 Shamanism is commonly accepted in many cultures of
the world.
Some of the topics of this Introduction are:
What is shamanism?
How does one become a shaman?
Shamanic traditions and culture
Origins and roles of shamanism
 Stanley Krippner Shamans of the 20th Century
 “A shaman is a magico-religious practitioner who self-
regulates their attention so as to access information
not ordinarily available to members of the social group
who sanctioned the practice and whose physiological,
psychological and spiritual conditions they attempt to
ameliorate including stress and illness among
members of their community.”
 Practitioner who can voluntarily alter his or her state
of consciousness
The shaman’s practice is socially-sanctioned by the
practitioner’s community
The Four D’s of Shamanism
 Reveries or trance states
that transmit the thoughts
of another person
 Dreams where they are in
faraway places
 Rituals which may predict
future happenings
 Mental procedures to
produce effects on distant
physical objects or living
 Shamanism works the constraints of time,
space and force
Operates outside of our current knowledge of physics
Works for the benefit of the community
Does so in various altered
states of consciousness
 Mircea Eliade (1988)
 “A shaman is a man or woman who journeys in an
altered state of consciousness, usually induced by
rhythmic drumming or other type of percussion
sounds, or in some cases by psychoactive drugs.”
 Such journeys are generally undertaken to help other
people such as members of the community:
Diagnosing and treating illness
Divination and prophesy
Acquisition of power
Establishing contact with guides
or teachers in a non-ordinary reality
And contact with spirits of
the dead
 Doore (1988)
 The shaman usually remains conscious and in control
of his or her own faculties
 Typically suffers no amnesia upon return to ordinary
 Winkelman (1984)
 Magico-religious practitioners who:
 Occupy a socially-recognized role
 Who have developed the ability to interact with non-
ordinary dimensions of existence
 Have specialized knowledge of spiritual entities
 Winkelman (1984)
 Magico-religious practitioners who…”have special
powers to influence the course of nature and human
affairs in ways not ordinarily possible and who occupy
a culturally recognized role involving the supernatural,
having special access to spiritual entities.”
 Winkelman, 1984
 Have special powers that allow them to influence the
course of human affairs
 Affect nature in ways not normally accessible to
ordinary human functioning and abilities
 Winkelman (1984)
 Four basic types of shaman practitioner
 Complex consisting of all types of shamans
 Shaman-healers
 Priests, priestesses and sorcerers
 Diviners, seers and mediums
 Rogers (1982)
 The shaman is a “practitioner of mystery beyond the
understanding of most members
of his or her community.”
 Siberian, Central Asian and Finno-Uralic (Finland and
the Urals)
Celtic (Northern European)
Native American in North America
South America
South and East Asia
 A person may be born with a
propensity towards many of the abilities that are
shown by shamans
They may then train in shamanic practices
However, unless they are accepted by their community
and use their abilities for the
benefit of their community, they
cannot be fully accepted as shamans
 Considered wise men and women of their community
who demonstrate a wider view of reality and possess
the ability to intercede for and aid members of their
 They may be chosen at birth, either through a
hereditary link to a shaman relative or through a
process of initiation and training
 May be “special” from childhood and
recognized by the elders of their community
 Heinz (1991) describes the process of becoming a shaman,
consisting of three divisions
 The Call
 Initiation
 Training
 Heinz (1991)
 Initiation preceded by a selection process that may consist
of being called to serve, the role may be inherited or the
individual may decide for themselves to become a shaman
and look for a teacher to train and initiate them
 Rogers, 1982 – The call may come through:
 Revelation and mystical experiences
 Seeing visions or having epileptic seizures
 Displaying erratic behavior
 Surviving a deadly disease
 Being struck by lightning
 Having an unusual birthing
 Having unusual birth defects
 Being born a twin
 Sharon (1978) says it is agreed that:
 Shamans are unusually gifted or perceptive members
of their community
 May be bestowed on someone who has had NDE, OBE
or who has inherited the gift
 Usually an inner voice from the spirit world is heard
followed by a change in behavior
 Nicholson (1982) Initiate goes through varying degrees of
physical and psychological ordeals such as:
Forced rhythmic dancing
Sensory deprivation & seclusion
Fasting and dehydration
Beatings & other physical ordeals
Sleep deprivation
Hyperventilation (fast breathing)
Ingestion of hallucinogens
(only within a shamanic or religious context)
Involve cultivation and control of imagery
 Heinze (1991 – quoting Eliade) cites 4 major criteria for
shamanic initiation and training
Shaman is expected to experience “dismemberment and
rebirth” during training
Expected to go on an ecstatic journey
and act as a guide for wandering souls
Expected to master the fear of fire, and
Expected to have animal guardians
and to assume animal form
 Shamans emerged during the
hunting phase of human civilization
(Rutherford, 1993)
Celtic cave paintings from around 30,000 BC show
shaman dressed in skin and antlers of animal being
Acted as diviner of rich hunting fields
Intercessory between hunters and hunted
Conciliation between animal spirits and hunted
 Rutherford (1993) shaman
call, initiation and training
intended to produce bridge
between worlds – death and
rebirth, enlightenment,
awakening and rebirth
Teachings typically conveyed
by word of mouth
 Heinz (1982) described study of demographics
 Shamans aged 17 to 70 years of age
 70% accepted vocation when over 30 years
 Gender of shaman not important to clients
 Clients “attracted to the shaman with the most
powerful spiritual connections.”
