The word shaman came into the world’s languages via Siberia and has gained popularity in everyday language. Generally speaking, a shaman is one who calls on the spirit world to help him do something. Despite the image created by Hollywood or those shown by National Geographic a shaman may be a man or woman and in today’s world who more often than not, dresses as the average citizen. Blue jeans and a plaid shirt are not uncommon.
Admittedly, as the types of shaman emerge, there will be those who will call such distinction ‘splitting hairs.’ The reason for making a distinction is simple: to bring about understanding. Shamanic practitioners do have at least one thing in common-they all journey or travel to other realms. Furthermore, they all seek the help or guidance from those that inhabit the spirit world.
The first type of Shaman is the Healer.
Healers journey to the upper or lower worlds to seek help to heal a sick person. The Healer also uses remedies based upon natural plants and herbs. Salves, poultices, ointments, teas are made from the leaves, berries, and roots of specific vegetation. Some are short-term and others take a longer period of time to be effective. An example of a short term remedy is bearberry for diarrhea and Echinacea for the immune system. Warning: Do not attempt to use these without consultation with a shaman or other medical personnel.
The second type of Shaman is the Soul Retriever.
The Soul Retriever journeys to the other world to gather up a soul and return it to its source. Often, the shaman will have a spirit helper or guide for this undertaking. A person may have had his or her soul stolen by an evil spirit or hoodoo. A loved one who does not wish to let that person go may keep part of a soul. For example, a mother may keep part of her child’s soul who has passed on.
The third type of Shaman is the Spiritual Healer.
In today’s world psychologists or psychiatrists deal with emotional aspects of one’s life. The Spiritual Healer does the same thing. He or she deals with anger, frustration, jealously, hate, prejudice, or self-defamation. Herbals as well as music is part of the treatment. The patient may be put in a modified hypnotic state. The shaman may go into a trance. During the trance state, he or she may remove entities from the suffering person. The Spiritual Healer generally requires several sessions with a patient.
The fourth type of Shaman is the Messenger.
The Messenger brings information back from the non-ordinary world to the world commonly called the real world. His or her messages may deal with immediate events or predict those to come at some point in the future. Such messages guide or direct the individual. In past years, the messages dealt with the hunt, good crops or if a tribe should move to a new area.
An individual shaman may fulfill these four types or any combination of them. Whatever the role, they all rely on the spirit world.
Dr. Wilson is the author of Shamanism What It’s All About and of over 250 articles on the internet. His five novels have as their main characters Native American shaman.