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What is shamanismbadger carving

Shamanism is humanity's oldest and most enduring spiritual practice and has brought hope, healing and empowerment to people for thousands of years. At its core is animism, the belief that all things are interconnected, alive and have their own spirit and consciousness.

Our ancestors understood the inter-connectedness of life, they knew there was more to the world than the physical, shamanism works with what is beyond the physical, it works with the world of spirit. Shamanism brings us into contact with what many of us have become disconnected to, the essence of nature, the essence of ourselves and the spirits who are willing to help us by sharing their wisdom.

What differentiates shamanism from other spirit-based work is the shamanic 'journey' or 'soul flight' that is made from this reality to the spirit world. By learning to make the shamanic journey we can experience the world of spirit and move from feeling dis-empowered, depressed, lost or hopeless to a place of empowerment. Like our ancestors we can have a sense of our own belonging and interconnectedness with life.

Core shamanism
Core shamanism is contemporary shamanism and is the most widely taught form of shamanic practice in the west today. It was created by the anthropologist Michael Harner who realised the fundamentals of shamanic practice in traditional societies are consistent throughout the world. Harner took the basic principles and common themes such as drumming, rattling, dancing and singing to shift consciousness and developed a method that is non culturally specific.

In traditional societies a shaman journeys to the world of the spirits on behalf of individuals or communities to ask for help, healing or empowerment. Using core shamanic techniques many people are learning to make this journey on their own behalf. Many of the themes and experiences of Westerners who journey are similar to those of a traditional shaman as what this work connects us to is the essence of the universe.

The journey is made in a focused and conscious way to seek help, healing or information that can be brought back to this reality and integrated into life. Intent is everything so the way the question is asked will be reflected in the answer. By using the techniques of the ancestors we have access to ancient and contemporary wisdom and our own unique path to healing and wholeness.

What are spirits
Spirits are manifestations of universal energy that appear to us in forms we can understand and that will best teach us such as animals, people, plants, energy forms etc. The spirits teach us from our own frames of reference and stretch us beyond, encouraging us to become who we truly are by experiencing the true nature of ourselves and the world.

How can I use shamanism in my lifewhale tail rattle

By learning to make the shamanic journey it is possible to come into contact with helpers in the spirit world and ask for help, healing or advice. Help can be sought for:

Personal healing Life changes Empowerment
Decision making Problem solving Transformation
Relationships Health/illness Connectedness
Bereavement Emotional Issues Spiritual Development

Over time mutual trust and respect is developed between the individual and their spirits enabling the advice and support received to deepen.


Can I use shamanism without learning to journey

Shamanism can work in two main ways: through a person working on their own behalf or, more traditionally, using the skills of a shamanic practitioner. A shamanic practitioner can bring the help, healing, information or power back to this reality on behalf of others. This can be in the form of doing a journey on someone's behalf or doing healing work for a physical, spiritual or emotional issue.

How can I learn to journey
It is possible to change the state of consciousness from 'ordinary reality' to 'non-ordinary reality' where the spirits are accessible to us by making a shamanic journey. This is most often made to the sound of a drum, the drumming facilitates the shift from this reality to the world of the spirits.

The best way is to learn from someone who is experienced in shamanic journeying and has been trained to teach others. There are many workshops that teach journeying skills and provide lots of practical advice on how to formulate questions, understanding the help within the journey and the ethics of shamanic work. Many shamanic practitioners offer journeying skills on a one to one basis or in smaller groups. Check out the resources section for information on books, workshops and practitioners.

Does that make me a shaman?
In some traditions people do not call themselves shamans, that title is given to them by those who have experienced help or healing through the power of the spirit connection. Many modern day practitioners of shamanism call themselves shamanic practitioners and others call themselves shamans, others prefer not to put a label on themselves.

It is not necessary to be a shaman or a shamanic practitioner to be able to use shamanism in life for help and healing, the power of the universe is there for all to access.

A traditional shaman undergoes extensive training both in this reality and with the spirits to develop the discipline, knowledge of the spirit world and the skills required to enable the spirits to do their work. It is an ongoing way of commitment, trust and surrender that becomes a spiritual path and a way of life. It is the spirits who do the work and all shamans / shamanic practitioners recognise they are the go-between between the spirit world and this reality.

Shamanic counsellinghumming bird rattle

Shamanic counselling differs from most types of counselling in that the main relationship is not with the counsellor but with the spirits. We go directly to the spirits for help and it is they who offer the wisdom and advice, they are our true counsellors.

Working with issues in a shamanic framework can help to shift, sometimes miraculously, problems that have been struggled with for many years. In a shamanic journey time is not linear, we cannot change the past but by asking for help with issues from the past we can experience fundamental changes and transformations in how we experience the present. We can learn to become more who we are and be in the world in a more empowered way.

Shamanic counselling is a way to learn or consolidate grounded and disciplined journeying skills, it enables people to come to their own understanding of their journeys and how to implement the help in their lives and give a grounded framework for when working alone. For those already able to journey shamanic counselling can provide a container to do deeper work with issues that they may not want to work with alone.

Shamanic healing
Shamanic healing is an ancient and powerful way of bringing balance and change. It is the sprits who decide what healing is to be done and the shamanic practitioner acts as a vehicle bringing healing from the spirit world to this reality by working as a 'hollow bone'. Shamanic healing is a healing of the spirit, it can take many forms and work on many levels. Our physical, emotional and spiritual selves are all connected so a healing in one area often has profound effects on the others. Shamanic healing can help clear, transform and remove blocked or inappropriate energy (sometimes called extraction work) or bring energy back that is missing (sometimes called power retrieval). It is important that you feel comfortable with anyone you choose to work with, there are some questions that may be useful to ask when choosing a shamanic healer in the practitioner section.

