Respecting the Name Shaman and What it Means.

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Seeing a number of courses these days of being an urban shaman and shaman 101 etc makes me realize how we have lost touch with the basic meaning of the word and it traditions.

Shaman really means a traditional healer.

Every culture has their traditional healers. The word Shaman means “one who knows” and originates from Asian traditions, yet finds common connotations in the San Bushmen traditions for example. I see it as meaning one who knows all aspects of the human condition and both worlds of spirit and ordinary life.

Traditional Shamans − true healers −don’t usually do courses on shamanism-they heal. Being a teacher, its acceptable teaching about what shamanism is, but all this: be an urban shaman etc., is a red light to me and shows the now misplaced use of the name.

Being a shaman-healer is one of the toughest jobs there can be. It is because shamans carry a huge responsibility. Though western culture may glamorize shamans and the ritual healing they do, there really is nothing glamorous about it. The Amazonian shaman really just uses ayahuasca to access spirit so as to heal. Yes, there can be quite intense and powerful experiences and ritual tools like drumming and icaros on the road of shamanic healing. Yet, there’s nothing glamorous about balancing unhealed, fragmented or sick energy in people-this takes A LOT of energy and lot of discipline. True shamans often curse or wish they weren’t shamans because their dual gift of healing and having to engage others suffering.

To sense and know others wounds is no joke.

To be open to spirit is no joke.

My teacher taught me that a healer is free and not free. They are free and feel good when they do their work responsibly but they can’t go jol and have a party all the time-they must heal. If they don’t they disrespect that sensitivity to healing they inherited from their ancestors. And often if they don’t heal they get sick and disturbed. Yet, importantly being sick and disturbed doesn’t mean you are a healer. Many people get this confused. There is the healing initiation to become a healer and the process of healing oneself to become whole. They are quite different.

So shaman 101 etc should rather read magician or alchemy 101, as this is more applicable to what is often described as shape-shifting and revisioning etc. The path and process of being a shaman-healer takes years – in our society- of finding a mentor, going through the stages of learning and mostly requires surrender to accepting being a healer and its gifts and burdens. Discipline and determination is really behind the scenes of all the glamour we like to see shamanism as in the west. Shamans behind the movie scenes need to abstain from sex, nice food and undergo solitude for years sometimes. Sounds cool until one lives like that for 2 months in the jungle then the glamour wears off.

So shamanism isn’t about magical powers and so forth it’s really about accepting one is a healer, mastering yourself-not others, and then going about healing the sick.

About the Author

Jean-Francois SobieckiI am an ethnobotanist and healer with a passion to research medicinal healing plants and to create healing gardens where we can study traditional medicine for application in health promotion and re-connection to nature.View all posts by Jean-Francois Sobiecki

  1. Andrè Pietroschek
    Andrè Pietroschek04-25-2017

    That is one of the wisest truisms and reminders I read denying the purposely committed fraud about shamanic journeying and reaching that cave only to make power animals your slaves.

    Some dopeheads, lunatics, and the ignorant dabble esoteric, where the truth is a matter of survival, scars, and buried loved ones.

    Stemming from a European, urban neo-shamanism myself I can only note that ‘healer’ is a traditional role, but guide and guardian still have real needs in reality. Reality, as opposed to mainstream society, as shamanism and the easy way to fame and money are anathema to each other.

    Nowadays ‘shamans, shamanic counselors, and masters of the path’ jump into their cars, pollute the environment while calling it beloved mother nature, merely to celebrate their own ego delusions in a mixture of narcissism (the sickness worshiped, the psychiatrists shunned), sex orgies, and drug abuse.

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