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The Practical Power of the Shaman

Shamanism is a very practical spirituality. A modern-day shaman could live next door to you and the only clues you might have are that they get along well with people and animals and have a green thumb with plants. Also, shamans have a knack for putting people at ease and for saying and doing the right thing at the right time. In his book, Urban Shaman, Serge Kahili King defines a shaman as "a healer of relationships, between mind and body, between people, between people and circumstances, between humans and Nature and between matter and spirit."

If you have a taste of divine ecstasy, shamanism can teach you how to ground it, how to bring it into your everyday life through using your natural gifts and talents. Shamanism can support you in translating that experience, that creative energy, into physical form so it can benefit yourself and everyone around you. The essence of shamanism is not an esoteric, mysterious, ritualistic tradition which can only be practiced by native peoples in a tribal environment. This ancient spiritual perspective on life is a down-to-earth, pragmatic, realistic way of living that anyone can use anywhere, anytime, including in our modern world.

Currently across the planet, the sacred knowledge of the shaman or wizard is being translated into everyday street language in order to create more healthy, harmonious and enriching lives for people. The spirit of shamanism is more of an open, flexible attitude and approach to living than a rigid set of rules, formulas and techniques. Applying the basic principles of shamanism opens people to new possibilities and options for dealing with modern daily challenges.

From Alaska to the Andes, from Tibet to Tanzania, shamanism is a worldwide phenomenon. Virtually every religion has its roots in shamanism, although shamanism is not a religion. It's a perspective-a way of seeing all things as sacred. Shamanism does not preclude any religion. It simply says that anyone can have a direct experience of the divine without an intermediary. By honoring the sacred essence of everyone and everything, one's whole life can truly become a spiritual adventure.

Omens and signs

The shaman relates to every form of life as being alive, filled with energy and always communicating something to us. The key is in learning how to receive the communication. "Omens are a way Spirit communicates with us in the physical world," states shaman Ken Eagle Feather in Traveling with Power. "You can decipher omens from virtually anything, but pay special attention to unusual occurrences, whether it's the strange behavior of birds, or conversations in which someone says something that catches your attention in a special way, or when a book falls off a shelf in front of you. You might find that messages on billboards change right in front of you, so that while others are reading anordinary advertisement, you end up reading a message from Spirit. Be careful about being too strict in your interpretations, though. Remember, you are looking for guidance, not assurance. An omen might be the same for several people, or it might mean several different things. It's up to you to create your personal omen dictionary. This open-ended response is called nonpatterning, and it provides the space for Spirit to communicate with you."

Using personal experience as the means through which wisdom is gleaned (rather than through reading, thinking or analyzing), the shaman presents opportunities where people begin to sense a real, interactive connection with everything else that exists, even those things believed to be inanimate such as rocks, plastic, glass or metal.

Everything is energy

The basis of shamanistic creation, healing and transformation has always been the knowledge that the essential nature of everything is energy. Modern science, specifically quantum physics has only recently concluded that every living thing is made of energy. The reason that walls and rocks appear solid is because they vibrate at a low, dense rate. We know that pictures travel invisibly through the air and arrive on our TV screens. Is it such a stretch to open to the possibility that everything has an invisible energy within it? And that communication can be transmitted through this energy?

Shamans utilize the knowledge that everything is energy to create in their world by using their conscious attention to direct the flow of energy within all forms of life. Energy flows where attention goes. Indeed, scientists are now reporting that the outcome of their experiments are significantly affected by the beliefs and thoughts of the person conducting the experiment.

Since we come to this planet to evolve our soul within the paradox of this world of polarity (light and dark, inside and outside, body and spirit), we must develop the skill to play consciously and creatively with duality. If we are truly perceptive, we can see how the energies of each opposing polarity are serving us. If we see how we are at effect of all these dualistic energies, then we can make a choice of what to keep and what to eliminate. This is an act of magic. True magicians are those who can influence energy, whether it is inside them or in the world outside them. If we have learned how energy moves and behaves, we have opened ourselves up to our true selves. This is what the paradoxes of our world teach us. Shamans know that humans are determiners of spirit, and the choices, decisions and priorities that we set fashion the reality of the world in which we live.


