Shamanism is a system of religious practice that is often associated with Indigenous and tribal societies and involves the belief that shamans, with a connection to the otherworld, have the power to heal the sick. According to Christina Pratt in The Encyclopedia of Shamanism, a shaman is a practitioner who has gained mastery of:
- Altered states of consciousness, possessing the ability to enter alternated states at will and controlling themselves while moving in and out of those states.
- Mediating between the needs of the spirit world and those of the physical world in a way that can be understood and used by the community.
- Serving the needs of the community that cannot be met by practitioners of other disciplines, such as physicians, psychiatrists, priests, and leaders.
A shaman utilizes an alternate state of consciousness to enter the invisible world, which is made up of spiritual, emotional, mental, mythical, archetypal, aspects, and dream worlds. There are common abilities that a shaman possesses to interact within these realms.
Categories of healers
There are three categories of contemporary shamans, including those who:
- Come from a shamanic tradition and continue to practice in that tradition, usually in their native culture.
- Bridge between traditional and Western world and may include ceremonies and rituals that were not a part of their indigenous culture
- Embody a Spirit that serves their community as shamans, though they may be long separated culturally from their original shamanic roots
Shamanistic approach to disease and healing
Shamans view disease differently than a practitioner of conventional medicine. Symptoms or diseases do not stem from the same underlying cause as conventional practitioners believe. Shamans believe it could be rooted in an energetic problem and also see community disharmony as an area that could a catalyst for manifesting symptoms of individual illness. Furthermore, illness is thought to have an underlying spiritual or energetic issue that reveals itself physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually.
Shamans direct and move energy to restore the harmony within the individual. Shamanic healing presents an opportunity to remove and recover energies that have been lost and support the integration of the most complete healing.