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Shamanic Healing

This article was written by Amber Wolfe on May 29, 2002
posted under Shamanism

Shamanic healings have long been shrouded in mystery, misunderstanding, and superstition. Still, as we learn to better understand the shamanic philosophy of life, we can begin to have clarity about this special form of healing. Basically, the shaman views the purpose of life as being spiritual development and attunement. This attainment means that the individual spirit, or soul, is in harmony with all the aspects of Self, Nature, and Spirit.

A healthy soul, or spirit, is one who maintains a balanced relationship with all of the energies of the universe. The attunement of Mind, Body, and Spirit is seen to be a harmonious quest, resulting in both health and wholeness.

The shamanic concepts of a web of life, a net of power, or a fabric of existence shared by all, reflects the recognition of the complex interweavings of energies that is the universe. For the shaman, there is no real separation of Mind, Body, and Spirit—no separation of the worlds or levels of consciousness other than ones that are arbitrarily created to give us individual identity and form. Each individual is viewed as a thread in a great universal tapestry, woven with a harmonious living pattern. So long as an individual is on a balance path, the thread that the individual represents runs true. When an imbalance occurs for the individual, then disharmony, or disease, occurs.

The sick or diseased person is viewed as having a disorder of Spirit that has interfered with natural attunement to the energies of the universe. This lack of attunement is seen as having caused a loss of power, or a hole in the protective mantle of energies surrounding the individual. These holes further cause damage to the universal fabric of life.

Like the proverbial weak link in a chain, the sick person is seen as a single link that must be dealt with in order to maintain the strength of the whole. This strengthening, or healing process, is done to realign the individual with all the energies of the universe. For this reason, the first order of business in shamanic healing is to increase the power of the sick person. In order to facilitate healing for the sick person, the shaman must first strive to mend the leaks of personal power. Only then can the power of the disease be dealt with effectively.

In both stages of shamanic healing—the strengthening of personal power, and the counter actions against the power of the illness—the shaman uses methods and medicines designed to encourage the sick person (Body, Mind, and Spirit) to participate in the healing process. The shaman enters the realm of journey-level consciousness and active imagination in order to share the experience of the disease and of the healing. The shaman, as master of energies and evoker of imagery, can catalyze or facilitate the healing process of the individual.

In shamanic healing, both the shaman and the sick person share the view of the interconnectedness of all aspects of life. The task of the shaman is to make the sick person fully aware of the significance and meaning of the disease. This awareness goes beyond physical and mental awareness into spiritual understanding of the cause and effect of the disease. Again, the shaman views disease as a disorder of Spirit.

In the shamanic healing process, the shaman and the sick person share a level of awareness at which they are able to communicate, Spirit to Spirit. At this level of awareness, the sick person is able to choose to become healthy by redirecting inner energies, realigning with those of the universe. But most importantly, the sick person must be the one to choose this. For just as the shaman makes no value distinction between the worlds of Self, Nature, and Spirit, the shaman makes no value distinction between life and death. Both are viewed as part of the same process of spiritual attunement and development.

It may be clearer to say that the shaman makes no value judgment in the healing process. Life and death are seen as equally valuable resolutions in the process of re-aligning the individual with Spirit. Where and how the sick person chooses to realign with Spirit is seen as an individual choice to make—not the shaman’s.

It is natural that this attitude is greatly misunderstood—particularly in Western society, which views the healing process in terms of success and failure. Shamanic healing may be best viewed as a process of awareness of choice. The outcome is viewed as a choice made, rather than a success or failure on the part of the sick person or the shaman.

The shaman works to remove all obstacles to clarity and to mend leaks of personal power, in order to let the sick person’s natural self-healing process work its own wonders. Whatever the methods used or the medicine applied, the shaman knows that these only serve to clear the path for the process of self-healing, which must ultimately take over.

Tales of shamans removing masses of disease and tumors from a sick person’s body are, more often than not, symbolic and ritualistic removals of other substituted objects. These symbolic rituals are used to represent the ability of the shaman, in unity with the ability of the sick person, to remove the actual disease. These rituals should not be viewed as tricks, but as tools that focus the sick person’s awareness on the process of self-healing.

As to the documented cases of actual physical removal of diseased tumors and growths from the body of the sick person: scientists are striving to find a framework in which to understand, explain, or measure the process. Although such cases are exceedingly rare, they do exist and they do defy conventional measurement or definition. It may be that the interactive healing process of the shaman and the self-healing of the sick person reaches a level we can only speculate on metaphysically.

Perhaps it is best to approach such phenomena in shamanic healing by remembering one thing: The shaman seeks clarification—not verification. However strange a shamanic healing process may seem, it is the clear function of the healing process we must seek. If the function is to help the individual find clarity and awareness of his or her own self-healing abilities, then the function is positive. If the function is to amaze others with immeasurable feats and phenomenal actions, then the function is in danger of becoming negative.

The process of self-healing is an incredibly complex issue. It is one that we will continue to be enlightened about as we evolve in our own ability and perceptions. For followers of a shamanic path, the incredible "miracles" of the shamans may best be seen as reminders and symbols of our own self-healing abilities. It is also useful to remember that self-healing comes from the working connection of Body, Mind, and Spirit. To truly understand and experience shamanic healing, we must first seek to align and attune our own energies of Mind/Body/Spirit. From this alignment and attunement we may begin to glimpse the powers of shamanic self-healing.

"Writers will put things into a novel that they daren't put in sober prose, where you have to dot the I's and cross the T's."1 This quote is from Dion Fortune, to my mind the foremost magical teacher of the West. It tells us clearly that in writing fiction, magicians can go out on a limb. They can give us a taste, secondhand but deeply felt, of... read this article
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