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soc.religion.shamanism-Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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Archive-name: shamanism/newsgroup-faq
Last-modified: 22 Dec 1995
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soc.religion.shamanism-Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

This FAQ is a monthly posting in support of the newsgroup
soc.religion.shamanism. It is maintained by
(Dean Edwards). Send comments to


I.  Who are the moderators of soc.religion.shamanism
II. Submissions address and mailing list
III.The Charter  of soc.religion.shamanism
IV. Why is this news group in the soc.religion hierarchy?
V.  Where does the word "shaman" come from and how does
    it relate to "shamanism"?
VI. Submissions Details
VII. Comments on Etiquette
VIII. Comments on Flames
IX.   Reader comments on shamanic terms and concepts

I. Who are the MODERATORS?
Skip Watson ( (resigned)
Dean Edwards (
Al Billings ( (resigned)
Iraj Mughal (  (resigned)


Submissions/postings for soc.religion.shamanism should be sent to:

Administrative material and queries should be sent to:

III. CHARTER of soc.religion.shamanism


The purpose of soc.religion.shamanism is to provide a forum for
discussion and exchange of questions, ideas, views, and information
about historic, traditional, tribal, and contemporary shamanic
experience. Everyone is invited to take part in this discussion
by sharing views, ideas, opinions, experience and information
about shamanism.


Technically speaking, Shamanism is classified by anthropologists
as an archaic magico-religious phenomena which the shaman is the
great master of ecstasy. This view of shamanism is further detailed
in the Shamanism-General Overview Frequently Asked Questions
(which is available in news.answers). The distinguishing
characteristic of shamanism is its focus on an ecstatic trance state
in which the soul of the shaman is believed to leave the body and
ascend to the sky (heavens) or descend into the earth (underworld).
The shaman makes use of spirit helpers, which he or she
communicates with,all the while retaining control over his or her
own consciousness. Most importantly, shamanism as a spiritual
practice focuses on the personal experience of the shaman.
Everything that a shaman does depends upon this experience. Without
it, there is no shaman.

In contemporary, historical or traditional and nontraditional
shamanic practice the shaman may at times fill the role of priest,
magician, metaphysician or healer. Personal experience with and
knowledge of other realms of being and consciousness and the
cosmology of those regions are prime determinants of shamanism.
With this knowledge, the shaman is able to serve as a bridge between
the mundane and the higher and lower states.
The shaman lives at the edge of reality as most people would
recognize it and most commonly at the edge of society itself. Few
indeed have the stamina to adventure into these realms and endure
the outer hardships and personal crises that have been reported by
or observed of many shamans.

For more information see the shamanism-general overview FAQ, which
has been posted to news.answers. In addition another FAQ, soc
religion.shamanism FAQ, will be regularly posted to once this group
has been created.


Anyone with an interest in shamanism is welcomed and encouraged
to post articles to soc.religion.shamanism. (See additional details

Moderators will only return submissions that violate this charter.
Any returned article will have an explanation attached to it about
which charter provision was violated.

There shall be one to four moderators for soc.religion.shamanism.

The newsgroup will be subject to conventions of network etiquette.
In practice, the moderators will reject personal attacks (flames)
directed at individual posters, similarly inflammatory attacks
directed at religious institutions, and articles which use offensive
language. These guidelines are intended to regulate only the tone of
the discussions, and not their contents. This instruction is not
intended to limit discussion and debate. Vigorous discussion and
criticism are encouraged, flames are not.

Repetitive postings (such as multiple responses to one request for
a book reference) may also be rejected.  Any rejected article will
be returned to the sender with an explanation.

Administrative communications, comments and inquiries should be
mailed to the moderator(s) rather than being posted to the group.

>From time to time a moderator may choose to give up his or her
duties as a moderator. In such an event the moderators should select
a suitable replacement. The retiring moderator may take part in
this selection if he or she has not yet given up their responsibilities
as moderator.


Guidelines for submissions will be regularly posted to news.answers
in a soc.religion.shamanism Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

Readers of soc.religion.shamanism submit articles to the moderators
by email. The initial moderators will be
Skip Watson ( (*Note, this moderator is currently 
Dean Edwards (

Note: since the original vote additional moderators have been added
as provided for by the terms of this charter. They are:
Al Billings  ( (currently inactive)
Iraj Mughal (

Submissions/postings for soc.religion.shamanism should be sent to

A current list of moderators will be included in a soc.religion.
shamanism Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) article to be posted to
soc.religion.shamanism and selected 'answers' newsgroups.

Administrative matters will not be discussed in soc.religion.shamanism
administrative comments and inquiries should be sent to:


See the FAQ shamanism-general overview FAQ, which is
regularly posted to news.answers.

It is also recommended that the articles on network etiquette
posted to news.newusers.questions be read.

For information concerning excessive flames and personal attacks
see above comments.

For information on network etiquette please refer to the following
documents, among others:
Emily Postnews Answers Your Questions on Netiquette
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Usenet

IV. Why is this news group in the soc.religion hierarchy?

There have been some questions raised about the name of this
newsgroup  The topic of soc.religion.shamanism is 'shamanism.'
It is in the 'soc.religion' hierarchy. While shamanism itself is not
a religion, it is a religious practice. This was the appropriate
hierarchy for discussion of shamanism. (

V. Where does the word "shaman" come from and how does
it relate to "shamanism"?

The practice, study and experience of the shaman is not
limited to any single cultural group. There has been some question
about this raised outside of soc.religion.shamanism. The word
'shaman' is from the language of the Tungus of Siberia. It is
variously 'shaman', 'saman' or 'haman'. Among the Tungus it is
both a noun and a verb. The Tungus themselves have no word for
'shamanism'. It is something that is done by a shaman. It is by no
means the name of their religion or of anyone's religion. That
being said, there is no provision in the charter of soc.religion.
shamanism for the general discussion of native religion. That is,
as it has been pointed out elsewhere, a very broad topic. The
focus of this newsgroup, according to its charter is much more
tightly focused. All submissions should keep that in mind.