When shaman use their ability to "see" the underlying energy dynamics of situations and relationships, they are able to "see" cause and effect connections and forces that are not visible when viewing the circumstances superficially, i.e., looking only at the outer form. Perceiving the energy dynamics of life events reveals new alternatives and possibilities not previously apparent.

"The art of the (shaman) is to be able to guide, to be able to illuminate the path in such a way that the person hooks on to a greater experience-that of freedom..." Eagle Feather shares. This allows people the freedom to move beyond limits of past perceptions into the realm of options, fresh creativity and natural magic.

A shaman would "see," for example, that the anger of a supermarket clerk resulted from the clerk's inability to express their feelings. The shaman could "see" how these emotions were adversely affecting not only the clerk, but the people in line. Consequently, a shaman may choose to engage the angry clerk in a friendly, relaxing conversation in order to shift the situation into flow and harmony.


We have many powers within us that we can learn to use for our own benefit and for the benefit of others. From the shamanistic point of view, all power comes from within. Power comes from authorship (authority). Shamans become the authors of the creations in their world by freeing themselves of programmed and conditioned perceptions. In moving beyond customs, manners, rules and techniques, the shaman embraces the practicality of " What works, works." The shaman has little concern for how something works, only that it produces the results that one intends. Shamans are the most flexible, utilitarian and efficient authors of their world. They take the shortest, quickest route to their goals, even if the path tramples on their own concepts or beliefs.

One way people can experience this power is to look for proof in their own lives. Take love, for example. One way to increase the presence and power of love in a person's life is to decrease the presence and power of judgment. Shamans notice that their attention cannot be in both places at the same time, and, therefore choose where they want to spend their energy. To spend energy judging that they harmed someone or that another person caused them harm, would be a misdirection and waste of energy for a shaman.

Eagle Feather explains more about the true nature of power, " Anyone looking for power over others or control over material processes is probably going to be disappointed by the teaching, which essentially define power as the ability to free oneself from one's own perceptions and habitual patterns. The message seems to be that once you align with the energy, you're no longer the master. Spirit is."


A shaman is a bridge between this world and the invisible world of the spirit. A shaman is very anchored, very present in this world. Being so centered and grounded, a shaman can assist a person to travel into dimensions and see things from a much bigger perspective. Then people can heal because there is more room for them to expand and open to fresh new realities. This expanded awareness from the shaman creates a strong foundation for people to awaken to their own healing power within. The goal of the shaman is always to support the awakening of the soul. The shaman acts as an anchor so the person can reach their own depth and move through their own cellular transformation.

Shaman Frederick Wolf concurs. "People really know how to heal themselves. It's an illusion to think that someone is going to come and heal them. But what will happen is, when they feel the support and safety that the shaman can hold for them, they will have faith enough to go into that place inside of them that knows how to heal. It's not some magical thing that happens. It' s very natural."

Way of Living

Shamanism is a way of living on the altar of Mother Earth. It's a way to live in balance on the earth, a way of finding not only peace with yourself personally, but peace with nature and your environment. Shamanism is bringing the two worlds together: your inner world-"your heart"-with your outer world. It's important to be balanced, to be grounded in both worlds. We should be able to go anywhere and be at home, whether it's in a cave or a big city.

Shamanism is a pathway that can help us to realize the sacredness and magic within and all around us. Birds that soar into the heavens, trees whose roots reach deep into the earth, everything in nature reflects an aspect of our souls. As the poet Rumi said, "You will see stars and moons mirrored in your being." Shamanism is letting go of our limited ideas and concepts of who we are. As we abandon our illusions of separateness, we open to the beauty and simplicity of our true nature-our connectedness with all of life.

Shamanism by Robert Bruce Baird

Is it really possible that Don Juan could command the movement of Carlos' attention point or time reference point to another dimension that he calls the Nagual and the sorcerer's perspective? Can the adeptness of one person rise to know you better than you know yourself even at the level of the body conscious focus on the material world? Is INFINITY like the multi-dimensional soul which at some point is harmonized in ethics so much that it laughs at the stupidity of the soulful entities exploring the naive denial and rationalizing games our personalities playas we avoid the purpose of our soul? Could Don Juan shape-shift his alter egos and other dimension energy to become the reflection or mirror of the inner character of the student seeking to label something he knows so little about, in an "elaborate" construct that would be akin to a crook yet academically sound? Did he command this laughter response in another that easily?

