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The Ancient Healing Practice of Shamanism

Updated: Dec 14, 2021

Shamanism is the oldest healing practice in the world, thought to date back at least 40,000 years. It was practiced in Western Europe by Celtic tribes and prevalent in indigenous cultures around the world, from native American Indians (North and South America) to the Australian Aboriginies and Maoris in New Zealand. My own Shamanic training focused on our own native Celtic tradition. Whilst not originally known as 'Shamanism' this term is derived from the Tungus tribe of Siberia where a Shaman or 'Saman' translates as 'one who knows' or 'one who sees in the dark'.


The late Anthropologist Michael Harner coined the term 'Core Shamanism' to describe the common beliefs and practices of these ancient cultures which are as follows:


Connection with Nature. They believed that all of nature including animals and seemingly inanimate matter is comprised of energy and that this energy is imbued with spirit. Hence trees, rivers, mountains, animals, humans etc, are all made up of energy. All energy is connected and all is one. This Ancient belief, sometimes referred to as Animism or Paganism is far less primitive than previously thought. In fact, it is now supported by Quantum Physics which also states that everything is inter-connected energy vibrating at different frequencies.


Shamanic practices involve a deep reverence for nature and our ancestors realised that they depended on the land for their very survival. Since industrial times we have drastically lost this connection with nature. From a Shamanic point of view this results in a disconnection from our own true nature and is responsible for much of the malaise and disharmony in both individuals and in the world at large.


Healing of Self and Community. Shamans are very sensitive to different energies and they can clear or extract negative energy from people or places. Negative energy can attach to us in many ways, from a foreign body, from past-life trauma or trauma in this lifetime or it may be passed down the ancestral line. This can result in our everyday lives being out of balance and leave us vulnerable to becoming mentally or physically ill. Shamans are able at will to enter into an altered, elevated state of consciousness where they journey to the Spirit world in order to obtain answers to assist with the healing in question. (More on this under 'The Shamanic Journey or Vision Quest')


Where a person experienced trauma, either in this lifetime or in past lives then a 'Soul Retrieval' healing will be required. When we experience trauma, the effect can be so disturbing that the soul shatters and a piece of it leaves us for a place of safety in the Spirit world. An example of trauma could be physical, emotional or sexual abuse, the death of a loved one or a car accident. Some symptoms of soul loss may be chronic depression, chronic illness, addictions or memory gaps from a certain phase of your life. Soul Retrieval healing involves the Practitioner journeying to the Spirit world in order to retrieve the missing soul piece and return it to the client. People who have retrieved a soul piece report feeling much stronger, more confident and more resilient.


The Shaman can also hep empower a person by journeying to the Spirit world to find a Power Animal for them. This could be any wild animal like a bear, a lion or a wolf. They represent the essence of that species of animal, the archetype, so a bear for example is strong and fierce and would come to help provide strength and protection.


Another important role of a Shaman is doing 'Psychopomp' work where he guides the soul on his journey to the after-life. This would be done to assist in the dying process and help the person pass over peacefully. It could also involve assisting earth-bound spirits (who may not even realise they are dead) to cross over into the after-life.


A Past-Life healing is often the answer to some mental or physical problem, the cause of which remains a mystery. A client of mine had a pain in his left side for no apparent reason but a past-life journey revealed that he had fallen off a horse in a previous life and landed on that part of his body, where he was experiencing the pain. Following his Shamanic healing the pain disappeared.


Shamanism is not only concerned with the health of the individual but also with the health of the entire community. Ancient tribes lived in very close-knit communities where everyone helped each other. They knew this was in their best interest as what affects one affects all. After all, everything is connected.


Ritual and Spiritual Practice. Ritual is an integral part of Shamanic communities. Pachamama ceremonies for example, would be performed to give thanks to Mother Nature. Daily spiritual practice such as calling on our spirit guides and power animals allows for harmony with creation. For me one of the most amazing aspects of Shamanism was discovering that we all have our own personal spirit guides and power animals who make themselves known to us during the Shamanic journey. For a period of time Fox appeared to me both in Shamanic journeys as well as in reality. The fox is cunning and resourceful. He came to teach me to be more like this, not cunning in a bad way, but to be smarter at getting around obstacles and to look at problems or obstacles from all angles.


Spirit guides appear to us in our Shamanic journeys to teach us things to help us move forward with our lives. Often they remind us of who we really are. My past-life healing guide led me through a forest where I picked various plants, then into a wooden house where I saw myself boiling up leaves to brew different herbal potions. I learned that I must have been a Herbalist in a past-life making remedies from plants I had foraged for.


Visiting Sacred Places. Learning to connect with sacred places is an intrinsic part of Shamanism. We have an abundance of sacred sites in Ireland such as stone circles, passage tombs, fairy forts, dolmens and healing wells, many of which are located at powerful earth energy vortexes. By honouring them we re-awaken and invigorate the energy of the land for benefit of all.


The Shamanic Journey or Vision Quest. By entering into an altered state of consciousness the Shaman journeys to the spirit world on a quest with a specific intenton of gaining answers or knowledge to assist with healing of either an individual or a community. Shamans enter their trance-like altered state of consciousness by one of three methods; by listening to the Shamanic drum, via tribal dance or by taking sacred plants like Ayahuasca. Ayahuasca ceremonies have become very popular in recent years but it not necessary to take this mind-altering substance in order to journey. Moreover, it can be an overwhelming experience for some as it can bring too much hidden information too quickly to the surface. The Shamanic drum provides a much safer and gentler method of journeying.


People who attend drumming circles report feelings of peace, harmony, oneness and transcendence. The drumbeat slows brainwaves down to a Theta state which is the deepest trance-state just before the sleep state. Furthermore, clinical research has shown that drumming lowers blood pressure, anxiety and stress. It has been proven to increase brain white matter in the corpus callosum which connects the left and right hemisphere of the brain. In most people the left, logical brain tends to be dominant and so drumming helps us to connect more with the right, creative, intuitive side of our brain.


The world of Spirit is rich, beautiful, nurturing and highly beneficial to us in our everyday lives. Both major and minor problems can be solved by connecting with our guides and power animals. Everyone has the ability to connect with Spirit. You don't have to be a Shaman. The wonderful thing about Shamanism is that you don't need any intermediary to connect, for it is the path of direct revelation. All of us have immense power if we could only realise it. A Shamanic Practitioner might help you heal and connect with that power but it is possible to do it yourself. A good introduction to the Shamanic path is to join a Shamanic Drumming group where you can experience the process of journeying and connecting with your own spirit guides and power animals. I would also recommend getting out in nature as much as possible and visiting sacred sites. We need to connect in with the energies of the land, the trees, rivers, lakes, mountains etc and allow their magical, healing properties soothe our souls.





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