A shaman is a spiritual specialist who utilizes altered states of consciousness to connect with spirit beings for purposes of healing and service, including animals, ancestors, and astral forms.

Shamanism emerged among hunting-and-gathering cultures and remains a tenacious practice in our modern world, drawing its strength from animism’s belief that everything has life and has spirit.

Shaman Definition

Even though shamanism is frequently associated with spiritual experiences, its definition encompasses various beliefs and practices that fall under this label. Sometimes this label may be misleading as some individuals use this practice to cover up mental health symptoms or to help mask certain physical ailments. At other times, it could even constitute cultural appropriation that undermines indigenous healing traditions.

Shamanism is an alternative form of medicine involving altered states of consciousness and healing plants. Practitioners act as intermediaries between the physical world and spirit world, serving various purposes such as treating illness, divination and healing, while connecting humans to nature through its elements.

Shamans are well-known for working in voluntary trance states and traveling between visible and invisible realms. It is said they can access both benevolent spirits as well as malevolent ones.  Therefore, they may foretell the future or control the forces of nature to perform divination.

Shamans can be expert herbalists and utilize herbs to treat their patients. They typically understand the properties and powers of medicinal plants native to their area, as well as how to obtain them.  Sometimes this comes at some personal risk, since certain plant materials used could potentially be toxic or even life-threatening if handled incorrectly.

Shamans, in addition to providing herbal medicine, are seen by their communities as protectors and healers. They strive to cover any unmet needs within their society that cannot be fulfilled by physicians, psychologists, or religious functionaries, while creating harmony between spiritual and material realities.

Shamans have long been revered healers who use trance states to use energy healing on both sick and dying people. Nowadays, however, shamanism has grown increasingly popular and often associated with increased consciousness, self-healing practices and strengthening environmental bonds.


“Shaman” translates to “one who knows.” As an umbrella term encompassing various spiritual traditions across the globe, “shamanism” can be defined in various ways and it’s hard to define exactly what shamanism entails. Different cultures have their own practices for communicating with spirits for healing or other benefits, whether through telepathic dialogue or possession.

Shamans’ primary role is healing illness through entering altered states of consciousness and working with spirits to affect physical changes in the world. Their practice has been passed down from generation to generation as part of an ancient and revered practice.

Shamans are multidisciplinary practitioners: diviners, psychotherapists, trance dancers and storytellers all in one. They utilize nature and their personal relationship with it as tools to make sense of our universe and help establish community unity. Shamans are highly esteemed in societies; their mission is to facilitate spirituality.

Shamans may also be called upon to perform ceremonies and invoke spiritual protection, which is an essential aspect of their work and ensures they don’t come into contact with negative spirits or entities that could threaten them. While most shamans are male, women can take up this role too.

Many functions associated with shamanistic practice resemble those performed by mediums or sorcerers. However, the distinction lies in their ability to enter altered states of consciousness deliberately and work alongside spirits for their work.

Tradition holds that shamans serve as guardians of souls. Additionally, it is said they can enter other realms to gain knowledge from these journeys.


A shaman’s knowledge comes not only from experience and training, but also the spirit world. They use drumming as a method of direct communication with spirits.  This allows them to enter an altered state of consciousness that bridges physical and spirit realms. Other tools may also aid this journey, including bells, amulets, ritual wounds, drugs, or even physical torture in some cultures.

Shamans tend to be male; however, some female shamans also practice. Shamans have been described as highly intelligent, sensitive, and powerful individuals with the ability to deal with humankind’s problems effectively and be leaders within their community. Furthermore, shamans possess healing powers such as herbal medicines or dramatic shamanic ceremonies to heal both sick and dying people through various means, such as herbal medicines or acupuncture treatments.

Shaman Training

Training as a shaman can vary widely between cultures and can be quite rigorous. Shamans may begin their path by being drawn into it through the spirit realm, while others take more traditional routes. A Haitian woman named Manbo came to her shamanism through life-or-death experiences where spirits offered her salvation if she accepted their destiny.  She accepted this offer and now practices and heals as a shaman-healer.

Other shamans may become practitioners due to traumatic life events or illness, or simply by birth into it as is the case for some Native American traditions. Those looking to become shamans must often undergo years of rigorous apprenticeship under a master shaman teacher and master the fundamentals of shamanism.  These practices include trance dancing, altered states of consciousness, honoring nature spirits, and healing the sick, among other essential skills required of a shaman.

Shamanistic practitioners must overcome their egos in order to build relationships with the spirit world, then use these relationships for healing, community benefit and spiritual guidance.

Shamans can also help their clients chart new courses for themselves if their current path seems rife with dead ends or is no longer taking them where they want. This can be accomplished by working at levels above what is typical; such as working at mythic or energetic levels to solve relationship conflicts or physical health concerns.

Shamanism Religion

In cultures that revere shamanistic medicine, shamans serve as healers, spiritual guides and religious figures. They have the ability to travel between human world and spirit realm where spirits reside in order to communicate and heal patients. Shamans may even possess powers which allow them to change physical reality using formshifting animals or leaving their body for extended periods.

Shamanism is an animistic religion which believes all objects, such as sun, moon, stars and mountains, contain souls that influence them both positively and negatively. According to this belief system, good and evil spirits alike possess immense power over society.

Shamans are believed to have the power to appease angry spirits by entering their realm, understanding why they are angry, and finding ways to make them content again. Shamans are highly respected individuals with immense power to bless or curse humans and their possessions as well as heal.

An animistic/shamanistic belief system holds that the shaman can see into the future and bring gifts that help his tribe avoid danger, so it’s vitally important for shamans to gain an understanding of their surroundings, as well as those spirits which occupy them.

A shaman can communicate with the spirit world using sounds such as whispering breeze, howling wind, growling bear or screeching owl calls to access their inner realms. They may also use their trance-like states to bridge between two worlds, while engaging with spirits by entering their bodies.

Shamanism has long been linked with psychosis and has been implicated in drug use, delusions and dissociative states. Furthermore, people experiencing mental health problems could use shamanism as a justification for their behaviors or symptoms instead of seeking conventional treatment methods.

There has been much discussion surrounding whether shamanism should be classified as religion. One argument suggests it lacks enough consensus in regards to beliefs and rituals to qualify, yet shamanism remains a powerful and longstanding worldview. Additionally, its flexible practice draws inspiration from other traditions.  For instance, some shamans work with a specific deity, while others do not believe in any divine being whatsoever.

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