What is shamanism and what is the shamans role?

The central task of shamans around the world is to be a link between the spirit world and ordinary reality, in a way that benefits the Earth and its inhabitants. In this work, problems and issues related to birth and death are addressed as well as everything in between and further with helping dead people to cross over. 

Exactly what you mean by a shaman and by shamanism can be a little different depending on who you ask. Here's how I define it, so you know what I mean when I say that I practice shamanism:

"A shaman travels in a shamanic state of consciousness (trance) with his/hers power animals and spirit helpers, to other parts of reality (the spirit world) to retrieve power and / or information back into this part of reality for some healing purpose"

In addition to the above, the shaman is often initiated by the spirits. She or he also serves in a social context. Traditionally, the shaman gets the professional title from those who feel helped by the shaman's work. Of course, the "shaman" is called different things depending on where and when you are geographically and historically. Regardless of which word is used to designate the person who performs the shamanic work, it is successful results in ordinary reality that matters, that is, that they can perform what we usually call miracles.

"The Magician" from the caves of Trois Fréres. Image by Henri Breuil (1861) in the 1920s "The Magician" from the caves of Trois Fréres. Image by Henri Breuil (1861) in the 1920s

Shamanism is believed to have originated in the stone age and has been spread throughout the world and remains so today. Shamanism thus appears to be as old as man herself and shamans still operate today in the most diverse cultures across the globe, women as men and "non-binary". That shamanism is something ancient has come to the fore through prehistoric archaeological finds that seem to indicate shamanic activity. One of the more well-known "evidence" is the approximately 16-18,000 year old painting of "The Magician" from the caves of Trois Fréres in southern France. The painting can be interpreted as representing a shaman wearing his animal costume, or rather a shaman who in her work has "transformed" into an animal, possibly by incorporating one or more of its power animals into its body.

Rock carving in Gärde, Offerdal, Jämtland. Image by Jonny Hansson, pic comes from wikipedia. Rock carving in Gärde, Offerdal, Jämtland. Image by Jonny Hansson, pic comes from wikipedia.

Pictures suggesting prehistoric shamanic activity can also be found on Nordic rock carvings and rock paintings. Here you can see a picture of human footprints leading up to a moose. It can be interpreted as a moose that left human tracks instead of moose tracks, or a scenario in which the man who left the tracks should have stood, instead, there is an moose. Another interpretation is that the carving represents a shaman who has shape shifted into a moose.

The reasons may be for finding the prey animals, but also for using the power of the moose to cure, find knowledge and information (wisdom), travel fast and far and also in different ways be able to give something back to the moose that was of great importance to humans of this time.

Nature is a strong knowledge carrier and power donor, of which man is an equal part. Plants and fungi (and animals and lakes and mountains, etc.) have a very important significance in shamanism. They have a spirit, their own personal soul, which you can get in touch with, talk to, interact with, learn and gain wisdom, help and power from. So it is in all shamanic cultures and is something very fundamental in shamanism. According to the shamanic approach, everything is alive and everything has a soul. A mountain can tell how people lived in the past and a tree can give deep comfort and hope (or vice versa). Common plants such as flowers and the like have e.g. great importance in curing various disease states. Different kinds of plants possess different knowledge, each about their disease or group of diseases and have very great power in curing them. A kind of plant magic or herbal medicine if you wish. There are many examples of this kind of experience that hold deep insight and inspiration in harmony and in connection with everything that lives around us, but which is not usually considered conscious in our contemporary culture.

The Shamanic journey has been used for millennia to preserve health, get good hunting luck, stop blood, etc. The journey into the spirit world has been a lifeline for a good life and sometimes for pure survival. The person who made the trip was someone who was familiar with the spiritual side of reality and the journeys to and from it. It was not something that attracted everyone, but something that was assigned to some and that entailed a great deal of responsibility. Part of the shamanic proficiency involves mastering the various states of consciousness and being in the state most appropriate for the moment. So be common in everyday life and in a shamanic state of mind when performing shamanic work.

The most common ways for shamans around the world to change their state of consciousness is through the use of drum, rattle or other monotonous percussion, singing and dancing, outdoor seating and so on. Drum is what I use most often in my work with treatments and in teaching. But in some cultures, such as in the South American rainforest, the shaman uses special plants and fungi and more to achieve this altered state of consciousness. In these shamanic cultures great knowledge lies behind which plants you use, how to use them and how to do the shamanic work. And you use the drug for very specific purposes (to go into the spirit world and do shamanic work) and not to get kicks or experiences or to party. Also worth noting is that it is usually the shaman and not the client who takes the drug.

Sometimes clients come to me who may have made a shamanic journey by taking ayahuasca or the like, in a way that caused problems. In these cases, knowledge of both shamanic work in general and knowledge of the specific use of so-called. enteogerens (hallucinogenic plants and fungi, etc.) were missing or watered down so much that the people who had problems afterwards could not get the help they needed to put things right. When someone has consumed a substance that greatly affects the consciousness, the aspect is that you cannot interrupt the course of events, but it lasts as long as the substance is active.
This makes it safer to test on making a shamanic trip using the drum because you decide when to end the trip. But even there you need to know what you do. As a beginner, one should be aware that there are simplifications that remove important aspects so that what is done loses its context, is clarified or mixed with other paths and traditions. That is why I do not recommend even testing on individual drum journeys, but if there is interest rather learn what is required for a shamanic practice that works and is safe to the greatest extent possible.

The Shamanic Path can be taught at first or over time by someone who has good knowledge, knowledge and experience of Shamanic work and who wants to share it with others. A good teacher provides the student with tools that allow him or her to make their own experiences and create their own lasting and constructive contacts with the spirit world and nature. Everyone who learns shamanism does not automatically become shamans or choose to ever call themselves that, out of humility and respect. But those who want can learn to practice shamanism to a greater or lesser extent, in a way that benefits the earth and its inhabitants in all areas of life and at different stages.