The Subtle Art of Shamanism and Energy Healing
Both shamans and energy healers seek to serve their community by working on the subtle levels of energy rather than simply the physical body. We do this in great commitment to our planet and out of love for our fellow beings.
Energy healing—which includes modalities such as reiki, aura clearings, and even acupuncture and chiropractic—seeks to move or shift energy so it’s more supportive of the life functions of the client. They work with proven techniques to alleviate the client’s discomfort and bring more harmony into the physical body. Energy healing is a course of study, with practices and protocols in place that can be easily replicated.
Shamans deal with the soul. We have practices in place to perform soul retrievals, soul extractions, and spirit de-possessions. We serve Spirit, not the physical realms. We see Spirit in each person and ask the animating force to shift in ways that will bring peace to the client. We don’t simply move energy, we ask that Spirit transmute it. This is done through ritual and ceremony. From drumming and feathers to incense and prayer, we work with Spirit to help support the soul.
How is the Training of Shamans Different?
Shamanism is a life calling, not simply a workshop one stumbles into. There are no schools, and rarely can you find two shamans doing treatment the same way. Shamans are called to this path and may learn from elders in the community, or venture to far-off lands to find their teacher.
Shamanic healing is an art form. There is no “right” way to perform a shamanic ritual or ceremony. While there may be similar elements (prayer, drums, and other tools) each shaman’s direction from their own Spirit Allies ultimately shapes the session.
Journeying (rhythmic drumming to induce a trance-like state) is our primary tool and allows us to retrieve from the spirit world the remedy the soul requires. We work in non-ordinary reality, stepping outside of the here and now, to gain insight and bring it back to benefit the client.
Each shaman comes to her gifts from a deep desire and commitment. We must learn and practice each tool, not through workshops or continuing-ed classes, but through our ever-deepening relationship with our Spirit Guides. We see healing as a gift and an art form, and one that must be respected and well-tended.
While, on the surface, the benefits of shamanic and energy healing may be similar, it is the process through which we bring the healing that differs. From the outside, it is subtle…but to the shamanic soul, the love and respect we convey feel fundamentally sacred — holy, even.
I find this path not only gratifying but also deeply humbling. The healing has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with my relationship to Spirit. The more I move (and my ego) out of the way, the more powerful the healing flows through me. In working in such close communion with Spirit, co-creation, manifestation, and true miracles are within grasp. The world around us feels different—magical, even—when we see ourselves as a contributing force within creation.
Receiving shamanic healing is also a gift. Each shaman shares their art and allows you into their intimate relationship with Spirit. It can feel raw and primal energy, especially when venturing into the depths with the Spirit Allies and Power Animals to seek well-being. With the beat of the drums, the smell of herbs and incense, an ancient mood is set. This ambiance takes us outside of reality to meet with other-worldly forces. Shamanic healing allows us to dance in rhythm with the breath of life and emerge feeling renewed and whole!
Crocodiles and Plant Medicine: Lessons of the Modern Shaman
Crocodile came to me recently in ceremony. At first I was startled by his appearance, feeling I have already embraced every shadow aspect of myself he represents. Since his visit, however, I have spent time welcoming him and examining the teachings he now brings.
Crocodile/Snake holds our basal self, our deepest fears and lesser-evolved leanings which are held in the reptilian brain. In sacred ceremony and spiritual initiations, it is snake or crocodile who confronts you to face and embrace that which you fear most. His personal challenge to me: “You’re not a true shaman. You don’t work in the rain forest, you don’t ingest plant medicines, and you’re falsely holding your craft, thereby misleading those you serve.”
On more than one occasion I have been questioned and warned against calling myself a shaman. I haven’t studied in the jungle, I don’t have any hint of bronzed pigment in my Irish skin, and I don’t have a Maestro or don teaching me the ways. My path is unique in devoted past-life reclamation, shamanic journey, and an early proclamation at five-years-old that I would be a shaman. I was born ready and haven’t looked back. However, the thorny challenges still arise.
