When saying Shamanism to others I often have to explain what the term means. For the non spiritual among us it can be difficult to translate into simple language, so I usually start gently and explain it's a form of alternative medicine that uses spirit as a helping guide. Most will just nod in acknowledgement; others will probe me further to satisfy their own curiosity.
Shamanism is a term that has been around for over a hundred thousand years and comes from the Tungus tribe in Siberia and means ‘spiritual healer’ or ‘one who sees in the dark’. A shaman can be a man or a woman who can see things in other dimensions that others cannot. This is done by connecting through their heart to helping and compassionate spirits which provide a doorway of information in these dimensions. These spirits are usually nature based and can be, but not limited to, animals, plants and trees.
To call oneself ‘a shaman’ is littered in controversy as many western countries have been using this term for monetary gain and for increased personal status. No-one can just become a Shaman or call themselves one. You will be chosen by spirit and you will usually go through extremely tough initiations such as death and illness. Knowledge gained from these initiations are lessons learned and provide personal growth in order to teach others. A Shaman will take part in a number of different ceremonies and will learn a number of key skills. To gain access to the unseen worlds the Shaman will usually enter a trance-like state most often initiated by drumming or rattling. Note well that becoming a qualified Shamanic Practitioner does not automatically mean you can call yourself a Shaman.
A Shaman could be described as a ‘technician of the sacred’ and as well as a healer, they are often leaders of the community, doctors, priests, psychotherapists, mystics and storytellers. Shaman’s can also provide help for those being born into the physical world as well as providing support for departing beings. I hope this small introduction helps to clarify what Shamanism is.