Shamanism is one of the most ancient forms of spirituality and has been practiced since the dawn of time. This spiritual tradition originated in Siberia but quickly spread all over the world.
Shamanism has had something of a rebirth over the last few decades since it fits perfectly with the great back-to-nature movements that have swept the planet. But far from being a simple fad, shamanism is an authentic path of personal development. It enables you to connect to the universe and the forces of nature to improve your existence.
Shamanism can be seen as both a spiritual tradition and a therapeutic method. Its representative, the Shaman, acts as the intermediary between the powers of Nature, those at work in the universe and here on Earth. A Shaman is capable of healing your body, mind, and soul.
Is Shamanism the Oldest Religion?
There is no doubt that the origins of this spiritual path date back to time immemorial. It probably began in Siberia for two main reasons, one being the etymology of the term Shamanism, the other referring to Shamanic practices.
The word “Shamanism” has Siberian roots and comes from Evenki, the language spoken by the Tungusic peoples, one of the many peoples inhabiting Siberia for millennia. The word “saman” means one who dances and jumps high. And Shamans do move around a lot during meditation ceremonies that link man to the forces of nature.
Siberians: The First Immigrants
A second proof of the Siberian origin of Shamanism comes from the fact that most shamanistic practices in the world resemble the rites performed by the Shamans of Siberia. Its ceremonies, magic instruments, and ritual clothing are all used by the natural philosophies that are based on Shamanism.
That is easily explained by the fact that Shamanism spread rapidly from Siberia to other parts of the world, including Asia, Europe, Africa, and even as far away as America.
According to several hypotheses, American Indians came from Asia, mainly Siberia. And it is true that Amerindians have traits that are identical to those of certain Asian populations, notably Siberian.
Siberian peoples have to constantly deal with the most rigorous climatic conditions in the world. Temperature can drop as low as – 50° C, resulting in a rarity of food resources. It should not be surprising that they are part of the research on temperatures and conditions that go back a long way, to a time when life in Siberia was more clement.
There was ample opportunity for them to come to America, sometime between 12,000 and 30,000 years ago when the Bering Strait, an arm of the sea between Alaska and America, was frozen over. They could have easily walked across the 92 kilometers of ice separating the two continents, carrying with them their belongings and their spiritual tradition of Shamanism.
What Is the Practice of Shamanism?
The Siberian theory becomes more plausible when you see the similarities between Siberian Shamanism and its other forms. Shamanism is essentially based on the mediation performed by Shamans between our world and other realms: those of the spirits, nature, animals, and vegetables, and of the dead.
The Shaman is the central player on this spiritual path, the person you must pass through to establish contact with other visible or invisible universes that surround you since he is the one who knows how to communicate with them.
A Shaman is a spiritual guide, an advisor, a prophet, a healer and medicine man. That presupposes a holistic vision of the world, a concept where there are no borders between the different aspects of human life: spirituality, medicine, psychology, religion, divination…
Shamans were, without a doubt, the first means people used to contact the forces of nature that were stronger than they were, and to whom they accorded a higher origin and limitless powers.
The many manifestations of nature (rain, heat, cold, sunshine, etc.) and the climactic and human catastrophes that occurred (drought, famine, storms, sickness, death…) were considered to be signs indicating the existence and anger of the higher forces. People needed to appease these natural powers and ask for protection and help. They did not want the forces to become angry but instead asked them for protection, help, and favors in all areas, using rituals performed by a Shaman. Such Shamanic ceremonies ensured that the hunt would go well, and the gathering of plants, the only food resources available to peoples living in such harsh, frozen conditions where the land was impossible to cultivate, would be auspicious.
Rituals were used to thank slaughtered animals for their flesh to nourish the tribe and bless the long expeditions these nomadic peoples regularly undertook.
In Shamanism, man is not considered superior to nature, but only one of its elements. In Shamanic traditions, people have no rights over the Earth, which is considered to be sacred because it provides everything we need to live, nourish ourselves, clothe and shelter ourselves, and so on.
What Can a Shaman Do?
Shamans are consulted under many circumstances: finding solutions to day-to-day problems, getting rich, healing, contacting the disappeared, attracting favors from the forces of nature, and so on.
Once a person has revealed his or her problem, a Shaman will generally enter a trance by performing a special ceremony. Then, using different practices, magic instruments, and incantations, the Shaman, in his higher state of consciousness, “travels” to other worlds.
Once there, he asks the natural forces he has contacted (higher spirits, the dead, animals or plants) for advice that is best suited to the problem at hand. When he returns from his trance state, he applies the recommendations from the higher worlds.
In the context of Shamanism, the Shaman occupies an essential, if not the most important place in societies that live in harmony with Nature, which is considered to be a living being that must be respected.
The Shaman is actually the only one to be able to contact the forces of Nature. He possesses a gift that must be developed through contact with another experienced Shaman, who becomes his spiritual master. An apprentice Shaman must undergo a long and difficult period of initiation, both mentally, physically and spiritually. He must not only reach the end of his limits, but go beyond them to develop his powers completely, and be capable of traveling to the higher worlds to contact the spirits.
How Do Shamans Heal?
Under the watchful eye of his spiritual master, he learns how to enter a trance state to contact the spirits, those higher entities of nature, animals, plants, and minerals, as well as those who have already passed away.
He is then trained to heal by learning to recognize medicinal herbs, concoct natural remedies, and assimilate the medicinal properties of plants and minerals.
