Shamanism, Illness and Healing
Just as shamanism teaches that there is a spiritual component to everything, it also suggests one or more spiritual elements exist at the center of every illness. Therefore, there is a functional spiritual aspect to any physical and emotional recovery or healing experience. Shamanic practitioners seek to assist their clients in cleansing, strengthening and/or renewing their vital life force or spirit. One’s soul essence can be depleted or damaged through trauma or ongoing abuse or distress. The shamanic practitioner often works with clients in one or more initial sessions to bring them back to a state in which they may experience deep inner strength and balance. Further exercises, study, meditations, prayerwork and/or ceremony may be recommended to be performed by the client alone or in community. This additional work is intended to further the process of spiritual growth and repair, which also helps with physical and emotional growth and repair.
Our culture already embraces one principle which is shamanic in nature: People who are always negative or constantly in a negative environment often become ill. One shamanic “antidote” might be to find ways for the sick person to be very positive to help manifest wellness. In shamanic practice, negative energy and its effects are called “spiritual intrusion.” The shaman performs what is called a “shamanic extraction” to remove the negative energy from the client’s system. From a shamanic perspective, people who constantly look in the mirror and think thoughts such as, “I hate my butt,” dump negative energy into themselves, wounding their spirits. In turn, this creates a field of negative energy around their rear end, which magnetically draws more negativity to it. The cycle can go on and on until it is broken by a more powerful, personal spiritual shift. A shaman can help facilitate that shift.
In his book, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, internationally renowned anthropologist Mircea Eliade concludes that shamanism is the foundation for all the world’s spiritual traditions. Shamanism can coexist comfortably with, support and even enhance all spiritual paths. Just as importantly, it can coexist with and holistically support all other positive healing methods − including modern medicine and its complementary modalities – and spiritual paths. In the spirit of shamanism, this coexistence is the most natural and balanced thing in the world.
© 2006, 2008 Neal Szpatura
An earlier version of this article appeared in “Balanced Living” magazine.
Stephen Neal Szpatura