Shamanism Definition and Books


Shamanism is perhaps one of the oldest divinatory practices in the world to promote healing. By archaeological and anthropological evidence the shaman practice shamanism has existed for some 20,000 to 30,000 years, perhaps since the beginning of the human race. Evidence of shamanism has been found globally in isolated regions of the Americas, Asia, Africa, regions of Europe and Australia.

About the definition. Usually shamans are called to their profession in two ways: by heredity or by spontaneous and involuntary election by the Supernaturals. There are some who seek out the training, but these individuals are not considered as powerful.

An exception to the latter is found the Native North Americans because many undertake vision quests to ask for healing power or the help of a guardian spirit. The shaman is distinguished from others by the greater number of his guardian spirits, by the intensity of his vision, and by his greater power.

Although differences of practices are found among the cultures similarities are found too. The shaman lives in two worlds: the ordinary and the non ordinary reality, also called the “shamanic state of consciousness.”

In shamanism, to enter the shamanic state the shaman must experience an ecstatic trance, or he will not be able to perform all the required functions or duties. This qualification is what sets the shaman apart from all other priests and adepts.

When entering the non ordinary reality, which is an unique altered state of consciousness (see Altered States of Consciousness), the shaman has access to the three zones of most cosmologies: earth, sky, and the underworld, which are connected by a central axis represented by a World Pillar, World Tree, or World Mountain. He is lucid throughout his altered state, controls it, and recalls afterward what transpired during it.

While in the shamanic state the shaman sees other non worldly realities, perhaps multiple realities simultaneously. It is in this state that the shaman accesses information that is unavailable to him in the ordinary reality.



Another definition of Shamanism is the Set of beliefs and practices concerning shamans.

Shamanism is the oldest spiritual practice known to mankind. Archaeological evidence places the first shamanic practices more than 40,000 years ago. Therefore, they are part of our common cultural heritage and are universal.

The shamanic tradition constitutes the roots of all existing spiritual and healing models. See also best spiritual books. Hence, you can find references of our shamanic ancestors in all cultures: Celtic, European, Native American,Australian aborigines, among many others.

Each shaman uses shamanism practices with characteristics of their culture, but they are all based on the same Universal Principles. Consequently, all the shamans of the world, for example, speak of the existence of parallel realities and Spirits of Compassion that work with the shaman and make healing possible.

In addition, everyone understands in a very similar way concepts such as: illness; nature; the soul or death. And everyone knows, too, that it is possible to bring useful information from these other worlds.


Shamanism Books


Best Books on Shamanism and Healing


This short list is based on our opinion after checking many books on Shamanism and healing. These are the most recommended books that cover the topics in a serious and educational way. The first is not recommended for beginners, the next two are great options for curious in start the shamanic journey. At the end of the article you can search for more.


Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy

Author: Mircea Eliade

This is probably the best book on this topic, like the bible on Shamanism it covers many information in a serious wa . If you want to know all about it this is your book. However, it is probably not the best as an introduction for newbies.

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The way of the Shaman

Author: Michael Harner

Another great resource that covers from a traditional perspective the shaman beliefs. This is the best option for beginners.

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Shamanic Journeying: A Beginner’s Guide

Author: Sandra Ingerman

Another good option for newbies. This is a basic starting guide an explanation to shamanic concepts, ideas and beliefs.

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Shamanic State

It is essential for the shaman to be able to enter the shamanic state at will. He practices techniques that allow him to do so such as drumming,rattling, chanting, dancing, sexual abstinence, sweat baths, staring at a flame, concentrating on imagery, and isolating himself in darkness. Although some societies use psychedelic drugs for this purpose, others claim drugs are not essential

In the shamanic state the shaman has various powers that he does possess in ordinary reality. He can see spirits and souls, and communicate with them; make magical flights to the heavens where he serves as intermediary between the gods and his people; and descend to the underworld, the land of the dead. These flights are accomplished by shape-shifting (see Metamorphosis), he rides mythical horses or the spirits of sacrificed horses, travels in spirits boats, and the like.

Most believe that they must have a close connection with nature because their guardian spirit usually is that of a plant or animal. Many say the guardian spirit takes the shaman to the other realities through holes between worlds where he is given his needed knowledge and power to help his people and village. This latter purpose makes it essential that the shaman remains lucid throughout his shamanic journeys, so he can bring back vital information that will help his people. A.G.H.


What can Shamanism do for me

This is probably the most common question I hear today. And you know why so many people ask it? Because we are brought up in a society that does not have Shamanism. Worse than that we are brought up without community.

In the old days you were raised with a strong community around you. We lived together, played together, grew up together and sometimes even died together. We had elders and doctors and teachers and medical advisors right within this strong close knit community. Think of the klingit tribes of Indians who live in Alaska. Although they may seem isolated from the outside, they are completely self contained with a very strong sense of communal identity.

But today, we are lucky to have a strong family or church community and in many ways we are less fortunate than long ago.

In the old days, the elders would watch the children and find what each child was strong in and had a knack for. Then that gift or gifts were encouraged and the child grew into whatever came naturally to him or her. If a child seemed good with numbers, that talent was grown and the child might become the treasurer for the community.

If the child was given to visions he or she may be groomed to be the community’s visionary.Also, If the child could speak to the animals, perhaps the child would become the communicator to the spirit world.

Each child would have one or more gifts he or she was born with. It was the community, the elders, the teachers, and the parents who realized the blessings and were happy to help the child be what he or she was meant to be in life.

Today we have no such possibility for ourselves or for our children. For the most part, we are raised to fit into a box; to learn what everyone else learns and to ignore or abandon anything that does not fit into society’s box.

