If you could watch the panoply of history unfold it is very likely that you would find
So what exactly is it that a Shaman does? To a degree this depends on the culture in which he or she finds themselves but they all work in realities distinct from the Western world. Furthermore, any insights or knowledge they gain as a result of this is brought back and put to use in the day to day world. Shamans tend to see nature as an integrated whole; animals, plants and rocks all have a ‘life’ and whilst on a Shamanic journey they can interact with these energies.
Accessing a journey can take different forms, some can be quiet and meditative but others are reached by energetic dancing, singing and drum beats, or imitating the behaviour of the animal whose sprit is to be vital during the journey. Australian Aboriginal Shamans believe in using crystals to facilitate journeying as they are understood to be solid pieces of light. Shamans in certain cultures such as those in Mexico use naturally occurring drugs to travel to their destination, these are not taken for recreation but with reverence and great respect for the source that produces them. Many Shamans favour special costumes when they are working such as an animal pelt or feathers, these echo the characteristics of the spirits that they hope to meet.
A Shamanic journey has been compared to lucid dreaming. The Shaman interacts in the alternative universes they visit just as they would in this, they can think, plan and communicate with its inhabitants, however, this does not mean the situation will develop according to some pre-existing script; journeys can be pleasant or distinctly unpleasant according to the reality they are in and its independently minded inhabitants. Apart from the problems encountered in other universes, Shamanic rites can be very painful, dangerous and/or scary, Shamans might be respected but this respect could also be tinged with fear. Perhaps this explains why Shamanism was seldom a career choice but a role forced upon an individual marked out by fate; as in Siberia. This might be a physical trait, a medical condition or a family tradition – although in something of a break with the past modern Western Shamans do decide to follow this path themselves.
So, next time you watch a documentary or read about a strange and exotic culture, remember that your ancestors and theirs were not so different. Indeed, they trod very similar spiritual paths.