Thanks to the prolific writings of popular authors such as Carlos Castaneda, Serge King and Michael Harner, the shaman has become a familiar figure to many people. However, because every author seems to offer a different view of shamanism, the question arises as to what a shaman really is. Is a shaman a medicine man? A healer? A tribal leader? A storyteller? All of the above? Although each person seems to embrace a different aspect of shamanism (because there is specialization in shamanism just as there is in any domain), we’d like to offer you a more general definition of a shaman.
“A shaman is an original researcher working in the sciences of religion and magick for the purpose of advancing man’s knowledge of the correct ways of having meaningful direct communication with deities, spirits and daemons (lower level entities) in their natural planes, states or conditions.” In other words, shamans are communicators.
Shamans investigate the hierarchies in the universe to understand the proper place, function and role of every being in the Universe including humans, angels, devas, deities, cherubim, the Winds, the Old Ones and so on. More importantly, shamans help the beings on different levels to communicate with each other.
In ancient times, before they were kicked out the tribe, shamans created the rituals and ceremonies that ensured proper communication between human tribes and helpful entities (for rain, blessing, renewal, etc.). Shamans were the creators of the daily rituals that formed the structure of tribal life. The priest-caste was trained to carry out these rituals, but only shamans, as original researchers, had the knowledge and abilities to create appropriate rituals for specific tribes in specific situations.
Today, many churches are practicing religious rituals that were created by shamans in ancient times (2,000 to 6,000 or more years ago). Since shamans are no longer held in honor as the creators of ritual, these rituals have not changed for thousands of years. Clearly, the times have changed, yet the rituals have not. So it could be said that the churches are practicing rituals that are out of date, having not been updated regularly as they were in ancient times. If you are familiar with the Tarot deck, the card that best represents the shaman is the Hierophant, whose role is communication and mediation.
In modern society, the closest we come to incorporating shamans into daily life are mediators, especially prominent ones like strike mediators. Since there are no longer regular institutions that offer shamanic services, it’s up to each of us to nurture and bring out the individual shaman in each of us. In today’s society, we have to learn to create and live our own daily rituals to stay connected to powers and beings.
Here’s a great one to start with – the Navajo Beauty Way. The Beauty Way in its simplest form is a greeting ritual that connects you to certain powers and beings. Each time you leave an enclosed space, such as your car, home or office, stop a moment and be still. Extend your consciousness into the sky and say quietly, “Sky Above.” Holding that focus, extend your consciousness into the earth and say quietly, “and Earth Below.” Holding your consciousness both above and below you, say “I Greet You.” Wait a few moments before moving on with your day to see what you receive as acknowledgement.