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Vision Serpent



Summary: This FAQ contains the charter for soc.religion.shamanism, details of submissions policies, and frequently asked questions culled from the articles that have appeared in the newsgroup.

Last-modified: 22 Sep 1995, Version: 2.0

This FAQ is a monthly posting in support of the newsgroup soc.religion.shamanism. It is maintained by dean@netcom.com (Dean Edwards). Send comments to srs-admin@aldhfn.org



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  1. Who are the moderators of soc.religion.shamanism
  2. Submissions address and mailing list
  3. The Charter of soc.religion.shamanism
  4. Why is this news group in the soc.religion hierarchy?
  5. Where does the word "shaman" come from and how does it relate to "shamanism"?
  6. Submissions Details
  7. Comments on Etiquette
  8. Comments on Flames
  9. Reader comments on shamanic terms and concepts

1. Who are the Moderators?

Skip Watson (ciaran@aldhfn.org)
Dean Edwards (deane@netcom.com)
Al Billings (mimir@illuminati.io.com)
Iraj Mughal (iraj@gnu.ai.mit.edu)

2. What is the submission address and is there mailing list access?

Submissions-postings for soc.religion.shamanism should be sent to: srs@alumni.caltech.edu

Administrative material and queries should be sent to: srs-request@alumni.caltech.edu

3. Charter of soc.religion.shamanism

  1. Purpose

    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.

  2. Background

    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.

  3. Moderator Policies

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

    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.

  4. Submissions Guidelines

    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 (ciaran@aldhfn.org) (*Note, this moderator is currently inactive.)
    Dean Edwards (deane@netcom.com)

    Note: since the original vote additional moderators have been added as provided for by the terms of this charter. They are:

    Al Billings (mimir@illuminati.io.com)(currently inactive)
    Iraj Mughal (iraj@gnu.ai.mit.edu)
    Submissions-postings for soc.religion.shamanism should be sent to srs@alumni.caltech.edu

    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: srs-request@alumni.caltech.edu

  5. Comments on Etiquette

    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

4. 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. (deane@netcom.com).

5. 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. (deane@netcom.com)

6. Submissions Details

  1. 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.

  2. 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 address.

  3. 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)

7. Comments on Etiquette

The following suggestions are offered for your consideration before posting.
  1. 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.

  2. 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!)

  3. 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.

  4. Please choose your Subject: heading carefully!

  5. 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.

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

  7. A signature statement is not considered to be a part of the article submitted. Precedence 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 good practice and as such are not a part of the body of an article. Signoffs 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 violations.

8. Comments on Flames

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. (rsahebi@netcom.com)

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

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9. 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. (©1995 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 (deane@netcom.com)

One who enters altered states of awareness and communicates with spirit guides to bring back information or healing (definition borrowed from Harner!) Ann Albers (albersa@aztec.asu.edu)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

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 (stef@netcom.com)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

Traditional Shamanism: Native traditional practices of those who have acquired the ability to move into and perceive other worlds by means of “archaic techniques of ecstasy” 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 (deane@netcom.com)

Shamanism as practiced and handed down for centuries in a specific native or aboriginal culture. Ann Albers (albersa@aztec.asu.edu)

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 "shamanism." The proposed term "Post-Shamanic" is intended to address such gray areas as well as more fully developed systems and practices which contain shamanic elements. Dean Edwards (deane@netcom.com)

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's cultural heritage. Ann Albers (albersa@aztec.asu.edu)

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 Institute for Shamanic Studies (,now located in Marin County, in northern California.

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 shamanism. Dean Edwards (deane@netcom.com)

The recent revival of shamanic techniques in urban Western culture. (cf. neo-paganism)? Stef Jones (stef@netcom.com)

Pseudo-shamanism: A term applied to non-ecstatic visionary traditions such as those found among many Native Americans in North America. Dean Edwards (deane@netcom.com)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

The Harner Method:

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 journey.

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 (stef@netcom.com)

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. deane@netcom.com (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 shamanism. Dean Edwards (deane@netcom.com)

The belief that new information technologies such as the net can be used in the practice of shamanism (?) Stef Jones (stef@netcom.com)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

The practice of shamanism within a particular culture. Stef Jones (stef@netcom.com)

Siberian Complex: The native cultural traditions of Siberia, an the Finnic peoples of Norther Europe. Dean Edwards (deane@netcom.com)

Circumpolar Shamanic Tradition: The native traditional shamanic systems and practices of shamans of the Arctic and Subarctic regions. Dean Edwards (deane@netcom.com)

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 (deane@netcom.com) (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 (jane@swdc.stratus.com)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

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 (jane@swdc.stratus.com)

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 (jane@swdc.stratus.com) (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 (albersa@aztec.asu.edu)

