Shamanism is one of humankind’s oldest and perhaps original form of spirituality. Early in human evolution, we began to look to the spirits of ancestors, animals, plants, elements and deities for help, guidance and sustenance. These compassionate beings assisted us by teaching humankind about how to live in the world and by offering protection. The spirits taught ceremonies and rituals for hunting, agriculture, fertility and healing. Connection with the helping spirits provided a framework and sense of continuity that helped people to feel safer and to function well within their world. The spirits offered relationship, thus spirituality in a shamanistic sense means having relationship with Spirit or spirits. It was observed that there were both compassionate and non-compassionate spirits in the world. Humankind sought the help of the compassionate spirits in order to have their lives, their endeavors and their health blessed and improved.
Certain people were observed to have strong affinities for communicating with these spirits and they became known as the shamans, the seers and the mediators. The shamans served their community in many capacities. Some shamans were healers, seers or masters of ritual to ensure the success of various endeavors. Shamans were the ones whose job was to ensure that balance be kept between the seen and unseen worlds. Practitioners of shamanism offered healing for spiritual illness, possession and soul loss. These problems afflicted people in earlier times and are still afflicting people in these times. Shamanic practitioners today can offer soul retrieval, extraction, compassionate depossession and blessings.
Shamanism exists today as the substratum of most if not all cultures and it exists because the relationships between the helping and compassionate spirits and people continue to exist. All of us have some sensitivities, abilities and capacities that will allow us to approach life shamanistically. The reward for reaching for the compassionate spirits is that they reach back to us and help and enrich our lives.
Modern shamanism is alive and thriving. Sandra Ingerman and Soul Retrieval, Michael Harner and his Core Shamanism, Ann Drucker with her herbal and Maya knowledge and ancient legacy, Ana Larramendi and her loving earth-based teachings, Jan Engels-Smith and her community based Lightsong along with myself and my Compassionate Shamanic Depossession name just a few of the current crop of practitioners blending the old with the new to bring a bridging and updated form of shamanism to the 21st century. There is unfolding now a wonderful blending of ancestral and ancient knowledge with new experiences addressing community and personal needs. Many people are discovering that connecting to and relating with the Helping Spirits is not confined to shamans, but is available to all of us in varying degrees. There is a resurgence of interest in shamanism as well as a remarkable rise in classes on many different types and aspects of shamanic healing and practices. As one practitioner laughingly and lovingly said, “It is in our DNA!”