Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I don’t think I have ever come across a word, which creates as much controversy as the word SHAMAN. Often when GP and I give workshops and conferences we are introduced as SHAMAN. We have often talked of dissuading our hosts and hostesses from using this word because it never fails to trigger some conflict or argument during question period. Yet, each time we’ve discussed the matter we’ve decided against it mostly because it also brings about an opportunity to share on the topic and bring forth some knowledge or perspective that most people have never considered before. In other words, it allows us to step into the experience of the Sacred Circle rather than just talk about it.

Most people who invite us to give workshops or conferences are people who believe in our work because they’ve done some kind of journey with us. When they use the word SHAMAN it is because it translates the power of their experience with us. The word SHAMAN comes from the Russian language and implies wisdom or someone “who has great consciousness.” It introduces the kind of work we do and basically tells people what kind of experience they can expect if they commit to a journey with us.

This is where I usually give some kind of example but in this case it’s not for me to share these amazing stories. I do hope though – some of you will use the comment section of the blog to share with others your personal shamanic experience and how often there’s no word to express its power except perhaps: SHAMAN.

People are leery of a SHAMAN mostly because this role isn’t set in a box. You can’t go to University to become a Shaman and you don’t have a diploma on the wall to prove that you’ve done the necessary learning or healing to in turn be able to do the work. Anyone can assume they are SHAMAN and adopt the title. Actually these days it is often the case. The word SHAMAN in modern times has been reduced to imply “a recognition of inner divinity.” Some believe that in the next 50 years this word will have lost it’s power completely and will not longer be attached to some traditional definitions where this role implies 7 to 8 years of brutal initiation.

Believe it or not there are people who devote their lives to illustrate that most people who call themselves SHAMAN are charlatans or New Age wannabes, and they are not only journalists, historians or archeologists. I’ve met traditionalists who refute the role of the SHAMAN within Native Spirituality. They want Shamanism to be separate from what they call the Old First Nation Religion. On the other hand, I’ve also met elders or Medicine People who are more than happy to be recognized as people who walk the SHAMAN’s path. People are divided and because this role remains within a mystical reality there are no true way to recognize anyone as a SHAMAN.

Yet, there are a few definitions to the word and I believe that within these definitions we can start to understand this role:

• S. Krippner, 1990 – defined a SHAMAN as a healer who deliberately alters his consciousness in order to obtain knowledge and power from the World of Spirit in order to help and cure members of his community.
• R.N.Walsh, 1990 – defined a SHAMAN as a guide, a healer, a source of social connection, a maintainer of the group’s myths and concept of the World.
• S. Larsen, 1976 – defined a SHAMAN as an archetypal technician of the sacred. His profession evolves in the space that united mythical imagination and ordinary consciousness.
• J. Matthews, 1991 – defined a SHAMAN as the eternal art of living in harmony with Creation.

Personally I’ve noticed a common thread between the SHAMANS that I have come across in my life. All of them have lived through great suffering and pain. They’ve packed centuries of learning, healing and growth into decades; and show a timeless attribute through their teachings. These people use the wisdom and consciousness that they’ve pulled out of their life experience to help others and do so unconditionally. They are charismatic and funny. They laugh easily and tease constantly. Their experience defeats ordinary laws of reality. Around them magic is easily accessible and life seems so much more lucid and clear. It’s as if everything has a reason and connects us to Creation (nature and the stars).

These people share similar journeys and are impacted by their healing and learning process. In other words they understand people, nature, cosmology and the World from a circular and mystical perspective. Lets put it this way they see LIFE from a completely different angle than most people. It’s this different perspective that makes it interesting for anyone to seek them out for healing, dreaming, learning and growth. They can inspire change.

I was educated at a Catholic, French, private school. It was an all girls school lead by nuns. When I went to college and shed the uniform students could still pick me out of a crowd. It never failed. Often I was told that all of the girls who came from the convent shared similar behaviors and attitudes. They couldn’t quite tell me what those behaviors or attitudes were but they were somehow obvious. For me it’s kind of the same thing for SHAMANS. The way they act and react makes it easy to point them out in a crowd. What’s amazing is that SHAMANS can recognize each other and they always have this reverent respect towards one another. There’s not enough of them these days to do all the work they are called to do…

I don’t know about you guys but I’m hungry for shamanic stories and shamanic teachings. I wish we could get beyond arguing over vocabulary and logistics, and just enjoy the presence of those people out there who are evidently living another kind of consciousness, which could ultimately guide us towards new perspective, solutions and resolutions. Why be afraid of the unknown when these days it’s all we have left to conquer our fears, our issues, our illusions etc… I’ve luckily met extraordinary people who have given me access to experiences beyond ordinary awareness. I think they deserve to be called SHAMAN because truly that’s the only word I have that can translate exactly what I mean.


Michelle said...

During my first workshop I was with the group on a trek through nature. One of the dogs guided us through and when everyone stopped to take their shoes off in a stream I jumped in...that was my first experience of feeling the Energy of Shaman. I recieved a picture of this dog in the stream and as I dreamt with it a green ring has shown up around the picture...for me the word Shaman is more about an expereience living it feeling it and seeing it in certain people....I am learning how sacred and special this energy is how precious and rare its becoming. It makes you want to celebrate when you get glimpses and thank Creator for the gift of Shaman....

"It’s this different perspective that makes it interesting for anyone to seek them out for healing, dreaming, learning and growth. They can inspire change."

Rose said...

I feel the same about the word witch. Traditionally a witch was much the same as a shaman I guess, maybe more of a nature based slant than? They were practitioners of a different path, and now that word means so much and is squabbled over etc. But I still have that memory of what it meant to me, growing up in the UK, before Wicca took off. When I call myself a witch, I have to start listing the things that I am not as well.

Wapeyit Malsom said...

Thank you Michelle and Rose for your comments.

I love it when people take the time to give feedback. I always manage to learn something new and it gives me the chance to meet new people with interesting perspectives. It inspires me.

Michelle I love the story about the dog. I have so many stories that connect to animals and even the weather -- which define for me the SHAMAN energy. I think you are right "this energy is precious". I believe that if we don't protect it somehow -- humanity will regret its extinction.

Rose -- I agree we often get caught up in the semantics when really the experience reveals common ground for so many things... Sorcerer, Witch, Medicine People, Prophet, Messiah, Healer or Shaman ---- I tend to believe there's common ground between these roles and really we're looking at the same HOLY and DIVINE ENERGY.

Thank you both for communicating your thoughts.
I loved reading them...


Emily said...

Hmm... lots of experiences come to mind. For me, what I love is feeling a part of the magic, in touch with my power through the collective experience I see as Shaman. Seeing the magic ripple out through the dreaming and people in it.
Lisa, I like how you speak about Shaman as people who dont think or see like other people. How you can pick them out of a crowd, and the respect one Shaman has for another as respect for the universal energy, like it is bigger than individual.
Sometimes I find myself drawn to and fascinated by a stranger I encounter in the street, wherever it is I am walking, sitting or being, often I ask myself why it is I feel an interest in this person, and I watch them, slipping into the world they may reside in, it makes me wonder.. sometimes you can see a way into their story without speaking, I wonder if someone has done the same with me some time.

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this one as I have run across those who will vehemently disagree with the term Shaman which to me just means holy healer. I was grateful to read your interpretations as it gives me great food for thought to work with, thank you! Loves, Deb