Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.
View your shopping cart Shopping Cart | My Account | Help | Become a Fan on Facebook Become a Fan | Follow Us on Twitter Follow Us | Watch Us on YouTube Watch Us | Subscribe to our RSS Feeds Subscribe
Browse ProductsAuthorsArticlesBlogsEncyclopediaNewslettersAffiliate ProgramContact UsBooksellers
Advanced Search
ENCYCLOPEDIA
Glossary
What's New
Most Popular
List of Articles

Email Exclusives
Sign up to receive special offers and promotions from Llewellyn.

Get the Latest Issue of New Worlds

March/April 2015 Issue

New Worlds Catalog

Get the FREE app for your tablet and mobile device. Now available in the iTunes Store and the Google Play Store

Also available as a PDF File.

Click for more information about New Worlds or to receive issues via mail.


The Llewellyn Encyclopedia
Print this Term Print this Article

Shamanic Symbols

This article was written by Amber Wolfe on May 31, 2002
posted under Shamanism

Functioning as a priest(ess), healer and channel between the worlds, the shaman calls on a very unique abilities—that of divination. Divination is the ability to use perception and attunement to interpret signs and symbols. Shamanic divination is most closely related to the modern processes of diagnosis as used by doctors and analysis as used by psychologists. Just as doctors use physical symptoms to identify an illness and psychologists use behaviors to identify a disordered state of mind, the shaman uses signs from all aspects of Body/Mind/Spirit and Nature to identify surrounding conditions for people. The healing process of modern medicine and psychology involves a period of diagnosis before treatment. In much the same way, the work of the shaman requires the process of divination in order to deal with the energies of Nature and the realms of Spirit.

Many modern forms of divination have evolved into complicated and intricate systems, such as Tarot decks and astrology. These divination systems, like many others, can trace their origins to shamanic roots. However, their symbolic complexities have carried them somewhat away from the upper and lower worlds of the shaman, and have left them more in the middle world realm of Humankind. The unique form of shamanic divination is based on interpreting Nature aspects. The Plant, Animal, Mineral, and Human worlds are interpreted directly by the shaman. Their natural attributes symbolize similar qualities in the shaman and in the people.

For example: An eagle seen circling the community, then flying toward a distant mountain may be interpreted by the shaman to mean a time of spiritual healing is needed. This interpretation, or divination, from Nature signs is based on the shaman’s observance of the event and on his wisdom of what each aspect symbolized. The eagle, because it flies higher than any other bird, is thought to represent the highest forms of power. The eagle flies closest to the upper world of Spirit, so its power is spiritual. That which is closest to Spirit is most healing, therefore the eagle represents spiritual healing. Because the eagle circled the community, it may be interpreted that the need is for group spiritual healing. That the eagle flew off toward a distant mountain may be interpreted as a need for the shaman to go to the mountain and bring back spiritual healing to the community. Or it may be interpreted as symbolizing the need for the community to climb higher into spiritual awareness through ceremony or ritual.

Shamanic divination is not like an exact science with predictable causes and effects. The task of the shaman, in interpreting symbols from Nature, is to be flexible and continually open to new signs and information.

Because of the shamanic view of the living, vibrational interrelationships of all aspects of life, symbols from Nature can speak clearly to those who are attuned to it. As we in modern times begin to reclaim our connections to Nature, we are able to hear the messages it brings us. In the days when Humankind felt itself somehow separate from Nature, those who "watched for signs" were often ridiculed. Now, however, more and more of us are realizing that our relationship to Nature is deeply personal and significant in our lives. Whether we feel a strong connection to a part of Nature, or whether something from Nature appears to us in dreams or from an unusual source, we have begun to seek its meaning for us. This is the heart of shamanic divination.

Although many signs and events in Nature have come to have traditional symbolic meanings, it is our personal interpretation that we learn to look for first. All of the significant signs and events in Self, Nature, and Spirit are there to help the follower of the shamanic path If what we divine, or interpret, has meaning for another, it is because their path led them to it.

Like the shaman of old, we may be a catalyst to growth and knowledge, so long as we don’t seek to force our meanings or our paths on others. The shaman shares knowledge but does not seek to own it. For knowledge is power, and power is a gift.

Shamanism is an ancient art, a creative craft, and a way of wisdom arising from the ages past to align us with the transformative energies of Nature. To follow the path of the shaman, we need only open our minds and our hearts to the wisdom surrounding us. Shamanism helps us explore, and connect without superstition but with sincerity, to Self, Nature, and Spirit.

True health is more than a lack of disease or pain. Emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being all contribute to our overall experience of good health and positive satisfaction with ourselves and life. The new and evolving paradigm of health includes empowered self-awareness and active participation in our everyday, health-related choices. We are... read this article
Wisdom from the Trees
Gold and Alchemical Healing
Why the Waite-Smith Tarot Was the Almost Perfect Tarot
Demons, Fairies, and Saints in a Renaissance Manuscript of Magic
5 Reasons to Combine Crystals, Oils, and Essences to Facilitate a Life Well Lived

Most recent posts:
Angelic Ritual Possession
Readers, please enjoy this guest blog post by Aaron Leitch, author of several books, including Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires, The Angelical...

Answer the Call Spread
Taken from Tarot Spreads: Layouts and Techniques to Empower Your Readings by Barbara Moore. The Judgement card is about, in part, hearing a...

Wisdom of Swords Spread
Sasha Graham’s book 365 Tarot Spreads has a spread for every day of the year. She also includes an important historical moment from that day and...




Evidence of Eternity Evidence of Eternity
Communicating with Spirits for Proof of the Afterlife

By: Mark Anthony
Price: $15.99 US,  $18.50 CAN
Bite the Biscuit Bite the Biscuit
By: Linda O. Johnston
Price: $14.99 US,  $17.50 CAN
Come to Harm Come to Harm
A Novel

By: Catriona McPherson
Price: $14.99 US,  $17.50 CAN
The Final Reveille The Final Reveille
By: Amanda Flower
Price: $14.99 US,  $17.50 CAN
Llewellyn's Complete Dictionary of Dreams Llewellyn's Complete Dictionary of Dreams
Over 1,000 Dream Symbols and Their Universal Meanings

By: Michael Lennox
Price: $24.99 US,  $28.95 CAN