Ancient archaeological evidence has been found throughout Europe that points to shamanic activity. It is more than likely the shaman played an important role in ancient tribal life even if the belief systems of our Palaeolithic and Mesolithic ancestors were not entirely shamanic.
A shaman is a spiritual leader within a tribal society fulfilling numerous functions within the tribe. The roles of the shaman include:
- Interpreter of spirits;
A shaman oversees the rites of passage from birth through death and may also foresee the future.
The ways of a shaman are secretive, therefore the gods of the shaman are not always generally known to the community. These gods are often totemic taking the forms found in nature such as stones, plants, animals, humans and spirits. The powers of the shaman are elemental and are those of the earth, air, water and fire.
Shamans also gather secret and magical knowledge from the hidden realms of their familiar spirits. Using ecstatic practices the shaman can transport to these magical otherworlds where they encounter the powerful energies of spiritual forces that reside there.
Ecstasy is an altered state of awareness where the individual often feels they transcend themselves. Carl Jung states that it is the realization that ‘he is of the same essence as the universe, and his own mid-point is its centre’.
The calling to a shamanic path often results from deep transformative experiences such as:
- Traumatic incidences (near-death, lucid dreams, visions);
- A close relationship with nature;
- Natural psychic, magical or healing abilities;
- Understanding the underlying spiritual energies in nature;
- Intuitive messages;
- Causing change through unseen or magical means.
We all have elements of the shaman as that is what has called us to whatever path we follow. Indeed the characteristics often cross over. It is quite clear a close relationship with nature would also involve an understanding of nature’s spiritual energies and harnessing them for healing and even magical purposes.
© J Farmer 2013