Shamans, Ghosts and Exorcisms

Discussion in 'Theories' started by SASWS_Paranormal, Sep 6, 2008.

  1. SASWS_Paranormal

    SASWS_Paranormal Residual

    A shaman is a practitioner of a spiritual belief system in various societies who is able to diagnose, cure, and sometimes cause illness because of a special connection to, or control over, spirits. Shamanism is based on the belief that invisible forces and spirits that affect the lives of the living permeate the visible world. Different forms of shamanism are found around the world, and the healing areas of shamanism are as diverse as the specialties of modern medicine. A shaman is similar to a modern doctor because each shaman has a specialization where his or her gift or talent is strongest. Although some cultures use the same title for all shamanic practitioners, they still have their specializations. These specializations generally break down into a few general categories: channeling (or possession) for the purpose of guidance and healing, divination, dreams; energy transfer (sending or drawing healing energies); funerary (which is dealing with the spirits of the dead to ensure they go where they need to go); plant medicines; and spirit communion (working with spirits). No one is capable of performing all of these, and few are capable of performing more than one. Like modern medicine, traditional aboriginal shamans work in a healing community of shamans, through which a client has the best chance at finding the most appropriate healer for their particular situation.

    What the dictionary definition leaves out is that there are good shamans and bad shamans. Shamans can manipulate spirits to diagnose and cure victims of witchcraft (witchcraft in these societies was much different than the New Age witchcraft of today, it was a title to identify one who performed curses and made deadly concoctions to poison victims). In tribal societies, witches are the shamans’ mortal enemies. Some societies distinguish shamans who cure from sorcerers who harm; others believe that all shamans have both curative and deadly powers.

    In traditional shamanism, a shaman is distinguished from all other types of spiritual practice through the use of the ecstatic trance-journey. "Ecstasy" refers to an altered state of consciousness that goes beyond physical awareness. While in this state, the shaman often loses awareness of the environment, and control of their body. Instead of experiencing the ordinary physical world around them, they feel themselves traveling in a journey into alternate realms, where the spirits and ancestors dwell. The experiences of this journey often engage all of the shaman's senses as fully as if they were in the physical world. The shamanic trance is most often achieved through the use of herbs, psychoactive plant medicines, bodily pain or discomfort inflicted on oneself, sleep deprivation, fasting, isolation, or rhythmic sounds such as drumming or rattling. The trance state often involves extreme physical discomforts such as violent purging, or psychological discomforts suffered from the plant medicines. Traditional shamanic cultures consider these techniques necessary to break down the barriers, which keep the practitioner locked into physical awareness, thus allowing them to be open to spirit and achieve contact with the spirit world. Shamanism requires specialized knowledge and abilities, which are obtained through heredity or a supernatural calling.

    In traditional shamanic cultures the society often sees themselves as dependent upon the shaman for their survival as a whole, making the high-risk techniques justifiable. The possibility of harm to the individual pales when compared to the harm that is believed will come to the community if the shaman does not intervene with the spirits on behalf of the community. Traditional shamans are initiated and trained by experienced shamans, creating a continuity of tradition, methods, and culture. Likely candidates are identified and trained, and a shamanic death is observed. Through this shamanic death experience the initiate learns to travel and work in the spirit world while still under the tutelage of a seasoned mentor. Death and resurrection is a recurrent theme of shamanism - and in most cultures, experiencing it is part of the shamanic initiation. The shaman must experience death, travel to the realms of the dead, conquer death, and finally return to the world of the living, resurrected and possessing knowledge and power over those realms. This experience might result from a life-threatening accident or illness, it could be induced by the spirits, sought after by taking great risks, or elder shamans through a variety of difficult rituals might induce it. But even when ritually induced, it is not symbolic - it is experienced as real.

    A shaman acquires his calling through different means. Among the Siberian Chukchi, one may behave in ways that Western society would call psychotic, but which they interpret as possession by a spirit demanding that one assume the shamanic vocation. Among the South American Tapirape', shamans are called in their dreams. Native Americans would seek a communion with spirits through a ritual called a "spirit quest", and anyone who showed signs of having shamanic ability during this rite would be discovered and become apprenticed to an accomplished shaman or brought into a shamanic society. Shamans often observe special fasts and taboos particular to their vocation. Often the shaman has or acquires one or more helpers, usually spirits in animal form, or (sometimes) of departed shamans.

    Unlike current New Age belief, a shaman was traditionally paid for his services. The fee often depended on either the hazards involved with treatment or the severity of the condition. Today, many shamans in aborginal cultures still charge for their extraordinary gifts and talents. Shamans, when called upon to deal with spirits, often utilize their gift or powers to not only see the energy of an entity, but also to manipulate it for curing, controlling, capturing, and sometimes conjuring. I have a saying, “just because one can see spirit does not mean one can ‘handle’ a spiritâ€
     

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