Frequently asked questions
Shamanic workshops in the 21st century? Below you will find answers to some of the questions we are often asked.
1. What is a shaman?
"While the work of shamans encompasses virtually the full gamut of known spiritual practices, shamanism is universally characterized by an intentional change in consciousness (Eliade's 'ecstasy') to engage in purposeful two-way interaction with spirits. Its most distinctive feature, which is not universal, is the out-of-body journey to other worlds." . . . What all shamans "do share is disciplined interaction with spirits in non-ordinary reality to help and to heal others." . . . "Both in traditional indigenous settings and in contemporary society, shamans work within a holistic framework. They address the spiritual side of illness in a complementary relationship with the nonspiritual treatment of illness and injury." Michael Harner, Cave and Cosmos, p. 48. See also, We Are Not Alone.
2. What is core shamanism?
Core shamanism consists of the universal, near universal, and common features of shamanism, together with journeys to other worlds, a distinguishing feature of shamanism. See also Michael Harner, Cave and Cosmos, pp. 45-46. Core shamanism was originated, researched, and developed by Michael Harner, Ph.D. (anthropology). Training in core shamanism includes teaching students to alter their consciousness through classic shamanic non-drug techniques such as sonic driving, especially in the form of repetitive drumming, so that they can discover their own hidden spiritual resources, transform their lives, and learn how to help others.
3. How do I know if core shamanic training is right for me?
The best way is to experience the training first hand. Take the online introductory workshop „The Shamanic Journey to Power and Healing“ or the FSS Basic Workshop: The Way of the Shaman® for an experiential introduction. Visit a well-trained shamanic healer as a client and experience shamanic healing. Read the reference books at the end of this FAQ and visit the articles section of the FSSE website.
4. Why choose shamanism in the 21st century?
The word "shaman" is borrowed from a Tungusic word and a Siberian culture, but the systems subsumed under shamanism today represent universal principles and practices known throughout the world. There is a significant reason why shamanic work has not only survived but is also experiencing a true renaissance in many cultures: It works. Shamanism is the longest practiced and best tested healing tradition in the world. Of course, today we face different challenges: climate change, pandemics, political conflicts, etc. - all these phenomena force us to make lasting changes. The goal of the shamans was and is to guarantee the survival of the community and it is still the case today - only, the intercultural and global dimension has been added.
5. What about the quality and authenticity of the Foundation's training programs?
Internationally renowned anthropologist Michael Harner pioneered the return of shamanism and the shamanic drum journey to the West and is recognized as the originator and world leader of core shamanism. In his half century of anthropological fieldwork, cross-cultural studies, experimental research, and firsthand experience, Dr. Harner arrived at the core methods of shamans worldwide. He established the Foundation for Shamanic Studies to return this lost knowledge to present-day life. Started in 1979 as the Center for Shamanic Studies, the Foundation has been recognized as the foremost organization for the study of contemporary experiential shamanism and shamanic healing methods. The European Branch, the Foundation for Shamanic Studies Europe, has been established 1987 and holds the culturally most diverse faculty of shamanic instructors worldwide.
6. What training is required of FSSE faculty members?
FSSE faculty members have completed various advanced workshops as well as the Three Year Program of Advanced Initiations in Shamanism and Shamanic Healing. All faculty have had a minimum of three years shamanic divinatory and/or healing experience; many have had active shamanic practices for more than a decade. In addition to these minimum requirements, they must have taken as a participant each workshop they teach at least three times. They are required to update their training periodically with an advanced teacher to ensure knowledge of the latest content.
7. Can a person learn shamanism and shamanic healing without studying with an indigenous shaman?
Absolutely. Over the last several decades of the Foundation's work, tens of thousands of students have successfully learned to journey and to practice core shamanic methods to provide shamanic divination and healing in their communities. Since the West overwhelmingly lost its shamanic knowledge centuries ago, the Foundation's programmes in core shamanism are particularly intended for Westerners to reacquire access to their rightful spiritual heritage through quality workshops and training courses. "For most Westerners, learning and practicing core shamanism, including shamanic journeying, is a far more productive approach than imitating a shaman's practices in a single culture, for each culture has its own symbolism, mythology, and conceptual elaborations. If that is not your own culture, then those elaborations, specializations, and meanings will not be appropriate for you in the way they are appropriate for that particular indigenous people." See Michael Harner, Cave and Cosmos, p. 46.
