“Shaman” is a loaded label.
Embedded within it are many assumptions, stories, fears, projections, and often, an “other”-ness… For many, this word conjures images of dangerous plant medicine work, sorcery, magic, otherworld connections, mysterious journeys, and indigenous healers who live deep in the jungle or woods.
Or, thanks to festival culture and new age trends, “Shaman” may also carry a distasteful flavor of cultural appropriation, snake oil purveyors, and costumed posers who offer ceremonies after a handful of healings with popular shamanic medicines… People who sometimes carry a god or messiah complex and, though often well-intentioned, can be damaging or outright dangerous to trust.
So, you can imagine that, if Shamanism calls to you, it can take quite a lot of work, introspection, and courage to unravel these stories from your psyche and dare to pursue what feels like an “authentic” (to you) Shamanic path.
Authentic is in quotes, because there is NO one Shamanic Way… Making this journey even more confusing, convoluted, and rife with questions.
Shaman as a term makes its way to us from Siberia, where it’s been in use for tens of thousands of years.
In modern times, this word is used cross-culturally, as each continent has its own long-standing shamanic traditions. You’ll find people in the Amazon rainforest referring to “shamans,” alongside local terms such as “curandero,” “ayahuascero,” etc. In the Western world, other terms that may resonate are “witch,” “healer,” “energy worker,” “spiritual counselor,” or “shadow worker.”
In general, “Shaman” indicates a person who accesses alternate realities to facilitate healing here on the physical plane.
In other words, a Shaman is a healer who consults with Spirit.
Contrary to many assumptions, working with entheogenic medicines such as Ayahuasca is not the only way a Shaman accesses alternate realities or connects with their Spirit Allies (and not all people who work with these medicines are Shamans). It is quite common to enter into a trance state with the assistance of rhythmic drumming (either live or with a recording), through meditation practices, with specific breathwork patterns, or even by practicing lucid dreaming.
In addition to entering trance states (for the purpose of accessing information related to healing, not to trip out), there are several other traits that seem to be common to Shamans around the world:
A shaman is not only a medicine person… They are also called upon to be counsellors, therapists, herbalists, referees, cooks, parents, priests or clergy, movement teachers, and outdoor guides; among many other possibilities. They are never in Shaman-mode 24/7. Their roles are many, and while not every Shaman has traditionally been compensated with money, there has always been an offering or exchange for their highly valuable work. These days, most Shamans (even in the remote jungle) are paid monetarily to support their families in the current money-centric economy.
Shamans are also people who are deeply connected to the Earth, who have a deep respect for the powerful Mystery; people who are most effective when they are humbled and can keep their egos in check.
No matter which medium is called upon, Shamanic work of all kinds is confronting, ecstatic, peaceful, sometimes scary, humbling, embodied, earthy, cosmic, practical, powerful, and mysterious. Shamanic work asks us to release control, to allow Spirit to provide healing and clarity, to be our most vulnerable selves, to learn to properly and safety conduct power, to perpetually enter a state of not-knowingness and suspend our disbelief.
There are many opinions about who has the “right” to be called a Shaman. There are no certification programs, no college degrees, no way of proving whether one is qualified other than offering the work and facilitating results.
Often the most trusted Shamans have not been ordained by anyone, but simply carry a lineage (either genetic or soul) and have chosen to follow the shamanic path (often at great personal cost). Others have studied with specific teachers and have received their blessings to continue that tradition. Still others have been seen and received as a Shaman by their communities and thus embraced the title, even if reluctantly at first.
You don’t need to have a specific lineage or anyone’s permission to embrace your inner Shaman.
I believe it is an archetype that we ALL carry, and that many of us are being asked/called to rise into in the way we live (and sometimes in the ways we make a living).
There is no shame in desiring to access your inner Shaman. In these times, this title belongs to no class, no race, no group… Each and every single human has shamanic capabilities. You do not need to be a certain age, have terribly traumatic history, or bear a specific genetic lineage to explore this work. Nor do you need to feel pressure to “be” shamanic at all hours of every day. It may be a crucial part of the fabric of who you are, but not necessarily a large part of your external identity.
In many traditions, when you are struck by lightning (and survive), it marks you as a healer/Shaman.
What I have observed is that modern life strikes us with lightning all the time… Lightning as illness, divorce, stress, injury, trauma, parenthood, infertility, the rat race, Spiritual initiations, weight gain and weight loss…
In the West, what opens you up to your Shamanic self is often this type of lightning. It certainly was for me: I didn’t have much access to my Spirit Guides or my Soul until I started letting the lightning strike. Until I became brave enough to take responsibility for my life. Until I started to say no to the boxes I put myself in; their painful squeeze FINALLY too much for me to bear.
Only then could I hear the whispers of Spirit… Whispers that have sent me deep into the rainforest again and again to study plant medicine. Whispers that opened up my capabilities to divine Spirit Animals for people… Whispers that eventually led to the birth of Wild Playground and sharing the shamanic ways I’ve learned, channeled, and continue to study… Ways that deeply serve the chaotic times we are in.
So, perhaps becoming a Shaman in this culture is less about Burning Man and more about burning our bullshit. Less about transcendence and more about grounding. Less about costumes and more about embodiment. From that place, festivals, channeling, and adornment become less façade and more true explorations of the higher/deeper self.
It is our mission to share a Shamanic Healing path with all who are willing to practice with devotion, remain humble, find playfulness, and do their work with respect. We do not preach that there is one and only way of doing this work because there isn’t. But we will help illuminate your path so you can discover how YOUR inner shaman wants to be expressed and honored.
Is there lightning striking you in your life? Do you have a Shaman within you that’s calling to be let out? Who is whispering in your inner ear to learn ways of journeying, of connecting with the Spirit in All Things, of learning about the alchemy of transformation and devoting yourself to a Spiritual Practice?
If you fear being perceived as a fraud, then perhaps it is time to study this Field with devotion. When you immerse yourself in this (or any) way as a life path, outside perception of you and any labels you choose loses its strength.