Shamanism is an incredibly ancient practice. In the modern western world, the most common idea of a Shaman is an image of an indigenous tribal person, dancing around a fire and leading some sort of mysterious ritual, accompanied by all manner of tribal music. However, underneath the masks and the outfit and the ritual, there is a woman or man with a set of very real skills. The Shaman is the master of the trance experience.
Shamanism is an ancient healing tradition which to those who follow it, consider it a way of life. In the modern world, it is considered to be a way to connect with nature, the spirit world, and all of creation by reaching altered states of consciousness, and then channel these transcendental energies into the world. The word Shaman originates from the Tungus tribe in Siberia, which Anthropologists then coined and have used it to describe spiritual and ceremonial leaders among indigenous cultures worldwide.
Today, the word Shamanism can be used to describe the ancient spiritual practices of these indigenous cultures. It was the countless similarities between the various ancient traditions that played a role in the generalization of the meaning of the word. Over the past few decades, the term “Shamanism” has been popularized throughout the western world, especially in new-age circles. Today, it can often be difficult to distinguish between traditional forms of shamanism and modernized, which often blend many traditional practices together.
Because it is not an organized religion, but rather a spiritual practice, shamanism cuts across all faiths and creeds, reaching deep levels of ancestral memory. As a primal and animistic way of seeing the world, which predates established religion, it has its own symbolism and cosmology, inhabited by beings, gods, and totems, who display similar characteristics although they appear in various forms, depending on their place of origin. They achieve this by practice and mastery of entering into a spiritual trance, in which he or she not only has increased facility for traveling in non-physical realms. It also uses their relationship with the spirits to create changes that will manifest in the physical world, for the healing and empowerment of individuals, or the community at large.
The basis of Shamanism is ultimately then, to serve the needs of the community, and to support all of those in need to grow. This allows us to become empowered through spiritual guidance and connection with the higher aspects of nature, and the cosmos. They treat ailments and illnesses by mending the soul. They communicate messages from the human world to the spirit world, and may even enter higher dimensions to obtain solutions to problems afflicting the community.
One major basis of Modern Shamanism today is that their spiritual practices are very adaptable, and practical. These practices have coexisted over millennia with varying cultures, systems of government, and organized religious practices, to shape what it has become today. Even many formalized religions, from Buddhism to Christianity, came from ancient shamanic roots and still bears the shamanic threads of connection to the divine within all things, for example, the idea of a Priest across the Christian faiths, bears a remarkably similar role to a Shaman, despite often physically appearing quite different. Shamanism ultimately is very simple. Following a shamanistic perspective, individuals seek to be in a relationship with the spirit in everything and use this higher guidance to support those in need.