Shamans are people who have the ability to communicate with spirits, and in some cases, can also heal others. They usually do this by using their own body as an instrument of communication between themselves and other beings.
Shamans are often considered spiritual leaders or teachers, but they are not always tied to religion. In many cultures, shamans are respected for their wisdom and knowledge, but sometimes they are feared because of their power.
In modern times, the word shaman has come to mean any person who practices traditional indigenous medicine, such as herbalism, acupuncture, massage therapy, and so on.
Many people today use the word shaman to describe someone who uses alternative healing methods.
What is Shamanism?
Shamanism is a term used to describe the practice of using plants, animals, and other natural substances in order to communicate with spirits or deities. This communication can be for healing purposes, divination, prophecy, guidance, protection, etc.
The word “shaman” comes from the Tungusic language of Siberia (Russia), where it means “one who knows how to find things”. The name was given to these people by Russian explorers when they first encountered them in the 17th century.
The term was used to describe a group of people who were known for their ability to locate lost objects and animals. Etymologically, it comes from the Russian word ‘sgimashka’ (pronounced shuma-n).
In English, it has been adopted to mean an expert healer, wise man, or medicine man (though not all shamans are men, there are female shamans too), but this is not its original meaning. Shamans have existed since ancient times.
They were considered wise men and women, healers, and prophets.
They could speak with the gods and ancestors. Furthermore, they had supernatural powers that enabled them to see into the future and make predictions about what would happen.
In Native American culture, shamans are recognized as having special abilities that allow them to connect with the spirit world. These abilities include being able to see visions, hear voices, and even travel through time and space.
Some shamans are also believed to have the ability to control nature. Healing and helping members of the community is the focal point of shamans, though the role of the shaman does vary from tribe to tribe.
How Are Shamans Chosen?
The process of choosing a new shaman varies from culture to culture. Some tribes have a formal selection process and shamans are born into their role, while others allow anyone to become a shaman if he or she is deemed worthy.
The most important thing about being selected as a shaman is that you must be able to perform certain rituals correctly.
These rituals include making offerings to the spirits, communicating with them, and performing ceremonies. If someone isn’t able to pass tests that the tribe has set out to see if they are worthy, spiritual, and powerful, they probably will not become a shaman.
In cultures where shamans are born into their role, they are often differentiated from other ‘ordinary’ tribe members, by certain marks. For example, they may have more bones or more teeth, or fingers than others.
When a shaman has been born into their power, there is typically an event during adolescence (though there are variations in the age of onset) where the ‘spirits’ begin to take an overt role in their lives, and they become more spiritual.
This event could be becoming hysterical, fainting fits, having visions, or similar symptoms, which frequently continue for weeks on end.
Regardless of whether they were chosen at birth or not, eventually, the spirits will announce their intentions for the chosen shaman through visions or dreams. The shaman will acquire their powers and the spirits will lavish them in promises.
However, if the chosen shaman resists, they could develop ‘shaman illness’, where the spirits will torment them until they accept their role as a shaman.
When the shaman candidate accepts their role, they will fall into something called the ‘long sleep’ which can typically last between three and nine days.
During this sleep, the spirits investigate whether the shaman is worthy, often by determining whether they have an extra bone.
Then, the shaman will be initiated by the community. In some cultures, such as the Mongols and the Manchu-Tungus, this happens publically and formally. In others, this is a more private affair.
In any case, it is steeped in ceremony and typically involves the shaman being formally introduced to spirits and deities.
Different Types Of Shamans
There are a few different types of shaman:
1) Medicine Men/Women – These are the most common types of shaman. They learn their skills from their elders and then pass them down to younger generations. Their main focus is on curing illness and helping people recover from illnesses.
They may also help people deal with grief, loss, and trauma. They may also perform rituals and ceremonies to bring rain or stop drought.
2) Medicine Men/Women – These are the most common types of shaman. They learn their skills from their elders and then pass them down to younger generations.
Their main focus is on curing illness and helping people recover from illnesses. They may also help people deal with grief, loss, and trauma. And, sometimes, they may perform rituals and ceremonies to bring rain or stop drought.
3) Spiritual Leaders – These shamans are more concerned with teaching the community how to live spiritually. They teach the community what they believe is right and wrong, and how to behave towards each other. They may also teach the community how to communicate with the spirit world.
4) Shamans who specialize in animal communication – These shamans use animals to talk to the spirit world. They may use birds, insects, fish, snakes, bears, wolves, or even dogs. They may also use objects like rocks, trees, or waterfalls.
4) Shamanic Healers – These healers work directly with the spirit world. They are usually very good at healing physical ailments, but they may also be able to cure mental issues and emotional problems. They may also be able to find lost items or people
Often, shamans blend multiple different types of shamanism together, so this is only a rough guideline on the types of shaman and shamanistic practice.
The greatest shamans aren’t self-appointed, but they’re called to the role by forces far greater than themselves. Their purpose is to heal others.