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Forum » Magical Discussion » Occult Practices » Introduction to Shamanism (General guide, briefly covers many traditions)
Introduction to Shamanism
StarkissedDate: Saturday, 19-October-2013, 6:21 PM | Message # 1
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Shamans are spiritual people with the ability to heal, receive
messages and visions, travel the realms, commune with spirits and
manipulate energy. Shamanism is a broad spectrum of beliefs and
practices that include diagnosing, curing and sometimes causing human
suffering by communication with spirits (be them plant, animal, human
or other). Historically, shamans have been said to have the ability
to control the weather, interpret dreams, astral project and divine
future paths. Shamanic traditions and practices have existed globally
since prehistoric times.
Shamanism is based on the idea that the visible world is pervaded
by invisible forces and spirits and that everything has a symbolic or
spiritual meaning or lesson to teach. Shamanism is different from
animism and animatism, which usually any and all members of a society
practice. Shamanism requires specialized knowledge and abilities
 
History
Shamanistic practices are thought to pre-date all
organized religion and certainly date back to the Neolithic period (a
really freaking long time ago). Aspects of shamanism appear in other
organized religions throughout history, generally the belief in
symbolism and mystic practices. One element of shamanism that is very
prevalent in Buddhism is the attainment of spiritual realization
through meditation or entheogenic substances (aka any visionary or
spiritual plant).

Most of the shamanic practices and traditional knowledge of many
cultures were eradicated and/or lost by the spread of Christianity.
Around 400 CE (Common Era) the Christian church rose in Europe and
subsequently ended up causing the collapse of the Greek and Roman
religions. Temples were systematically destroyed and rituals and
ceremonies were outlawed. From the Middle Ages right through into the
renaissance, European Shamanism was slowly destroyed or forced to go
underground because of the Witch Trials and Burnings that were
popular at the time. Most of these inquisitions and burnings were
orchestrated by the Catholic Church. Shamanism was continuously
repressed due to the spread of Christian influence and Spanish
colonization, especially in the Caribbean and Central and South
Americas. Anyone found to be a Shaman or pagan practitioner could be
executed and denounced as a devil worshipper  In North
America, periodic witch hunts were conducted frequently as well. More
recently, there have been periodic attacks on shamanic practitioners
in third world countries carried out by some radical Christian
missionaries. Historic petroglyphs have also been reported to be
defaced by missionaries in the Amazon as recently as the 1970s.
Today, traditional shamanism, once a universal spirituality, now
survives primarily among a few indigenous tribes and peoples.
Neo-shamanic practice is prevalent in the tundra, jungles, deserts,
towns, cities and suburbs all over the world and as society becomes
more spiritually aware and in tune, it is rising in popularity and
practitioners are no longer forced underground to practice.
 
Shamanic Practices and General Beliefs
Shamanism comes in many different forms and each form varies from
location to location globally. Shamanic practitioners are also
sometimes known as medicine men/women as well as witch doctors.
Shamans sometimes play the role of a priest, but they are not
considered priests.

A Shaman is sometimes called to the Path via a serious illness or
accident causing injury or a near death experience. It is said that
usually cultural imagery manifests itself to the shaman at the time
of the initiation. The shaman is usually also transported to another
Realm and is able to interact with the entities inhabiting it,
sometimes meeting a spiritual guide. Some shamans have reported being
devoured or disassembled and reassembled again often with some things
changing in them for the better. The initiation is usually about
transformation and the granting of abilities, and also usually
shadows on the themes of life, death and rebirth. The idea of whether
a shamans abilities are inherited ranges from society to society.
Others are considered to have been called to the path. In Siberia,
people who experience what Western doctors would consider psychotic
episodes are considered to be being called to the shamanic vocation.
In some South American societies, shamans are called in their dreams
or by perusing a Vision Quest, and in others, shamans are able to
choose their career, and become apprentices to accomplished and well
known shamans.

A shaman plays the role of healer and gatherer of knowledge in
shamanic societies, some are also considered protectors of the
village. It is common for shamans to seek the aid of one or more
entities or spirits, sometimes plant, animal or human. It is also a
common shamanic belief that disease and its causes lie in another
Realm. The shaman will often enter the body of the patient to find
out what is making the patient sick and can heal the patient by
removing the infectious spirit through various methods. Many shamans
have an adept knowledge of the plants in their area and their
medicinal and spiritual uses. Some shamans claim to learn from the
plants spirit directly and can only determine its healing effects
after meeting the plants spirit and getting permission first.

In South America, individual spirits can be called through
singing icaros . To call the spirit, the spirititself must teach you their song. The use of totem items such as
rocks or wooden carvings and various other items are very common and
these items are believed to have abilities and an animating spirit.

Shamans are both revered and feared in many societies around the
world, as they are believed to hold the ability to both cure and
harm.
The work of a shaman can pose significant risk to the practitioner
as entities from the other Realms can harm them as well as other
experiences can sometimes leave the shaman in a mentally and
emotionally delicate state. Protection rites and spells are very
common in shamanic beliefs and work with any of the plants that are
more hazardous is often very ritualized and revered.
 
Shamanic Technology and Tools
To enter another Realm, a shaman needs to change his/her
consciousness and vibration. This is done by entering into a trance,
either through the use of entheogens (psychedelic drugs) or
auto-hypnotically. There are many different methods that can be used
and many are used together:
 
Common physical methods for altered states of consciousness:
Drumming
Singing
Fasting
Ritual cutting/flagellation
The use of a Sweat Lodge
Vision quests
Sigils
Dancing
 
Common plants that are used for altered states ofconsciousness:
Tobacco
Cannabis
Salvia
Amanita
Psilocybin Mushrooms (aka magic mushrooms or Shrooms)
Peyote
Ayahuasca
Tabernanthe Iboga (Iboga)
 
Shamans also often observe special diets and fasts as well as
taboos as preparation before taking a particular plant or doing a
specific working and ritual. A lot of times this is for the physical
purpose of creating or reducing the amount of a particular chemical
or hormone in the brain or body so the plant taken can have more of
an affect. In cases such as taking Ayahuasca, these diets and fasts
are observed and can directly affect the experience negatively if the
rules are not adhered to.
 
Shamanic Society
Traditionally shamans were considered to be mostly men, but there
were and are societies where women are allowed to be Shamans. It is
known for shamans to exhibit a two-spirit identity, assuming both
attributes of the male and female from young age. This is visible in
cases where a man takes on the role of a wife in an ordinary
marriage, or vice versa. This practice is seen among the Native
American Tribes as well. Two spirited shamans are thought to be
especially powerful and are highly respected and sought out in their
tribes due to a perceived increase in social status.

Many people in today’s society claim to follow a shamanic path
and the use of ritual drumming and dance, entheogens and astral
travel or path walking is very common in the more open minded
circles.
It is common for many indigenous Shamans to believe that those
from a Western culture do not have the right to claim being true
shamans. It is also becoming a more common belief in some of the more
New Age oriented circles for an initiation into the Shaman path not
being required for one to consider themselves a true Shaman. This is
an ongoing debate and clash of perspectives, cultures and ideologies
to this day.
 
Forum » Magical Discussion » Occult Practices » Introduction to Shamanism (General guide, briefly covers many traditions)
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