Have you ever looked into yourself so deeply that you "didn't care to apologize" and "found the thought inadmissible"? What a life and so little holes in your soul you would have if only you were so wise and yet, what a curse and quite unlike 'any blessing it would be. Your knowledge of others and their intentions would make you feel so alone and so devastatingly unable to convey to others what games the ego does play. You might try to use intellect and be found arrogant. You might use love and empathy and be found invasive and intense. You might develop the austere distance of an impeccable warrior as Carlos was taught and then no longer need. No longer need! Anything! This is the world of Carlos Castaneda which calls out for humanity to look at itself and know how sensationally gifted our soul can be and in the final analysis how scary it would be not to actually care for another person at some intense level of need. But if there is no need in those dimensions what is there? Love and connectiveness as we have said; or purpose and productive involvement in creation on a collective and common basis, where each separate energy is never able to feel anything more than the most of whatever they want.

In Don Juan we see the laughter and his great power which has no application except to help the truly interested and committed student who sincerely commits to the path without knowing what is about to happen. The awe and inspiring nature of the courage makes the word warrior seem the only appropriate word to use. No Fear! This part of the Keltic Creed that the Toltecs knew and used so well in making other people rise within their own soul to achieve great oneness and beauty, is most important. Between the teacher and the pupil passes less than I would hope could be, but in the final analysis I envy Carlos, as I question Don Juan.

INITIATION: - What does it take to learn from the secrets of esoteric and adept scholars? Does one have to commit to pay money and be willing to attend endless lectures like Carlos did at UCLA under professors Meighan and Garfinkel? Perhaps it takes the willingness and intense desire he showed when he saw or felt an opportunity to learn the ways of the self-proclaimed last Toltec or a shaman of a lost culture? In some situations one has to go through so many hoops and hurdles with lots of tricks and traps that one wonders if there really is anything more than sorcery at work. Don Juan had to trick Carlos at first because he knew there was no way Carlos would really believe the simple truths of our cosmic and spiritual world. Is that a rationalization? Today you can learn a lot of these things from books and seminars. In most cases you should do this and then determine if there is some group who meets your own interests and requirements. Because we have just dealt with it as a highly shamanistic experience and because that is what the Druids and alchemists really were or are, and we recently dealt with that; we are going to quote a good explanation about shamanism that you can use as your own initiation if you so desire.

Shamanism, perhaps the oldest system of healing in the world, shamanism is prevalent in tribal cultures which, though isolated from one another, have developed beliefs and techniques with startling similarities {Unless you believe in long time world travel or astral and akashic cognition.}. The shaman is an individual who enters an ecstatic altered state of consciousness, which enables him to communicate with guardian and helping spirits and draw upon enormous sources of power. The primary purpose of shamanism is the healing of body and mind. It is also used for divination and to ensure good hunts and prosperity for a tribe or village.

According to archaeological and ethnological evidence, shamanism has been practiced for some 20,000 to 30,000 years. {The recent discovery of 90,000 year old drugs or herbal remedies in Neanderthal sites as well as the Mungo Man clearly moves this a long way back from a purely physical evidence point of view.}. It may be much older, perhaps as old as the human race. It is found all over the world, including very remote parts of the Americas, Siberia and Asia, Australia, northern Europe and Africa.

Shamanic systems vary greatly, but there are basic similarities in most systems {The Judaic Tree of Life and The Tree of Yggdrasil are more than just basic similarities.}. The shaman must function comfortably in two realities, the ordinary reality of the everyday waking world, and the nonordinary reality of the shamanic state of consciousness. The nonordinary reality is attained in a trance, which varies from very tight to deep coma and enables the shaman to see and do things that are impossible in ordinary reality. Once in a trance, the shaman enters the lowerworld by slipping into a hole or opening in the earth. In the lowerworld, he sees the cause of disease in a patient and knows its cure, and sees his guardian spirit and spirit helpers. He can shape-shift into these spirits and fly through the air. He performs his cures and can see into the future. When his shamanic work is done, he reemerges from the lowerworld back into ordinary reality. Shamans are also said to ascend to the sky in spirit boats or astride the spirits of sacrificed horses.

