"He (the Shaman) is a self-reliant explorer
of endless mansions of a magnificent hidden universe."
Shamanism is not a religion; it is a way of being. It is the direct experience of spiritual knowledge that comes from journeys within and through the "shamanic state of consciousness" or “shamanic ecstasy”, which are transcendental states of consciousness, entered into in order to reach other, more mystical realities.
To Native Americans, it is often referred to as the path of the sacred clown, in some cultures it is called the path of the feather and it is considered to be the sacred calling of certain select initiates who, by entering into states of altered consciousness. interact with the spirit world in order to ensure the spiritual functioning of the tribe.
But, the true meaning of shamanism is not so simply defined.
beyond ordinary reality to retrieve information for change in any area of your life.”
~ Sandra Ingerman ~
The word "shaman" originated in Siberia and it describes a specialized type of holy person who practices not only with prayer, ritual and offerings, but through direct contact with the spirits themselves. The label of "shaman" eventually became incorrectly applied to any medicine man or medicine woman of the primitive tribal cultures, while the term "shamanism" describes a belief systems which sees the universe as alive and interconnected and the shaman as the intermediary bridging the connections.
"I think the common experience is that modern shamans are called by the spirits;
we just don’t have a collective belief system or community
Although the shamanic journey is often a personal and individual experience, shamanism itself is tribal in its nature and needs to be experienced within the cultural framework of the individual tribal lands. The shaman must be attuned to and be in harmony with the unique energy of their local tribal land, as it is revealed in local myths and legends, in order to truly commune with the Spirit of the Home Land. Though the essence of the shamanic practice does not change and its core elements remain universal from culture to culture, shamanic rituals and practices must be acclimated to different times and different places, as well as to different cultures.
"Men are free when they are in a homeland, not when they are straying and breaking away. Men are free when they are obeying some deep, inward voice of religious belief. Obeying from within, men are free when they belong to a living, organic, believing community, active in fulfilling some unfulfilled, perhaps unrealized purpose."
~ D.H. Lawrence ~
In early tribal societies the primary role of the shaman was to be "The Vision Seeker" for the community. It was the role of the shaman to travel beyond the realm of the material, into the realm of the immaterial, in order to commune with the spirits that guided and protected the tribe. The shaman had to live astride these two worlds; the world of perceived reality and the world of intuitive reality and only by living this dual existence was the shaman able to interact with the mystical realms in which lies the true Nature of the Universe. With the shaman's main purpose being to maintain the harmony between the tribe’s physical and spiritual needs, the shaman might, as an example, go forth on a vision quest before a hunt to meet with the spirit of the animal to be hunted, in order to create a empathy between the spirit of the hunter and the spirit of the hunted in order to secure the tribes basic needs.
Because the shaman has to live in this almost schizophrenic way, never fully in one "reality" or the other, the shaman is often considered to be "divinely mad". The belief, by shamanic people that the so called "insane" are divinely attuned individuals has been historically noted in numerous instances. This may also be historically reflected in the fact that many shamans of note who have had to confront non-shamanic cultures, often have had one or more instances of imprisonment or institutionalization, as a result of their personal perceptions of reality being in conflict with the "norms" of those alien society's tenets.
"Just maybe, going crazy could be the evolutionary process trying to hurry up mind expansion. My mind didn't snap, it was trying to stretch itself into a new shape."
An ecstasy is a thing that will not go into words;
it feels like music and one cannot tell about music
so that another person can get the feeling of it.
The shamanic state of consciousness has been referred to as 'shamanic ecstasy' and is a form of consciousness practiced and developed in order to reach another, 'shamanic reality'. Shamanic reality is different than the reality perceived by others. ‘World view reality’ is the usual reality most people see, the often unchallenged and primarily unconscious state of agreement between one’s personal construction of reality and that shared with others. By breaking from the crowd, the shamanic practitioner challenges and then deepens his or her understanding of what is real and in different ways and to varying degrees, the shaman thereby ‘sees’ reality differently from most everyone else.
Shamanism was called the technique of ecstasy by controversial anthropologist Mircea Eliade, who published several books on the subject. To Eliade, ecstasy meant to go or be taken outside of oneself. In that sense the shaman leaves his body and explores hidden worlds and spiritual dimensions while in a trance often induced by the ingestion of psycho-active plants. This is done, within this trance-state, in order to be in communion with spirit guides and spirit animals in order to achieve a natural empowerment and gain assistance in understanding that which cannot be understood from the perspective of the world view. In this shamanic ecstasy the shaman's brain thereby becomes a nexus, a place of intersection between the different worlds and their different realities.
Shamanic Ecstasy is the real "Old Time Religion", of which modern churches are but pallid evocations. Shamanic visionary ecstasy, the mysterium tremendum, the unio mystica, the eternally delightful experience of the universe as energy, is a sine qua non of religion, it is what religion is for! There is no need for faith, it is the ecstatic experience itself that gives one faith in the intrinsic unity and integrity of the universe, in ourselves as integral parts of the whole; that reveals to us the sublime majesty of our universe, and the fluctuant, scintillant, alchemical miracle that is quotidian consciousness. Any religion that requires faith and gives none, that defends against religious experiences, that promulgates the bizarre superstition that humankind is in some way separate, divorced from the rest of creation, that heals not the gaping wound between body and soul, but would tear them asunder; is no religion at all!
Everything in the universe has rhythm.
~ Maya Angelou ~
The enemy of awareness is the illusion of separateness that we create out of our own self-centered perceptions. Our perceptions are shaped and colored by the degree of awareness with which we analyze experiences and it is out of this that our illusions arise. The source of this deception lies in the illusion of the ego that we are separate from the Oneness of Creation. True awareness is nurtured when we accept that we are part of the Whole and release ourselves from the illusion of separateness.
From one's individual perspective, life seems to be regulated by subservience to societal rules of behavior for personal achievement. To accomplish this personal achievement the individual establishes an unnatural internal rhythm in adherence to these behavioral patterns of self-interest and self-centeredness, yet these very ideas of self-interest and self-centeredness are what lead to the sense of isolation and separateness that are synonymous with illusion.
“Living a spiritual life may not be easy. It demands total authenticity.
It brings you to dance to a unique song that only you can hear fully,
and sometimes you dance alone because no others can hear the music.”
~ Debra Moffitt ~
"Historically, shamans have always been part of the society where they lived, taking care of its problems, whenever they were allowed to operate. For centuries shamanic cultures have been persecuted in the western world until they were almost entirely exterminated. They have managed to survive in secrecy or through complex esoteric camouflage. Nowadays there seems to be more freedom and this ancient knowledge can re-emerge and be used in our own cultural context and not relegated somewhere else. The world needs shamans able to function on the roads, among the electronic equipment and engines, in the squares and markets of our contemporary society."
~ Franco Santoro ~
Indeed, to cast a spell, is simply to spell, to manipulate words, to change people's consciousness. And I believe that this is why an artist or writer is the closest thing in the contemporary world that you are likely to see to a Shaman.
Shamanic artist and writer Alan Moore has suggested that because of their ability to manipulate words and to change people’s consciousness an artist or writer is the probably closest thing in the contemporary world that fills the role of the shaman.
Yet, in our everyday lives the most prevalent, (and subtle), example of the shaman at work comes in the guise of the mass marketing advertiser, (or propagandist), though their "magic" represents the dark side of shamanism. Where the true shaman will paint pictures, sing songs and tell stories meant to awaken and liberate the people to a new awareness, these advertising shaman will use these same methods in order put them to sleep and enslave them in a prison of a false reality.