A. At USENET sites that provide automatic mailing in support of moderated
newsgroups, posting to soc.religion.shamanism will transparently mail
the article to the moderators.  At other sites articles will need to be
mailed explicitly to the moderators.

B. The moderators attempt to handle each incoming article in a timely
manner, either posting it publicly or responding to its author
privately within four days of receipt.  If a post has resulted in
neither of these actions after four days, it should be assumed that
one's site is not configured to support submissions to moderated
groups, and the article should be resubmitted by mail to the above

C. Please provide a signature with your name and correct e-mail address
(preferably in Internet format) at the end of your article; do not
rely on the article header's From: field to identify you, as this will
not necessarily contain your correct e-mail address.
(This language is taken from the soc.religion.bahai faq.)


The following suggestions are offered for your consideration before

A. An option in requests for specific information (how do I reach
someone, where is this quotation to be found, etc.) is to ask
explicitly that all replies be mailed directly to the poster, who may
then post a summary if it is of general interest.  This would result
in only 2 messages (or perhaps just one) being seen by all
subscribers, which could be desirable in some contexts.  Likewise,
responses to such requests may, in some cases, be most appropriately
addressed just to the original poster.

B. Please use line lengths of no more than 70.  This keeps your text
within the 80 character per line limit of most terminals, in both your
initial article and in any follow-up articles, where it is customary to
prefix each line of quotation from another article with a few
additional characters to indicate the material is quoted.

Please be merciful to email mail systems by limiting articles to 50
KiloBytes in length.  Posts that exceed this limit should either be
pared down or subdivided; or one could submit an announcement of the
item instead, asking that readers respond via private mail in order to
obtain the actual item.
(Note: some email gateways have only an 8K gateway!)

C. If you quote a previously posted article, please limit the amount of
quoted text that you include.  One may generally assume that readers
have already seen an article to which one is responding.  Therefore,
you need only quote as much as required for establishing a context.

D. Please choose your Subject: heading carefully!

E. If responding to an earlier article, it is not best to respond
to each paragraph therein. Rather, if there one statement that
succinctly summarizes the earlier viewpoint, use that or a
paraphrase instead.

F. It is useful if articles are written in such a manner that it is
relatively easy to discern fact from opinion.

G. A signature statement is not considered to be a part of
the article submitted. Percedence for this is found in net
etiquette where it is standard practice that excessively
long signoff statements (more than four lines in length) are not 
considered goo practice> and as such are not a part of the body 
of an article. Signoff which are excessive or violate a section of 
the charter for the newsgroup will be removed by the moderator
rather than returning the article itself to the user for charter 


The newsgroup will be subject to conventions of network etiquette.
In practice, the moderators will reject personal attacks (flames)
directed at individuals, similarly inflammatory attacks
directed at religious institutions. For point of reference, this
charter will define a flame as the following: offensive insults
on ones intellect, mentality, physical appearance, race, and other
human characteristics. Flammatory attacks on institutions would
be comprised of the following: offensive and degrading slurs aimed
at the institution which includes the parameters defined under
flame above.  Offensive and degrading language aimed at a person,
people, and institution will not be acceptable.  Mild profanity will
pass the moderators if it is not offensive or inflammatory. This
will allow for open and free discussion although without extreme
flames. Moderation will be relaxed. These guidelines are intended to regulate
only the tone of the discussions, and not their contents.
This instruction is not intended to limit discussion and debate.
Vigorous discussion and criticism are encouraged, flames are not.

Note: Send comments to

Keywords: shaman, spirit, soul, siberia, harner, meadows, native, dreamtime, ecstasy, journeying, otherworld, sacred, axis-mindi

IX.   Reader comments on shamanic terms and concepts

There are a number of terms which are used frequently in discussions 
about shamanism. The following comments, in being attached to the 
soc.religion.shamanism-Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) are not 
intended to be interpretations of either the charter or the Shamanism-
General Overview. They are comments which have been extracted from 
articles posted to soc.religion.shamanism discussions. For a detailed
and specific overview of shamanism, please refer to  Shamanism-General
Overview-Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). All items contained in this
section of the FAQ are reprinted here by permission of the authors, 
who reserve and retain all rights to them. (Copyright c1995 by Dean 
Edwards, Stef Jones, Jilara, Jane Beckman, Ann Albers and others.)
Shaman: A master of archaic techniques of ecstasy. (Eliade, 1951).
This mastery of shamanic ecstasy (flight) is the heart of the shamanic
experience. It is the cornerstone of the shamans experience and 
practice. Not all shamanic techniques and experiences are ecstatic,
however, the ecstatic journey is the primary and distinguishing
technique of shamans worldwide.
A shaman is a trained initiate who maintains a tradition of walking 
between this and other worlds (while in a state of ecstatic trance
known as shamanic ecstasy shamanic flight) and then acts as a bridge 
between the worlds. He or she then uses the knowledge thus gained when
working in the community or with a client. Activities of shamans in
addition to shamanic flight may include divination, control over the 
elements,soul retrieval and escorting the souls of the recently 
deceased to their place in the next world (psychopomp). A shaman may 
also be able to see, hear or send messages or messengers over great 
distances or even fly to distant locations in ecstatic trance or 
through shapechanging. They may also assist their communities by 
obtaining the cooperation of animal and nature spirits whose 
assistance makes possible a more productive hunt, harvest, catch of 
fish or the protection of herd animals from predators.
Dean Edwards (

