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Medicine Bee Herbals - Spiritual Quest

What is Shamanism?

Over tens of thousands of years, our ancient ancestors all over the world discovered how to maximize human abilities of mind and spirit for healing and problem-solving. The remarkable system of methods they developed is today known as “shamanism,” a term that comes from a Siberian tribal word for its practitioners: “Shaman” [pronounced SHAH-mahn]. Shaman are a type of medicine man or women especially distinguished by the use of journeys to hidden worlds otherwise mainly known through myth, dream, and near-death experience.

-- The Foundation for Shamanic Studies

Midnight Dream by Renee New HejazeenThe Celtic Shaman’s Universe

The Celtic Shaman’s cosmos, like that of other Shamanic universe views, consists of three worlds, the Lower world, the Upper world, and the Middle world [where ordinary reality exists].

What differentiates the Celtic Shaman’s universe view from that of other shamanic traditions is that these worlds are all connected by the great tree of life? Rooted in the Lower realm its trunk extends upwards, through the middle world and into the Upper world, where its branches hold the stars, the sun and the moon.

The Celtic Shaman traverses the realms by climbing the tree [also seen as a great ladder or pole] into the Upper world. This is the realm of stars, celestial beings, and is the dwelling place of many gods and spirits of the air and of the great Mother Goddess herself. The Lower world can be reached by descending the roots of the massive trees in the realm of the spirits of the earth and fire, where sits the stag-headed Lord of the Underworld, the horned one, protector of the animals. Here the Celtic Shaman can meet with helper power animals and guides. Thus all three worlds are linked by the great tree, and yet the tree itself and all of the universe are believed contained within the shell of a single hazelnut, lying next to the source of all wisdom.

Shapeshifting is an integral part of the Celtic Shamanic experience. The ability to be simultaneously a part of many realities and existences is at the heart of the shamanic experience. The Celtic shaman deliberately seeks to take on the shape of another animal or being in order to call upon the power within the entity for healing or instruction. The ability of the shaman to send his or her own consciousness into the consciousness of another being and then return to one’s own self is integral to the shaman’s journey.

The Mongolian and Siberian Shaman’s Universe

The name Mongol was not originally an ethnic name. It was the name of a single tribe, which grew politically to form a confederacy with other tribes, giving its name to that confederacy. It is likely that Chingis Khan was from the Mongol tribe.

The Origin of Mongolian shamanism is rendered by a traditional account from the Chahar region, undoubtedly of an etiological nature. Shamanism was born in Mongolia, according to native legend, through the will of ancestral spirits, ecstatic seizures, and flying horses [the shaman’s drums]. Mountain tops have been the dwelling places of deities and spirits.

Among the Mongol and Siberian indigenous peoples, the universe is conceived as a living organism. The polar star is a celestial nail, also called the Golden Nail, and the Altaic shamans decorate their drums with the symbols of Venus and the constellation of the Great Bear. In Buryat shamanistic symbolism, the World-Tree is connected to the World-River which interlinks with all the three worlds. It must be traversed by the shaman in order to reach any of the otherworld.

Siberian Shaman’s Universe

In Siberian cosmology, the universe is also associated with animal concepts, such as the elk for the Middle world, the bear for the Master of the Animals, or among the Evenks, for the ethnogenic fathers. In addition, the universe has a tripartite structure consisting of the Upper, Middle, and Lower worlds, each one being a replica [imago mundi] of the other two.

The Siberian shaman’s soul is said to be able to leave the body and travel to other parts of the cosmos, particularly to an Upper world in the sky and a Lower world underground. This ability is traditionally found in some parts of the world and not in others and allows us to speak of clearly shamanistic societies and cultures. A broader definition than this would include any kind of person who is in control of his or her state of trance, even if this does not involve a soul journey. The shaman’s profession is considered psychically very dangerous and there is a constant risk of insanity or death.

Monument Valley Woman by Renee New HejazeenNative American Shaman’s Universe

The shamanic journeying, the spirit leaves the body, and in shamanic healing, a person is being healed by spirit helpers. There are four aspects to health: psychic/emotional/spiritual health. If there is a problem with any of these aspects fails, shamanic techniques can be used to help restore strength.

Connection with a power animal: A power animal protects you physically and provides you with emotional support, wisdom, and vital energy. If you lose contact with your power animal, you may feel dispirited, you may become sick easily, or you may be accident prone. The shamanic healing technique of power animal retrieval can restore a person’s connection to a power animal.

Life essence is the energy that keeps you going, keeps you interested in life, in learning, and in challenge. However, in traumatic situations, whether they ongoing [such as child abuse] or singular [such as an auto accident], a part of one’s life essence can leave. This is normal and it helps one avoid the full emotional effect of trauma. A Shamanic healer can find and retrieve one’s life essence. This healing technique is called soul retrieval.

Health requires a free flow of energy that one can use to accomplish one’s desires in the world. But one’s energy can become blocked in various ways. A sense if purpose is necessary to happiness. There are keys to doing shamanism: Achieving the altered state of consciousness that allows you access to non-ordinary reality. There are many ways to achieve this: repetitious sound or movement, hypnosis, heat, sensory deprivation, psychotropic drugs, maintaining a specific posture, lucid dreaming or the repetitious sound of a steady drum beat or any other like instrument.

The shaman journeys with the intention of finding a power animal for the client. The shaman brings the animal back to ordinary reality and gives it to the client, perhaps by blowing it into the client’s body. It is the client’s responsibility to journey to contact the animal and find out how best to work with the animal. The Shaman makes sure that the client has a support system in place, because strong emotional reactions can accompany or follow.

Extractions: Often a shaman will work with a support system to several other shamans of drummers when performing an extraction. Some believe that the extracted energies can enter the shaman’s body if the shaman is not well protected, and that noise and chanting will drive the energies away. The intrusions may appear to the shaman as foreign objects or unpleasant creatures, or may be hot or cold spots in the client’s body. The shaman with his/her spirit helpers, removes the intrusions. Often the intrusions are taken [in ordinary or non-ordinary reality] to a nearby body of water to neutralize them. The shaman may then fill the cleansed body with healing energies.

Mountain Lion Magic by Renee New HejazeenShamanism as a Religion

There can be no shaman without a surrounding society and culture. Shamanism is not a single, unified religion, but a cross-cultural form of religious sensibility and practice. There is no doctrine, no world shamanic church, no holy book as a point of reference, no priest with the authority to tell us what is and what is not correct.

Nevertheless, there are astonishing similarities, which are not easy to explain, between shamanic ideas and practices as far as the Artic, Amazonian, and Borneo, even though these societies have probably never had any contact with each other. Many current interpretations emphasize the healing side of shamanism, but this is only one aspect of the shaman’s work. Among other things, shamanism is a hunter’s religion, concerned with the necessity of taking life in order to live oneself. The shamanic view of cosmic equilibrium founded large on the idea of paying for the souls of the animals one needs to eat, and in the societies the shaman flies to the owner of the animals in order to negotiate the price.

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