Adventures in Religious Thought: Shamanism

Shamanism isn't technically a religion, but more of a practice, kind of like Buddhism.  And, like Buddhism, there are many wonderful things that can be taken from it.

Let start first of with:

What do shamans believe?

First of all, shamans are seen as the bridge between the afterlife and the here and now.  They are the messengers, the healers for both man and earth.  And most traditional shamanism believes in order to be a shaman, there is a calling.  You aren't supposed to able to choose to be a true shaman, you have to be called to do it.  For most, it's a severe sickness or getting pretty badly hurt, or being born with a deformity.  But for neo-shamans (the new kind that anyone can be), it can be sicknesses that linger or traumatic events, such as fibromyalgia, childhood abuse, chronic pain disorders, etc.   And when you accept the call, usually the sickness or pain gets better.  Traditionally, you'd have to be of the ethic origin that the tradition of shamanism (like being from a Native American tribe) you are following, but I don't honestly see how race would be a barrier when a "spirit" doesn't have a race.....

Shamans believe that the reason you are sick is because your soul is lost.  And they can travel to the spirit world through trance to find it again and make you well.

But that's not the only role of the shaman, but in the indigenous world, it's a very, very important one.

In today's world, we live fast paced.  We never stop to check in with ourselves.  And practicing some shamanistic ways can help us do that.

How you can use shamanism in your own life:

  1. Meet your spirit animals through vision quests.  Are spirit animals even real?  Who cares.  Most of us are drawn to a certain type of animal, perhaps for subconscious reasons.  And by "journeying", maybe we aren't actually going to the spirit world, but our own subconscious, and while there, we can learn why we love this type of animal so much.   Also, certain animals represent certain things to the human psyche.  Dogs are loyal, cats are independent, as are birds.  Snakes can mean death and rebirth, at the same time they can mean being sneaky.  If you find your spirit animal, google it and see what it might mean to you.  (note: some people believe we have 3 totem/spirit animals: shadow totems (what we fear--mine's a snake), life totem (those that stay with us our entire lives--mine's a dog), and a journey totem (those that are here to teach us what we need to during a certain time period, there can be many through out our lives--at one point, mine was a moose).  
  2. Journey to ask questions and get answers.  Do you have a burning question you want to ask?  Something you need an answer to?  Then use journeying to find the answers.  It doesn't matter if you get the answer from your own mind or from "somewhere else", the point is, you get an answer that satisfies you.  If you have a question about a health issue, maybe you can find an answer?  Not to be used instead of healthcare, obviously, but just as a helpful thought.  
  3. Using divination techniques for fun and insight.  Throw some runes & use a book to interpret their meaning.  Does it apply to your life?  If so, see if you agree with the advice.  If not, throw some more and see what you can come up with.  Play with the tarot and see what the cards say.  Or deal out some oracle cards and read what you see.  Just have some fun and see if anything sticks! 
  4. Have you always wanted a different name?  Journey to ask what your spiritual name is.  Now, I did this, got nothing, and then went to bed and had a dream about my true name.  I wrote it down, and then, in true Emma fashion, promptly lost it.  Yay!  That's just how I roll.  But just remember, if you want an answer to something, don't always expect it to come while you are journeying or asking, or even when you're conscious.  Answers can come at anytime, anywhere, so pay attention.  I later found the book where I wrote it down at.  Thank goodness!
  5. Do you have a calling in life?  Is there something you're ignoring for favor of either making more money or because you're stuck in a broken down cycle?  Like keeping a low paying job that isn't going anywhere in favor of living your dream?  Find a way to live your dream on the DL (the down low) until you can live it fully.  Don't throw away something your heart yearns for just because others think it's stupid or because you don't think you can afford it.  Shamans believe that by ignoring your calling you can create disease in your body.  Well, in Western life, if you ignore your dreams, you will get depressed, which can cause a whole slew of health issues.  So maybe they aren't that far off with their thinking?  Don't ignore your calling: live it, dream it, find a way around the obstacles, and get it going!  

I am not here to make light of other culture's practices, but to learn from them and take what makes sense to me, and leave the rest.  Shamanism, just like Buddhism, and every other practice of different cultures, offers many things that can be helpful in our lives, even if we don't believe in them.

Here's a challenge:

Live your dreams, baby!

Pick something that you love to do or yearn to try, and make more time for it in your life.  Playing a musical instrument?  Writing stories?  Baking?  Opening a dog kennel?  Whatever your dreams are, find a way to take a baby step towards making that your goal.  Do some research, compare prices, or actually do a little of it here and there.  Just do it!  Let's stop putting our callings on the back burner, and get it out into the open, shall we?  So this week, just work on figuring out how you're going to put more of it into your life.

If you many callings, then pick one or two or three!  Just start living in line with what you feel you're meant to do.

What if you don't know your calling?  Then go take some classes.  Do some internet research.   Try some hobbies on for size.  Or take a new job that sounds exciting.  Sometimes we have no idea what we're meant to be or doing, until we're doing it.

See you next Sunday!  Good luck!  And have fun with it! 

Read more here: 

Totem Animals
More Totems
Wikipedia Shamanism


Quest by Denise Linn (this book is chock full of vision quest information)
Animal Speak by Ted Andrews (this is full of information about spirit animals)


Shamanic Journeying Music
Meeting Your Alley guided journey
Meet Your Power Animal guided journey
Connecting With Your Spirit Guides
Meet Your Spirit Guide

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