Are you called to be shaman? If you are how do you know? If you aren’t how do you know? If you don’t want to be a shaman but would like to take advantages of some of the shamanic practices and techniques. Can you? Are you allowed to or not? Do you have to be initiated to be a shaman? These are all questions that I once had after I finally submitted and embarked upon this quest. And I will share what I have learned with you from my experience.
First it is important to understand, that every world culture has an individual or group of individuals that has acted as a mediator between the spiritual and the physical. These eccentric individuals have been called medicine man/woman, viziers, spiritual healer, witch doctor, etc. but the most prevalent term used today is shaman and the practice is called shamanism. Shamanism is the general term that has been used incorrectly to describe any person that feels that God, the Great Spirit, the ancestors, spirit guides and/or guardian spirits have called them to help others through spiritual means, which has contributed to the confusion of the term. So to clarify, it must be understood that a shaman can be a preacher, psychic, counselor, medicine man or woman, herbalists, priest or priestess, medical intuitive, psychic healer, etc. but a preacher, psychic, counselor, medicine man or woman, herbalists, priest or priestess, medical intuitive, psychic healer, doesn’t necessarily have to be a shaman. The key difference being that a shaman usually has a unique perspective about life whereas the other healers do not.
The reason the shaman’s viewpoint is so different from the other healers is because he or she have undergone either a formal initiation (e.g. apprenticeship, ceremonial rites, etc.) or informal initiation (e.g. life transforming event via gross misfortune, illness, etc.). During this (formal or informal) initiation, the initiate is forced to overcome old traumatic issues, including their anger, fear, hatred, feelings of abandonment and other emotional wounds, in order to learn how not to be controlled by their emotions but rather guided by their intuition. During this transformative period, the initiate comes face to face with death, where they learn that death is not “the end” but simply a stage in the cycle of birth-life-death and rebirth. In this unique experience, which cannot accurately be intellectualized, but has to be experience, the initiate usually meets her or his ancestors, spirit guides or spirits, which leads them to adopting a new perspective about life reflective of this experience. This new perspective about life that the shaman initiate adopts, usually becomes the cosmology or cosmogram that the initiate follows.
It is through this cosmogram the shaman initiate is able to move beyond their personal preferences and societal imposed prejudices, which allows them to see everything (plants, animals, human beings, etc.) in the universe as an interdependent part of a whole. It is here the initiate begins to see him or herself as a microcosm of a greater Macrocosm, and learns that all is composed of divine energy. The life cycle the initiate soon learns is based upon a natural exchange between the spiritual and the physical. It then becomes apparent that in order to implement any positive change. They have to learn how to petition the right the force that will bring about the type of change that they desire. The shaman learns about this exchange by observing these forces in nature and seeing that just like the right conditions are needed in order for wild game to return to a particular area. The same conditions are needed to make an individual prosperous and so on.
It is this observation that makes the initiate take responsibility for her and his actions. This is how the true shamanic journey begins because the initiate is not perfect by any means, but is expected to perfect his or her character. This is the reason why shamans from all over the world may not profess to be Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Muslim or any one religion. They will easily practice the tenets of major religions like loving their neighbor as themselves, and acknowledge that seeing ourselves separate from one another will lead to our ultimate demise. Where shamanism differs from major religions, is that it is not governed by religious dogma but by the calling, which is dictated by the laws of nature.
These laws are taught to the shaman initiate by the same one(s) that called them per that individual’s culture. Therefore, violation of these laws may not be punishable by man but they are punishable through God, the Great Spirit, ancestors, spirit guides, or the guardian spirits that called the individual to be a shaman, because the rapport that the initiate has developed with his or her guides through the initiation process is very strong and personal. So when a true shaman breaks a taboo they make amends as soon as possible, and try to live in harmony with others, because it will weaken their spiritual power, connection with their spirit guides and may result in them losing divine blessing or grace. No true shaman would risk jeopardizing this for a quick selfish, monetary thrill.
Because shamanism differs in every country, culture, region, etc. what may be norm in one area may be completely different in another. For instance, in South America, Amerindian shamans use entheogens like peyote, whereas Amerindian shamans in North America do not. All shamans don’t engage in “vision quest” just to get an answer nor do they have to use a drum and rattle to enter and maintain an ecstatic state of trance. Clearly, all shamans are not created equal but there are some general norms that exist about shamans. For one, they are not chauvinistic nor are they feminist either. They see the purpose of both natures. True shamans also do not have on their walls their list of accomplishments. They do not sit back and brag about their accomplishments or drop names to prove how strong and powerful they are to impress people. One look into their eyes and you will be able to see if they are for real or a charlatan.
