The Magic of Shamans
The Shaman in Shamanistic cultures plays a priest-like role in that he or she is the spiritual leader of a given community. But Shamans are not officially ordained as priests or ministers, nor are they part of any specific religious or for that matter Occult order. Rather the Shaman is usually a person in the tribe or village that either through Birthright, divine accident, or demonstration of metaphysical ability, has become the Shaman.
The Shaman’s primary purpose is as spiritual guide and physical healer. This is why they have been accurately described as “Medicine Men”. But Shamans do practice ritual magic, hence the less accepted and somewhat more derogatory term, “Witch Doctor”.
In the world of the Shaman disease exists in the spiritual realm. To cure disease the Shaman takes on astral form and travels into the spirit world to remove the disease causing agent. Or he enters a trance-like state that allows him or her to enter into the body of the afflicted person and remove the infecting spirits of disease. In this respect the Shaman implores what western thinkers would refer to as “magic”. However Shamans also possess an amazing knowledge of the healing plants and herbs indigenous to their environments. Shamans will employ these “physical” methods to cure sickness as well. However to the Shaman and his followers this also is a kind of spirit magic, for it is the spirits of the plants, and sometimes animals themselves, who have “spoken” to the Shamans and told him that they are to be used to treat a specific ailment.
Practice of Shamanism
Shamanism exists throughout the word and specific practices are as varied as the environments and the peoples in these cultures. However some universal methodologies exist across all ritual magic practices that are considered to be Shamanistic. All Shamans to exert their powers need to enter an alternative state of conscious that allows them to traverse the Axis Mundi – that Universal Point where all things physical and metaphysical converge. To do so depending on the culture, can involve the use of drums, dance, fasting, sweat lodges, and or any number of psychedelic herbs and plants also called entheogens, such as:
- San Pedro
- Ayahuasca Quechua
In most cultures Shamans are males. But some cultures do have female shamans. In Olde Norse it was considered to be “unmanly” to be a Shaman, so most Norse practitioners of Norse Shamanism or “Rune Magic” – were women. However the chief God in the Norse pantheon, Odin, was the most powerful Shaman of all.
Most Shamanistic cultures current and historically are hunter-gatherer societies. So the Shaman was also responsible for magic rituals to bring a good hunt or harvest. In these societies only the Shaman had the ability to release the souls of the slain hunted animals in the proper way to not offend the spirits and ensure continued good hunting. Shamans also are said to have the ability to cure infertility by finding the lost souls of unborn children and sending them to their proper mothers.What are considered to be many traditional “Shamanistic” practices have been freely “borrowed” by many practitioners of “New Age Mysticism” and “Modern Spirituality”, most notably Chaos Magic. Most true Shamans (and incidentally the deities they serve) are offended by these so-called "neoshamanistic" practices.