 Shamans enter an altered state of consciousness or
trance state in order to fulfill their intercessionary
roles with the spirits, for spirit intercession, divination
and for healing
 Many shamanic teachers employ rituals to generate an
altered state of consciousness and to train shamans
 Some involve artistic traditions such as the Tattwa
symbols, sand painting and cave art
 Shamanic cultures know the potential of rhythm and
took advantage of “resonant cavities”, caves and kivas,
that could amplify the effects of these rhythms
 Ancient musical cultures developed instruments that
aided trance such as drums
 Modern research confirms the findings that certain
rhythms facilitate trance state
 Shamans are able to utilize altered states
of consciousness to mentally travel to other dimensions
and locations
 This is often known as spirit or astral travel
 The shamanic term “magical flight” appears to be similar
to Out-of-Body Experience or OBE
 Dr. Felicitas Goodman studied trance
postures and found that they facilitated
certain types of healing and divination states
 One of the shaman’s roles is that
of healer Doore (1988)
Physical, mental, emotional and spiritual ill health
may be helped by the shaman
Currently, western medicine has no place for shamanic
 Usually apprenticed to an older shaman who teaches
knowledge to the young student
until pupil is old enough or ready to participate in an
initiatory ceremony in which the student overcomes a
danger, either physical,
mental or both.
 Dangers involved in entering the spirit world
 First done in training, then during initiation ceremony
 Student becomes aware of both malevolent and
beneficial entities, both human and animal, some of
which he employs as allies
 Shamans are not usually self-taught
 Shamanism has traditionally used certain plants and
plant extracts to facilitate spirit travel in its rituals
 Shamans have also stressed that the ability to develop
spirit travel can be obtained through mastery of their
spiritual and physical selves
 Spirit travel was usually accomplished by experienced
 Shamanism also includes the ability to enter an altered
state of consciousness or trance state in order to access
information for individuals or for the community
 This might be achieved through the use of certain
rituals, ritual objects, dance or dreams
 The shaman perceives a world of total aliveness in all
parts, in all parts sentient, in all parts capable of being
known and being used. This pan-animism yields to the
practicing shaman its powers and principalities and
these, in turn, can be used for healing, for renewal,
and for bringing into the profane world the
transformational power of sacred time and space.
Nicholson (1987)
 So, apart from traditional shamans
 who can call themselves by that title?
 Heinze states that only the following can think of
themselves in that way:
They can alter their state of consciousness at will
Can fulfill the spiritual needs of their community
Are mediators between the sacred and the profane
And use symbols and rituals
 Today modern science views shamanic skills as
evidence of mental illness. However, shamanism is
culture specific
 Heinze’s 1982 survey found that shamans considered
themselves chosen and were able to move easily from
one reality to another. They operated on altruistic
motivation and none showed signs of mental illness
 Can we be modern shamans?
 Do you have healing abilities?
 Do you have divination abilities?
 Can you voluntarily alter your state of consciousness to
access information?
 Can you affect your external environment?
 Are your specific abilities sought by and sanctioned by
members of your community?
 You may be a modern shaman!

Introduction to ShamanismPP