Modern Shamanism is perhaps the most diverse of all the forms of pagan practice and is less clearly defined in religious terms than many other pagan religions. Shamanic practices are an underlying aspect of expressions of most religions and there are those who would even describe themselves as Wiccan, Druidic or Women’s Mystery Shamans. Bearing this in mind, there are, however, a growing number of men and women who see themselves on a specifically Shamanic path and follow a traditional form of shamanism.
Those who see themselves as Shamans place great emphasis upon individual experience. Shamans may sometimes work together in groups, but the ethos of this way of working is more of a solitary path. Shamanic practice is characterised by seeking vision in solitude and is deeply rooted in the mysteries of nature.
Shamanism is an ecstatic religion with an essential belief in the reality of the spirit world. The Shaman, through training or calling, is one who is able to enter that world and work with the unseen powers. The Shaman acts as an intermediary between the spirit world and the everyday lives of men and women. He or she may also guide others to experience the spirit world for themselves and so deepen their spiritual lives. Through contact with the spirits, the Shaman may work acts of healing, divination and magic – revealing by way of vision, poetry and myth the deeper reaches of the human spirit.
‘Shamans are healers, seers, and visionaries. .. they are in communication with the world of gods and spirits. Their bodies can be left behind while they fly to unearthly realms. They are poets and singers. They dance and create works of art. .. they are familiar with cosmic as well as physical geography; the ways of plants, animals, and the elements are known to them. They are psychologists, entertainers, and food finders. Above all, however, shamans are technicians of the sacred and masters of ecstasy.’
Joan Halifax, Shamanic Voices , E P Dutton, NY, 1979.
The Shamanic practices of today ranges from those trained in the paths of traditional societies such as the Native American tribes, to those reconstructing Shamanic practice from historical accounts and from their own experience. Shamanism in its pure form, as practised in tribal society, as a part of tribal religion, is less accessible than other pagan paths, but modern reconstructions are growing in popularity.