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Shamanism - what is it and what is its role in today's society?

Up until now all my posts have been varied and miscellaneous, having no true bearing toward shamanism. I have used them as a personal spout, a place to put how I feel at any given time, so I decided to actually aim towards my original goal.

I call myself a shaman for lack of a better term. The true definition of a shaman is spiritual teacher and healer, counselor for a large community or tribe. However in today's society how can we really speak of ourselves in this sort of capacity? When I asked some very good friends this question, their response was this, "Your community is just on a larger scale than that of shamans of the past." This is a very valid point.

First let's discuss what shamanism is. Many ethnic groups have shamans of some sort. The Celts called them druids; the Native-Americans called them medicine men/women for example. Shamanism is a form of spirituality in which the individual uses altered states of consciousness to travel into other realms of reality in order to commune with spirits that teach and guide them. Most shamans have a particular spirit guide, or totem, that they follow.

This totem shows itself in their lives and personalities in a variety of ways, but it also acts as a mentor and friend. Now, contrary to popular belief, not ALL spirit guides are animals. I have a friend whose "totem" is the Oak tree. Most cultures with shamanic teachings believed all living things had spirits, and that those spirits could teach us in a number of ways.

The journeys to the spirit world are brought about through a means most often known as Astral Projection. Many believe that to truly achieve the proper trance state one must imbibe various mind-altering drugs and hallucinogens. I will tell you now that the stereotype of a man or woman dressed in an animal skin, sitting cross-legged in front of a fire, chewing on a mushroom doesn't fit me very well.

Personally, I avoid most drugs. I believe they cause more harm than good, and there's truly no need for them in order to achieve the proper state of mind for communication with the spirit world. Most of the time, my meditations are performed in the middle of my bedroom floor, wearing shorts or jeans and a t-shirt, with a candle sitting in front of me. Wolf and I have some amazing conversations, without any clouding of my mind. It does take extreme concentration and the proper technique for travel, however.

As shaman we seek guidance and wisdom from our spirit guides, but we also seek companionship and self-knowledge. Yes, we ask questions for others, or ask for their help with a particular task, both spiritual and physical. For myself, however, the majority of the time I seek merely to know myself better and to learn about the world around me. I don't cast love spells, or try to sic Wolf on some poor sap that upset me. He'd probably laugh at me and bite my ear if I even so much as thought of asking.

The role of the shaman has changed drastically from our role in the past. There was a time when people like myself would have been the spiritual leaders, teachers and healers of a small tightly-knit community. With the advent of various technologies such as the internet, I say our role is functionally the same, but how we must perform it and the tribe we serve has grown greatly. It is a daunting task that we must take on, it requires great strength of will and character to serve such a large tribe. Our calling is the same, but we still have the need to take great caution now, when before it was not a question.

And the fact remains that there are so many people following different paths that it is virtually impossible to guide them all. Yes, I've made an extensive study of several paths, but they are not mine and it is hard to help a budding wiccan understand wicca when I'm not actively pursuing it. So how do we act in a shamanic capacity with such diversity?

The only answer I've been able to divine is acting in more of an emotional support role. We may not be able to help with theory, but we can act as leaning posts along their journey. To be there for our friends and family whenever they need us, and to give them a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen. We can offer spiritual advice and guidance by understanding that all paths are different, but the final goal is the same.

On that nonsensical note, I will bid you good night and happy travels, lol.

Walk in Light, Hunt in Shadow