Now, don’t get me wrong, all shamans are not extremely humble or meek individuals, nor are they all eccentric individuals either. They do boast but their boasts, which may come off as arrogance is not meant to impress the living. It is to glorify their spirits on one hand, cause negative spirits to tremble and flee on the other, and strengthen their own faith. Another thing, true shamans don’t go looking for trouble or imbalances. Trouble or imbalances seems to find them (at least this has been my experience), and they use the situation to create balance.
Overall, I must admit that the shamanic journey is a wonderful and rewarding journey because a shaman helps him or herself by helping others. This is why it is said that shamans a wounded healers because most shamans specialize in healing situations that they have or had to overcome themselves. This is what makes shamans exceptional over other healers, because they are a reflection of what they have accomplished and believed. If a shaman will heal a relationship between a husband and wife, it is because they usually have done the same for their relationship and so on.
As your intuition develops, you will know when it is time to help others because you will find yourself (with no effort of your own) being asked to assist another in resolving a situation. You may be walking down the street to the park and get a hunch to say a prayer to bless and protect the children at the park from harm. Then, you may get an idea to solidify your prayer by building a small makeshift altar out of sticks and rocks. These are all signs that you have been called to put your skills to service.
The great thing about shamanism is that it is honest and a powerful universal practice full of wonder. True shamanism doesn’t lie and tell you what you want to hear just to get your money, participation and membership. It is a real gut practice that presents to you the problem and helps you to find ways to resolve it so that the problem never occurs again. It tells you what you need to hear (in the gentle or harshest way possible). In order to get you to do what you have been called to do, which is fulfill your destiny or purpose in life. These are some of the things that I have learned in my own journey, which by the way is unique per individual. It is through this shamanic walk I also discovered that if you are called and ignore your calling. You will wish you hadn’t, not because your spirit guides will punish you, but because the next stage of your development requires that you accept your calling in order to advance forward. Another thing I learned that just because you accept your calling, it will not eliminate humiliation, misery, pain and suffering out of your life. Shamanism will however, help you to develop the peace and power needed to navigate right through it, thus making you a more resilient and strong individual.
But, the shamanic journey is not an easy path to follow because it can be very challenging at times. Not to mention that finding a true spiritual teacher in these contemporary times can be painstakingly difficult. And, if you have been called to become a shaman or just to partake in the practice. It can be a bit confusing especially when there is no one to help you. So to help ease the headache, here are some recommendations I have compiled based upon my experience.
Instead of wasting your time and money, borrowing and imitating another’s cultural practices without being sure if you have been called or not. I suggest that you begin by investigating your own spiritual heritage. For instance, if you come from a Christian tradition, try to understand how you or your family got into that tradition and why you are or are not in that tradition today. Ask yourself the hard questions like are you involved in the religion because you were raised in it and know nothing else? Are you not in this religion because you don’t agree with their political or social views? In other words you don’t like what they said, etc. This will help you to clarify your purpose of embarking on the shamanic path. Far too often, many of us jump around from faith to faith because we don’t know what we are looking for.
Once you have done that, then I would recommend that you research and learn about traditional practices of your ancestors. If you cannot do this then learn about the traditional practices of your distant ancestors. For instance, I being of African and Native American descent in the Unite States, was not able to learn about my ancestral path due to slavery. I was however able to learn about the Kamitic (ancient Egyptians) civilization, which was the greatest, longest standing and most influential African civilization that has existed. That many scholars have culturally tied to Sub-Saharan Africa. It was through my research, Kamit became a gateway that led me to discover that my family has a heavy Kongo influence. Through this I discovered the shamanic path that I walk today, which is why I refer to it as Kamitic shamanism.
So, research your distant ancestral path because through it you will discover your Way and find if you have been called to be a shaman or a “keeper of the flame” sort-of-speak, which is someone meant to help their family, friends and others they come in contact versus being a shaman who services an entire community. When you have honestly completely these two steps. If you have been called you will have a stronger conviction of your calling because you will be find yourself being initiated (formally or informally).