The nonordinary reality is as real to the shaman as is the ordinary reality. The things he sees are not hallucinations but are externalized. The shamanic state of consciousness is induced through drumming, rattling and dancing or, in some societies, by ingesting hallucinogens.

Shamans tend to be men {Women have more of these abilities in their natural state and require less altered consciousness.}, though women also can become shamans; some women shamans are extraordinarily powerful. In some cultures, shamans are involuntarily chosen by the spirits; they realize their calling in a transformational experience, often a serious illness that brings them close to death {For example Damion Brinkley of today.} and is self-cured. In other cultures, persons with natural shamanic gifts are selected at a young age, trained and initiated.

The shaman must obtain a guardian spirit, which is the source of his spiritual powers. The guardian spirit also is called a 'power animal', 'tutelary spirit', totemic animal' or 'familiar'. A common method of discovering and connecting with the guardian spirit is the solitary all-night vigil outdoors {It is often a death-defying experience to try to lie to your tribe about any ability if you cannot Do the work.}. The guardian spirit usually manifests as an animal, bird, fish or reptile but may also appear in human form. It is both beneficent and beneficial and brings to the shaman the, powers of an entire species {Or inanimate lifeforms with conscious wisdom like the trees and mountains.}. The shaman invites the guardian spirit into his body; it protects him from illness and from unfriendly forces in the lowerworld. Guardian spirits change over the years as the shaman's needs change.

After a guardian spirit is acquired, healing and divination may be performed. Healing techniques vary. A shaman may collect spirit helpers, which are the causes and cures of illness {The church believed this to the exclusion of the free will of people and the active ingredients of physical nature. Few good shamans would do this today, if they ever did.}. Spirit helpers are represented by plants, insects, small objects, worms and the like. When the shaman sees, in trance, the cause of an illness, he places one of these objects in the back of his mouth and one in the front. He then begins to "suck" the illness out of the body of the patient. The energy that causes the illness is absorbed by the spirit helpers in his mouth who protect the shaman from absorbing the illness himself. The helper in the back of the mouth acts as a backup, in case the illness gets past the helper in front.

In other techniques, the shaman descends to the lowerworld, or the realm of the dead, to bring back the soul of a patient or to retrieve a patient's guardian spirit. Some shamans exorcise disease-causing spirits in saancelike procedures or by invoking or cajoling them to leave the patient.

Sleight-of-hand tricks are sometimes used, but do not necessarily negate a healing.

Western interest in shamanism has been rising since 1951, when Mircae Eliade {Another Eranos Conference attendee.} published his landmark study, Shamanism. An increasing amount of literature has been written since about shamanic systems and the uses of hallucinogenic drugs.

Some traditions of contemporary Paganism and Witchcraft incorporate shamanic practices. Most of these concern raising energy, r, Otherworld journeys and healing. Some Witches, such as STARHAWK, consider Witchcraft essentially a shamanistic religion because raising energy, Otherworldly contact and healing are fundamental to it. Some Pagans say the same about various forms of contemporary Paganism. Pagan and Wiccan shamanism fosters a closer connection to the Earth and plays a role in the environmental and ecological interests of many individuals. It also plays a significant role in the creation of healing therapies especially tailored to Pagan and Wiccan spirituality.


Harner, Michael. The Way of the Shaman, New York: Bantam.1982. Harvey, Graham. Contemporary Paganism: Listening People, Speaking Earth. New York, New York University Press, 1997 Kalweit, Holger. Dreamtime & Inner Space: The World of the Shaman Boston, Shambala Publications, 1984." (7) There are many things we would have to agree seem unlikely to have the attributions credited to them by people who have done these things for millenia. That does not detract from the actual result and it can easily be said that science has made some similarly false attributions. The difference for us should be that shamans were doing something and scientists seldom actually achieved any great result. About the Author Author of Diverse Druids, Columnist for The ES Press Magazine, Guest writer at

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The Worlds Of the Shaman - An Exploration Of Reality by Howard G. Charing

"Reality is an Illusion, albeit a persistent one." Albert Einstein. Shamans for many thousands of years have pointing in the same direction as Quantum Physics. There is a greater reality outside our limited perception. This article explores the worlds of the shaman.

