Monday, August 31, 2009

What is Shamanism?

This is just some very basic information on Shamanism gleaned from my own research and is meant as an overview, not an extensive or comprehensive article. I am not a Shaman, nor do I have direct experience with Shamanism so I welcome and corrections or additional information via comments to this post.

In essence, Shamanism is the spiritual practices followed by Shamans, who are the practitioners of Shamanism; however, there are many views on how this is specifically practised, the intent applied and the founding belief system.

The basis of Shamanism is animism, which is the belief that all matter has a spirit or life force. Shamans dedicate their existence to being at one with all of nature by connecting with these life forces. This connection is typically made by the Shaman in a trance, or waking-dream like state, also sometimes referred to as astral projection or an out-of-body experience (OOBE). It is believed that while he or she is in this state, the Shaman is able to travel between the physical world and the spiritual world.

Various means are applied by Shamans in order to enter into trance. Meditation using drumming and chanting are common, as are the use of entheogens and hallucinogenics.

The purpose for entering into trance is for the Shaman to travel between worlds, dimensions, parallel universes or planes of existence in order to affect our physical world. This, of course, allows for both negative and positive impact however the most common application is for the purpose of healing.

Shamans have also been credited with powers of divination and the ability to work with the elements, including fire, air, water, earth and the weather in various forms.

Shamanism is not an actual religion and traditionally, only those chosen into Shamanism become shamans. A Shaman may be male or female, although the latter is relatively uncommon. The calling to Shamanism is often via a near death experience (NDE), particularly being struck by lightning, falling from a great height or life-threatening illness. Another means to be called is via lucid dreaming, especially if the dream involves one’s own death or ones internal organs being consumed or removed and then replaced.