Shamanism is likely the oldest system of healing and shows up cross culturally around the world. Every indigenous culture has some form of shamanism. The shaman was always the most important member of the tribe, for they were not only the healer, but also the teacher and the visionary, the one who was in deepest connection with the spirit world. To many westerners, the shaman has been a very misunderstood figure, often labeled as a quack or even insane. This is often because they were approached from a perspective deeply rooted in the materialistic rational paradigm, where only that which is physical is true. Because the shaman is affecting the seen through working with the unseen, or the physical through the energetic, it must be approached through a different perceptual lens.

The majority of shamanic healing practices work through the energetic anatomy of a person, be it the chakras, the aura, etheric or astral bodies. It is healing on the level of the soul or the spirit.The key is that they are able to make changes in the physical body by reprogramming the blueprint from which it is designed into one that is harmonious and healthy. This is achieved through working with guides or allies that often take the form of animals, plants, stones, ancestors, or spirits. By spirit, we mean the vital force that is held to give life; a very specific quality or force of nature.

Within the shamanic cosmology, the world is divided into three levels: the upper, lower, and middle worlds. This is often symbolized by a world tree, with the roots, trunk, and branches corresponding to the lower, middle and upper worlds, respectively. This is the trinity of shamanism. Each level contains within it a certain vibrational quality that holds specific wisdom and healing that is accessible to the shaman by entering a non-ordinary or altered state of consciousness. The ability to enter the other reality is frequently achieved through the use of a drum, dance, chanting, and medicinal plants or mushrooms. The shaman travels through these three worlds to gather information and medicines that are specific for the person they are working with.

The other aspect of the shamanic cosmology is the four sacred directions, or the four winds. It is also related to the four elements and this correspondence may change depending on the tradition. This has been called by some Earth astrology. The four directions are ways of connecting with the seasons of our lives, and understanding them greatly assists in coming into harmony with our own natural rhythms and patterns. Each direction typically has an animal, plant, or mineral that holds the energetic quality that corresponds to it. By understanding where a person is on their own personal medicine wheel, the shaman is able to better determine which medicines are best for them.

The Four Sacred Directions

The Three Worlds of Shamanism