Shamanism is an at least 40.000 years old system of practices used by various communities all around the planet for the purpose of healing, divination – acquiring information, and maintaining a general material and spiritual well-being within a society. In a shamanistic view of the world, humans are an inseparable part of nature, in which every being, alive and non-living, has her own spirit. Shamanism, in its perception accesses the world both from the material and from the spiritual plane, thus acknowledging the existence of two sides of reality, the so-called ordinary and non-ordinary reality. Ordinary reality is accessible to us through the five senses at every moment, but to access the non-ordinary reality in which spirits reside, one has to alter the state of consciousness. This is where the role of the shaman, “the one who sees”, steps in. Since she has an innate and well-trained ability to enter into an altered – or also called shamanic state of consciousness, the shaman represents the bridge between the two realities, communicating with spirits and obtaining their helping and healing powers as well as information on the level of non-ordinary reality and bringing the information and healing to the level of the ordinary reality for the good of his or her community. In all shamanic cultures throughout the history, shamans have traditionally entered an altered state of consciousness, a shamanic trance, through repetitive movements and singing accompanied by drumming and rattling. In some shamanic societies, not all of them, various psychoactive plants were also used to help alter the state of consciousness.
Most shamanic traditions and their respective cosmologies include a division of the world into three levels, which are connected by the world axis, axis mundi, which, in ordinary reality, usually represents a certain tree or a mountain. These levels are the Upper world, the Middle world, and the Lower world (note: this division does not correspond with the Christian notion of heaven, purgatory, and hell). In the Middle world, where physical and other earthly laws apply, reside people, animals, plants and the spirits of these living creatures, as well as the spirits of nature: rivers, streams, stones and rocks, mountains, forests and lakes… For obtaining information and healing power a shaman will alter her state of consciousness and embark on a shamanic journey, sending a part of her consciousness, her soul, to one of these worlds. On the level of non-ordinary reality the shaman meets with and works in a close collaboration with a group of her spiritual helpers and guides.
Shamanic journeying is a classic method that has always been used by shamans to get in touch with the spiritual world, through which they have acquired information and have gained spiritual powers to heal. It is a transition to an altered state of consciousness, in which the shaman’s soul can travel through time and space on the level of non-ordinary reality.
For me, shamanism is first of all a way of understanding and approaching the world, and in today’s world situation I feel it is ever so precious as it brings back and strengthens the awareness that we are a part of nature and thus connected to everything natural. Intimately experiencing this connection on the spiritual level through shamanic journeying and ceremonies makes love and respect for nature and all her “fruits”, including yourself, a natural by-product of practicing shamanism. On a personal and societal level the shamanic world-view aims towards balance through restoring personal power, dignity and responsibility, which are not based on the exploitation of another, but allow you to take up your own space and live your inner truth in accordance to the higher good for the whole planet. That, in my opinion, is our birthright and lifelong responsibility.
Core shamanism was founded by anthropologist Michael Harner on the basis of his years of research and personal experience with various indigenous shamanisms. It is a system of shamanic knowledge and traditional methods that is adapted for the people in the West (who have mostly lost contact with their own shamanism in the course of history) in order to practice shamanism and shamanic healing in their everyday lives, and to help others. It contains universal and near universal principles of various indigenous shamanisms and it doesn’t focus solely on the specifics of the different shamanic cultures, but rather on their common characteristics and features. Teaching methods and mediating the skills of core shamanism is carried out by the Foundation for Shamanic Studies.
Core shamanism to people who practice it enables direct contact with the spiritual world, and the knowledge and power that is available to us through this contact. For me, a very important fact is that in Core shamanism in order to enter into an altered or shamanic state of consciousness we use the rhythm of repetitive drumming and do not use psychoactive substances.