When a sick person comes to see him, he performs a ritual in which he enters a trance and “travels” to other worlds. There he asks the natural forces he contacts (higher spirits, the dead, animals or plants) for the best remedies to use.
When he returns from his trance, he prepares and administers the natural remedies he brought back with him from the various spiritual dimensions he visited.
Essentially A Shaman Is A Spiritual Master
Being an intermediary between this world and the higher spirits, a Shaman is able to travel to parallel universes to meet them. He can also project himself into the past or future to establish psychic divination and/or predict what will happen. He is also able to clearly answer questions asked by people, who then apply his advice and remedies brought back from the great beyond.
His answers may be enigmatic and need to be deciphered by those who consult him, in order to understand their meaning, which may be necessary for their spiritual evolution and to gain a better understanding of the world around them.
Beyond his abilities to heal and predict the future, a Shaman is, above all, a spiritual master who helps people find their true path in life and evolve spiritually. To do that he provides precious advice adapted to their personal situation, including best practices and meditations, prayers and protections to help them on their chosen path in life.
He shows them how to be independent, contact and exploit the help the forces of nature can bring, and the best ways to conserve nature. Thus, people know to what point they can exploit natural resources, only when necessary of course, depending on their needs. No more, no less. Nature must not be pillaged or polluted.
People knew how many animals they had to kill to feed their families and the tribe. They offered homage to animals after they were killed, and only gathered enough fruit and berries to satisfy their needs.
The Shaman’s Sacred Fire
Fire played a major role in Shamanic life and tradition. Fire was the natural element that acted as an intermediary between the privileged few and the spirits. Shamans were also called Masters of Fire and knew how to use it perfectly during the course of their ceremonies, as a way to connect humans and spirits.
In addition to its role as a relay with the spiritual world, fire also purifies.
Fire is thus a way for Shamans to connect to the creator of the universe, often called the Great Spirit, notably in many Amerindian traditions. Fire is a way of attracting the Great Spirit and communicating with it. Fire is also people’s messenger, transmitting their demands and requests to the higher worlds. In Shamanic philosophy fire is, like all elements of nature, a living sacred being.
Fire brought people together as tribes gathered around a central point of flame where all important decisions were made, and people communed in prayer together.
Fire is also a symbol of the transformation of matter and of rebirth. When a Shaman, or anyone who practices Shamanism, prays before a fire, his negative thoughts are consumed and replaced by positive, constructive thoughts.
The transformation, also called sacred transmutation, enables the matter to be renewed. and a new state of consciousness to be reborn from the ashes left behind, in a way that has a direct and symbolic link to Mankind.
Like the Phoenix being reborn from its ashes in Greek, Egyptian and Assyrian traditions, in Shamanism man is reborn through contact with the sacred fire, abandoning his old beliefs and adopting new ones, more adapted to improving conditions of life.
Fire is the best way to purify, clean and disinfect. It can be used in evil locations filled with the negative vibrations of troubled souls.
A man prays before the fire to purify himself of disease and/or his bad actions, to change and modify what is not working in his life, and to get off to a new start on the right foot.
Tips for Firewalking
One of the most important and impressive ceremonies performed by Shamans is the famous walking on hot coals. It has become widespread in the west for years, as a way of proving ultimate courage.
Shamans use walking on fire as a ritual, a way of contacting the spirits and purifying themselves. It is also a trigger for a mystical ecstatic trance of union with the higher natural forces.
Fire is used to initiate disciples of Shamanism into its techniques. Walking on hot coals is actually an important step in any Shamanic initiation.
Obviously, the ceremony may seem difficult at first view, reserved for a few exceptional people. That is both true and false. You don’t walk over hot coals just like that. It should happen at a specific moment in a disciple’s initiation when he or she is ready.
Walking on fire requires overcoming a number of concepts concerning fire, especially in the West where fire is seen with suspicion, not as a purifying element but as a destructive one. This negative image is implanted in our subconscious from childhood on and is often difficult to get rid of. It is the primary obstacle to walking on fire.
Once a person has succeeded in erasing the negative concept from his mind, and considers fire as a natural and benevolent element, it becomes much easier to walk over a bed of hot coals.
When the mind does not see fire solely as a destructive element, it makes the body much less sensitive to the pain fire is associated with. Also, an initiate must not see walking on fire as a way of impressing friends or proving his courage, but as one stage in his Shamanic initiation.
People who decide to walk on fire should do it to regenerate themselves, purify themselves of psychic impurities, and raise their level of consciousness so they can communicate with the Great Spirit and the higher worlds.
Walking on fire helps you know yourself better, discover abilities you didn’t know you had, and awaken your inner power by increasing your vital force. If you manage to reach that level of consciousness, not only will you walk across a bed of hot coals without feeling any pain, you will also be endowed with veritable spiritual benefits.
Conclusion: Shamanism or the Practice of Spiritual Ecology
Shamanism is a spiritual path that is open to the visible and invisible worlds that surround us.
Shamanism enables you to have a traditional vision of the world, but also an astonishingly modern one of life and ecology. It does not consider Man to be the owner of the Earth but sees Man as just one element among many in the universe. Our planet is considered sacred, and the best we can do is not change the planet but change our own attitudes.
Thanks to Shamanism, mankind can elevate his consciousness and communicate with Nature. He is not a predator of the land, but its servant, always striving for harmony.