Shamanism is an entirely different approach to healing and exploration than that which is practiced in the West, and is a natural, highly effective therapeutic methodology which has been in existence since man first walked the earth. It is a system whereby the shaman (the healer) shifts the location of his consciousness from his body to the wider spheres of the universe. The shaman communicates with all the wider connected elements of the human energy system that extend outside of the perceptive range of the physical senses for the purpose of healing and obtaining knowledge. In most cultures, the shaman is called by the ancestors of the community or by healer spirits who deem the individual destined for the role of healer.
In this post, I will give you a short introduction to five of the lesser-known traditions that exist in the world today, just some of those that I was fortunate to learn from in my own journey with shamanic healing. Shamanism is a fascinating concept; it is real and it is effective when all the elements of physical, spiritual, mental and psychological facets of human nature are addressed. Human being is not what it appears to be on the surface of this physical reality. We extend into the infinite field of cosmic life and are inextricably linked to systems of existence beyond the human body. Life, health and disease are complex, mystical manifestations that originate in places many people do not understand. Venturing into non-ordinary reality is the task of the shaman; he or she is a traveller of the dream-time, the world to which we will eventually awake when this body is done with this life. Let’s now have a look at some of the people still practicing their shamanic arts today.
The South African Sangoma
An African ‘Sangoma’ is a diviner-priest/priestess in the Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele and Swazi cultures of Southern Africa. Sangomas take their place as healers in the community having been called upon by their own ancestral spirits. A person knows they are an incarnation of an ancestral healer when their lives are disrupted by a series of diseases that are attributed to psychic possession by the ancestral entity. These diseases refuse to respond to conventional medicine, forcing the individual to acknowledge their destiny as a healer. A Sangoma diagnoses spiritual and physical disease, and heals with the use of herbal remedies, dream interpretation, communication with ancestral spirits, divination with bones, steaming, and trance-state dancing. Sangomas are very popular amongst Black South Africans and the use of Traditional Medicine is now fully recognized and well integrated into the modern health infrastructure.
Aborigine Clever Men and Women of High Degree
The Australian aboriginal shamans are traditionally called ‘Clever Men/Women’, or ‘Women/Men of High Degree’. They are initiated within one large group called ‘The Dreamers’ and have highly developed supernatural skills, moving in and out of this reality to perform their healing functions. The Clever Men and Women’ know that our eternal nature exists in the Dreaming and that the human journey circles back to this origin. Healing is performed by addressing the spiritual nature of the human being, while the physical symptoms of the ‘soul sickness’ are tended to with a wide range of remedies including wild herbs, steam baths, spirit chants, animal products, mud, clay pits, massage, amulets and special healing ceremonies.
The Indonesian Dukun
A Dukun is an Indonesian shaman healer, and plays the role of traditional healer. Dukun healers are a bridge between the spirit and human world, practicing sorcery and consulting on their customs and traditions. The Dukun possesses a profoundly deep relationship with nature and has an extensive knowledge of herbs and natural medicines. The Dukun methodologies extend towards the black arts, and these energies are focused in acts of revenge against people who have offended a client. The Dukun approach healing from a mind/body/soul perspective and treatments include herbal remedies, meditation, special healing massage, exorcism, special diets, and ceremonial healing ‘magic’. Dukun are mostly found on the island of Java, although on the neighbouring island of Madura reside the more-feared Dukun who are well-known practitioners of dark magic.
The Filipino Albularyo
In the Filipino traditional healing custom, an ‘Albularyo’ is a local medicine person or healer. An Albularyo integrates Pagan traditions with elements of Christianity. Many only take clients on Tuesdays and Fridays as these days correspond with the local Catholic festivities of Santo Niño (Baby Jesus) and the Black Nazarene. These particular days, the Albularyos believe, are when their power is at its greatest. Albularyos use medicinal herbs to heal various illnesses, and their abilities are inherited either through ancestral lines, or they are called upon by a healer spirit. In addition to herbal medicines, Albularyos use whispered and written prayer, invoke native ‘enkantos spirits’, and call to Christian religious figures to help promote healing and recovery.
Toltec healers see humans as energetic beings and view illness as an energetic imbalance. To heal, a person needs to address their ideas about the world, their view of themselves, and in so doing, take positive action to bring back harmony in their everyday interactions with people. In the Toltec healing tradition, ‘teacher plants’ are used to shift an individual’s perspective of reality. This is done in order to learn more about oneself, to evolve spiritually and to heal psychological ailments. A wide variety of herbal remedies are used to address physical symptoms of spiritual and psychological illness. The use of ‘sweat lodges’ to confront emotional issues are deeply transformative. Massage and energetic healing techniques are also incorporated into treatments for patients.