One who enters altered states of awareness and communicates with
spirit guides to bring back information or healing (definition borrowed
from Harner!)
Ann Albers (
Shamanism: The religious psychic and spiritual practices of a shaman,
and of the helpers, apprentices and crafts and community activities 
which support, assist or interact with the shaman in his or her work 
as a shaman. In a strict sense, shamanism has also been defined as the
traditional religious systems of the native peoples of Central Asia, 
Siberia and the circumpolar region of the Northern Hemisphere. The 
term has also been applied more loosely to similar religious practices 
found in other areas of the world. 
(See also Neo-shamanism, Pseudo-shamanism and Post-Shamanic.)
Dean Edwards (

Shamanism is a system for psychic, emotional, and spiritual healing
and for exploration, discovery, and knowledge gathering about non-
material worlds and states of mind.
Stef Jones (
Historical Shamanism: Traditional native systems and traditions of 
shamans and shamanism which existed in the past. Historical shamanism 
is believed to extend back many millennia and to be among the oldest
human religious and spiritual practices.
(See 'shamanism' for additional information.)
Dean Edwards (
Contemporary Shamanism: The practices of contemporary shamans and
of the apprentices, assistants, helpers and clients under their 
instruction or of those individuals involved in working with or 
otherwise assisting the shaman in his or her work.
Dean Edwards (
Traditional Shamanism: Native traditional practices of those who
have acquired the ability to move into and perceive other worlds
by means of Rarchaic techniques of ecstasyS and of the apprentices,
assistants and helpers under their instruction and others who 
otherwise support, assist and work with shamans
as they work in their communities.
(For additional information see 'shamanism'.)
Dean Edwards (

Shamanism as practiced and handed down for centuries in a specific
native or aboriginal culture.
Ann Albers (
Non-traditional Shamanism: Often at least loosely based on one
or more traditional shamanic systems, non-traditional shamanism
is usually a hybrid of ecstatic techniques of shamanic journeying
and other aspects of contemporary psychological, religious and 
spirituality. Rather than attempting to continue a pre-existing 
tradition, the non-traditional practitioner focuses on utilizing
the ancient techniques of the shaman in ways appropriate to a
modern audience. Some of the resulting systems and practices can
no longer be properly called Tshamanism.U The proposed term TPost-
ShamanicU is intended to address such gray areas as well as more
fully developed systems and practices which contain shamanic
Dean Edwards (

Engaging in shamanic practice (i.e., entering the altered states,
healing, communicating with spirit guides) using methods that
haven't been passed down in the traditional manner (i.e.from master-
to-apprentice) and/or aren't necessarily part of one'scultural
Ann Albers (
Neo-shamanism: A movement which has grown out of a combination
of environmentalism, popular anthropology and a growing desire for
more open non-institutionalized forms of religion and spirituality.
Since the early 1970's it has been gaining adherents in many western
and (more recently in) former communist countries. Each individual is
believed capable of becoming their own shaman usually under the 
instruction of a shamanic instructor or counselor. These new shamanic
practices, termed 'neo-shamanism' by Piers Vitebsky, (Ph.D., 
anthropologist and head of the Scott Polar Research Institute,
University of Cambridge, England),  in his book, The Shaman, (1995), 
have been influenced by popularization of certain
aspects of Native American religious practices including spirit 
helpers and power animals. Among the leading instructors in the neo-
shamanic movements are Michael Harner and Kenneth Meadows, authors
of various books and who offer workshops and courses of study. 
Michael Harner is an anthropologist and a founder of The Foundation 
for Shamanic Studies (,now located in Marin County, in northern 

In neo-shamanism, the states range from light altered states of 
consciousness to deep trance. Usually drumming, rattling or tapes 
are utilized to assist in inducing these 'shamanic states'. As is the
case with Non-Traditional Shamanism, many aspects of Neo-
Shamanism move far beyond what may properly be called 
Dean Edwards (

The recent revival ofshamanic techniques in urban Western culture. 
(cf. neo-paganism) ?
Stef Jones (
Pseudo-shamanism: A term applied to non-ecstatic visionary traditions 
such as those found among many Native Americans in North America.
Dean Edwards (
Core Shamanism: A term used by Michael Harner and others associated 
with the Foundation for Shamanic Studies. As with 'Shamanics' (see 
below), Core Shamanism seeks to identify and make available, to a 
wider contemporary audience, the core techniques of the shaman as
they have been used for millennia in cultures around the world.
Dean Edwards (
The Harner Method (self counseling):
There are two keys to doing shamanic work:

1. Achieving an altered state of consciousness
The state of consciousness that allows you to access non-ordinary
reality is one in which the waking mind is distracted or tuned out.
There are many ways to achieve this: repetitious sound or movement,
hypnosis, heat, sensory deprivcation, psychotropic drugs, 
maintaining a specific posture, lucid dreaming.  The method I (and 
most Harner-method advocates) use most frequently is repetitious sound
in the form of a steady drumbeat.

2. Maintaining an intention
Shamanism is really a system of healing or obtaining knowledge, 
and it seems to work best when used for that purpose. Journeying 
tends to work best if it's undertaken on behalf of another person. 
In some cases, however, one can journey on one's own behalf, 
especially if one has a specific intention in mind. Journeying just 
for the purpose of "poking around in non-ordinary reality" doesn't 
seem to work as well for most people.

