This is probably the most common question asked today. And you know why so many people ask it? Because we are brought up in a society that does not have Shamanism. Worse than that we are brought up without community.
In the old days we were raised with a strong community around us. We lived together, played together, grew up together and sometimes even died together. We had elders and doctors and teachers and medical advisors right within this strong close knit community. Think of the Klingit tribes of Indians who live in Alaska. Although they may seem isolated from the outside, they are completely self contained with a very strong sense of communal identity.
But today, we are lucky to have a strong family or church community and in many ways we are less fortunate than long ago.
In the old days, the elders would watch the children and find what each child was strong in and had a knack for. Then that gift or gifts were encouraged and the child grew into whatever came naturally to him or her. If a child seemed good with numbers, that talent was grown and the child might become the treasurer for the community. If the child was given to visions he or she may be groomed to be the community’s visionary. If the child could speak to the animals, perhaps the child would become the communicator to the spirit world. Each child would have one or more gifts he or she was born with. It was the community, the elders, the teachers, and the parents who realized the blessings and were happy to help the child be what he or she was meant to be in life.
Today we have no such possibility for ourselves or for our children. For the most part, we are raised to fit into a box; to learn what everyone else learns and to ignore or abandon anything that does not fit into society’s box. If our parents see us talking to the birds we are taken to a psychologist and told not to do that. In fact there is very little encouragement to develop the gifts and talents that we were born into. And so our society is losing out on the largest talent bank ever assembled on this planet today.
This is the problem. Shamanism could disappear from the face of the earth because children of today are not allowed to study it and to grow their own special gifts of healing for themselves and for society. It doesn’t have to be this way. We have a choice. It is not too late to look inside and find those special gifts we were born with. We may have pushed them down and buried them deep inside because our parents, our family, our society said they were wrong or worthless or should not be used. But they are still within us.
What are these gifts?
Healing the spirit is the primary function of a Shaman.
Hands on healing
Soul extraction involves the Shaman extracting psychic darts or chords that have intruded upon the soul or etheric body of the patient. This is sometimes an attack from someone who has attempted to harm, maim, or kill the patient. The classic dart attack will often manifest as pains where no wounds exist. This involves, according to Michael Harner, author of The Way of the Shaman, a literal “sucking out” of the intrusion. T his sucking out of the intrusions is done both psychically and mentally. There are other methods of soul extraction as well.
Soul-retrieval is the process by which the Shaman retrieves pieces of the person lost soul. This is often accomplished by journeying to the spirit world and requesting assistance from the spirits, ancestors, and guides that dwell in Other Realities or Worlds. These beings assist the Shaman in discovering what is wrong with the person and often help the Shaman fight a battle with the being now possessing those parts to win them back and bring them to the patient. Some of the classic symptoms of a person in need of soul retrieval would perhaps include those suffering from a mental illness; those abused as children, or those who sense that something is missing in their lives.
This is a dangerous act and often the Shaman if he or she is not trained well enough can fall into physical or mental traps laid by the possessing entities that may cause illness or psychosis for the Shaman.
Soul restoration is the literally restoring of one’s soul. This occurs when a person is near death and his/her soul seeks to move on. This “death” could be the result of a psychic attack or an accident from which the body has recovered physically, but not spiritually. Again the Shaman will journey to the place where the patient has lost his or her soul and barter for that soul to bring it back and restore it to the patient. It takes much strength and power by the Shaman to deal with these otherworld entities and the Shaman must know how and where to wield that power for the good of all. Shamans are not in the business of destruction but rather healing. I cannot emphasize the role of personal power and education for the Shaman enough.
Hands- on healing or bodywork is most certainly a part of what a Shaman does. This technique is still widely used today by Reiki masters, massage therapists, chiropractors and Shamans. Shamanistic hands-on healing involves the energy or spirit of the Shaman working with the energy or spirit of the patient.
Divination is the means by which a Shaman can foretell the future, describe the illnesses of people and find their cure. Divination shows the path to the Shaman; which direction the patient should walk to receive healing. This is accomplished in varying ways and the method used often depends on the teaching the Shaman received from his particular tribe or elder. The most common shamanic method is journeying to the Otherworld and requesting information from elders, guides and spirits who live there. It is been said that Genghis Khan used his shamans that way. There are many other beings who are greatly involved in your life and wish to see you whole and happy. A Shaman has intimate relationship with these wise ones and uses this gift on the patient’s behalf.
Herbal healing gives credence to the true belief that the Shaman is a medicine man or witch doctor. Herbal healing began with the beginning of the earth. Many of the hunting and gathering tribes had the ability to heal with plants indigenous to their area. Today this knowledge is fast disappearing and Shamans everywhere try to support the preservation of indigenous plantlife and the lore surrounding them. Many Shamans spend their entire careers discovering and recording these plants for the future of us all.
Herbalism is used in conjunction with spirit healing to facilitate recovery. All Shamans are herbalists.
Dreamwork or dream interpretation is another Shamanic tool to assist with healing. Shamans will listen to the dreamer’s dream, sometimes for several days, until they fully connect with it. Then they will dream the dream themselves and resolve the conflict to the highest good of the dreamer. This again is a difficult task and requires rigorous training by the Shaman in his or her apprenticeship to accomplish.
Soul leading is another important function of a Shaman. This is the process in which the Shaman will escort the newly dead to their place in the Otherworld. This is done because the Shaman who is familiar and a frequent visitor to the Otherworld will be able to find the “soul” its proper place.
Not all Shamans are all of the above but a good Shaman is all this and more. What a Shaman is according to Eliade is a “Master of the Ecstatic.” This is true for it is in the mastery of the ecstatic that the Shaman garners his or her power.
Each of us had one or more of these gifts buried somewhere inside our spirits. It is our gift, our right, actually our duty to find the gift, study the gift, gain power over the gift or gifts and use the gift to heal ourselves and others. Can you imagine how beautiful this world would be if each of us took responsibility for the gifts we were given? Who would be left sick? Or poor?
There is a course available called Shaman Apprenticeship 101 to help unlock those gifts and re-member the skills and the power to make one’s life everything it is meant to be! Studying Shamanism will bring back the harmony in one’s life and create a strong connection to spirit. Come Home! Allow yourself to be who you truly are! Find your personal power. Take charge of your situation. Find your sense of purpose in this world. Give that gift that is uniquely yours to give.
You can find out more about this course by going to http://www.shamanelder.com
As a Shaman Elder, Maggie Wahls has spent years working with children, observing them in constructive and purposeful play activities designed to discover those gifts and talents within each child. As a community we can then encourage and nurture those gifts into the powerful skills that they can be for happiness, self-fulfillment, motivation, excellence, achievement and success. And so, she is also creating an experiential self-discovery course for children. Maggie is available for counseling in this area and would be happy to offer assistance in helping your child find his or her own true potential. It is the job of a Shaman.