Long before modern-day medicine and technology, shamans have been healing people spiritually, mentally, and physically.
Shamanism, and shamanic healing, has been practiced in many cultures around the world, and is still popular today, with many seeking more traditional methods of healing.
The goal of shamanic healing is to work out the root of a person’s problems and resolve them, with the help of a shaman — a spiritual healer — who guides the person through the process.
We often hear about shamans being associated with ayahuasca, chanting, and spirits. These are all valid associations, but there’s a lot more involved in a shamanic healing journey.
So what exactly is shamanic healing, and how does it work? In this article, we’ll look into the practices of shamanism, the role of a shaman, and an overview of what a healing journey looks like.
Shamanism has been around for thousands of years, and is considered to be one of the world’s oldest religions. But there are some core differences to religions such as Christianity, Islam or Judaism.
Shamanism isn’t a formalised set of beliefs. There isn’t one leader or a single set of scripts to follow, so many followers don’t define it as a religion.
Instead, there are different shamanic practices that differ from one another depending on the country. It’s adaptable, as the activities and experiences are often tailored to the environment and culture of the country.
In shamanism, the main beliefs are centered around building the connection within yourself, to nature and the world around us.
In his article, “The air you breathe”, Rudá Iandê, a world-renowned shaman, mentions the importance of this connection between ourselves and the world around us:
“If you really want to enjoy your life, it’s essential that you start breaking through the hypnotic state of your thinking mind to develop your presence, grounding your consciousness in the movement of life.”
It is believed that by activating one’s inner sense of self, better relationships can be formed with others and with the world. Humans are seen as an integral part of the world; everything is connected and practicing shamanism can open the gateway within one’s self to feeling these connections.
Many people are drawn to shamanism from all walks of life. As there’s no rigid, set way of practising shamanism, people use the help of a shaman whose role is to guide them through the process.
“Claiming your true self and grounding your roots in this first nature puts you in touch with your primal source of creative power,” says Iandê in his book Laughing in the Face of Chaos.
Those who embark on a shamanic journey wish to be more connected with their inner core and feel spiritually connected to all things around them.
The role of a shaman is to guide a person on their journey to being more in touch with their connection with nature and in finding their inner power.
A shaman is believed to journey through three different realms: the human world, the spirit world, and the world of nature. They help individuals and whole communities, and they can guide those with physical or mental issues, as well as those who wish to have a deeper spiritual awareness.
Iandê, who has spent more than 25 years practicing shamanism, explains spirituality as follows:
“Spirituality doesn’t need to be ‘up there’ in the sky. It’s much more real when it happens down here in our embodied form. From a shamanic perspective, spirituality is about fully embodying the self, not transcending it.”
A shaman will use different techniques to help the person reach this level of inner awareness, from rituals, chanting, plants, music, and shamanic breathwork.
Once a shaman has worked out what type of healing the patient needs, they may access the spirit world so that they can remove or restore energy, communicate with different dimensions of being and find non-physical ways to help the patient.
They are able to do this by entering into altered states of consciousness and will be trained and experienced with moving through different states whilst still being fully in control.
They will also be able to convey messages across the different worlds, communicating both with their patient and the spiritual entities.
Outside of shamanism, we often see illness as being caused by viruses or bacteria. When it comes to mental illnesses, a chemical imbalance in the brain is seen as the cause. Doctors prescribe medicine or use therapy to help patients recover from their illnesses.
Shamanic healing takes a very different approach. Illnesses, both physical and mental, are seen to be effects. The illness and the suffering that comes with it is seen as an effect of an imbalance at the core of the person.
Modern-day medicines often mask the issues; they won’t necessarily heal the person completely. In shamanism, the root cause is linked with the non-physical realm, so in order to heal effectively, a shaman will help to work on the person’s spirit.
In shamanic healing, healing can’t be achieved just on a physical level. It requires returning to the core of the person, and although a shaman can guide and help the patient, healing ultimately depends on them as it should be a “self-healing” process.
This means that the patient must play an active role in their healing. The shaman can move around energy, remove blockages, seek wisdom from the spiritual realm, and advise the patient, but real, complete healing needs to come from the patient’s spirit.
Here’s an outline of how a shamanic healing might take place. This can differ depending on the shaman and their healing speciality:
The environment that a healing takes place should be calm, quiet and relaxing. It’s important for the patient to feel comfortable so that they can immerse themselves fully in the healing experience.
Sometimes, a shaman might use candles, incense sticks, crystals, music and or special stones to help create this “sacred space”, where healing takes place.
Before beginning the process, an open, honest conversation should take place between the patient and the shaman. During this chat, the shaman will try to get an understanding of the patient’s history, how they feel and what problems they are facing.
There shouldn’t be any judgement from the shaman, as this part of the process is for the shaman to find out what type of healing is needed. Both the shaman and patient need to be transparent and delve deep into the issues affecting the patient.