The best way I have found to maintain an intention is to write down or
otherwise keep in mind a specific question or purpose as you begin your

Recommended reading
Michael Harner, The Way of the Shaman, 3d Ed., Harper & Row: 1990
Sandra Ingerman, Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self,
HarperSanFrancisco, 1991
(See also Shamanic Healing)
Stef Jones (
Shamanics: A term used by Kenneth Meadows which focuses on many of 
the essential elements and practices of shamanic experience and states
of consciousness. The purpose of this metaphysical approach to
shamanism is to make these essential aspects and experiences of the
extraordinary available to  people living ordinary lives. These have
been removed from their "social, religious and cultural contexts.
Similar to Harner's Core Shamanism, it makes use of drumming, rattles
and tapes to induce a type of mental traveling or 'Journey' into other
realms and altered states of consciousness. (Dean Edwards)

Kenneth Meadows defines Shamanics as: 
"A personal development process which incorporates the essence of 
universal shamanism - the ancient wisdom of the visionaries and 'Wise 
Ones' of many cultures and traditions into a Science of living for 
Modern Times that is the most practical of all metaphysical systems. 
A way of experienced and revealed knowledge that is motivated by the 
Spirit enabling individuals to relate to Nature and come into harmony 
with the totality of their own being and find meaning, purpose and 
fulfillment in their own lives."
(Kenneth Meadows, Where Eagles Fly, pages 240-1, 1995.)
Techno-shamanism: The use of technology to enhance and enter into
shamanic 'altered states of consciousness'. These range from the
hemispheric synchronization of the Monroe institute which uses a
binaural beat and following frequency response to other forms of
electronic stimulation of the nero-muscular system and the use of bio-
feedback, EEG and PET scans, other neuromuscular monitoring devices
or stimulation by chemical agents artificially synthesized in a 
laboratory. Any or all of these may be used to monitor and assist in
inducing ecstatic deep trance states found in traditional shamanism.
This is a popular term and is not yet found in literature about 
Dean Edwards (

The belief that new information technologies such as the net can be 
used in the practice of shamanism (?)
Stef Jones (
Shamanic Tradition: Systems of religious and spiritual practice of
shamans become traditions over time which are passed on from shaman
teacher to shaman apprentice. These usually contain the a specialized
knowledge and understanding of the lore of the community being served;
recognizing the presence of Spirit and of natural and elemental 
forces, guiding, helping, ancestor and teaching spirits; blessings,
charms, wards and ceremonies; methods of divination; the means for
creating or obtaining the costume and equipment necessary for the
performance of shamanic responsibilities, initiatory rites; and 
techniques of shamanic flight and access to other realms and states of
consciousness. In addition, there are some aspects of these traditions
which may also be learned in dreams or while in trance state or from 
direct observation of Nature and of life in the community. In some 
instances, a community may be without a shaman to pass on these 
traditions. When this occurs and direct instruction by experienced
shamans is not possible, the new shaman must reacquire the
continuity of the shamanic tradition from dreams, inner journeys and 
observation as the primary sources of his or her training.
Dean Edwards (

The practice of shamanism within a particular culture.
Stef Jones (
Siberian Complex: The native cultural traditions of Siberia,
an the Finnic peoples of Norther Europe.
Dean Edwards (
Circumpolar Shamanic Tradition: The native traditional shamanic
systems and practices of shamans of the Arctic and Subarctic 
Dean Edwards (
Post-Shamanic: While shamanism may be readily identified among 
many hunting and gathering peoples and in some traditional herding 
societies, identifying specific groups of individuals who might be
called shamans is a difficult task in more stratified agricultural
and manufacturing based societies. A society may be said to be Post-
Shamanic when there are the presence of shamanic motifs in its
traditional folklore or spiritual practices indicate a clear pattern
of traditions of ascent into the heavens, descent into the nether-
worlds, movement between this world and a parallel Otherworld, are
present in its history. Such a society or tradition may have become
very specialized and recombined aspects of mysticism, prophecy and
shamanism into more specialized or more 'fully developed' practices
and may have assigned those to highly specialized functionaries. When 
such practices and functionaries are present or have replaced the
traditional shamans found in historical or traditional shamanism the
use of Post-shamanic is appropriate. (See Shamanism-General Overview
for more information.)
Dean Edwards ( (August, 1995)

Also, there are many places where "other forms of healing, divining, and 
counseling are present" and co-exist with "strict" shamanic practice, for 
instance in many Native American traditions.  (Rather like the way some 
tribes had different types of "chiefs" for different roles in the community.)
Jilara (
Guardian Spirit: A spirit which protects, instructs or assists a 
shaman (or other persons) while journeying, carrying out shamanic 
responsibilities or training. Encounters with these numinous beings
may occur in trance, dreams, visions or in observing and interpreting
the events and circumstances of daily life.
Dean Edwards (

Guardian Spirit:  
An entity associated with the safety of a place or person. Many 
forms of Japanese kami associated with sacred sites are also 
guardian spirits.  Individuals or families may also have guardian 
spirits, which may or may not be the same as spirit guides.  Guardian 
spirits are often not 
identified with a particular shamanic practitioner, unlike spirit guides.
Jilara (
Spirit Guide:  
An entity which provides guidance or answers in non-standard 
conciousness.  It may teach, protect, or merely advise.  Spirit 
guides are usually attached to particular individuals on a personal 
basis.  Sometimes, a spirit guide may be an ancestor or relative.
Jilara (
(See Spirit Guardian.)

Spirit Guide:
Spirit helper who helps you achieve your "higher purpose" and who
assists you in a variety of other functions; teaching, healing,
helping others with their higher purpose, etc.
Ann Albers (
Tutelary Spirit: A spirit which instructs a shaman or other person.
This may be done in visions, dreams, trance, other altered states of
consciousness, or through observation and interpretation of daily life.
Dean Edwards ( (August, 1995)

One who teaches or gives other guidance in spiritual exploration. 
This may also include setting the individual on quests, rather than 
strict "teaching."
Jilara (
Spirit Teacher: 
A spirit or energy being that acts as a teacher for a person. Can be 
contacted shamanically. 
Stef Jones (

Sometimes, the Teachers are ancestors or "spiritual ancestors" 
(think of the Black Elk lineage).  (This last is the method of 
transmission for the traditional geisha shamanic heritage in Japan.)
Jilara (
Spirit Helper: A spirit, often subordinate to the shaman who assists 
him or her in understanding or carrying out shamanic responsibilities 
and practices.
Dean Edwards ( (August, 1995)

An entity who provides guidance or suggestions, but more as  an equal
than a teacher.  Usually animal spirits.
Jilara (

Spirit helper whose primary function is to guard your physical, 
mental, emotional, or spiritual well-being
Ann Albers (
Power Animal: A spirit perceived as taking an animal form which 
instructs, guides and protects an individual or shaman and usually
becomes closely identified with the individual concerned. Unlike the 
clan or group totem, this is a distinctly personal relationship with
an individual or collective animal spirit-being. The presence of a
power animal is thus unique to an individual, rather than being shared
by a group, family or clan. (Others in the group, may also have the 
same power animal.) These spirit beings are prominent in many 
shamanic and non-shamanic Native American traditions. In such 
traditions, both shamans and non-shamans may have power animals
as spirit guides.
Dean Edwards (

Michael Harner defines a power animal as: "a spirit being that not
only protects and serves the shaman, but also becomes another identity
or alter ego for him."
Michael J. Harner (The Way of the Shaman, 1980, 1990; page 43.)

