I approach the subject of shaman, shamanism, and shamanic powers with considerable consternation. And I do so despite the fact that the word shaman has become a part of the American landscape. I use these words because of their recognition and ask that those who have objections accept a single fact: I mean no disrespect. Likewise, the term 'medicine man' is not a term used b those in the Native American Culture(s).

The word shaman as I understand it, is an import from the Siberian Tungus Evenks which some hit of a Sanskrit connection. Literally, it means one who knows. . . a Promethean quality. The question needing to be answered is a simple one: What does a shaman know?

To answer that question we first have to accept the notion a shaman operates with a basic premise: The world is composed of invisible forces and/or spirits that affect all life. . .human and non-human. Within this premise lies the notion that plants, rivers, lakes, oceans, trees, and rocks are all imbued with their own special qualities. Science tells us that there invisible forces; invisible to the naked eye so the idea that certain individuals tune into those forces should not be shocking.

Because the shaman has the ability to tap into this 'universal consciousness', he or she is called upon to function as a healer. Here, the shaman's role is to heal the community; to bring harmony to man and nature, as well as to individuals. To do this, the shaman retires into an altered state of consciousness.

Some cultures as well as individuals use a variety of drugs to induce the shamanic state. I am an opponent of such use. Grave permanent dangers lurk for the novice. On that basis, there will be no specific hallucinogenic drugs mentioned in any of my articles.

The shamanic state may be produced by the use of sounds. Drums have been used for eons. Flutes and humming have also been used. Today there are audio tapes, CD and DVD recordings available to help one alter his state of consciousness. The use of OHM in meditation is a popular choice.

The seeker should go into a shamanic state with just a single question in mind; not a shopping list. Disappointment will be the end result.

There are, according to some authorities, three levels in a shamanic world. These levels have no connection to religion. The first level of the shamanic journey is called the underworld. At this level emotions, memories, and psychic healing take place. Sometimes, one's power animal is encountered here. Generally speaking, access to the underworld is achieved by going through a tunnel (as Enkidu in the Sumerian myth of Gilgamesh), or flowing down an underground river.
Other times, one may achieve this level through a sudden flash or a rappelling.

The second level is the middle world. Here, plant spirits, spells, curses, and ghosts are located just outside of reality. And please, don't ask for a definition of reality.

The upper world is the third level of the shamanic world. Here spiritual teachers and Jung's archetypes exist. The teacher arrives unbidden quite often, and at first experience may not be recognized as such. This level may be obtained through extensive meditation and the production of altered states. Native American musicians David and Steven Gordon, R. Carlos Nakai, the Native Flute Ensemble or Scott August would certainly help set the tone for such meditation.  Listen and let their song carry you. The harmonics are surreal.

One does not just become a shaman. One may achieve shamanhood through transmission. That is, one may inherit that ability. Second, one may experience a 'calling' or which is sometimes called 'spontaneous selection', and finally, one may personally quest it. In this case, expect long, long periods of training.

What does a shaman know? Generally, the shaman is a sensitive and knows intuitively what someone else is feeling. He or she has a substantial background in organic plants and herbs used for healing, and certainly he or she knows to pary to whatever power they recognize. A shaman knows how to tune into the psychic and emotional needs of a person and leads that person's energies to help heal.

The shamanic states is not for everyone. A shaman by whatever name you wish to call him or her is not a catholicon. If that were true, then all of us would be living in harmony and peace and disease free.

I am not a shaman nor am I in training to be one. For those of you who wish further information on shamanism an extensive bibliography may be found at http://deoxy.org/shaover.html#3