Shamans have been in existence since the beginnings of modern man. Shaman means, “one who knows”. Importantly, knowing all gave great power to the wielder of such knowledge. Consequently, the tribal chieftain often kept a shaman as a kind of “priest”. Many strange tasks were performed by the Shaman, this included dealing with evil spirits and healing the sick.
The shaman used various methods to enter a trance state and bring back information from the other world. They also had great astronomical knowledge and could, for example, Predict the return of a comet.
Some anthropologists think that shamanism was the core religion of humanity, with all others flowing from it. (Link 1). Here are ten strange tasks that a shaman could perform.
Communicate with spirits
One of the main tasks of a shaman is to interface with non-ordinary realities. Shamans believe that there are three levels of these realities. The names vary depending on the culture involved. Indeed it is in these worlds that spirits are encountered.
The middle world is the closest to ours and is where you can encounter spirits of the secret commonwealth. This is the land of fairies, elves, and dwarves. Consequently, these entities can cross into our world.
The lower world is entered through caves and tunnels. Here dwell the spirits of nature, animals, and Earth spirits. It is also the realm of dead shamans.
The upper world is a place of light and ethereal beings who can fly. The beings here impart wisdom and advice. This is the hardest world to enter.
In dreams, shamans travel to the other world and receive teaching and knowledge from a number of entities. Dreams can be metaphors for actions that the shaman or tribe must take.
Guardian spirits come in big dreams that often repeat themselves. Night after night, these dreams give life guidance that you must follow.
Spirits of the dead can come to you in dreams, they do not know that they are dead. These dreams often become nightmares.
“Any attempt to understand dreams should be accompanied by a serious study of metaphors, interpreting your dreams is never easy. Doing so without understanding the spiritual power of metaphors is impossible. ”
Fly around the earth
Magic mushrooms and other hallucinogens were used by shamans to release the spirit so that it could fly. This out-of-body experience is a common occurrence when in a trance state. Shaman act as an intermediary with the spirit world. Once the shaman leaves his body he is accompanied by animal spirit protectors. He may also become an animal himself.
The spirit guide will often take the Shaman on a sweeping journey over the landscape. This may be on a future path the Shaman must take. Or it may show a possible future to avoid. The spirit journey is often shown in Shamanic art, be it on cave walls or ancient pottery.
Foresee the future
Shamans possess a kind of clairvoyance that enables them to predict human and animal behavior. Some shamans could “broadcast visions of the future” to the whole tribe. For example, Manuel Cordova, who spent several years with Amazon Indians, recounts the following.
After drinking the vision extract the tribe saw a vision of the future with their Village in flames, after being attacked by rubber planters. A rubber planter is killed and a vision of a new village appears. All the members of the tribe see the same thing as if some kind of collective consciousness is taking place.
Heal the sick
The shaman uses spirit relationships to change the health and well-being of individuals. He enters the spirit realm and uses entities to heal maladies with a spiritual component, such as depression and illnesses related to community disharmony such as anxiety.
The American Phycologist Stanley Krippner:
“..describes shamans as the first physicians, diagnosticians, psychotherapists, religious functionaries, magicians, performing artists, and storytellers.”
If part of the soul is damaged or missing the shaman can direct and restore energy that brings balance back to the person involved. Shamans may also coordinate with the other healers who use botanical medicines. (Link 3)
Accompany the dead to the next world
A belief in the spirit journey is common among shamanic cultures. The soul was thought to enter the afterlife through the Northern celestial pole. (Collins P24). The shaman cleared the path to the pole by entering a trance state and dealing with any dangerous entities.
There is evidence that belief in the spirit journey was practiced at Gobekli Tepe, one of the most ancient religious sites on earth. Here 12,000 years ago a culture erected carved pillars with astronomical symbolism. The vulture was used as a symbol of death and rebirth.
Another symbol of the shamanic journey was a disembodied head, this can be found on Pillar 18 of Enclosure D at Gobekli Tepe (collins P22). After death, the head was removed from the corpse and the rest was left for the vultures to feed on.
Also on pillar 18 is a symbol that has been associated with comets.
Predict the return of a comet
The shaman spun and whirled intoxicated by the vision extract.
“I see a dragon in the sky,” he said, “it will be visible in the south, at dawn, three days from now”
Fearfully the tribe awaited the fateful day. As the first glimmering light of dawn forced away the stars, a shout rang out,
Along the horizon streaked a three-tailed comet.
In ancient times comets were always seen as a portent of doom. The shaman was tasked to protect the tribe by performing certain rites.
At Gobekli Tepe, in Turkey, On pillar 18 of Enclosure D, a symbol, in the form of a three-tailed comet, sits on the belt of this T-shaped, anthropomorphic object.
The T-shaped pillars represent humans with hands folded around in front. Necklaces, probably badges of office, surround the neck. It is on pillar 18 that the comet symbol appears.
Collins proposes that the comet shown on the pillar was in fact Halley’s comet. This celestial object has a predictable return time (76 years) and could be used by a Shamanic tradition to awe the tribe and maintain the power of the “priesthood”.
Use music and dance to enter a trance state
Rhythmic drumming was often used to enter a trance state. This could be done so that the whole tribe could share telepathic visions. Spinning around, jumping up and down, and chanting enabled the shaman to leave his body. This was known as the shamanic journey.
The drumming used is similar to modern dance music. The meditative state brought on by regular drum beats could also be used for healing.
Modern science backs up the fact that drum beats can change our brainwave frequency. Analysis shows that during drumming the frequency drops into the theta band (dream state). This facilitates a shift in consciousness.
Perform rites for hunting
One day a hunter who was half-starved approached the chief/shaman. He related that hunting for him was poor and there had been a series of accidents.
The chief told him to return the next night for the “vision extract” ceremony. Night set in and the whole tribe gathered around the fire. Each drank the extract and soon after coloured visions began. These were shared by all. The “boa chant” brought a giant boa constrictor that slithered past the viewers. Next, more snakes appeared followed by a plethora of birds. A giant eagle spread its wings and snapped its beak. Consequently, the ceremony continued all night. (Wilson P 234)
The sun rose and the unfortunate hunter was asked by the chief if he could now “dominate the spirits of the forest” he said that his “understanding” was renewed and that he could now feed his family.
Die and be reborn
Dismemberment and reassembly of the body was a common shamanic belief. In fact, the Ancient Egyptians shared this belief. Osiris was dismembered by his enemies and then reassembled to copulate with Isis, who then conceives his son.
To become a shaman you must first die and be reborn. Consequently, a trainee Shaman will enter the middle world and encounter his totem, usually a small animal such as a rabbit or often an owl. Next, a teacher figure appears, he will wear a cowl that hides his true identity. Secondly, a wild animal or weapon, such as a sword, will be used to tear or cut apart the shamans body. All his limbs will be removed.
Shortly after the body will be reassembled and the new shaman will return to our world, reborn as a practicing wizard.