Power Animal:  
An animal that has a particular trait or affinity connecting it to 
a person.  It may be "just" an animal, or an embodiment of all the 
spiritual traits of that animal, such as Coyote as trickster.
Jilara (

A spirit or energy being, usually perceived in the form of an animal,
that acts as a protector for a person. The spirit can be contacted 
shamanically and asked questions, honored, etc. 
Stef Jones (

Power Animal:
Earth energy that is part of your soul-cluster; represented in the
sacred dream as an animal; the essence of the animal that is part of
your energetic make-up
Ann Albers (
Nature Spirit: A spirit which embodies the essence of an elemental
of natural force. Such spirits may be encountered in this world or 
while journeying in other alternate realities and states of 
Dean Edwards (

Entity associated with a natural force or spirit of place.  Most 
Japanese kami are nature spirits.
Jilara (

The spirit of a place or living being (such as a tree) in the Middle 
World (earth). Can be contacted shamanically.
Stef Jones (

Nature Spirit:
Spirit/essence/energy of a plant, animal, or mineral
Ann Albers (
Spirit Wife/Husband/Spouse/Lover: A spirit who engages the shaman
in an inner sexual relationship and may even become the personUs numinous spouse. This is a frequently encountered motif in both
Siberian Shamanic Tradition and Celtic Faerie Lore.
Dean Edwards (

An entity whose spiritual significance is expressed through the 
shaman or chosen individual.  (For instance, ancient Celtic kings
were "wedded" to the manifestation of the forces of the land, 
often expressed as a white mare.)
Jilara (
Totem: animal spirit that is among your mythological ancestors
Ann Albers (

Totem: A plant, animal, natural force or material which is identified
with a specific group or clan. Totems may have a particular importance
in connecting the people with the land on which they live. A totem may 
thus be understood as being a group badge with sacred connotations. 
A totem, such as the Bear in many of the Northern Circumpolar
Traditions, may be seen as an actual or spiritual relative or ancestor
of the family, clan or group.
Dean Edwards (

A "spirit clan" symbol.
Jilara (

You also can't harm your clan totem--one of the big Irish heros 
(Fergus MacRoy, if memory serves) got into real trouble because he 
was served stewed dog, and ate his clan totem unknowingly.  And in a 
lot of systems, you can't marry someone who has the same spirit 
totem, as this is a taboo stronger than an incest taboo.  
Jilara (
Totem Place/Totemic Site: A location (most often) without specific 
boundaries around a central site which has ritual or mythical 
importance and a connection between the group and the its totem.
Dean Edwards (
Totemism: A system of practice, belief in or use of totems.
(See Totem.)
Dean Edwards (
Soul: In shamanism, soul is the life force of a person, animal, plant,
or anything which exists on any plane of being. A soul may be any of 
the bodies or sheaths in which this life force dwells as well. Thus, 
the physical body may sometimes be referred to as the 'animal soul'.
The astral, mental or spiritual bodies may also be referred to as soul
in discussions and literature about shamanism. As the individual life 
force, soul may be lost or drained away in part or in whole. When this
happens an individual is affected with some psychic or physical illness
or other malady and a shaman may attempt to retrieve the lost life 
force. If enough of this life force is lost or stolen by another a 
person may experience serious and debilitating illness or even death.

The Latin word for soul, ANIMUS, may be interpreted as meaning
Tbreath of heavenU or breath of SpiritU. This bears some similarities
to many traditional shamanic views of Soul.

Soul may also be defined as the indwelling individualized spiritual 
essence, a divine spark, or unit of awareness.
Dean Edwards (

IMO, soul is an entity that projects portions of its consciousness
into space time; we call these portions personalities, i.e., Ann is
one personality of the soul to which I belong.
Ann Albers (
Mystical Ecstasy: In the ecstatic experience of a mystic, unitive
visions or union with Spirit, God or the Divine is the characteristic
feature. This is in sharp contrast to shamanic ecstasy.
Dean Edwards ( (August, 1995)

The state of blending with cosmic consciousness; a merging with the 
niversal energy
Ann Albers (
Shamanic Ecstasy: The ecstatic experience by which the shaman journeys
into other realms, both higher and lower than this realm, as well as to
parallel regions sometimes known as a middle earth or to distant areas
of this world.
Dean Edwards (

Shamanic Ecstasy:
I like your definitions here, but feel that I experience shamanis
ecstasy when I am bathed in the radiant-love-energy of my guides
Ann Albers (

A term used by Mircea Eliade and other early researchers of shamanism
for the altered state of consciousness achieved by the shaman during 
shamanic practices. 
Stef Jones (
Shamanic Flight: The journey of a shaman while in trance into other
realms of being or distant regions of this world.
(See Shamanic Ecstasy)
Dean Edwards (

Altered state of awareness where the shaman travels to other times, places, or 
Ann Albers (

Shamanic Flight: Another term for "Journeying" 
Stef Jones (
Journey/Journeying/Journey of Soul/Soul Travel: The journey of the
individualized life force of the shaman or other person experiencing
some form of astral, mental or soul travel. This may, in a broader 
sense, also apply to the larger journey of Soul as it moves through 
each lifetime and from life to life.
Dean Edwards (

