“Because it is not an organized religion as such, but rather a spiritual practice, shamanism cuts across all faiths and creeds, reaching deep levels of ancestral memory. As a primal belief system, which precedes established religion, it has its own symbolism and cosmology, inhabited by beings, gods, and totems, who display similar characteristics although they appear in various forms, depending upon their places of origin.”
John Matthews, The Celtic Shaman
Shamanic healing is an ancient non-religious practice based upon the belief that all healing includes a spiritual dimension. ‘Shamanic Practitioners enter altered states of consciousness to communicate with other realms of reality. The ‘Shamans’ journey is to help the client to rediscover their connection to nature and spirit.
“Many formalized religions, from Buddhism to Christianity, came from ancient shamanic roots and still bear the shamanic threads of deep connection to the divine in all things. But shamanism itself is not a formalized system of beliefs or an ideology. Rather, it is a group of activities and experiences shared by shamans in cultures around the world. These practices are adaptable and coexist with different cultures, systems of government, and organized religious practices.” (https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/shamanism)
Shamanic Practitioners work with the spirit or the soul. Healing takes place at the soul level. The shift of consciousness that the Shamanic Practitioner makes, which allows the free part of his or her soul to leave the body. The Shamanic Practitioner can then go retrieve information for your healing and growth.
According to Christina Pratt in The Encyclopedia of Shamanism, a shaman is a practitioner who has gained mastery of:
- Altered states of consciousness, possessing the ability to enter alternated states at will, and controlling themselves while moving in and out of those states.
- Mediating between the needs of the spirit world and those of the physical world in a way that can be understood and used by the community.
- Serving the needs of the community that cannot be met by practitioners of other disciplines, such as physicians, psychiatrists, priests, and leaders.
A shaman is therefore a specific type of healer who uses an alternate state of consciousness to enter the invisible world, which is made up of all unseen aspects of the world that affect us, including the spiritual, emotional, mental, mythical, archetypal, and dream worlds.
The spiritual skin, as it were, has some holes in it, making the person vulnerable. Experienced Shamanic Practitioners can call on spirits to help restore portions of the soul and remove spiritual parasitical intrusions. Shamanic healing is part of a holistic system that works with other modalities, such as Western medicine.
In shamanism healing work is performed to deal with the spiritual aspect of illness. There are three common causes of illness in the shaman’s worldview. A person may have lost his or her power, causing depression, chronic illness, or a series of misfortunes. In this case, the Shamanic Practitioner journeys to restore that person’s lost power. Or a person may have lost part of their soul or essence, causing soul loss, which sometimes occurs during an emotional or physical trauma, such as accidents, surgery, abuse, the trauma of war, being in a natural disaster, divorce, the death of a loved one, or other traumatic circumstances that cause shock.
Soul loss can result in dissociation, post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression, illness, immune deficiency problems, addictions, unending grief, or coma. Soul loss can prevent us from creating healthy relationships and the life we truly wish to live. It is the role of the Shamanic Practitioner to track down the parts that have fled and been lost due to trauma by performing a soul retrieval ceremony.
Another cause of illness from a shamanic perspective would be any spiritual blockages or negative energies a client has taken on due to the loss of his or her power or soul. These spiritual blockages also cause illness, usually in a localised area of the body. It is the role of the Shamanic Practitioner to extract and remove these harmful energies from the body.
A Shamanic Practitioner heals both the living and can assist deceased souls to find resolution. In healing those who have passed, the Shamanic Practitioner performs a psychopomp ceremony helping those who have died cross over to a comfortable and peaceful place. The ceremony may also include clearing a home or land of spirits that are in a state of unrest.