We are all connected
Shamanism is the oldest known form of connection with the world beyond the physical, with evidence dating back 40-50,000 years or more. Shaman (pronounced 'shar-man') is an Evinki word, meaning 'the one who knows'. The shaman was traditionally the bridge between the spirit world and the material world, bringing back help, advice or healing from the spirits to help their community. Shamanism is animistic - this means that everything has its own spirit - from mountain to stream, rock to tree and it is possible to communicate with all.
Contemporary shamanism is available for all to learn today, simply using the sound of a drum or rattle to alter consciousness to enable connection to help and wisdom of personal spirit helpers and power animals. Below are some different aspects of shamanism for you to explore.
We all have access to spirit helpers, and often these are in the form of animals or 'power animals'. Some of us may be aware of a special animal or helper that is with us in our lives. For others their power animal is unknown to them until they do a shamanic journey to meet with this being.
People usually report that meeting their power animal is like meeting an old or best friend, wise teacher or powerful benevolent being. Helpers can also be in human form, or the spirit of an object, place, plant or even ancestor. They often have a special purpose to teach us or help us with certain aspects of our lives. There are many ways to connect with them - from journeys, to rattling or just sitting with them in our heart, minds or entire beings.
In the shamanic journey the shaman sends their soul out to the spirit world, perhaps riding on the spirit of the sound of the drum, in order to bring back power and information to our ordinary lives.
The shaman travels to the lower, upper or middle world to ask for help, advice or healing and bring the answers and the power back with him or her.
Today, having a carefully thought through intention for each journey allows us to access the help and wisdom of our experience - felt, seen or heard. Journeys can be carried out to the sound of the drum, rattle or even song.
The shaman understands that a person can become sick through soul loss. This is when a part of the soul leaves, often to protect itself. This might be seen in trauma, shock, prolonged stress or grief. Sometimes we unwittingly give a part of our soul away to someone, maybe in a relationship or through fear.
It is best to see a shaman, or a shamanic practitioner, for this work. Traditionally the shaman travels through the spirit world, with their spirit helpers, with the purpose of finding the missing part of the soul and bring it back to the individual. This is a deep piece of work, to be undertaken respectfully, and the recipient usually must do some additional journeys or specific small rituals (practical, dedicated actions) for a while to integrate this part so that they can become whole again. In this way the full power of the healing is received.
In the shamanic worldview we become sick when our energy field is either lacking in some way - is incomplete such as through soul loss (see Soul Retrieval below) - or has energy that doesn't belong. This additional energy may not be 'bad' but is just not in the appropriate place.
By working with energy, or creative power, the shaman can either replenish or remove the energy as appropriate.
Have you ever sung a song, or hummed a tune, that takes on a life of its own? We all know communal songs that are sung at special occasions: 'Happy Birthday' or 'For He's a Jolly Good Fellow'.
Songs can be spirits in their own right, and can be used to transport the shaman on her journey, to call the spirits, or the shaman can use particular songs given by the spirits in response to intentions such as healing, blessings, celebration, thanks or even as lullabies.
Objects of Power
From drums and rattles, to feathers and medicine wheels, the shaman can use many sacred objects to ask for help, healing and connection.
Traditionally drums and rattles are used for connecting to spirit, feathers might be used for healing or blessing with smudge (sacred smoke) and stones might be used for healing or divination. The important aspect is the shaman's connection to the spirit of these objects in a sacred way rather than the 'look' of these objects. The power (help, healing, wisdom, energy) comes from our relationship with spirit.