Shamanism is humanity’s oldest healing
art to exi...
Shamanism is humanity’s oldest healing
art to exist. It dates back to the Paleolithic era. Initially, the word Shaman
referred to healers of the Tungus people of Siberia but in recent times it has
been given to healers in many traditional cultures globally who use the
consciousness altering techniques in the healing process. Mircea Eliade asserts
in his book, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy that Shamanism underlies
all the other spiritual traditions that exist on the planet and that one of the
fundamental characteristics of shamanism is traveling to other worlds in a
state of consciousness (Bonnie). The Shamans are
commonly referred to as seers or “people who know” in their tribal based
languages because they are involved in the system of knowledge based on
first-hand experiences. It is important t to note that Shamanism is not a
belief system because it is based on personal experimentation conducted to
heal, get information, or even engage in other things. In fact, if a shaman
does not get the desired results, then they are discredited and will no longer
be used in the tribe again. The paper below gives a documentation of Shamanism
as well as an account of an experience e had by a Shaman.
The word shaman is an English
translation of the Tungus word saman. The Tungus are the indigenous people
located in Siberia along the Altai Mountains. The literal translation of the
word Tung means, “To know.” Another research indicates that the word Shaman was
derived from the earliest people perhaps the Vedic people from northern India.
One example given in that line is the Tibetan word for a Buddhist monk, which
is Samana. However, despite the ambiguity in the true meaning of the word and
its origin, Shamanism is now a global technique that cannot be overlooked.
Contrary to common belief, Shamanism is
not a religion; it is a method and not a religion. It coexists with the
existing religions found in diverse cultures. In some countries such as Siberia
Shamanism coexist with religions such as Buddhism and Lamaism. However, they
are mostly found in animism cultures that are those that believe in the
existence of spirits since the Shamans may interact with the spirits to come up
with a form of healing (Stevens & Lena, 25). The shamans, however, do not believe
in spirits, but they engage with them and talk to them. Therefore, shamanism
sis not a system of belief or faith but rather is a practice. Shamanism is also
not exclusive in that it accommodates the other practices within the culture.
They use the spiritual means at their disposal I collaboration with the other
community members that have other tactics or techniques that they employ. Such
may include the plant healing, bone setting, and massage. The purpose of the
Shaman is to help the patient get well by all means possible and not rather
prove their prowess. In fact, the gifts that the shamans receive because of
their work, they return them all in case the patient dies or fails to get well
after they perform their healing process (Stevens
& Lena, 26).
Tom Cowan the author of Pocket Guide to
Shamanism states that the role of the Shaman is a wide range. Some of the roles
that they have are to heal the spirit, herbal healing, divination, soul leading
and dream work. However, not all the Shamans perform the same services at all
times (pages 23-27). The exact role that the Shaman plays depends on their area
of Calling. There are some of the Shamans that are energetic healers, diviners,
communicators with other realities, herbal healers, soul retrievers, and light
workers. However, the role that they play is of lesser importance as compared
to the services that they provide.
The primary function is the healing the
spirit for a Shaman. This may include the first the soul extraction, which
involves the Shaman extracting the psychic chords and darts making an intrusion
into the soul of the patient. It is at times an attack from an individual that
has attempted to harm or kill the patient. In the current set up, the
extraction of the soul should involve the cleansing and protection rituals for
the individual in need. Secondly, is the soul retrieval whereby the Shaman
retrieves the pieces of the lost soul of an individual. It is usually done
through journeying to the spirit world with the help of the ancestors, spirits
to find out what is wrong with the individual, and hence fought to bring back
what the individual lost. It is effective for those suffering from mental
illness, abused children or those that have missing puzzles in their lives. The
third role is soul restoration that involves the accrual reinstatement of the
person’s soul. It occurs when a person is near death may be due to trauma, and
hence the energy is re-centered. The other role is hands-on healing that is a
technique that involves the body work and hands-on healing involving the energy
or spirit of the shaman working with that of the patient. The other important
role is divination which whereby the shaman can foretell the future describing
the illness of people and find the needed cure, the divination shows the path
to the patient that will lead to their healing. The herbal healing role is also
bestowed on the shaman, which gives them the credence of being a true medicine
man or witch doctor. Therefore, the Shaman try to protect the plant life that
produce the all needed herbal value. Herbal healing works in conjunction with
spirit healing to facilitate quick recovery of the individual. The shaman also
engages in dream work whereby they interpret the dreams that individuals have
as a way to assist in the healing process of a then dreamer. The other
important role is soul leading whereby they work with the dead. The shaman
escorts the newly dead into the otherworld because they are more familiar with
the other world. They direct the soul of the dead to a proper place in the
other world (Cowan, 23-27).
Not all the shamans perform the task
and the practices listed above. However, the shaman engages in providing a
holistic healing process. They perform their work involving counseling, herbs,
physical healing methods, and rituals. The goals of the shaman are to address
the mind, body, and soul of the person seeking their assistance to ensure
holistic wellbeing. The shaman’s role is to guide the community, and they
acknowledge that healing comes from within the individual and hence their role
is to take them through or guide them on how to do it. Shamanic is also a
matter of personal choice whereby individuals have the liberty to choose
between modern medicine and Shamanism. However, most individuals combine both
of them (Eliade, 33).
One experience of a Shaman is the
initiation process into shamanism. The shamanic initiation is usual two-fold
that is it happens in the physical word and the next world. It is part of the
call that all the traditional Shamans have to receive and is usually a very
strict and involved process that can at times lead to the death or permanent
disabilities of the individual if not seen through to the proper conclusion.
There is a tale of a young Manchu apprentice that got so frightened that he
tore himself from the vision of an eagle that had grabbed him with his talons
and then fell from a cliff meeting his death (Matthews,
According to the tradition, training by
the ecstatic method is done through visions and dreams. The individual spends a
lot of time that could be months, at times even years in solitude living in a
cave or forest in the most deplorable manner. The instruction has to be given
by the ancestors, spirits, and guides and it involves the initiation to the
other world. The individuals then let themselves fall into starvation and
isolation to get into the ecstatic state. The experience is so tough and
gruesome and is the reason there are so few Shamans in existence and why the
lineage is not growing (Eliade, 40).
In conclusion, Shamanism is a
traditional healing method and a way of life and not a religion. It was first
practiced among the Tungus if Siberia but spread globally over the course of
time to merge with the diverse cultures in the world. The shaman acts as an
intermediary between the physical world and the spirit world. They take to
action on behalf of the community and the individuals to conduct ceremonies for
rituals, heal the people, and help to guide others on the shamanic path. The
life of the shaman is dedicated to the service of the people in society and
hence they have a responsibility to ensure the well-being of family and the
entire community. They help to maintain a balance in society. It is, however, a
very strenuous and self-sacrificing ritual to become a Shaman and hence there
is a diminishing number of the Shamans in the world over the course of time.
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