Shamanism is the art of the shaman.
You may have heard of them as a witch doctor, or a mystic, or a rishi, etc. Often this comes with a load of preconceived notions. You might have wondered, who are these weirdos with feathers in their hair, what demonic spells do they chant, and what strange black magic do they practice? Are they devil worshippers? Why are they always associated with backward tribes and jungle people?
A shaman is a person who enters the spirit world to convene with the spirits. This statement may sound a little nutty, so let me put it a different way: A shaman is a person who has access to a higher dimensional plane of perception. That is, they ritually enter the trance state, which is this higher dimensional plane, and communicate with the entities they encounter in those realms. They enter the trance state by any number of means, like dancing, drumming, or the use of naturally occurring plant compounds. The trance state can be brought about with psychedelics, as you very well know. They call this realm the spirit world, or some such similar idea.
Many cultures have produced shamans, and that’s why if you do a Google search, you will see these weird pictures of men and women dressed peculiarly, doing strange things, and just looking very, very off. Shamans of each culture have their own idiosyncrasies, but the unifying characteristic among these individuals throughout time and across geographies is their access to the trance state to communicate with entities which gives them seemingly magical powers, such as powers of healing or insights into practical questions. But it is not the “magic” of fairy tales, it is not some Harry Potter, Merlin type fantasy. It works like this: A tribe in the Amazon may ask their shaman, “Where shall we hunt next?” And the shaman will then navigate the psychedelic realm, where past and future are both accessible, and he or she will find out where the food will go by actually looking. This may certainly seem like magic, but it is not… not exactly, anyway.
In ancient tribes, the shaman was an individual who was simultaneously feared and loved. They often lived away from the main settlement, and they were approached with awe and trepidation. The spirit world is not to be navigated lightly, and it takes a special kind of person who will be willing to undergo the training and take up the responsibility that is part and parcel of being a shaman.
Shamans are very connected with nature. And as you might have read elsewhere on this blog, one of the easiest ways to connect with nature is to take a psychedelic. But there is nothing EASY about what they do. It is as frightening and awesome for them as it is for us. To quote Terence McKenna, “Just because they live in the jungle with a banana leaf over their ding-dong doesn’t make it any easier for them.” They are using these compounds with an intent and purpose: to communicate with the spirits, or the higher dimensional entities. Just to name a few:
- Native American shamans throughout North America use peyote, the hallucinogenic cactus.
- Amazonian shamans take a mixture of plants in the form of a tea (ayahuasca) or pill (ookoohe) which contain DMT.
- Bon shamans of Tibet and shamans of Siberia have been known to use amanita muscaria mushrooms.
- Shamans of the Mazotec heritage use stropharia cubensis mushrooms.
The shaman has been around for as long as humans have been around. For untold millennia, they have been the interlocutors between our world and whatever world is beyond these three dimensions. By entering into these states, they have divined the real nature of this game. They have seen the end of the movie, and now they are able to guide and help the rest of us along. For millennia, whenever something ailed our ancestors- physical or otherwise- they went to see their shaman.
There is something to the shamanic enterprise, and it deserves to be at least studied if not practiced. Certainly shamanism is not for everyone. But there is a lot that can be learned from them: the ways of Nature, how our role fits in with the larger process of the Universe, how we can take care of the Earth, how we can raise our consciousness to the highest levels and make everything super groovy…
The video at the top of this blog is a wonderful discourse on the shaman. It is definitely a good introduction, but there’s a lot more to learn, and we’ll be going through it in time. The Koi’s Corner channel is also a really good one, and I suggest you check it out.