

I'm not against or for your topic. I know that this form of magick is becoming more and more popular and the term shaman is nearly as common as witch these days. I would just like to clarify something.

Shamans are from Northern Europe and Northern Asia. People erroneously confuse it with Native American medicine, which it is not.

Native American medicine men are not shamans. Anyone that claims they are a Native American shaman is in fact a plastic shaman (artificial/fake and likely full of it). Medicine is something that every Native American family knows a little of, but medicine people take approximately 10 years of study before the title is officially earned and its full practice is kept secret, only passed down to their predecessor. Family passed down medicine verses a bonified medicine person is like the difference of being a medic verses a doctor. The medic tends to be far more unorthodox in his/her ways even though it's using the same system. Another way to compare it is the difference between a witch and a priestess. And no, I'm not speaking of coven priestesses, but the traditional goddess temple priestesses of ancient times that dedicated their lives to the service of the deity.

Another big issue is the belief that all tribes work with medicine wheels, totems, and the like, when they don't. Every group is different with very different mythology, beliefs, and practices. So if you are interested in "shamanism" or "Native American medicine" please look into the exact culture you are interested in and learn those specific ways.

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Re: Shamanism discussion
By: / Novice
Post # 5
I should have been more specific when I referred to tribal communities I meant in Northern and southern asia. The south American tribe that I referred to is Shamanism and religion among the Selk'nam (Ona), Yámana (Yaghan), and Halakwalip (Alacaluf) of the Tierra del Fuego, on the southernmost edge of South America—all descended from the earliest migrants to the subcontinent which appear to represent survivals of archaic ideological systems. But many of the same archaic traits also appear sometimes attenuated or overlaid with elaborations resulting from outside influences or internal dynamics, often little modified from their ancestral forms—across the whole South American continent, not excluding the high culture areas of the Andes. These common traits include familiar motifs of Siberian shamanism: mystic vocation; initiatory sickness; skeletonization, dismemberment, and contemplation by the shaman of his or her own bones; recruitment of supernatural helpers; rock crystals as manifestations of helping spirits; marriage to spirit wives, or, in the case of female shamans, spirit husbands; "rape" of the soul; sickness through soul loss or intrusion of illness projectiles into the body by magical means, and, conversely, restoration of health, in the first case through retrieval of the patient's strayed or abducted soul by the shaman, and in the second by sucking out the disease-causing foreign object; stratified upperworld and underworld through whose levels the shaman travels in celestial flight or in descent into the chthonic regions; world trees as sky supports with both phallic and uterine associations; great ancestral First Shamans and culture heroes as shaman/transformers; and divination of future events, weather, or favorable hunting conditions.

Although with some minor differences it does have a lot in common with ASIAN tribal societies. I do not believe I referenced north American tribes but I can see how I failed to distinguish apart from them. I personally am not a shaman however I have had the opportunity to briefly be instructed by one and do try to follow some of his teachings. Thank you for making that point I can see how it was very confusing
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Re: Shamanism discussion
By: / Knowledgeable
Post # 6

Thanks Kyr. =)

I felt it needed mentioning because I know how people are around here. You seem like you know your stuff and it's a well made thread. I just noticed cultures were not defined and if things aren't made clear, people assume. I appreciate the added effort to include that detail.

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Re: Shamanism discussion
By: / Novice
Post # 7
No problem! I appreciate you pointing that out. In my attempt not to get tribe specific I was too vague. It's hard to give a general overview because like your Wiccan priest analogy you can also relate the two by how much they differ from region and group to group. There's so many traditions of shamanism that when trying to give a general over view it's often confusing.
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Re: Shamanism discussion
By: / Knowledgeable
Post # 8

I agree, and unfortunately, many people do take initiative to research on their own to learn those things. They read a few articles online and think they know it all.

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Re: Shamanism discussion
By: / Novice
Post # 9
The only useful outcome of an online search into shamanism would be to narrow down which type of shamanism one wishes to pursue. After that the only way to truly learn anything in depth on the subject requires an off site teacher or course of some kind not to mention years of study. Even after learning from a shaman over the course of two weeks I can only provide an very general over view.
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Re: Shamanism discussion
Post # 10

Thank you for your insight and information. It never crossed my mind that maybe this is something I should explore. I haveexperienced numerous signs that you've mentioned, without seeking out, attempting or practicing them. Very interesting information to further my research.
-Extreme natural empathy (knowing how another feels without their explanation and sharing that feeling)
-Life altering event as described above (several unfortunate near-death experiences)
-Spiritual medium abilities
-natural musical talents with instruments such as drums and flutes
-other psychic abilities such as visions and astral projection

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