Core Shamanism

What is Shamanism?

Shamanism is the world’s oldest problem-solving and healing tradition. For at least 40,000 years, shamans have been mediating between the worlds of humans and spirits. On their journeys to other realities, they gain power and knowledge for the benefit of their community.

Shamanism – the world’s oldest problem-solving and healing tradition

Shamanism is a way of knowledge, practiced worldwide, and it is the oldest healing art in human history. At the service of their community, shamans alter their state of consciousness in order to enter non-ordinary reality. This enables them to mediate between the world of humans and the world of spirits.

Equipped with the power and knowledge of compassionate spirits, shamans can support healing, find answers to questions and solutions for challenges, and restore balance where equilibrium has been lost. Their task is to explore the spiritual, immaterial side of reality – non-ordinary reality. They utilise its potential for the benefit of the community.

Nature and spirits

Spirits are immaterial beings who have specific powers and qualities. Among spirits, power animals and teachers are unconditionally compassionate spirits with whom shamans work. Shamans do not believe in spirits, but know from their own first-hand experience that spirits are real. The fundamental insight is that we are not alone in this world.

Many indigenous and traditional cultures perceive all of nature as animated. Not only humans, animals and plants are considered alive and ensouled, but also rocks, elements, landscapes or celestial bodies. All are interconnected and imbued with spiritual power.

Spiritual power is considered the central agent in shamanism. Shamans act on behalf of clients or the community and journey through non-ordinary reality in search of specific power for the predefined request. Upon return to ordinary reality, they manifest this power and make it available. Thus, they set an impulse that triggers further development and healing of the issue at hand.

The shamanic cosmos consists of three worlds: the Upper, Middle and Lower World. The Middle World encompasses our ordinary, physical universe and its non-ordinary aspect; the Upper and Lower Worlds are exclusively immaterial. Shamans are expert navigators of non-ordinary reality. They know which spirits to contact for a specific purpose and how to facilitate this contact safely, efficiently and with trust. They cultivate respectful relationships with their partners – the spirits.

Why shamanism in the 21st century?

The word “shaman” is borrowed from the language of the Tungus, a Siberian culture. However, the systems subsumed under shamanism today refer to universal principles and practices known throughout the world. With an age of at least 40,000 years, it is the world’s oldest continually practiced healing tradition.

There is a significant reason why shamanic work has not only survived on every continent, but is also experiencing a true renaissance in many cultures: it works. Shamanism has been empirically tested over time.

Of course, today’s issues are different than they were in the past. However, the challenges we face in the 21st century are no less daunting: climate change, pandemics, political conflicts, etc. – all these phenomena compel us to implement sustainable changes. The shaman’s primary aim was and is to guarantee the survival of the community and to initiate or facilitate the necessary transformative processes. This was true in the past on a local level and it is still true today – only the intercultural and global dimension has been added.

How can we benefit from shamanic work?

  • Divination: Consulting the spirits to find tailor-made, holistic solutions to ordinary and spiritual problems and answers to our questions.
  • Healing: Shamans mobilize power to make extraordinary things possible. Cooperating with compassionate spirits, they support those seeking help in their healing process through spiritual work.
  • Power: People who have power are full of confidence, vitality and joy. To be in full possession of one’s power is to be healthy.
  • Balance: By providing spiritual knowledge and power, shamans balance what has gone out of equilibrium. They transcend contradictions, conflicts and disputes, and focus on integration and the common whole.
  • Transitions: Shamans accompany important transitions and social events (such as birth, marriage or death). They identify ways to ensure the survival of their community, even in difficult times and crises.
  • Ecology: Working in non-ordinary reality helps shamans understand ecological interrelationships that were previously hidden. New perspectives and solutions with significant potential for nature and the environment become tangible.

The shamanic journey and altered consciousness

A wide variety of methods and techniques exist for calling spirits to the Middle World or consulting them in non-ordinary reality in the three worlds. In the latter case, the practitioner willingly embarks on a shamanic journey. Deliberately, with a clear intention, consciously and in control, shamans navigate non-ordinary reality in search of spiritual assistance and holistic solutions for health and balance.

Drums are one of the most important and powerful tools to initiate and maintain the necessary shamanic state of consciousness. The vast majority of shamans in the world do not use psychotropic plants, but rely instead on the rhythm of the drum. Steady, monotonous drum beats, about 205 to 220 beats per minute or 4 to 7 beats per second, are considered ideal. This frequency corresponds to theta waves in the human brain. Also frequently used are rattles, jaw harps, cymbals, bells, percussive wooden instruments, songs or dances.

What is Core Shamanism?

Core Shamanism consists of the transcultural, universal or common principles and techniques of shamanism. It is a coherent system that is terminologically as well as conceptually consistent and taught worldwide. Core Shamanism is based on decades of research by the anthropologist Michael Harner, his colleagues and successors.

Core Shamanism offers a practice-oriented approach to shamanic work that focuses on the essence. It is not bound to any particular cultural group or perspective. Rather, Core Shamanism enables especially those people who have lost their shamanic roots (like so many people in the Western world) to reconnect with those roots. It is thus an excellent way to gain access to one’s own spiritual heritage and to shape this process in a self-determined and spiritually independent way.

Since the West has lost most of its shamanic knowledge, the Foundation for Shamanic Studies’ programmes in Core Shamanism are especially designed to help Westerners regain access to their spiritual heritage. Core Shamanism has been taught and disseminated by the Foundation for Shamanic Studies through high-quality, professional workshops and training programmes – in North America for more than 40 years and in Europe for 35 years. Thus, each year this tradition helps thousands of people from Western and other cultures to revive shamanism.

The first step into Core Shamanism is the in-person Basic Workshop “The Way of the Shaman®” or the online introductory workshop “The Shamanic Journey to Power and Knowledge”. Both are experiential and practice-oriented.