Eight Characteristics of Shamanism

Edited by Gerry Starnes. Original source unknown.

Shamanism shares many traits with other forms of prayer and energy work, but we can identify eight characteristic ways of working in shamanic work. Not every shaman works with all of them, but the more of the "eight" you see in a practitioner's work, the more that practitioner is shamanic in his or her approach.

The Eight Characteristics of Shamanism

  1. Working with spirit realm and spirit guides – in shamanic cosmology, the world is filled with spiritual beings and energies: angels, ancestors, totem, animals, gods, goddesses, and nature spirits. These helpful spirits guide us to healing and wisdom.

  2. Purpose of shamanic work is to solve problems in daily life – shamanic work is not about simply having visions of the spirit realm, but to help self and others gain healing and wisdom in our daily lives.

  3. Work with soul – shamanism heals the soul or vital essence of individuals, human society and nature. Through healing and restoring this spiritual power, many physical, mental and emotional issues are resolved.

  4. Travel out of body – shamanic work involves "journeying" out of body into the spirit realm to work with the spirit guides for healing and guidance.

  5. Grounded in nature – the shamanic practitioner gratefully utilizes the powers of nature for healing, transformation and restoration energy and to stay grounded in the physical plane.

  6. Grounded in body (cathartic work) – shamanic work is not just about having visions, but also addresses feelings within the body, what psychologists would call psychosomatic issues.

  7. Utilize expressive arts – shamans throughout the ages have used singing, dancing, drumming and visual art as ways of expressing their visions and creating healing.

  8. Face shadow side – shamanic work is not afraid to confront the shadow side, drawing out anger, sadness, fear, etc. to create cathartic healing.

Index of Articles

What is a Shaman?
Excerpt from interview with Martin Prechtel published by Sun Magazine.

Eight Characteristics of Shamanism
Edited by Gerry Starnes

Shamanism Q&A
Interview by Jennifer Robenalt, Soul Lab Media.

Ecstatic Body Postures
Figurines, carvings, and artwork from around the world suggest archetypal ways to produce and enhance ecstatic experience.

Urban Shamanism
How can people live a shamanic experience within the urban environment?

The Bandana: Toward the Within
The use of the bandanna in TranceDance

The Shamanic Journey
The shamanic (drumming) journey has been used for thousands of years for guidance and healing. Excerpt of material by Tom Cowan.

Power Animals & Helping Spirits
What are power animals and how does one work with them?

Spiritual Eldership
The role of Elders in an shamanic cultures can be applied to help save our own.

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