In modern spiritual circles and communities shamanism is everywhere. There is an active interest in it, Facebook groups in the tens of thousands dedicated to the subject, and a huge variety of workshops, books, and material on the internet about modern shamanism. It is a common question in these groups if anyone can be a Shaman, and each week people email me asking if they are a Shaman.
The basic answer to this is no, not everyone can be a Shaman. I know it is a popular new-age idea that everyone should be their own Shaman, and there are thousands of shamanic practitioners and people interested in shamanism who don’t want to hear this. But like most new-age spiritual movements, the Shamanic movement has a focus on the positive “fluffy” side of Shamanism without any ability or desire to understand what being a Shaman actually entails.
Anyone can be a Shamanic Practitioner, however. A Shamanic practitioner means that someone has learned the techniques, taken the workshops, and has an interest in shamanism and utilizes these practices in their life. This is done without any sort of calling but as a sort of yearning to connect to something spiritual. This yearning is completely understandable in society as people seek to heal themselves and find that shamanic techniques are a valuable part of their path. People may then choose to hang a proverbial shingle on their door and use the techniques they have learned in their courses on others.
It is wonderful that people are attracted to Shamanism. Each one of us that begins to take personal responsibility for our own healing helps both ourselves and the world as a whole. Shamanic techniques deal with mental constructs, thoughtforms (our thoughts and the thoughts of others) and emotional/psychological healing. As a whole we all need a lot of healing at this level and anyone who wants to explore shamanic techniques should be able to. There are a wide derth of classes, workshops, teachers, books, and online forums dedicated to people who want to heal themselves through Shamanism. There are also thousands of Shamanic Practitioners who utilize these techniques to assist others. These practitioners can range from being quite effective to completely humorless and ego-driven using their credentials and amount of workshops taken in an attempt to support a sense of superiority. Many shamanic practitioners are working through their own wounds, their own issues, their own illusions, and are doing their own work utilizing their own energy. Most of these practitioners self-create, or create all sorts of helping spirits, animals, and so on out of their own thoughtforms or the disassociated aspects of themselves.
Being a Shaman is quite different. Being called to be a Shaman is a much different path. Anyone can be a Shamanic Practitioner. Anyone can take a few workshops and learn how to journey, learn how to do a soul retrieval, and so forth. Not everyone is a Shaman. A Shaman is not something that you become. It is something that you are. From birth you are different than others. You are part nature, you are on a different wavelength than everyone else around you. You can see through illusions. While there is a sort of checklist of experiences a Shaman goes through, such as near-death or death experiences, intense dreams, spirit-led initiations, connection to nature, and so forth, my favorite understanding of what makes someone a Shaman is the term “spirit lawyer”. Shamans are able to communicate with the “hidden” worlds, meaning the spiritual realms that are part of all of our every-day existence that only some of us can see or access. Shamans negotiate between the spirits and beings and the “ordinary” world, meaning consensual reality and the people and communities that make up those worlds.
99.99% of us are not meant to be Shamans. New-age Shamanism believes that anyone can be anything they want. Let us think about this in a logical manner. When I was younger I enjoyed basketball. As I got older (and I stopped getting taller at age 12) I went from being a forward to a point guard. I am not a fast runner and quickly found myself on the “B” rather than the “A” team. In high school I found myself benched most of the time. Even if I really, really wanted to I would not have been a professional athlete, or even a college athlete. It just wasn’t going to happen. This is true for most people- there are millions of us out there that wanted to be musicians, artists, CEO’s, millionaires, teachers, astronauts, veterinarians, and more. Most of us are not meant to be doing these things. It is wonderful if we do music in our spare time (and we should!) but most of us are not destined to be musicians.
Being a Shaman is a calling. It is wonderful if people want to learn the tools of “core” shamanism to better their lives, become better and more whole people. But being a Shaman fulfills a societal role. It really is not about the individual. Many of us not out of the “I” or Self stages (where we think that the whole world is about us and participate in spiritual narcissism) can not comprehend that in society there are people that need to fulfill certain roles. There are people called to be farmers, teachers, archeologists, healers, doctors, plumbers, and every profession under the sun. There is a spiritual reason why a child obsessed with dinosaurs since age 5 becomes a Paleontologist. That child was called. Similarly a Shaman is called to be an intermediary, or spirit lawyer, between the worlds.