Shamanism is not a system of belief or faith, it is a system of knowledge, and is directly experienced first hand by the senses. The world that Shamans work in is not a consensus reality, i.e. what we have agreed is reality. The Shaman sees i.e. experiences with all the senses. The Shaman is the mediator between the ordinary world and an alternate reality.

Shamanism offers a way for people to wake up to their potential, and begin to explore their spiritual relationship to the universe, to other forms of life, and to each other. The experiences which come from shamanism help a person to evolve a deeper bond and respect for all of creation, and from this perspective one is more likely to lead a life that enhances life, with an emphasis on harmony and balance, and which encourages understanding and optimism. The Shamanic path is a path to experience this expanded view of universe.

The origins of shamanism pre-date recorded civilisation and the earliest findings date back forty thousand years. The word Shaman originates from the Tungus people of Siberia, it means 'One who sees', and I would like to add to this as someone 'who sees with the heart'. This brings us to one of the most important characteristics of shamans, that they are masters of energy and of the life-force which moves through the human body and all of creation. They know that there is energy normally invisible which connects all that exists, and they live with the knowledge of this energy and how to use it. This concept of the inter-relationship and understanding that man is a part of nature, not separate to it, a part of the connecting energy has been expressed in many ways and over many cultures, unfortunately not in ours. As Chief Seattle said in 1855 in his address to the American Congress;

"What befalls the Earth befalls all the sons of the Earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web he does to himself."

As the Siberian shamans say;

"Everything that is, is alive."

One of the other important characteristics of a shaman is that a man or woman who journeys into other realities to obtain hidden knowledge and wisdom on behalf of others i.e. in service to the community.

Shamans are masters of altered states of consciousness in which the normal rules of Newtonian three-dimensional existence are broken, and in which travel to other worlds, pre-cognition, distant seeing are all possible. To put another way, the shaman travels outside of time.

Today shamanism survives on all inhabited continents in less 'developed' regions in spite of the constant pressure of Western materialism, and the treatment of the Earth and nature as something to be dominated and exploited.

Shamanism is a practice shared by peoples the world over with an underlying cosmology that cuts across cultural differences and customs. There is a common core, and when allowance is made for climatic, cultural, and geographical considerations there is a common experience. To illustrate this, a shaman from the frozen tundra's of Siberia may not be familiar with the symbols of a shaman from the rainforests of South America, but he or she would certainly recognise the methods and techniques that are being used.

Contemporary shamanism is a path, a way, that we ourselves can be aware that we are a part, a strand in the web of life, and not outside of it. This path can lead us to experience in a practical way the nature of reality, and exceed our perception of the limits of reality.

Shamanism is currently enjoying a revival in the West, one of the factors in this is the re-discovery of health techniques that actively recognise and use the mind and spirit of the individual to help healing and maintain wellness. Many of these methods and the knowledge underlying these are known in ancient shamanic practices which have migrated in to Western society. Increasing numbers of people are seeking and finding solutions to their health problems, whether defined as physical, mental, or emotional. Many shamanic principles are widely used in holistic healing centres and practices.

Another factor in the 'revival' of shamanism is that we ourselves as individuals can experience the inter-connectivity, the intricate web of life that unifies all things. Shamanism provides tools and techniques to help you become your own spiritual authority. By journeying to the other realities, extending the perception of perceived reality, individuals can start to see, feel, or sense the one-ness of all things. These new insights and understandings come from within you, and from the teachers and counsellors in these other realities. This is an experiential process, and this means that you know for yourself that these experiences are valid. This is the meaning of a spiritual democracy.

This expanded vision of life, can touch our heart, adding power to our walk in life, and we can move into a harmony and balance with nature, the Earth, and all living things. This not only changes our life perspective, but can also have a beneficial influence on all others, the community around us, which these days (whether we like it or not) is a global one.

The shamanic path is a way to transformation, a personal, and subjective experience to an expanded awareness of this great mystery we call life. Much of our universe which is hidden can be explored, a universe which is known mainly through myth and dream.