Altered state of consciousness in which the shaman visist the
"realities" or worlds, or dimensions, in which the energies we call
guides live.
Ann Albers (

Shamanic journeying is an altered state of consciousness wherein 
you enter a realm called "non-ordinary reality." By journeying, you 
can gather knowledge and perform healing in ways that are not 
accessible in ordinary waking reality.
Stef Jones (

In shamanism, a part of one's consciousness/spirit/soul seems to 
leave one's body and travel elsewhere to contact spirit helpers to 
gather information or perform healing. (One still remains in control 
of one's body.) This process is called "journeying". The experiences 
one has in this state are called "a journey."
Stef Jones (
Ascent of Soul/Ascension: The experience of the consciousness
leaving the physical body and ascending into the heavens. Shamanic
journeys are often very similar to those found under 'ascension' or
'the ascent of soul' or to the 'descent of soul'.
Dean Edwards (

In Harner style shamanism, we say that the soul travels to the upper 
world or the lower world -- perhaps this is another way of saying 
that? Ascension is also a Christian term, though.
Stef Jones (

Descent of Soul: The conscious descent of soul into the nether-
world, Underworld, hells, or other lower realms, usually via
descent into the Earth.
Dean Edwards (
Shamanic Healing:
Healing via shamanic methods such as journeying,working with spirit
helpers, extraction, soul retrieval, etc.
Ann Albers (

Shamanic Healing: Healing which is done by a shaman. Such healing
may be physical, psychic or spiritual.
Dean Edwards ( (August, 1995)

Shamanism can be used to perform spiritual/psychological and 
sometimes physical healing on a person (or sometimes an animal or
place). This process is called shamanic healing. Shamanic healing 
usually involves (*) a journey or series of journeys to determine 
what forms of healing are necessary; (*) a journey to contact the 
spirit resources necessary for the healing; (*) a ritual to perform/
honor the healing. Shamanic healing works best if it is performed by 
a shaman on behalf of another person rather than on oneself. This is 
not because only a shaman is "qualified" to do the healing, but 
because the spirit world responds well to the loving act of a 
person's performing a healing on behalf of another. 
Stef Jones (

                             (developed from the Harner method)
In the system of shamanism that I work with, there are four aspects to
psychic/emotional/spiritual health. If there is a problem with any of
these aspects fails, shamanic techniques can be used to help restore
Note that shamanic healing may not cure physical or psychological 
illness, but it may help one gain psychic energy that will allow 
one better to handle illness. Shamanic healing therefore is best 
used in conjunction with other treatments, not as a substitute 
for them.
1. Connection with a power animal
2. Retaining one's life essence
3. Free flow of emotional and physical energy
4. A sense of purpose
(See The Harner Method)
Stef Jones (
Shamanic Counseling: Shamanic consultations, healings and soul 
retrievals are conducted during counseling sessions in which an
experienced shaman or 'shamanic counselor' journeys to assist
the patient or 'client' in remedying a physical, psychic or 
spiritual condition or situation. In many of these sessions, the
client may be instructed in the techniques of shamanic journeying
so that he or she may serve as their own shaman. (Vitebsky refers
to such egalitarian access to the sacred as "spiritual democracy.")
When it is the client, rather than the shaman who is primarily 
responsible for journeying, the shaman or counselor may journey as 
well. In Tsoul retrievalU the shaman or shamanic counselor does the
journeying and retrieval of the lost or stolen life essence and then
usually assigns followup work to the client.
(See also Neo-Shamanism)
Dean Edwards (

Shamanic counseling as taught by the Foundation for Shamanic Studies 
involves a counselor experienced with journeying whoteaches the 
client how to journey, find his/her power animals and teachers, and 
find out the answers to his/her questions by consulting these spirit
helpers. The counselor aids in teaching how to journey and how to
interpret journeys, but does not provide advice directly as some
traditional psychotherapists do. However, some psychotherapists use
shamanic counseling techniques in their practice.
Stef Jones (

Harner's shamanic counselling involves a person journeying and
reporting on the journey, then interpreting the journey with a
counsellor to answer specific questions, or solve specific
Ann Albers (
Soul Loss: The loss of the spiritual or psychic energies of the 
life force of an individual. This may be due to lack of discipline,
trauma, by the individual experiencing this loss or by actual theft
of this vital essence by another person. Such theft may not be 
conscious, but may also be due to a lack of personal discipline, 
distress or concern with the effects of ones physical, emotional and 
mental conduct. Such loss of life force may result in physical or 
psychic illness or distress. (See also Soul, Soul Retrieval.)
Dean Edwards (

A portion of the soul's essence/energy becomes fixated on a specific
point in space/time, usually a point in which there wasgreat
emotional charge. This portion is lost to the "eternal now" because
it's focus is on the past
Ann Albers (

Soul Loss: A part of one's life essence can leave one's body during a
trauma of short or long duration. Usually it comes back after the 
trauma has passed, but sometimes it gets lost. If parts of one's life 
essence are lost, one can feel depressed or experience other 
spiritual, psychological,or physical problems. (See Soul Retrieval)
Stef Jones (
Soul Retrieval: The retrieval of lost or stolen life essence or
psychic life force of an individual by a shaman or shamanic counselor.
(See also Soul Loss and Shamanic Healing.)
Dean Edwards (

A shamanic healing ritual whereby a shaman journeys on behalf of 
someone who may have experienced soul loss. The shaman retrieves 
the life essence that was lost and returns it to the person. After 
the soul retrieval, the person is responsible for learning about the 
life essence that has returned and how it can help the person change 
or get what s/he wants.
Stef Jones (

