Shamanism FAQs

 

“We all know we need spiritual strength in our lives to sustain us on our world path. The circle of shamanic community gives us that strength. We invite you to join this circle.”

Susan Bakaley Marshall & Chris Marshall

What do shamans believe?

Shamanism is not a religion. It’s not a belief system. It’s a set of techniques for altering one’s consciousness. You don’t have to believe in any particular thing in order to do it. In some cultures shamanism connects closely to sacred beliefs and ceremonies; in others, shamanism is a personal technique for inner wisdom, without a religious tradition.

Think of it like meditation, a very different consciousness-altering technique. You don’t have to believe in anything to do that-- just follow the steps and it will work. Meditation can be connected to a religion like Buddhism or Christianity, or it can be taught as a relaxation method without any sacred connection—a set of techniques, not a religion.

It’s useful to be open to the idea that spirits may actually exist. However, you don’t even need to believe that—you’ll find the experiences will speak for themselves.

What is core shamanism?

We practice and teach the methods of core shamanism. Core shamanic practices are the basic common techniques condensed from the shamanic practices of all peoples, separated from any individual culture’s religious meanings and symbols. Created by Michael Harner and his Foundation for Shamanic Studies, core shamanism brings the essential methods to people whose ancestral shamanic practices are no longer available.

For example, we teach you the core-shamanic practice of journeying to another world to seek a spirit guide. From us you learn the basics of how to do the journey--your best guides to its spiritual significance are the helping spirits themselves, and your own ancestral traditions.

Do you teach Native American shamanism?

No, we don’t. Indigenous peoples of the Americas have been subject to over 500 years of death, appropriation, and cultural destruction. Native American religious traditions, rich and diverse as they are, are still under attack today from popular culture, capitalism, poverty, and racism. The shamanic practices that are part of many Native religions are being threatened.

Cultural appropriation is just as big a danger. When non-Native teachers offer trainings in Native ceremonies their intent may be good, but in our opinion it’s not theirs to teach. That decision should rest with Native Americans themselves. That’s why we teach core shamanism, practices common to scores of cultures worldwide and not drawing on any single culture’s rituals or ceremonies.

Can I practice shamanism? I’m not a tribal person.

Shamanism is the birthright of all humans. All of our ancestors practiced shamanism, on every continent and in every culture, at some point.

  • In Asia, shamanism is the official religion of Mongolia, and in Korea shamans are listed in telephone books.

  • In Europe, the Sami of Lapland still practice shamanism. Certain families in Ireland, Scotland, and the Basque country still preserve shamanic practices that were formerly widespread, before persecution sent them underground.

  • In Africa mediums and shamans work together regularly in many countries.

  • Jewish tradition clearly documents 2,000 years of soul-journeying to spirit realms.

  • The indigenous nations of the Americas cherish many varied shamanic practices, in spite of widespread persecution and appropriation of their beliefs.

You can learn to journey shamanically and get in touch with the real teachers—the helping spirits.