Practices Of The Shaman

By Viola Woolcott

The Shaman’s role is to portray the healer in the shamanic society, they gain the knowledge and the power by going into a trance and ascending into the heavens and bringing back the knowledge they seek.

There are times when the shaman may need some help in entering the spirit world. They may use healing plants or sometimes spirits of a deceased shaman.

In some of the societies a shaman can use a magical force they call a Quechua. In a case like this, if a person has come to the shaman because they believe they have been cursed by evil spirits or even witchcraft, then the shaman uses this magical force and enters the affected person’s body and cleanses out the bad spirits by ‘extraction‘.

When a Shaman heals someone, conventional medicine is not an option, the shaman makes his own medicines and usually he makes them from herbal combination of plants.

In many societies the shamans acquire information and skills from the plants and it is through the plants that the shaman can exercise his healing powers. But before a shaman can do that he gets “permission “ from the patron spirits.

In South America, sometimes the spirits are brought about by singing the songs called icaros. Before the spirit can be summoned the spirit must teach the shaman their song and only then can the spirit be brought forward.

In some culture the Shaman’s use a totem such as rocks, they are said to have special powers because the totem is a symbol of the spirits. But these are ancient symbols and are not too common these days.

Usually the shaman enters the spirit world by influencing a change of his consciousness. He enters in an ecstatic trance, either auto hypnotically or with the help of entheogens. The techniques used are different every time and are often used together.

These are some of the techniques for inducing such altered states of consciousness:

=> Singing
=> Drumming
=> Fasting
=> Icaros – Medicine Songs / Medicine Songs
=> Listening to Music
=> Vision Quests
=> Mariri
=> Sweat Lodges
=> Dancing

Plants to induce altered states of consciousness as well as incense (aromatics) like:

=> Ayahuasca – Quechua for Vine of the Dead – also called Yage
=> Cannabis
=> Cedar
=> Datura
=> Deadly Nightshade
=> Fly agaric
=> Iboga
=> Jimson weed
=> Morning Glory
=> Psychedelic mushrooms
=> Peyote
=> Sage
=> Salvia Divinorum – also called Diviners’s sage
=> San Pedros Cactus – named after St. Peter. Guard and holder of the keys to heaven
=> Sweetgrass
=> Tobacco

In Particular to their tradition, shamans will observe dietary or customary limitations and sometimes they are more than just cultural. Shamans and apprentices who participate in a ceremonies that includes the ingestion of the Ayahuasca brew have to follow strict dietary guidelines.

Shamans do have a belief in witchcraft and sorcery called ‘brujeria‘. These beliefs are mainly in the South American region. They often compare shamans and sorcerers as this, shamans’ cure from sorcerers that cause harm.

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