The process of re-focusing the lost soul essence on the present.
Ann Albers (
Psychopomp: A spirit or individual or divine entity which accompanies
the soul of the recently deceased to a place in another world. Hermes
is an example from classical antiquity of a post-shamanic psychopomp.
This is a common motif in shamanic traditions.
Dean Edwards (

Refers to the shamanic practice of making sure that souls separated 
from the body in death make it to the right place in non-ordinary 
reality. (Sometimes if a person dies suddenly or dies in a state of 
confusion or senility, the soul does not realize that it has been
separated from the body and needs to move on.)
Stef Jones (
Shamanizing: The experience of the shaman working while entering
 and experiencing shamanic ecstasy, usually in a ceremonial setting.
Dean Edwards (
Call (shamanic): Shamans are 'called' by Spirit, Soul or by spirits
to become a shaman. This may occur in a number of ways. A person may
experience physical trauma or psychic distress or from a direct or 
indirect experience in dreams, spontaneous trance states, or by the
invitation of Spirit or of spirits. Physical distress may include 
such events as a fall from a height, being struck by lightening, or
a serious fever or illness, or other near encounters with death. 
Dream and trance initiations and experiences with spirits are also
common experiences of being called to become a shaman. Sometimes
psychic distress may be experienced as sudden and significant mood 
swings or periods of lengthy melancholy, loss of affect, incoherency
or even loss of consciousness. The Call may also come from deep 
within, from the higher core essence of the prospective shaman. 
When signs of shamanic tendencies are recognized by other shamans or
members of the shamans family, clan or community, the individual who
appears to have been 'called' may be advised to seek training and 
begin to gather the necessary equipment of a shaman which is 
appropriate to that community and cultural milieu. Some may chose to
avoid this Call to become a shaman, others may deliberately seek it
out. (See Shamanism-General Overview for additional information 
about becoming a shaman. See also Shamanic Sickness.)
Dean Edwards (
Shamanic Sickness: When someone is called to become a shaman this Call
is often accompanied by a period of physical or mental distress or 
illness. A potential shaman may then elect to avoid that calling or
may decide to seek training and begin to shamanize. (Among the Tungus
of Siberia, from whom the word 'shaman' originates, the word is in 
fact used both as a noun and as a verb. In English, the verb form is 
'to shamanize'.) 

The first task the new or prospective shaman must face then is to 
master his or her own condition and this experience becomes an 
essential part of what resources may thereafter be drawn upon when 
shamanizing or engaging in shamanic healing or other activities. The 
personal experience of those shamans who do encounter
such an initial period of 'shamanic sickness' is characteristic of 
the role of personal experience in the way of shamans worldwide.
Overcoming this initial period of illness or distress, when it is
encountered, and which may be brief or last for many years, provides 
shamans with the type of experience which is considered absolutely
necessary for their work as shamans. As self therapy, it also enables
the shaman to participate in the day-to-day life of the community 
(which may not have been possible while in the throws of Tshamanic
(See also Call.)
Dean Edwards (
Shamanic Initiation: There are both inner and outer initiatory  rites
and experiences in traditional shamanism. Initiation may come in 
trance or in a dream. The manner in which the individual is called is 
in itself a form of initiation. Dreams of being cooked, boiled and 
consumed are one common initiatory dream. The internal organs of a 
shaman may be removed and replaced with more spiritually attuned 
ones or the shaman may be infused with the power of his or her 
tutelary spirits or of Spirit itself. Other forms of inner 
initiation range from the terrifying to the sublime. The acceptance
of a shaman by the community is often another form of initiation. 
There are also certain ceremonies or ritual practices or journeys 
which the shaman may be expected to undertake before being considered
to have been fully initiated as a shaman. (Significant treatment of 
this Shamanism-General Overview for additional information.)
Dean Edwards (

Initiation to me involves a quantum leap to a new level of energy or
awareness; the method differs among cultures, but  I believe the
essence of initiation is the same; the initiate proves he/she is
ready for the new level of awareness and the shaman then proceeds to
energetically "bump" the initiate up to that new state.
Ann Albers (
Great Shaman/Celestial Shaman: This numinous figure is found in
various shamanic traditions, particularly in Siberia and Central
Asia. It may be identified as a specific spiritual entity or even
with the northern Pole Star (the peg in the sky or the nail of 
heaven.) The Great or Celestial Shaman is the highest source of
shamanic initiation. (There seems to be some parallels with 
Post-Shamanic Sufi tradition of the Qutb, which is also identified
with the Pole Star.)
Dean Edwards (
First Shaman: The first shaman may be either a reference to the
Celestial Shaman, a mythical first shaman in this world or to the 
first shaman of a tribe or people.
Dean Edwards (
Runesinger: In historical Finnish shamanism a runesinger was a
singer of charms and sacred chants. This has parallels with the
old traditions of Galdr among the Germans and Scandinavians and
of bardic, 'glamour' or faerie music lore among the ancient Celts.
The sacred aspects of this ancient sound tradition have also 
influenced contemporary literature such as in the writings of 
J.R.R. Tolkien.
Dean Edwards (
Shapeshifting, Shapechanging: A motif frequently encountered in 
shamanic practice. There seem to be three distinct types of shape-
  a. The way in which an inner body appears. This may be called soul or 
spirit shifting, because it involves the movement and shifting in 
appearance of the image of someone or something as they appear 
inwardly in spirit form.

  b. When it is the spirit form which can be physically seen. The
 person shapeshifts and can change how they appear to others while in 
spirit form.

  c. Actual physical shapeshifting.