Being a Shaman is not something that you would want to be if you actually knew what it entailed. With the explosion of interest in Shamanism comes multiple views and understandings of Shamanism and the Shamanic call from people that have no direct experience or understanding of what being a Shaman is. This is why there is so much discussion about who can be a Shaman, what a Shaman is, and thousands of modern people who aspire to be a Shaman. While aspirational shamans or shamanic practitioners understand that Shamans can see between the worlds, or understand that they go through initiations, they rarely understand how deadly this can be. They do not understand how isolating it is to be able to see things that others don’t. When you are a Shaman you are not part of the community- you are outside of it. You are isolated- not because you want to be but because you see and feel much more than others do. You are different, and no matter to what extent you can get along with people you always have the mark of a Shaman and are seen as different. You do not make up a “tribe” of Shamans. You are not in control of many of your experiences. When spirits and beings are not self-created they are much more difficult to work with. You are wild and not quite human. There is a part of you that is animalistic. When you are a Shaman in modern society there is frequently nowhere to turn, nobody to train with, and nobody who understands you. This is because all Shamanic courses, message boards, books, and more are geared towards the Shamanic practitioner or the aspirational Shaman.
When you are not a Shaman everything is a mental construct. You can talk about how an initiation made you come to a state of reconciling death, how a dream did. But until you have the direct experience of physically, mentally, and spiritually dying to this world these are all just more illusions and thoughtforms. Let me put this more simply. I can talk a bit about what a pilot does, I have been in a small plane and asked a bunch of questions, I have read a few books and a Wikipedia page on the subject. I have been a passenger flying. But I have never had the direct experience of flying a plane (this is a very good thing). I do not feel called to be a pilot even though I am interested in it. I can talk all I want about how my experience of flying has impacted me. But until I fly the plane myself I really don’t have direct experience of being a pilot.
So my simple answer is NO, not everyone can be a Shaman. Not everyone is called to be a Shaman. A Shaman is called by the needs of the community and has abilities and direct experiences that are so outside the realms of ordinary reality that they are unable to fit in to society. They have spiritual experiences, spiritual teachers, and can interact with spiritual energies in a way that to most people, even Shamanic practitioners, would be terrifying. They have spiritual experiences and initiations happen to them not because they go to a class or journey or ask for them but as part of their spiritual training process. Shamans do not get to have control- they cannot neatly divide the worlds and think that the spiritual is “other” or something that needs to be journeyed to or accessed. The spiritual is all around them. It is their daily life. They have to interact with dark and light forces and cannot choose to simply think “light” or say that they will only work with light. They understand that the world is both dark and light and do not participate in spiritual bypass. They cannot do so. A real Shaman is an outlier in society, they think and act differently than most everyone else. They can see under the masks of others and the illusions and memes of the world.
Most of us would not choose this path if we had a choice. If you want to learn shamanic techniques, that is wonderful. They can help you heal and connect you with others who have the same interests. There are thousands of workshops, books, and teachers out there for you. If you are a real Shaman, and not a Shamanic practitioner, the road is difficult, especially with the modern interest in shamanism and life coach, energy workers, therapists, and shamanic practitioners out there offering courses. As a Shaman who has been called it can be difficult to know where to turn, to be overwhelmed, and to be emotional over the sheer amount of new-age B.S. on the subject that is out there by people who do not have direct experience of the path.
I can help. I work with Shamans to answer the call. I teach you how to access your ancestors, work with spirits and beings, understand what you are going through so you can flourish. I help you navigate your dreams, the initiations, the emotions over feeling so different. I help with boundaries, clearing and cleansing practices, and more. We need more Shamans in this world to answer the call. Most modern Shamans do not know how to. If you are interested you can contact me. It is important to note that although I work with people experiencing a wide variety of spiritual awakenings and have worked with dozens of Shamans, I do not teach aspirational shamans or shamanic practitioners. There are many resources out there for you. The focus of my practice is on helping people, like Shamans, who are having issues of a spiritual nature come to a state of balance, power, and understanding with their experiences, and understand their awakenings, initiations, and callings that are already going on. I have chosen to focus my teaching this way because as a modern Shaman there were little resources out there for me when I was figuring things out. Every resource was for aspirational Shamans or Shamanic practitioners. This continues to this day. I am proud to be one of the few resources to help Shamans.