Ever since we evolved into beings who think, feel and rationalise, we have been trying to make sense of the world we live in. But, while some things we have laboriously figured out, many others still remain a mystery.
One such subject on this list is the mystical world of the shaman. Many of us have seen him before–decked in loose robes and colourful beaded amulets, his head adorned with bird feathers, carrying a drum and a cryptic air about him.
Some call him a witch doctor, some a faith healer, but who exactly is the shaman?
Meet the shaman
The world of a shaman is as elusive as it is interesting. In this world, he is the intermediary between the spiritual and physical world. One who can communicate with spirits and also visit the spiritual world through astral projection. His soul can leave the body to ascend to a higher or lower plane and can alter his consciousness to enter another reality.
We are children of the cosmos, yet we could be disconnected from it. Not the shaman though. He believes that the world is made of spirits and humans. He can travel into the spirit world to heal the woes that accompany human existence. With the use of hallucinogens, the shaman invokes a trance-like state, manipulating supernatural forces to heal illnesses and cure human suffering. Animals are significant to him, as, at times, they act as message bearers, omens or spirit guides.
While this philosophy could be baffling for the conventional, what really sets the shaman apart is how he becomes one.
Shamanism is said to be one of the oldest practices in existence–one that originated in Siberia and Mongolia.
A shaman is either born (passed through the bloodline) or chosen by the spirits. It is said when the right time comes, a prospective shaman would start seeing the signs.
When spirits pick a shaman, he goes through the shamanic illness, which could be an intense period of psychological and physical difficulty, a spiritual crisis or a certain animal appearing in his dreams. His agony ends when he answers the spirits’ call and becomes a shaman.
During this period, he journeys to the underworld where he is tortured by evil spirits, dismembered and killed. The shaman is reborn after he cures himself, acquiring the power to heal others in the process.
Shamanism is said to be one of the oldest practices in existence–one that originated in Siberia and Mongolia. Speculations peg it at the very root of all religions across the world. Dating back to the Palaeolithic period, it could very well be, but there is no way to ascertain it. New-age shamanism–with its healing centres, books and programmes–still struggles to scratch the surface of this ancient and universal practice.
As for the shaman, there may be more to him than the labels of mystical and magical we have ascribed to his beliefs. But for now, we must make do with what we have–and wait for the call, maybe?