8. Does a person have to be especially sensitive or psychic to be a shamanic practitioner or healer?
No, in fact, if one is too sensitive, he or she may not be suited for shamanic work. See FAQ #1. A shaman must be a "master of both realities" — able to fully interact with helping spirits in non-ordinary reality when offering help and healing, and yet be grounded and present in this reality in order to bring that healing power here. A shaman must have training and discipline, along with strong connections to his/her helping spirits to be effective. "One of the distinguishing features of the shamanic practitioner is the ability to move back and forth at will between these [ordinary and non-ordinary] realities with discipline and purpose in order to heal and help others." Michael Harner, Cave and Cosmos, p. 49.
9. If I already know how to journey, do I still have to take the Basic Workshop: The Way of the Shaman? If I learned with a non-FSSE faculty member, do I still have to take the Basic Workshop through the FSSE?
The Basic Workshop: The Way of the Shaman® with an authorized FSSE faculty member is required in order to take further work with the Foundation. It has been our experience, through the course of many years of offering these trainings, that completion of the Basic Workshop (which is not just about journeying) is essential preparation for advanced weekend workshops. It is also necessary to providing a quality experience for all participants in the advanced weekend workshops, as then all students come from a common basis and understanding. Many take the workshop more than once to improve their knowledge and abilities.
10. After taking the Basic Workshop, which workshop should I take next? Should I take the advanced weekend workshops in a particular order?
After completing the Basic Workshop, you may take any of the advanced workshops, in any order, except for Power Soul Retrieval Training, Advanced Shamanic Healing Practice and the Three Year Program, which require more advanced preparation. Before you go on to advanced weekend workshops, you should make sure you have achieved some success in shamanic journeying and are able to contact at least one spirit of the Upper or Lower Worlds. If not, take the Basic Workshop again or practice the method at home until you are successful.
Each workshop is part of the shamanic training. In the respective workshops participants are initiated into a specific topic, gather first hand experiences, intensify and deepen the co-operation with their helping spirits.
Which workshop when, where and with whom one takes is totally up the to the individual – for nobody else knows what the next important would be. We do not presume to determine or judge over somebody else’s development. Consequently, we do not offer a pre-defined curriculum and no diplomas.
The primacy of the maturely and self-responsibly acting person is imperative.
11. How soon can I attend the Three Year Program of Advanced Initiations in Shamanism and Shamanic Healing?
You may apply to attend this programme as soon as you have completed (or will have completed) the prerequisite workshops. See the website for information about prerequisites and the application process.
12. If I complete the training programmes of the FSSE, will I be a shaman?
Training by itself does not make a shaman, though training and the resulting knowledge and discipline can help you form strong relationships with your helping spirits. True shamanic power comes from the helping spirits. If you make strong connections with these spirits, then they may give you the power to help others, ease pain and suffering, and find answers to difficult problems and life-issues. If you perform miracles of healing, your community may then name you a shaman.
13. Does the FSSE offer degrees or certification?
The FSSE does not offer degrees or certification as no one can certify a person as a shaman — it is the helping spirits who do that. See FAQ #12. The FSSE does, however, offer Certificates of Completion for a course of study, to acknowledge the considerable time, effort, and resources invested in shamanic training.
14. What can I do with my shamanic training?
After completing the training, many people become shamanic diviners and/or healers, working to help individuals by finding answers to vital questions or suffering from illness. Some use shamanic methods in a more personal way, to help improve their own lives, to be more at peace, or to resolve troubled relationships or past suffering — to bring freedom, creativity, and joy into their lives.
15. Can I combine shamanism or shamanic healing with other healing modalities (such as medicine, psychology, Reiki, massage therapy, therapeutic touch, hypnotherapy, and so forth)?
Shamanism is a non-exclusive, holistic healing method that works well in conjunction with other healing disciplines, including psychotherapy, medicine, and other alternative healing practices. However, it is not recommended that one combine other healing methods with shamanism in a single session with a single client. Shamanic healing has its own unique effectiveness and power. It has been used for tens of thousands of years on every inhabited continent. It is recommended that you become a master of shamanism as well as a master of the other healing modality before trying to combine them. This is recommended not only to preserve the integrity of the practice, but for ethical and legal reasons, particularly if you are a licensed practitioner in another discipline.