Once the shaman has worked out what the patient’s issues are, they will usually ask the patient to lie down comfortably, wearing loose-fitting clothing. In the body, there are different energy centers that are often associated with the seven chakras of the body.
During this process, the shaman will work to find out where unnecessary energy is being held, where useless energy can be removed and where empowering energy can be placed.
After finishing the energy work, the shaman will then explain to the patient what will happen in the next part of the process. The healing process can often include feelings of tingling, emotional releases and meditative states of consciousness.
The shaman might use rhythmic percussion, like a drum, to induce a trance. Using their connection to the spiritual world, the shaman will then move through the different worlds to seek wisdom and healing for the patient.
The shaman might practice either hands-on or hands-off energy work. They’ll identify areas of the body in which they can move energy through, channeling it from the spirit world into the human world.
One the shamanic journey has come to an end, another discussion will take place between the shaman and the patient. This conversation will include talking about how both of them felt throughout the process.
The shaman will also use this time to advise the patient of any wisdom that came to light from the spirit realm, and ways in which the client can begin to make changes in their lives in order to continue the healing process.
Once the shamanic healing journey is complete, the next steps are very important. As energy will have been moved around the body, the patient might feel changes in their feelings and emotions.
During this time, patients are advised to keep note of these shifts in feelings, and remain open and willing to accept these changes which take place in their emotional, physical, and mental states. It’s during this time that toxic energy will be released from the body, making space for new, positive, empowering energy.
There are many reasons why people turn to shamanic healing, and no two experiences will be the same.
For a shamanic healing to be successful, you should be willing to accept the process and all the changes that come with it.
It’s important to remember that this type of healing delves much deeper than taking medicine or using modern day forms of healing. The process can be intense, and ultimately your healing will depend on your openness and willingness to change your inner self.
Here are some of the characteristics of someone who might seek shamanic healing:
Shamanic healing can be beneficial to people who seek a change within themselves, but feel lost when it comes to putting that change into action.
Iandê talks about the importance of understanding your social being in his workshop Out of the Box.
“Your true nature is your place of power, a whole universe of magic and possibilities. From this place, you can develop your own personal mythology. You can dream according to your soul and your true passion, setting meaningful goals for your life and materializing those goals.”
Finding a shaman is a different process to that of finding a doctor. Shamans don’t come with official qualifications so there’s an element of trust that must be given to their knowledge and experience.
A lot also comes down to how you feel when you’re with your shaman. You will need to use your gut instinct, alongside recommendations given by others. Here are a few things to look out for when searching for the right shaman for you:
As with anything, we all have our own preferences. A shaman might be perfect for one person, but not for you, as their methods might not suit you or make you feel comfortable.
For example, some shamans will use instruments or chanting during their healing session, whilst others prefer to use crystals or stones.
Some shamans will work with you one-on-one and others use a group setting. There are also different fields which shamans will specialize in, such as energy balance, PTSD, and soul-retrieval (to name just a few).
It’s important to find a shaman that you feel comfortable with and that can provide a setting that will help you get the most out of your healing journey.
As with any profession, some people are more genuine in their intentions and services, so it’s important to find a shaman who has a real passion for helping others and guiding people on a positive journey.
Here are some qualities a trustworthy shaman should have:
A genuine shaman will tell you uncomfortable truths instead of just telling you what you want to hear.
As Jessica Brinton writes for Vice, “they are there to hold up a mirror and lead you towards the real story of you, a place from which you will be better able to heal yourself.”
You should feel safe with your shaman guiding you through your healing process and have a relationship with your shaman which is comfortable enough for you to be transparent and open with your shaman about your problems and feelings.
A final point to remember when you’re looking for a shaman is their reputation. There isn’t an official certificate or governing body that can confirm a shaman’s skills or experience, so you may want to be guided by other people’s testimonials.
It’s a good idea to speak to the shaman about the type of healing they specialize in as this will reveal how much experience and confidence they have in their method.
Shamanic healing isn’t a one time fix it all pill. It’s a journey that you embark upon, alongside the help, guidance and wisdom of your shaman.
We all have problems which we face at different stages in our life, and in some cases, choosing a traditional method of healing such as shamanism can be much more fulfilling than modern day medicines (or even used alongside depending on the conditions of the person).
In the words of Iandê, “Awakening is a process of distillation of the consciousness. Through deep self-knowledge we separate our essence, what we really are, from the role we’re playing in the world.”
So, regardless of the reasons why you might seek shamanic healing, prepare to take a step into healing your inner spirit, and journey to a better, more positive place in your life.
Choosing which shaman to guide you in shamanic healing is a personal choice. Only you can make it. We do recommend the work of Rudá Iandê, which is why we have partnered with him in making his shamanic teachings available in the online workshop Out of the Box. Rudá Iandê recently published his first book, Laughing in the Face of Chaos.