No, they don't make Shamans like they used to.
And even though I'm being a little facetious, it's really the truth. At least in the western world.
We're growing, no doubt about it. People are waking up to who they are again, and remembering that they aren't meant to be a useless bag of flesh propped up by a frame of bones.
People are meant to be more. A lot more. And we're starting to embrace that again.
Which means that we need to explore the ways we can figure out if we're really awakening to the Spirit World.
In indigenous Tribal cultures, the ways to tell if someone is called by the Spirits varies. Each sign or criteria has a different degree of acceptance. But, each group seems to have similar - if not the same - ways to tell if the Spirits have called an individual.
Shamanic Illness & NDE
One of the most common ways across almost all cultures is that the future Shaman takes ill. It’s not usually a terminal illness, but it can be.
In some cases, the illness is a consequence of the Shamans refusal to take the role. An invading spirit will cause the illness (which is the cause of most illnesses in Shamanic cultures), but a peer Shaman wouldn't be able to perform a successful Spirit Extraction.
The individual will be ill - or potentially go all the way to suffering an NDE (or Near-Death Experience) - until they surrender to the will of the Spirits.
Once the individual surrenders to the will of the Spirits to make them a Shamanic Practitioner, the illness miraculously disappears in its entirety.
Other forms of NDE are possible in some cultures, also, without the preceding illness.
For example: a potential Shaman may be out hunting, and fall out of a tree while pursuing a particular bird. They may be knocked unconscious when they hit the ground, and then experience being in the Otherworld where the Spirits do things to the person.
One of the most common things that Spirits do to people experiencing NDEs is to replace body parts with crystals, gemstones, herbs, spices, pieces of trees, seashells, or other magical implements.
Sometimes, this kind of replacement is preceded by the Spirits eating the raw flesh of the individual, or at least taking the flesh away to make room for the power objects. (And yes, this can be particularly traumatic for the new Shaman.)
Speaking of trauma, it happens to be one of the most common signs that someone is a Shaman.
Children who have experienced physical, and psychological abuse tend to become Shamans. Parental psychosis, parental alcoholism, and drug addiction, and so on, often contribute to the heightened sensitivity of the child to energies, and Spirits around them. Reports of some anthropologists conclude that children who have experienced such trauma are more likely to develop that heightened sensitivity.
The idea is that such unfortunate kids are forced to develop a sense of what’s going on around them energetically in order to find safe space and hide until the potential danger passes.
This childhood trauma theory especially applies to only-children, because there’s no sibling to help protect them. The child is forced to learn to cope for themselves, and sometimes self-learns or “accidentally stumbles into” journeying to escape until it is safe to come back into physical space.
Since we’re talking about physical space: it’s also quite common for natural signs - or signs within nature - to be present that indicate a future in Shamanism.
In some cultures, birthmarks are the hallmark of the soon-to-be Shaman. Being born with a portion of the amniotic sac covering one’s face - either in whole or in part - is said to be a sign, also. In Appalachian culture, we call this a “caul.”
And, also in the mountains, if a child is born with a caul, it is the parents duty to cultivate - not suppress - the child’s abilities.
In other cultures, surviving being struck by lightning is a sure sign. Or, seeing a tree struck by lightning, and then watching it fall to the ground right in front of your eyes is often a sign.
One thing that is considered a “sign of nature” is a recurring dream of lightning, as well.
Dreams of dismemberment, recurring dreams of specific animals, being visited in your dreams by deceased relatives, and even being visited by a Shaman in your dreams are signs.
Whether you’re visited by deceased relatives, or you’ve had a relative who was a Shaman, these are both signs that you’re potentially a Shaman yourself.
It’s not uncommon to have a current Shaman select you to succeed them because you came from their loins.
There are Tribal cultures where, if the child of a Shaman refuses to become the next Shaman, the Spirits aren’t going to harm the Tribe.
Instead, the Shaman will simply look for those signs of nature mentioned earlier, and attempt to recruit another individual.
Individual calling aside, I want people to know (as this has always been my message, and even more so now) that you don’t have to be “called” or “initiated” by an individual who claims to practice Shamanism.
It doesn’t matter whether they’re willing to help you for free or charge you a mid-size fortune.
The fact is: people don’t call, and people don’t initiate.
Even when a Shaman recruits their successor, they make sure that at least the signs of nature are pointing to the individual’s future as a Shamanic practitioner.
So don’t let anyone gatekeep access to the Spirits for you - don’t let them tell you that you have to be “initiated” in some way before you can practice.
You don’t. I can teach you models of the spirit world, and methods for gaining access, and ways to interact with it all day long. But I can't make you a Shamanic Practitioner - only the Spirits can do that. And if you're truly feeling drawn to a Shamanic practice, you really just need to ask the Spirits. (There's no such thing as a "Certified Shaman," so chuck that out the window now.)
In my opinion, the more telltale signs you see, the more likely you are to be a Contemporary Shaman.
In our modern western world, we don’t really have the same kind of phenomenon. The truth is, some Tribal Shamans believe that when we undergo (what we refer to in the West as) a mid-life crisis, we’re really being subjected to significant life changes as a wake-up call.
It’s not meant to frighten us, or to kill us - it’s meant to bring us into our awakened state so we can be a Healer Of Worlds, instead of a harmer. Shamans often refer to significant life changes as a "little death," because it is really the death of an old part of the self, and the birth of a new part to replace it.
In our modern world, and for those of us who were not part of an Indigenous Shamanic culture, we don't like to refer to ourselves as "Shaman." It's a title that must be bestowed by community. But we can call ourselves "Shamanic Practitioner," and follow much of the same path, but for a modern world. This is why I call my practice "Contemporary Shamanism" - because it's not from an Indigenous culture, but comes from the foundational core of most Shamanic cultures.
We really should have this kind of phenomena. If we return to the wild soul, if we embrace animism, and Shamanism as a way of life, we can get this kind of deep mystical connection back. And we can help heal our world.
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