Shamans are the men and woman in many tribal cultures who are responsible for tuning into the “other world” to help heal physical, mental and spiritual conditions. A shaman is a person who interacts with both the normal, everyday world and the world of spirits, and so can predict the future and interpret signs. They are individuals with the ability to work with earth energies and to see and interpret visions.
The ideal shaman unites in the essences of healer, visionary, counselor and prophet. The word “shaman” comes from the language of the Tungus of Siberia. It came into use in English by way of Russia. The word originated from šamán, being the Turkic-Tungus word for such a practitioner and meaning “he or she who knows.” Therefore, shaman means a wise sage, someone who “knows.” Another translation gives the fundamental meaning as “one who is moved, raised,” which also addresses the principle characteristics of the shaman. The term shaman has grown to include traditions outside of the original Siberian cultures from which the word originated.
The common emphasis placed by shamans of indigenous cultures around the world, on life as a continuous process of healing, is what makes them refer to the importance of finding one’s “medicine,” or that which will heal the wounds we carry and helps us to live our life to the full. Any belief system based upon the idea of the spiritual energy in nature constantly interacting with our “ordinary” world—and of seeing clearly the link between the separate person and the ultimate source—is essentially shamanistic.
A shaman must embark upon his or her vision quest, a sometimes-perilous journey to risk all in search of spiritual guidance and purpose. He or she must go through the ordeal alone, passing through the fires of self-examination and self-transformation, and into the darkness of the shadow side to face sickness, negativity and fears.
Today, shamanistic techniques are no longer restricted to rare individuals, but are available to a wide range of people who seek enchantment, enlightenment and self-discovery. As our friend Mayan elder and master shaman Hunbatz Men told us, “We have got to make thousands of shamans now. We are entering sacred times.”
More information is available in my book Healing Crystals: A Shaman’s Guide to Using Energy Stones & Making Medicine Bags.