Shamanism is a range of beliefs or practices that involve communication with the spirit world. The Shaman is known as the practitioner of said craft.
The Shaman is able to:
- Treat illness and serve as healers.
- Enter supernatural realms to receive answers to problems within their community.
- Be the intermediary between the human and the spirit world.
- Lead a sacrifice.
- Tell stories or songs to preserve their tradition.
- Tell fortunes.
Although there are many differences in the different beliefs that comprise Shamanism there are some common threads shared by all. Shamanism itself is made up of the idea that the world is pervaded by forces that are invisible by that affect the living.
They believe that the cause of a disease is in the spiritual realm such as evil spirits or witchcraft. They use both spiritual and physical systems to heal these ailments. The Shaman will confront the spirit that is causing illness by entering into the sick persons body. They banish the infectious spirit and bring healing to their patient. They are also experts in plant life and will prescribe herbs for treatment.
In the modern communities the belief in Shamanism has grown. It reflects a path to knowledge rather then a specific faith. It is a belief instead of the reality of spirits, not necessarily reflected in particular cultural group. They believe in what is called the axis mundi or a pathway between heaven and earth for the sole purpose of spiritual contacts. The term ecstasy is used to refer to the wholeness that is created when these spirits are reached. It is a personal quest for inner power and knowledge. A practitioner of Shamanism can live in both the real world and the spirit world, having achieved balance.
Those who have reached this point of balance say they feel more comfortable with themselves and the world around them. Obstacles that had previously stood in the way of their achievements are removed. Those who are ill have new energy that heals them.
Westernized shamans will use spiritual extraction, past life regression therapy, and hypnosis to reach the spiritual balance that provides healing.
Shamanism has been called into question as an occult because of the practice of channeling spirits that take the form of animals. Some of the plants that are used have hallucinogenic properties which also promote the belief that it is of the occult. In North America, notably among the Navajo the use of Peyote produces this effect. This is considered an altered state of consciousness. This state leads to self discovery, knowledge, and healing. Other plants used in ritual are tobacco, fly agaric, and psychedelic mushrooms.