Shaman healers are people who practice Shamanism, the healing art form blending mind, body and spirit, for inner health as well as outer health. A healer who is a Shaman acts as a medium between the visible world and the world of spirits to gain information for the purposes of healing, divination and to gain help or wisdom for the community or people they are serving.
Shamanism is a practice that is almost as ancient as the world we live in. Indigenous tribes throughout the east had, at one time, a person in the community who was known as the Shaman healer or medicine man/woman. During the 1960's an anthropologist by the name of Dr. Michael Harner became the pioneer of reviving the art of Shamanism and bringing it to the western world. His mission is to teach, to study and also preserve the practice of Shamanism. He is doing so by being the leader and founder of The Foundation for Shamanic Studies. Dr. Harner started something that people of all race, religions and creeds were interested in. In today's world we can walk into a book store and find a wealth of information by writers and practitioners of Shaman healing willing to share their insights and findings about the Shamanic path.
In some cultures where Shamanism has taken root or stayed for the long haul there may be more than one Shaman. Different types of Shaman's practice different aspects of shamanism. There may be a Shaman in the community who specializes in Psychopomp, one who specializes in healing and others who may specialize in divination, different spiritual entities or realms of spirits that other shamans may not interact with. Other cultures who practice Shamanism may have just one Shaman healer that they go to for all of their spiritual and medical needs.
Mircea Eliade wrote the book Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy in 1964. In this book he wrote about Shamanism practices in different parts of the world with a variety of tribes. He also noted that although many shaman healers in these cultures used varying practices at the core was a set of beliefs that all of the tribes had in common.
One common belief by Shaman healers and other practitioners of Shamanism included the existence of spirits that play an important role in lives and society. Other common beliefs are that a Shaman has the ability to communicate with these spirits, both good and evil spirits exist, Shaman healers can treat sickness caused by evil spirits, a Shaman is capable of inducing visionary ecstasy by using trance inducing techniques and can also invoke animal images as spirit guides, omens and message-bearers.
Tools in Practice
Shaman healers and other practitioners of Shamanism use a variety of tools to connect with spirit guides for the individual or community they are serving. These tools include inner abilities such as meditation, trance and spirit communicating and also physical tools that help the Shaman get the information he or she seeks. These physical tools may include tobacco (for concentration), drums, music, sweat lodges and herbs such as morning glory, deadly nightshade, sage and sweet grass. Other tools used by Shaman healers include but are not limited too cedar, peyote, cactus, mushrooms, eagle feathers, rattles, paraphernalia and clap sticks.
Shaman healers have also been known to follow specific dietary guidelines before placing themselves in trance states and also before rituals. These dietary guides may include fasting, foods high in tryptophan and/or ingesting psychedelic mushrooms or smoking cannabis.
Becoming a Shaman Healer
The ultimate purpose of a Shaman healer is to serve people and their community not just with medical needs but also with spiritual guidance for the mind, body and soul. The practice of shamanism is not something that can just be studied. Becoming a Shaman healer is a calling that an individual gets akin to the calling of God that those who become Priests and Nuns experience. Shaman healers must also be able to communicate with spirits and have the ability to work divination for the community they serve.