There are also stories of bilocation in which a person may appear 
in more than one location at the same time. This is not necessarily a 
shapeshifting phenomenon, but may also involve shapeshifting.
Dean Edwards (

In non-ordinary reality, in journeys, a shaman can take on forms 
other than his/her own body. This might be called shapeshifting.
Some people believe that powerful shamans can take on other forms in
ordinary reality too.
Stef Jones (

In old days, transforming your energy into a different physical
form; I believe a modern version of "shapeshifting" occurs when we
alter who we are around different people.  I used to say that the best
corporate leaders were the greatest "shapeshifters"; they
could speak into any listening and dance with any situation
Ann Albers (
Axis Mundi: The Axis of the World around which the Earth and the
heavens rotate. Long a synonym for Spirit, the Axis Mundi has 
been represented as a great mountain, a tree, a pillar, a column,
and a rod or staff of power,
Dean Edwards (
World/Cosmic/Universal Tree: A symbolic representation of Spirit
as the axis mundi or center of the world. With its roots deep in
the Earth and its uppermost branches reaching out into the
heights of the heavens, the World Tree symbolizes the presence
and flow of Spirit upon which shamans and other esoteric 
practitioners are said to ascend and descend in their journeys.
Dean Edwards (

Universal symbol for the connection between heaven and earth
Ann Albers (
World/Cosmic Pillar/Column: A symbolic representation of Spirit as 
the axis mundi or center of the world. The World Column is often 
portrayed as the link between Earth and the heavens. This connection 
is symbolized by Polaris, the northern Pole Star.
Dean Edwards (
World/Cosmic Mountain: A symbolic representation of Spirit as 
the axis mundi or center of the world.  The World or Cosmic
Mountain, like the World Tree, has its foundations deep in the Earth 
and its heights in the Heavens.This Mountain of God is a common motif 
not only in shamanism, but also in various religious traditions
around the world.
Dean Edwards (
The Sacred River: Another representation of Spirit, the river may be
both seen and heard. It represents the flow and presence of Spirit in
the varied realms of the heavens, the Earth and the Underworld.
Dean Edwards (

Metaphor for the flow of life/Spirit
Ann Albers (
The Pole Star: In Siberian shamanic tradition, the northern is 
sometimes called the peg in the sky or the nail of heaven. It is the
visible point in the sky where the axis mundi connects the Earth with
the heavens. It may also represent the Great or Celestial shaman, just
as it does the Qutb of (the post-shamanic) Sufi traditions of Islam.
According to Siberian traditions this also represents the Great 
Celestial Shaman and may even represent a initiatory state in which  
the Great Shaman may, on rare occasions, be represented by an 
actual physical shaman.
Dean Edwards (
Otherworld/Faerie: The realm of the Tuatha de Danann and other 
fantastic races and creatures in Celtic lore. This has very strong
parallels with shamanic otherworld traditions.
Dean Edwards (
Non-Ordinary Reality: In the Harner Method of shamanic journeying,
this is where the person journeys to during a session. These 
alternate realities are described as a higher, middle and lower
world. Non-ordinary realities parallel the existence of this world.
Dean Edwards (
Ordinary Reality: Normal everyday reality and the physical world and
Dean Edwards (

Concensus reality of third-dimensional form
Ann Albers (
Lower Earth/Netherworld/Underworld: These may be lower parallel
regions which are otherwise similar to this world or dark, shadowy
realms or hells. In the case of such regions as the Celtic Underworld,
these lower Earths may not have a sun to produce light, but rely on
light which is naturally emitted by the land itself.
Dean Edwards (

"Lower World" is a term used by Harner and associates to refer to the
part of non-ordinary reality that one reaches by journeying through a 
tunnel. Usually power animals and wisdom about the body and physical
 aspects of existence can be found in the lower world.
Stef Jones (
Middle Earth: Middle Earth may be either a parallel physical world
or this world itself.
Dean Edwards (

"Middle World" is a term used by Harner and associates to refer to 
the non-ordinary aspect of the world we live in. One can journey
in the middle world.
Stef Jones (
Upper Earth/Upper World: The heavens are the traditional upper worlds
of most traditions. These range from the actual Sky to higher planes of
existence extending into the heart of God.
Dean Edwards (

The dimension/sphere of existence where entities that appear to us
as more humanoid or angelic, or simply energetic appear.
Ann Albers (

"Upper World" is a term used by Harner and associates to refer to the 
part of non-ordinary reality that one reaches by journeying upward 
(perhaps by climbing a tree). Usually teachers and wisdom about 
emotional/spiritual/philosophical aspects of existence are found in 
the upper world.
Stef Jones (
The original state of being; the energetic template or dimension
which underlies and affects all physical form.
Ann Albers (

Dream Time: Among Aborigines of Australia, this is the time and realm
of the foundation, the beginnings. Everyone lives out their lives in
a relationship with this state. Time from this perspective is viewed
as being circular, like the breathing technique employed when playing
the Digeridoo. This is the archetypal or primordial state from which
creation was formed. Thus, time is very different than time in the
normal outer world.
Dean Edwards (

W.F.H. Stanner described the Dream Time as "the common but not 
universal way of referring to the time of the founding drama.... two 
complementary emphases stood out in the doctrine of the Dream Time:
the fixation or instituting of things in an enduring form, and the 
simultaneous endowment of all things--including man, and his condition
of life--with their good and/or bad properties. The central meaning 
was clear. Men were to live always under that foundation.?
(W.F.B. Stanner. Religion, totemism and symbolism. In Aboriginal Man
in Australia, edited by R.M. Berndt and C.M. Berndt. Sydney: Angus 
and Robertson. 1965, pages 214-215.)
The Dreaming/Dreamings: The Dreaming is the continuing relationship
which exist between traditional Aborigines of Australia and the 
beginnings and life in the Here and Now. It is a continuing experience.
Dean Edwards (

W.F.H. Stanner writes that the Dreaming "is represented as a 
continuing highway between ancestral superman and living man, between
the life-givers and life, the countries, totems and totem-places they
gave to living men, between subliminal reality and immediate reality,
and between the There-and-Then of the beginnings of all things, and
relevances of the Here-and-Now of their continuations.
(.H. Stanner. Some aspects of Aboriginal religion. Colloquium 9(1):
page 23.

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