What is Shamanism and Shamanic Practice?
Shamanism can be defined as “an esoteric practice that involves a practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to perceive and interact with a spirit world and channel these transcendental energies into this world.”
Noted Romanian religious-historian, philosopher and writer, Mircea Eliade stated that: “…Shamanism encompasses the premise that shamans are intermediaries or messengers between the human world and the spirit worlds…”
Of the spirit-workers, the Shaman themselves, Eliade noted that they: “…are said to treat ailments/illness by mending the soul. Alleviating traumas affecting the soul/spirit restores the physical body of the individual to balance and wholeness…”
Eliade also wrote that: “…The shaman also enters supernatural realms or dimensions to obtain solutions to problems afflicting the community. Shamans may visit other worlds/dimensions to bring guidance to misguided souls and to ameliorate illnesses of the human soul caused by foreign elements. The shaman operates primarily within the spiritual world, which in turn affects the human world. The restoration of balance results in the elimination of the ailment…”
Although the word ‘shaman’ seems to be originally derived from references occurring in the North Asian language of the Tungusic Evenki, it has come to be applied to many long-standing native religious traditions around Mother Earth; the word itself appears to have roots that date back over two millennia.
Wikipedia acknowledges that: “…some anthropologists began to also use the term (shamanism) to describe unrelated magico-religious practices found within the ethnic religions of other parts of Asia, Africa, Australasia and the Americas, as they believed these practices to be similar to one another…”
A Shaman believes….
Shamans believe that all problems, physical, emotional or mental, have their root cause in spiritual imbalance. Healing this is achieved by accessing information in the unseen world and bringing it back to the physical world to effect transformation.
The purpose being to create alignment between the freedom and flexibility sought by our soul and the beliefs which limit what we believe we can be and enjoy in this life.
Each of us is unique. When our soul came into our body it brought with it wisdom from other lives, wisdom from all of Creation, and wisdom for the journey ahead. This knowledge is accessible to all of us, though often hidden away.
This blueprint holds the key to unlocking our full potential and achieving our greatest and most unique dreams. We all have an innate wisdom within, and we all have the answers that we seek, shamanism offers us the opportunity to journey within to make the discovery.
Taking this journey can sometimes be painful, as it opens up pain from our experiences and traumas from our childhood and other lives. We all carry such burdens. If we allow ourselves to recognise such uncomfortable emotions, we can gain access to our inner truth. My experience is many do NOT do so because of their fears.
The Practice of Shamanism
When life calls for a ceremony to open sacred space, such as birth, death, marriage, community gatherings, prayer and meditation, the four directions can be invoked. The purpose being to connect to all the Elements in order to ground the spiritual work.
By opening sacred space, permission is being asked from the local spirits, the mountains and Mother Earth to perform a ceremony in “their space”. According to Alberto Villoldo, “within sacred space we have extraordinary spiritual assistance available to us. When we call within sacred space, the Universe conspires on our behalf.”
Whether in the Native American, Peruvian, Mexican, Siberian, Celtic or Nordic traditions of shamanism, all honour the four directions. It is the essential core of their culture’s connection to well-being, nature and spiritual harmony.
The four directions are placed within The Medicine Wheel, often referred to as the “Sacred Hoop.”
Each cardinal direction, East, South, West and North, along with the centre, above and below hold lessons of physical, emotional and spiritual balance. Symbolism is woven through each one in the form of colours, animals and elemental relations.
The Medicine Wheel is also known as “the wheel of life” as there is no beginning or end. Rather it represents a way of living that is always evolving and transforming.
Through the study of the four directions, each of us begins to uncover our challenges and discover and align to our vision. This then allows our dream to be realised through our practice of setting intentions, saying prayers and creating potentials.
Details of the medicine wheel and the four directions vary within each indigenous culture. Each one though honours the core belief that everything on Mother Earth is living and all are interconnected.
Whether the four directions are invoked through ceremony or daily living, there is a deep reverence and respect for the cycles and mysteries of life.
The elements Air, Fire, Earth and Water correspond to the four directions of our physical world, the four quarters of the Universe, the four winds and most importantly the four quarters of the medicine wheel or sacred hoop.
There is a fifth element – Spirit. All five are forces and energies making up the Universe and everything in it. They possess form as well as force and influence our individual aspects such as personality.
You can learn more about the elements by downloading our `All About´ workbooks. All five are available as a bundle at a discounted price of €30.
The Shaman´s Blessing to Call in the Four Directions
When a Shaman desires to create sacred space one way is to call upon the four directions. This is an invocation asking for permission of the spirits to support the healing about to be completed.
It begins with a call to the spirits of the four cardinal directions and beyond: South, West, North and East, Mother Earth and Father Sky.
First take some deep breaths, let go of any mental distractions and align with your heart’s intention to create sacred space. Please amend any of the words to align with your values, making it authentic to you.
As you face the South, smudge or fan sage or incense, blow scented water, or shake a rattle and repeat the prayer for the South. Have one arm held up and face the palm of your hand out to receive. Then repeat the appropriate invocation in each of the West, North and East directions. When calling in Mother Earth or “pachamama” place one hand to the ground and when calling to Father Sky, reach for the stars.
The invocation for each of these six points is:
“To the Winds of the South Great Serpent Mother of the Life giving waters. Wrap your coils of light around me. Remind us how to shed the past the way you shed your skin. Teach us to walk the way of beauty.
To the Winds of the West Mother Jaguar, protect our medicine space. Support us to know our own fears. Teach us to transform our fears into love. Remind us how to live in peace, with no judgement. Show us the way beyond death.
To the Winds of the North Hummingbird, you who travel so far. Ancestors, Ancient Ones whisper to us in the wind. We honour you who have come before us and you who will come after us. We honour and greet you all.
To the Winds of the East Great Eagle, Condor, you who see so far. Keep us under your wing, show us the mountains we only dare dream of. Teach us to soar to new places, to fly wing to wing with Spirit.
Mother Earth – Pachamama we are gathered for the healing of all your peoples, no matter how large or small. Let us soften into your wisdom and take great care of you so that my children and my children’s children witness the beauty and abundance you offer us and all our relations.
Father Sun, Grandmother Moon, to the Star nations Great Spirit – you who are known by a thousand names And you who are the unnamable One. Thank you for bringing us here at this moment to sing the song of Life.”
When you have finished your ceremony, sacred space must be closed. This can be done silently or spoken aloud, always with intent. Thank the serpent, jaguar, hummingbird and eagle for their wisdom. As you release their energies back to their four directions, take a few deep breaths, acknowledge yourself being now in the space you are in and witness any changes in your being. Take any inspiration gleaned from your sacred space and share them with the earth, your family and your community.
Shamanism and Your Growth
At Shamanics in Portugal we use the principals and tools contained in the ancient practice of shamanism as it is emerging in the world again today, to prepare participants called to Shamanics in Portugal. Our purpose is to help them find healing in their lives, to take away with them a sense of wonder at what they truly are – the mystery of our true unlimited nature.
So that rather than a third party such as shaman, priest or minister needing to intercede on their behalf with Spirit, we become aware of our own link to Spirit and our connection with the Universe. Macrocosm/Microcosm – Microcosm/Macrocosm.
Taking responsibility for our own way of being and even for the condition of our world – making all our activity sustainable. A change in consciousness which takes place within us and, due to our interconnection with the Universe at large. Thereby influencing the collective consciousness. Opening each of us to our true nature and purpose, to our journey of joy, wonder and mystery. Creating harmony within ourselves and so the world around us.
The seen world is temporary, the unseen is permanent