The word Shaman comes out of Central Asia and concerns those who enter into a state of spiritual ecstasy. This process enables them to pass freely into the Spirit World, or alternate reality to receive help for themselves or others. This work, called Shamanism, is the act of connecting into that alternate reality to experience communication with Spirit Guides whether animal, mineral, vegetation, higher guides, Angels, or the Higher Self. One is also able to travel in this realm. This act allows the Shaman to affect physical changes from Spirit level to receive information and/or guidance for their client.
This technique is as old as humankind itself, and its practitioners are both male and female. There is no gender distinction as we all have that inherent ability to do this work – to be Shamans. Before we discuss the tools of Shamanism, let me introduce those who fit this category. The indigenous Shaman, Medicine Man, Healer, and Herbalist are some of these. This is the largest group in close communication with the earth and its alternate realities. They communicate with all the Earth Kingdoms; they will communicate with the wind and weather, the water and fire.
These individuals live in close association with nature on a daily basis. Their types of Shamanism are very much culturally oriented to their specific groups. The indigenous people literally thrive and survive through their ability to read and speak to the spiritual realm.
Shamanism today, though it includes many of these aspects of the former group itself, is defined by modern culture. Those today who practice this spiritual calling are often called “Urban Shaman.” These urban shamans, you and I, practice what Michael Harner calls “Core Shamanism.” That is, of all the differing types of the Shamanic art, there is a core or shared experience. Many areas overlap within the different cultures within the concept of the Urban Shaman certain characteristics are applied.
This group again lives in the modern world, operating on busy schedules in all walks of life. They are mothers, fathers, fast food workers, doctors, physicists, and CEOs. They do not share the indigenous lifestyle nor do they share their slow pace. Modern man is very busy living, working, and playing on all levels. While there are a few full time Shamans, many are classified as “Weekend Shamans.” Those who do this work, they do not live with or in nature per se, but are able to work within the Shamanic Realm.
Let us look now at the tools that are used by the Shaman. While some will use mind altering drugs, others may not. Many use them to enhance the altered state. Crystals, gemstones, wands, and other physical tools are used.
Two of the most important tools are the drum and the rattle. They are used to alter ones position into the spirit realm. The drum uses an animal skin stretched over a round frame, and is either single or double sided. For many, the animal skin is the preferred choice. It however is subject to weather conditions and will be either stiff or soft, affecting the tone of the drum. It therefore needs heat or water to adjust it. Another type preferred by modern Shamans is made of mylar and will maintain a constant tension.
The rattle traditionally is also made of animal skin. Two exact shaped pieces are sewn together, filled with sand, dried into a hollow shape, and filled with seeds or small pebbles to make the rattling sound. These two instruments are used to bring one into the desired altered state of consciousness suitable for the shamanic work.
The next tool is the Shamanic Journey. It is in the altered state one begins the Journey. There are three levels to which one may travel. They are the lower, middle, and upper worlds. To reach the lower world, one finds a familiar hole, cave, crack in the earth, or tree root to travel downward. As he travels down, he will find himself in an environment mush as he would in ordinary reality. Here the Shaman will make contact with his spirit animal for guidance, to find lost objects, or how to affect a healing.
However, if the Shaman chooses the upper world, then he will of course must go up. To do this he will climb a tree into the Heavens, fly on the back of a bird, climb a mountain, or build a ladder tall enough to reach it. When he nears the upper world, he will find a saran wrap like substance that he will need to press through. He then finds himself on a landscape much as he would find in normal reality. Here he will meet with higher guidance Angels, Ascended Masters, or other higher level beings.
The middle world is the world in which we live but is traveled on a spiritual level. Here one seeks lost objects, information on a specific area, or to assist himself or the client.
The Shamans work is done in one or all of these worlds in a single session. Those things we have mentioned will not only be things he does when in these realms. His tasks are as varied as his needs require. Now that you have some idea of the Shaman and shamanism, I wish you good journeying as you may seek to become the Urban Shaman in your area.