Soul retrieval
A soul retrieval returns vital parts of ourselves that have gone to a place of safety in the spirit world during times of emotional, physical or spiritual difficulty. Some soul parts return spontaneously when the event is over or as we change and heal, other parts need support to return home. Many people describe soul loss as feeling empty heart rattleinside, a sense that they are outside of themselves or feeling part of them is missing. Common sayings such as 'when my father died part of me went with him' or 'I was beside myself with grief' are literal expressions of soul loss. Depression, illness, addiction and not living as fully as we want to can also be symptoms of soul loss. Soul retrieval can bring back parts that have left so they may be reintegrated. It can offer the opportunity to feel more complete, more present in the world and more able to move forward in life.

The shamanic practitioner journeys to the spirit world with their own spirits to search for the soul parts that are ready to return and if they are willing bring them back so they may be reintegrated.

A soul retrieval can effect people in different ways, many feel different as soon as the parts are returned and common experiences are a sense of feeling more present, being able to make changes in life or having memories and feelings that are associated with the time that the soul part left. It is important that if people feel a soul retrieval is right for them at this point in their lives that they are ready to engage with whatever the process may be and have others who can support them during this time.

Power retrieval / spirit helper retrieval / power animal retrieval
Power loss can be experienced as feeling hopeless or helpless or being low in energy and unable to engage in life. Consistent illness and situations going wrong can also be a sign of power loss. Being empowered is not having power over others but being able to access that which is our birth right, it enables us to be who we are in the world. A power retrieval is a journey made on behalf of someone to return the power that is needed to live in a more empowered way. The power sometimes returns in the form of an animal or a form of energy.

Compassionate Deposession / Curse Unravelling
Some people may find themselves carrying something that does not belong to them. This could be energy, a thought form, someone who has died but not passed over, a nature spirit or an ancestral pattern. All of these are in the wrong place and working in a compassionate way to release it can bring healing and balance for all involved.

Working with Death and Life
Whether alive or dead we have our own spirits, when our physical body dies our spirits live on. Sometimes after death the spirit is disorientated and needs help to move to his or her new place of being. Many shamanic practitioners are experienced in assisting those who have passed on to get to where they need to be, the shamanic term for this is psychopomping. This may involve a visit to the land of the dead or songs to sing people home. Often there is not only a shift for the spirit that has moved on but also for the people that remain.

Many people feel they have 'unfinished business' with friends or relatives that have died. Making a journey to meet with the spirit of the person who has died can help to complete and bring to closure issues that were not able to be addressed or completed in life.

People in the process of dying can find help to embrace both life and death in an empowered way and find a spirit helper that will support and guide them as they make the transition.

Blessings can be requested when starting out on a new project to request that all will be well for those involved. Moving into a new home or a celebration for the birth of a new child to ask for gifts to help them in their life are examples. A blessing can come in many forms and the shamanic practitioner acts as a vehicle for the spirits so the blessing is not that of the person doing it but from the spirits.

Journeys on behalf of others / Divination
Journeys can be done on others' behalf to ask for help and advice. It is important to have a focused question which is not a yes or not answer. e.g. instead of asking 'should i .........' ask ' what would be the effects on my life if I ......'. Everything that happens on the journey is part of the answer. If the person is not present when the journey is being done it can be taped. The discussion about what the information means to the person who requested the journey can then be done over the phone. These journeys are for those who do not want to learn to journey but want the advice of the spirits or for those who can journey but feel they are too close to an issue to do the journey for themselves.

Work for animals
There are many kinds of beings, human beings, tree beings, animal beings etc. It is possible to do shamanic work for animals who experience illness or trauma just as it is possible to do work for humans. The difference can be profound with changes in behaviour that benefits the animal and the people it comes into contact with.

Work for the home and garden and workplace
Homes, gardens, the land and workplaces have their own spirits. A journey can be made by the person who lives or works there or a shamanic practitioner working on their behalf. The spirit of the home or workplace often communicates what it would like to happen to bring balance. It is often very simple like the placement of an object.

Shamanic gardening is journeying to the spirit of the garden to ask how to honour it. It often suggests plants and lay out and even when and how to plant.

Connecting with our home, workplace and garden can bring a sense of interconnection and belonging that helps us find our own place in the world. People have also reported feeling more 'at home' relaxed and contented after working with the spirits of their homes and gardens and that the dynamics in the workplace have changed for the better.

Shamanism can connect us with incredible amounts of power, working for personal empowerment rather than painted shield of tree with moon, sun rise and badger paw prints having power over others enables life to be lived with integrity and balance.

It is important not to try to manipulate or effect the actions of others or the outcomes of situations. If going for a job interview for instance asking 'what is it important for me to focus on when preparing for my interview' puts the focus on ourselves as opposed to manipulating the outcome.

If seeking help with a situation that involves others the question needs to be focused not on them but on ourselves e.g. 'what is my part in the conflict with my sister'.

When contemplating doing healing work for others it is always important to ask permission first. Even if we are sure that shamanic work could help it needs to be the choice of the individual as to whether to accept any help that may be offered. Asking permission from the spirits or 'higher selves' is no replacement for asking permission from the person themselves.

Working with integrity brings us into balance with our own power and our relationships with others. Using shamanism as a vehicle for personal transformation can bring great healing, connection, empowerment and hope to life.


Our Deepest Fear

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.


From "A Return To Love" by Marianne Williamson

Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles

Harper Collins, 1992 (from Chapter 7, Section 3)

Contact Shenoah Taylor shenoah@shenoahtaylor.com 020 8993 8392