Enter the internal struggle of spirit and shadow. It’s brought me to a place of deep self-inquiry and an eventual and potent reclamation. It’s also offered me a new perspective on the path of the modern shaman.
What is a Shaman?
When asked, “What is a shaman?” my easiest answer is “someone who works in the invisible spaces to bring peace and healing to those whom they are in service.”
“Shamans are intermediaries or messengers between the human world and the spirit worlds. Shamans are said to treat ailments/illness by mending the soul. Alleviating traumas affecting the soul/spirit restores the physical body of the individual to balance and wholeness. The shaman also enters supernatural realms or dimensions to obtain solutions to problems afflicting the community. Shamans may visit other worlds/dimensions to bring guidance to misguided souls and to ameliorate illnesses of the human soul caused by foreign elements. The shaman operates primarily within the spiritual world, which in turn affects the human world. The restoration of balance results in the elimination of the ailment.”
In Cave and Cosmos, Michael Harner suggests it is simply “one who knows.”
Core and Indigenous Shamanism
The big divide in the shamanic communities lies between those who work in the rain forest with the lineage of indigenous wisdom in their blood; and so-called Plastic Shamans who have no connection to the cultures and traditions they represent.
As shamanism has gained prevalence in the modern era, “core shamanism” has become the accepted term for those who use the methods of the shaman but have not been raised in the traditional cultures. The Foundation for Shamanic Studies has reintroduced the shamanic journey for self-healing, while the Psychonauts have lead a revolution through chemically assisted self-inquiry. Both are valid paths that differ greatly from a jungle education. While the efficacy of the practice is all that should matter, there still lies a division.
Another crucial distinction for indigenous shamans is their relationships with the plants. Dietas are ceremonial ingestions of plant medicines that teach the shaman how to walk between and within the astral worlds. Any number of teacher plants are used, from tobacco to ayahuasca. These ceremonies are performed with great reverence and honor and remain within sacred guidelines as sincere spiritual endeavors to deepen the path of the seeker. The illusion of this world fades away and great insights are gained, revealing the true nature of one’s own soul.
Freakin’ awesome when done in this sacred space, right?
I, however, am a different kind of shaman. I traverse the dimensions without the use of hallucinogens. Drums, deep meditation, and the psychic connection with spirits and plant allies, for me, have been enough. And Croc challenged me on this also: “Is your plant abstinence genuinely enough to gain such an alliance with the spirit realms?”
In the modern world, our relationship to the plants is vastly different than that of the indigenous shaman. We don’t commune with them personally, nor do we seek to hone their wisdom. As a result, contemporary seekers often misuse the medicines. In my younger days, I experimented with mushrooms recreationally. I found them an expansive and uplifting dalliance that only affirmed my path as a seer and healer. Yet I took them with no noble intent.
Recently, I found myself called to work more closely with the plants in ceremonial space and felt conflicted. My ego holds my hallucinogenic refrain as a badge of honor — a way of ensuring the purity of the messages received. And yet I found myself deeply appreciating the plant spirits again, in great awe and gratitude for the teachings they shared.
And what they shared was this: I’ve connected more than sufficiently with the plant spirits. I learn and walk beside them every day to offer blessings to my community. I need not ingest them, for they have been my allies all along!
In a recent Aubrey Marcus podcast, Astral Snakes and Binaural Beats (episode 59), Cory Allen shared his most recent devotion is not in using the plant medicines, but rather simply being in the astral plane without any enhancements. Under the influence of the medicine, “The consciousness of the plant is with you in that space and colors your vision of that space. If you get there without it, you are completely you and you are on your own.” Boom, validation! And Croc began to smile.
What I realized was, it all comes back to me not having any allies, any perceptions, any filters on my experience in these worlds. The mark of the shaman is not who they are when they’re on the medicines or how they handle these energies inside of them. It is who they are in the absence of any aids at all!