tomás and shaman healers

Comprehending Shamanism:

Shamanism is humanity’s oldest form of relationship to Spirit. As such, it is the underpinning beneath all religion. But shamanism is not a religion. It is a complex set of practices, beliefs, values and behaviors that enable the shamanic practitioner to elicit a shift from ordinary consciousness into a trance state with a specific goal in mind, such as for healing, obtaining information, power, vision, divination, contacting the spirit of the deceased, soul retrieval or guidance for right action. Shamanic work is done with the aid of a helping ally of some sorts that the shaman has befriended. They work together as a cooperative team, with the ally being an intermediary between different levels of reality and the shaman, an engineer of altering states of consciousness.

Shamanism is an ancient practice. Shamans throughout the world and throughout time, recognize that the universe is alive, conscious, and filled with spiritual power. Shamans know how to access this web of power and work with it skillfully and effectively to address their, and their community’s needs. Shamanism is the use of shamanic practices within a shamanic value system. Traditionally a shaman goes through the experience of a “calling”, usually through illness, accident or some unusual quality of being, then through an arduous apprenticeship of teaching, training and testing about shamanism, followed by some sort of passage rite into their new status. Typically shaman do not define themselves as such. Instead they are defined by their community based on what it is that they do.

Shamanism, becoming a shaman and living as a shaman is a difficult and demanding life path that many indigenous people shy away from because of the formidable requirements of shamanism. Shamanism is not about fun and glamor. Unskillful and uneducated acts can cause harm, or even be life-threatening, to the shamanic practitioner as well as to others. For shamanism deals with power, and power can move in many different ways, like electricity. It is important to move slowly with respect, humility and care when practicing shamanism.

A vitally important aspect of the practice of shamanism is understanding right relationship with power, and the acts and implements of power, such as sage, cedar, feathers, the drum, ceremony, disincarnate spirits, totem animals and allies. In shamanism, the exploration of right relationship also entails in-depth eco-psychological, attitudinal healing along with active, social justice involvement in issues affecting the rights of indigenous people in today’s world. Tom has written a book “The Shamanic Wisdom of the Huichol: Modern Teachings for Modern Times” which is the autobiographical account of his decade-long immersion in the shamanic traditions of the Huichol tribes of the Sierra Madre in Mexico. You can order a copy from Amazon.

Shamanic Wisdom Huichols Book Cover