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 (deane@netcom.com) (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 (jane@swdc.stratus.com)

Spirit Teacher: A spirit or energy being that acts as a teacher for a person. Can be contacted shamanically. Stef Jones (stef@netcom.com)

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 (jane@swdc.stratus.com)

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 (deane@netcom.com) (August, 1995)

An entity who provides guidance or suggestions, but more as an equal than a teacher. Usually animal spirits. Jilara (jane@swdc.stratus.com)

Spirit helper whose primary function is to guard your physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual well-being Ann Albers (albersa@aztec.asu.edu)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

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 (jane@swdc.stratus.com)

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 (stef@netcom.com)

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 (albersa@aztec.asu.edu)

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 consciousness. Dean Edwards (deane@netcom.com)

Entity associated with a natural force or spirit of place. Most Japanese kami are nature spirits. Jilara (jane@swdc.stratus.com)

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

Spirit/essence/energy of a plant, animal, or mineral Ann Albers (albersa@aztec.asu.edu)

Spirit Wife/Husband/Spouse/Lover: A spirit who engages the shaman in an inner sexual relationship and may even become the person's numinous spouse. This is a frequently encountered motif in both Siberian Shamanic Tradition and Celtic Faerie Lore. Dean Edwards (deane@netcom.com)

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 (jane@swdc.stratus.com)

Totem: animal spirit that is among your mythological ancestors Ann Albers (albersa@aztec.asu.edu)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

A "spirit clan" symbol. Jilara (jane@swdc.stratus.com)

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 (jane@swdc.stratus.com)

Totemism: A system of practice, belief in or use of totems. (See Totem.) Dean Edwards (deane@netcom.com

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 ‘breath of heaven’ or breath of Spirit’. 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 (deane@netcom.com)

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 (albersa@aztec.asu.edu)

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 (deane@netcom.com) (August, 1995)

The state of blending with cosmic consciousness; a merging with the God/Spirit/universal energy Ann Albers (albersa@aztec.asu.edu)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

I like your definitions here, but feel that I experience shamanic ecstasy when I am bathed in the radiant-love-energy of my guides Ann Albers (albersa@aztec.asu.edu)

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 (stef@netcom.com)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

Altered state of awareness where the shaman travels to other times, places, or dimensions. Ann Albers (albersa@aztec.asu.edu)

Shamanic Flight: Another term for "Journeying" Stef Jones (stef@netcom.com)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

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 (albersa@aztec.asu.edu)

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 (stef@netcom.com)

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 (stef@netcom.com)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

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 (stef@netcom.com)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

Shamanic Healing: Healing via shamanic methods such as journeying,working with spirit helpers, extraction, soul retrieval, etc. Ann Albers (albersa@aztec.asu.edu)

Shamanic Healing: Healing which is done by a shaman. Such healing may be physical, psychic or spiritual. Dean Edwards (deane@netcom.com) (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 (stef@netcom.com)

(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 strength.

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 (stef@netcom.com)

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 ‘soul retrieval’ 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 (deane@netcom.com)

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 (stef@netcom.com)

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 problems. Ann Albers (albersa@aztec.asu.edu)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

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

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 (stef@netcom.com))

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 (deane@netcom.com)

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 (stef@netcom.com)

The process of re-focusing the lost soul essence on the present. Ann Albers (albersa@aztec.asu.edu)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

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 (stef@netcom.com)

Shamanizing: The experience of the shaman working while entering and experiencing shamanic ecstasy, usually in a ceremonial setting. Dean Edwards (deane@netcom.com)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

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 "shamanic sickness".) (See also Call.) Dean Edwards (deane@netcom.com)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

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 (albersa@aztec.asu.edu)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

Shapeshifting, Shapechanging: A motif frequently encountered in shamanic practice. There seem to be three distinct types of shape- changing.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 (deane@netcom.com)

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 (stef@netcom.com)

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 (albersa@aztec.asu.edu)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

Universal symbol for the connection between heaven and earth Ann Albers (albersa@aztec.asu.edu)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

Metaphor for the flow of life/Spirit Ann Albers (albersa@aztec.asu.edu)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

Ordinary Reality: Normal everyday reality and the physical world and universe. Dean Edwards (deane@netcom.com)

Consensus reality of third-dimensional form Ann Albers (albersa@aztec.asu.edu)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

"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 (stef@netcom.com)

Middle Earth: Middle Earth may be either a parallel physical world or this world itself. Dean Edwards (deane@netcom.com)

"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 (stef@netcom.com)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

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

"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 (stef@netcom.com)

Dreamtime: The original state of being; the energetic template or dimension which underlies and affects all physical form. Ann Albers (albersa@aztec.asu.edu)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

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 (deane@netcom.com)

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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