Shamanism is an ancient practice, humanity’s oldest form of relationship to spirit. It is the underpinning beneath all religion but it is not a religion. It is a complex set of practices, beliefs, values and behaviors that enable the shamanic practitioner to elicit a shift from ordinary consciousness into a trance state with a specific goal in mind, such as for healing, obtaining information, power, vision, divination, contacting the spirit of the deceased, soul retrieval or guidance for right action.
Shamans throughout the world and throughout time recognize that the universe is alive, conscious, and filled with spiritual power. True shamans know how to access this web of power and work with it skillfully and effectively to address their, and their community’s needs.
Traditionally a shaman goes through the experience of a calling, usually through illness, accident or some unusual quality of being, then through an arduous apprenticeship of teaching, training and testing, followed by a passage rite into their new status. Typically shaman do not define themselves as such. Instead they are defined by their community based on what it is that they do.
Becoming a shaman and living as a shaman is a difficult life path that many indigenous people shy away from because of the formidable demands on one’s life.
Shamanism is not about fun and glamor. It deals with power, and power can move in many different ways, like electricity. It is important to move with respect, humility and care.
A vitally important aspect of the practice of shamanism is understanding right relationship with power, and the acts and implements of power, such as sage, cedar, feathers, the drum, ceremony, disincarnate spirits, totem animals and allies.
Dr. Pinkson’s story of being called to shamanism is detailed in his book The Shamanic Wisdom of the Huichol: Modern Teachings for Modern Times. His work and path are anchored by a deep commitment and reverence inspired by the many medicine men and women who reached out to him from jungles, mountains, and desserts to “come be a bridge builder.” Read more about Tom’s decade-long immersion in the shamanic traditions of the Huichol tribes of the Sierra Madre in Mexico.
Adds Dr. Pinkson , “The world view of shamanism and its consciousness-alterning methodologies offer time-tested ways of helping us return to a way of being with nature, with each other, with creation and with our higher potentials for growth and development that heals our alienation and conflict, our fear and our anxiety. Shamanism offers a way to relate to powers bigger than ourselves in a practical and life-affirming manner that enriches all interactions with an awareness that you are not alone nor do you have to face your challenges on your own. There is help available at all times and shamanism teaches you how to access and use it to help you to improve the quality of your life.”