So what is a shaman? Simply put, a shaman is a traditional healer who likely works with herbs, spiritual guidance, music, trances, and other natural means. All shamans work with greater powers beyond themselves. Some might refer to a shaman as a medicine man or woman. Shamans work with ways of accessing healing energy that are far outside our ideas of mainstream healing in modern America.
There is no one exact way to be a shaman: The roles and rituals of shamans vary greatly across cultures. Their methods may seem primitive or they may seem incredibly advanced and gifted depending on one’s individual perspective. Being a shaman runs in families, but it’s a vocation, not a hereditary position in most cultures. You don’t choose shamanism. It chooses you. There is usually extensive training and initiation within each culture in order to become a shaman.
I consider myself to be a modern day shamanic practitioner, and if I’m forced to put down a category for my religious preference, I indicate shamanism. Shamanism is actually a broad term that includes many different practices just as Christianity encompasses many different beliefs and variations. Shamanism also falls under the even broader category of paganism.
Contrary to what Barbara Tedlock, Ph.D, describes of other cultures in The Woman in the Shaman's Body: Reclaiming the Feminine in Religion and Medicine, most healthy shamans in modern America do not use trickery. Drugs, mushrooms, or other hallucinogenic substances are also not required: Those substances are rarely if ever needed though that is not a belief held in other many cultures. Shamanism in America today is about availing oneself of the assistance of higher powers, about pursuing natural healing, about working with the mind-body-spirit connection, and about bringing humans into alignment with themselves, their culture, and their planet.
I don’t own a fancy headdress. I definitely don’t slaughter animals or don’t make sacrifices on altars. I don’t even paint my face with everyday makeup. In many ways, I look like an average American woman. Yet I consider myself blessed to be a shamanic practitioner and to be able to help others with healing using the mind-body-spirit connection, the assistance of higher powers, and the resources of Mother Earth.
© 2014 Green Heart Guidance, LLC