About the Author

Howard G. Charing, is an accomplished international workshop leader on shamanism.

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Shamanism Definition: What Is It All About? by Annabelle Wadsworth

What do you think Shamanism is about? Drums, dancing, spirits or maybe you remember Rafiki from the Lion King singing Asantay sana squashed banana from the tree tops. Not a bad start, but lets delve a little deeper into the mysteries of Shamanic practices. Well here is a Shamanism definition for you:

What is Shamanism?

Shamanism is similar to Chi, in that there is an innate belief that Chi or energy flows through all things- trees, rocks, people and animals. In Shamanism this is referred to as spirit. Spirit not only pervades all things of this world but the whole Universe on all levels of existence. Shamanism is unlike teaching a child a religion from a book or ancient doctrines dealt out by a hierarchy, instead Shamanism would take that child, plunge her hands into the soil of the earth and ask her What do you feel?

Who are Shamans?

Shamans are people, just like you and I who have become more spiritually evolved. This really just means that they are able to attune to a range of vibrations, generally higher in order to manifest, create and change the reality in which they exist. Studies indicate that when people are thinking and creating in their minds, their bodies vibrational rate alters. However, your everyday people walking down the street cant translate, lets say a burger they want, from one level of creational existence to a reality and a tangible burger on the physical plane. Shamans however, are much more adept at manipulating energy. They use the spirit or energy to heal, see visions, communicate with other beings and even control the weather. Shamans can astral project, talk to animals and travel through time and space. Shamans are not priests, they are however given certain respect for their spiritual achievement which they share with all. In order to maintain their spiritual level they are required to fast, eat special diets and undergo rigorous mental, physical and spiritual challenges.

How did Shamanism begin?

Shamanism is thought to have exited long before any organised religion, even ones 5000 years old such as Hinduism. So it can be viewed that Shamanism is more primal, primitive and earthy belief system. It began with the simple knowledge that all things are created with a bond. A tiny thread, if you will, that connects every living thing like an infinite web of life. If you look to the indigenous tribe of each country you will know that they are still connected to the earth and their belief system has its roots in Shamanism. Native Africans, South Americans and Northern American natives are all examples of Shamanism. To these groups the knowledge of Shamanism is their birthright. However, the majority of people in this world subscribe to more discriminating religious groups. Some of these groups such as Hinduism, Buddhism and even the original Roman and Greek religions adopted knowledge of the Shamans into their churches and temples. However, other religions sought to wipe it out entirely. With widespread Christianity beginning in 400AD, the Greek, Roman and Pagan belief systems collapsed and so too did the knowledge of our Shamanic ancestors. Their beliefs were tainted with scepticism, disbelief and eventually scorn.

What can Shamanism do for me?

Although Shamanism requires special knowledge and abilities, there is a lot that can be learnt from Shamanistic practices. The knowledge that the Shaman gains is freely available for the mutual benefit of the whole tribe and the planet. A Shamans knowledge of plant life and the spirit which gives it life can be used to create a herbal medicine for you. If you are unsure about your path in life and are seeking answers from within yourself or from one who has passed on, a Shaman can place you on a vision quest. You can delve into the mysteries of the Universe yourself if guided correctly. Many say the spiritual nexus of Ayers Rock in Australia is a tangible thing. You feel it in the air. Imagine engaging in shamanic practices of the Indigenous people there. Taking part in drumming, dancing chanting, and deep meditation there can lead to an altered state of consciousness. It is then that any out of body experience you wish to have, is within your grasp. And, if that is not what draws you to Shamanism, perhaps it is this- that you have a kindred spirit in every living thing, not just a certain group of people who share the same beliefs as you.

Pocahontas once sang - You think you own whatever land you land on; the Earth is just a dead thing you can claim; but I know every rock and tree and creature has a life, has a spirit, has a name! When you are in touch with Spirit, you walk this Earth connected to all of them. Its a feeling of oneness that can not be bought or bartered. Its a feeling of love like no other.

About the Author

Annabelle Wadsworth has been a healer and energy worker for over 20 years. For more great information on Shamanism Definition, visit