16. How much do the workshops cost?
The Foundation for Shamanic Studies Europe is an internationally active corporation. Organisation and administration of workshops is done decentralized and regionally. In consequence, to register, obtain additional information, get fees and/or locations for a specific weekend workshop, follow the enrolment procedure on the website or contact the person or organization listed under "Contact" in the schedule.
17. What is the schedule for the weekend workshops? How many hours per day?
The workshop hours may vary depending on the course and location, but usually start on Friday afternoon at 4:00 or 6:00 pm (alternatively on Saturday morning). The working hours on Saturday are 9:00 or 10:00 am to approximately 6:00 pm, with an hour lunch break. In advanced workshops, especially residential ones, an evening session on Friday and Saturday is the standard case. The working hours on Sunday are usually 9:00 or 10:00 am to approximately 4:00 pm, with an hour lunch break.
18. If I leave early or miss part of a workshop, will I still get credit?
It has been our experience, through the course of many years of offering these trainings, that completion of the Basic Workshop: The Way of the Shaman® is essential preparation for advanced weekend workshops. It is also necessary to providing a quality experience for all participants in the advanced weekend workshops, as then all students come from a common basis and understanding. Prerequisites have been carefully thought out for each workshop, to ensure that students are prepared to experience the content of that workshop. Full attendance, particularly at the Basic Workshop, is required. Except in cases of illness, where a participant has to leave early for that reason and informs the FSSE faculty member teaching the workshop, the entire two days of the weekend trainings must be taken as a unit and completed in full.
19. If I have to miss the workshop, can I get a refund?
In case of cancellation, the following general cancellation penalties will be applied: 0 % up to two weeks before the workshop; 50 % less than two weeks before workshop; 100 % less than three days before workshop.
Variations may occur as issues of fees and refunds for weekend workshops have to be negotiated with the FSSE faculty member teaching the workshop.
20. Do I need to have a drum or rattle to attend the workshops?
A drum and/or rattle is optional. However, most students find that their experience is enhanced by having a drum or rattle for the group drumming sessions. Drums and rattles are available widely, you will find some recommendations for drums and rattles on our website. The website description of workshops where additional special items are necessary lists the items to bring. Typically, the FSSE faculty member or his/her organizer will let you know what items you should bring for a particular workshop; if not, ask the instructor. For all workshops, a drum and/or rattle, an eye covering/bandanna, and a notebook and pen are recommended.
21. What is the minimum age to attend FSSE workshops?
Participants need to be at least 18 years of age to attend.
22. What is a shamanic journey?
"The shaman's journey (sometimes called the 'magical flight' or 'soul journey') to the worlds above and below is a distinctive aspect of shamanism compared to other spiritual traditions. The main purpose of these journeys is to obtain extraordinary knowledge and help from the other worlds for others or for oneself." (Michael Harner, Cave and Cosmos, Chapter 5, p. 67.)
"In these journeys, one can travel 'outside of time' through a normally imperceptible universe otherwise known mainly through dream and myth." (Michael Harner, Cave and Cosmos, Chapter 5, p. 70.)
A "guided visualization" is not a shamanic journey.
23. What about the ethics of shamanic practice?
The Foundation for Shamanic Studies is dedicated to the preservation, study, and teaching of shamanic knowledge for the welfare of the Planet and its inhabitants. In its training programs and work, the Foundation teaches and promotes only the positive, life-enhancing, and healing uses of shamanic knowledge. More about shamanic ethics.
References and recommended reading
- Harner, Michael (1990): The Way of the Shaman. 3rd ed. New York: Harper One.
- Harner, Michael (2013): Cave and Cosmos: Shamanic Encounters with Another Reality. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books.
- Urban, Roland, Hirsch, Andreas J. (eds.) (2016): Schamanismus und Wissenschaft – Shamanism and Science. 2nd ed. Wartberg ob der Aist: FSSE.
- Urban, Roland, Huguelit, Laurent (eds.) (2018): Schamanismus und Ökologie. Chamanisme et écologie. Wartberg ob der Aist: FSSE.
- Urban, Roland (ed.) (2018): Shamanism and Digitalisation. Wartberg ob der Aist: FSSE.
Articles and videos about shamanism
The corpus of these FAQs were kindly made available by the FSS – see shamanism.org.