If our parents see us talking to the birds we are taken to a psychologist and told not to do that. In fact there is very little encouragement to develop the gifts and talents that we were born into. And so our society is losing out on the largest talent bank ever assembled on this planet today.

I see the problem. I see that Shamanism could disappear from the face of the earth because children of today are not allowed to study it and to grow their own special gifts of healing for themselves and for society.

It doesn’t have to be this way. So I offer you the choice. It is not too late to look inside and find those special gifts you were born with. You may have pushed them down and buried them deep inside because your parents, your family, your society said they were wrong or worthless or should not be used. But they are still within you.

What are these gifts?

Healing the spirit is the primary function of a Shaman.

This includes


  • Soul-retrieval,
  • Soul-restoration
  • Herbal healing
  • Hands on healing
  • Divination
  • Dream Work
  • Soul Leading

Soul extraction involves the Shaman extracting psychic darts or chords that have intruded upon the soul or etheric body of the patient. This is sometimes an attack from someone who has attempted to harm, maim, or kill the patient.

The classic dart attack will often manifest as pains where no wounds exist. This involves, according to Michael Harner, author of The Way of the Shaman, a literal “sucking out” of the intrusion. This sucking out of the intrusions is done both psychically and mentally. There are other methods of soul extraction as well.

Soul-retrieval is the process by which the Shaman retrieves pieces of the person lost soul. This is often accomplished by journeying to the spirit world and requesting assistance from the spirits, ancestors, and guides that dwell in Other Realities or Worlds.

These beings assist the Shaman in discovering what is wrong with the person and often help the Shaman fight a battle with the being now possessing those parts to win them back and bring them to the patient. Some of the classic symptoms of a person in need of soul retrieval would perhaps include those suffering from a mental illness; those abused as children, or those who sense that something is missing in their lives.

This is a dangerous act and often the Shaman if he or she is not trained well enough can fall into physical or mental traps laid by the possessing entities that may cause illness or psychosis for the Shaman.

Soul restoration is the literally restoring of one’s soul. This occurs when a person is near death and his/her soul seeks to move on. This “death” could be the result of a psychic attack or an accident from which the body has recovered physically, but not spiritually. Again the Shaman will journey to the place where the patient has lost his or her soul and barter for that soul to bring it back and restore it to the patient.

It takes much strength and power by the Shaman to deal with these otherworld entities and the Shaman must know how and where to wield that power for the good of all. Shamans are not in the business of destruction but rather healing. I cannot emphasize the role of personal power and education for the Shaman enough.

Hands-on healing or bodywork is most certainly a part of what a Shaman does. This technique is still widely used today by Reiki masters, massage therapists, chiropractors and Shamans. Shamanistic hands-on healing involves the energy or spirit of the Shaman working with the energy or spirit of the patient.

Divination is the means by which a Shaman can foretell the future, describe the illnesses of people and find their cure. Divination shows the path to the Shaman; which direction the patient should walk to receive healing.

This is accomplished in varying ways and the method used often depends on the teaching the Shaman received from his particular tribe or elder. The most common shamanic method is journeying to the Otherworld and requesting information from elders, guides and spirits who live there. It is been said that Genghis Khan used his shamans that way. There are many other beings who are greatly involved in your life and wish to see you whole and happy. A Shaman has intimate relationship with these wise ones and uses this gift on the patient’s behalf.

Herbal healing gives credence to the true belief that the Shaman is a medicine man or witch doctor. Herbal healing began with the beginning of the earth. Many of the hunting and gathering tribes had the ability to heal with plants indigenous to their area. Today this knowledge is fast disappearing and Shamans everywhere try to support the preservation of indigenous plantlife and the lore surrounding them. Many Shamans spend their entire careers discovering and recording these plants for the future of us all.

Herbalism is used in conjunction with spirit healing to facilitate recovery. All Shamans are herbalists.

Dreamwork or dream interpretation is another Shamanic tool to assist with healing. Shamans will listen to the dreamer’s dream, sometimes for several days, until they fully connect with it. Then they will dream the dream themselves and resolve the conflict to the highest good of the dreamer. This again is a difficult task and requires rigorous training by the Shaman in his or her apprenticeship to accomplish.

Soul leading is another important function of a Shaman and Shamanism. This is the process in which the Shaman will escort the newly dead to their place in the Otherworld. This is done because the Shaman who is familiar and a frequent visitor to the Otherworld will be able to find the “soul” its proper place.

Not all Shamans are all of the above but a good Shaman is all this and more. What a Shaman is according to Eliade is a “Master of the Ecstatic.” This is true for it is in the mastery of the ecstatic that the Shaman garners his or her power.

Each of us has one or more of these gifts buried somewhere inside our spirits. It is your gift, your right, actually your calling to find the gift, study the gift, gain power over the gift or gifts and use the gift to heal yourself and others. Can you imagine how beautiful this world would be if each of us took responsibility for the gifts we were given? Who would be left sick? r poor?


Bring back the harmony in your life

Feel connected to your spirit

Come Home!

Allow yourself to be who you truly are!

Find your personal power.

Take charge of your situation

Find your sense of purpose in this world

Give that gift that is uniquely yours to give.


In this section are descriptions of Shamanism and shaman beliefs and topics related to its practice.


The following Shamanism articles are presented

A Shaman Shares Knowledge
Are Spirit Guides The Same as Totems?
Do People need symbols to feel healed?
Experience Is The Best Teacher
Journey of the Soul
Soul Retrieval
Spirit possession
Vision quests
What Is a Power Song?