What is Shamanism?
Shamanism is an ancient spiritual practise thought to be tens of thousands of years old. In ancient society, the practise of shamanism cultivated the means of direct access to the worlds beyond. Its practice and principles predate all known religions.
The term is now widely used in modern western society having been reintroduced in the 1960s. The word itself actually comes from the Tungus word Saman. The Tungus are an indigenous people of Siberia. Therefore, technically, the use of the word Shamanism is actually incorrect in most cases but it has become so widely accepted that most people have an understanding of what it means. The correct term should actually be 'Animism' - that is, a belief that we are connected to everything, that there is no seperation and that everything around us possesses spirit.
Shamanic techniques involve processes where the consciousness is altered to allow the spirit to journey to other realms. The Shaman sends her spirit out into alternate realities and affects changes on an energetic level. Remember that everything is energy. The energy you can see and logically explain is no more real that the energy that you cannot. By doing this work the Shaman can bring healing, empowerment and can seek answers from the spirit realm. Those who practise shamanism have a relationship with the spirit realms and are able to perceive things differently from those who operate only in ordinary reality. The Shaman serves both community and the Earth.
I want to state now that shamanism or animism is not a belief exclusive to native indigenous peoples. My ancestors were animists as were yours. The people of Northern Europe were as animistic as any other culture. Earth based Animism belongs to us all. It is the spiritual heritage of all people. The advent of Christianity caused Europeans to abandon their traditional spiritual wisdom over 1,000 years ago. However, it is still accessible to us to connect with and to learn from without needing to appropriate the spiritual practises of other societies. It is within us all. It is written into our myths, legends and our fairy stories.
The modern day interpretation of life and reality really is so very modern. Not so very long ago our ancestors respected the earth and the creatures that dwell here and had a reverence and understanding that we are all connected. It is since we have moved away from these beliefs that the Earth, our mother, has encountered difficulties and the natural order has swung out of balance. However, by reconnecting ourselves we can begin to not only heal ourselves but to heal the Earth as well.