Will the Real Shaman Please Stand Up?

According to the Oxford’s Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, the word “shaman” is defined as such:

Shaman (noun) A person regarded as having access to, and influence in the world of good and evil spirits, especially among some peoples of northern Asia and North America. Typically such people enter a trance state during a ritual, and practice divination and healing.

While this is a decent enough definition, it only touches on what a shaman is perceived to be by outsiders. It doesn’t touch on the idea or process of becoming a shaman, or how a person is recognized as such.

crystalAnyone can choose to wear feathers in their hair, dance around to a rhythmic beat, wear gorgeous crystals and claim to be communing with the spiritual world. That doesn’t necessarily make them a shaman, any more than wearing a purple dinosaur costume makes me Barney.

Anyone can choose to use hallucinogenic drugs, plants, or mushrooms. However, that use doesn’t necessarily mean that they will gain insight into the spiritual aspect of reality.

The truth is, anyone and everyone have the potential to reach out and interact with the spiritual aspect of reality. Children do it all the time. Adults are more or less conditioned to forget how to.

But that does not mean that anyone and everyone who does these things will become a shaman.

Understanding that you are a shaman, or becoming a shaman takes sacrifice, frustration, severe mental and physical labor, and yes sometimes the falling away or ripping away of friends and family. Becoming a shaman means to have everything you have learned, conditioned yourself to know, and experienced is torn asunder, and your reality will take on strange, new, and sometimes terrifying aspects.

It is not for the faint of heart or those of weak minds. Many who start on this journey do not come out the other side, and those who do will forever wear the scars of their ordeals to serve as a reminder of where they have been.

DSC_0024But all that– that is just the beginning. Now the real work begins.

If you look through history and at various different cultures, shamans serve as a liaison between what we know, and what we could learn. They act as intermediaries, negotiators, counselors, advisers, healers, and sometimes even leaders. But despite all these different aspects, one idea remains common.

A shaman needs his or her tribe just as much as they need the shaman. He needs the tribe to watch over him when he goes into trances or focuses on other aspects of reality. He needs the people to question him when his words don’t make sense. She needs to hear their laughter, see their tears, and experience their nature. Even if a shaman travels far away from his or her community, a real shaman understands that she is not the same without them.

The work now is to build the relationship between a shaman and his or her tribe, and the spiritual aspect of reality. It is a slow process, a joyous process, an exhilarating process, a frustrating process and of course, sometimes a painful and confusing one.

And that is as it should be.

© 2016 – 2017, Laura Seeber. All rights reserved.

3 Comments

  1. No, he or she won’t stand up for you! Neither for me.

    The shaman may need the tribe, but it wouldn’t be the first shaman who’s last choice it was to poison the food or water supply and die alongside them. And there is no tribe which has freaked-out, in ways tainting the entire planet for centuries, as our own cultures ill-bred cocktail of religious craze, scientific supremacy, and monetary greed did.

    You may think you teach to do good, but I know you only attempt to teach because you were afraid to join that fight on the right side of the frontier.

    1. Thank you for your reasoned, yet impassioned comment Andre- I really enjoyed reading it. The way I see it, shamans are humans, just like everyone else- they have the same potential to do good or to do evil. As for why I do this… my only aim is to have some conversations on this subject, and you have helped me to do that. 🙂 So thank you! And as for your comment about being afraid to join the fight– there is a difference between being “afraid” and choosing your battles. Feel free to comment back with more of your thoughts- would love to hear them. — Laura

  2. I agree the few tribes that are still left, do rely on their shaman/Medicine Men/Women. But in the more modern society, not all practicing shamans rely on tribes today, because they are now accepted by more people in society for their ability to heal psychological, physically,mentally. And help guide others on their similar spiritual path. They can even help put a shield of protection around someone, under spiritual attack.

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