How to Practice Shamanism: 13 Steps (with Images)

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How to Practice Shamanism: 13 Steps (with Images)
How to Practice Shamanism: 13 Steps (with Images)

Shamanism is a term used to describe the rituals of many cultures around the world. In the Western world, the term is often used to describe more recent traditions, which borrowed from many cultures or invented their own practices. Many people find fulfillment, knowledge, or the ability to help others through all these types of shamanism, but be aware that traditional and non-traditional shamans don't always agree.


Part 1 of 2: Learning about types of shamanism

Practice Shamanism Step 1

Step 1. Learn the history of shamanism

The word “shaman” originates from the Evenki Siberian language, but its exact meaning is unclear. From this obscure beginning, anthropologists have spread the term to describe spiritual practitioners of many cultures, and the term “shamanism” has been adopted by many North American Indians and other groups. There is still an incredibly wide variety of types of traditional shamanism practiced around the world.

Practice Shamanism Step 2

Step 2. Understand neoshamanism in Western culture

In the 20th century, historian Mircea Eliade and anthropologist Michael Harner separately argued that many varieties of spiritual traditions around the world could all be defined as “shamanism”, with core principles at the heart of different practices and beliefs. This led directly to new traditions, most initiated by Western Caucasians, such as "nuclear shamanism" and many types of "neo-shamanism" or "New Age shamanism".

Practice Shamanism Step 3

Step 3. Understand the controversy

Traditional shamanism, in its hundreds of different forms, is still alive today, and its practitioners (as well as religious scholars) have a wide range of reactions to more recent shamanic traditions. There are many sides to this discussion and not all types of shamanisms or individual shamans agree on all of these sides, but this is good to know as you begin to explore shamanism:

  • While it is not uncommon for shamans to charge for services, some new “shamanic businesses” are often considered cynical.
  • Most new-style shamans use traditions from other cultures. This can be done with respect and knowledge or in an uninformed and incorrect way that many find offensive.
  • Western shamanism is often taught as a self-improvement technique, while many older traditions harm the shaman, including “evil” or “foggy” practices, or focus on helping the community.
Practice Shamanism Step 4

Step 4. Study Western neoshamanism

If you decide that you would like to learn more about a modern shamanic tradition, you can find a lot of material online or in mass-published books. Most of these traditions are unique theories and practices developed by one person, but some sources listed below are examples of especially influential voices. You can also read more about the general trends in these movements in the section on the practice of neoshamanism.

  • The Foundation for Shamanic Studies promotes “nuclear shamanism”, claiming to teach the essential principles at the core of shamanic traditions around the world.
  • Cleargreen Incorporated practices a 20th century Mexican pseudo-shamanism called "Tensegrity".
  • Terence McKenna was an influential advocate of shamanism in the 1990s, tying it to many New Age theories and psychedelic experiments.
Practice Shamanism Step 5

Step 5. Study traditional shamanism

The method for becoming a traditional shaman varies from culture to culture, but typically involves a sudden supernatural event, inheritance of position, or training as an apprentice. If you don't belong to a culture with shamanic traditions, you may need to visit an indigenous community to study with a shaman or someone with a similar role. You can also learn more about these traditions by reading books written by anthropologists and others that describe the shamanic practices of a specific culture:

  • This interview is a description of an Oroqen shaman in northeast China.
  • Tom Lowenstein's book “Ancient Land, Sacred Whale” describes the rituals and myths of the Tikigaq, an Alaskan whale hunting people.
  • This article describes the shamanic traditions that thrive in Nepal and explains how they differ from other ritual practices.

Part 2 of 2: Practicing shamanism

Practice Shamanism Step 6

Step 1. Induce a percussion trance

Entering the spirit world or discovering a new reality close to ours is one of the most common shamanic practices. One of the many ways to do this is to go into a trance. Try blindfolding your eyes and drumming a drum to a steady beat for several minutes, or even entering a different state of consciousness.

Practice Shamanism Step 7

Step 2. Meditate

Another way to go into a trance, or get in touch with your inner self, is to meditate. Many people consider this a solid foundation for any spiritual path and a source of health benefits that go well with some of the messages of shamanic traditions about self-improvement. There are many schools of meditation, but it all starts with closing your eyes and sitting in a quiet place.

Practice Shamanism Step 8

Step 3. Listen to your dreams

They are often important to practitioners of shamanic rituals. They may contain great truths, revelations, or other spiritual significance. Keep a dream journal so that when you wake up you can write or draw some of the pictures.

The images you draw can have power. Be cautious if you don't know what they represent

Practice Shamanism Step 9

Step 4. Interact with spirits and other entities

There is no universal way to find these entities, but in many traditions it is not possible to be a shaman without doing this. During trance, meditation or a sudden and unexpected experience, it is possible to meet another being. He can be a nature spirit, a spirit in the afterlife, or even entities that some consider to be gods. There is no single pantheon or worldview that can explain what you will find, but an experienced shaman can help identify them and teach you how to make deals with them, serve them, or tame them, depending on the traditions you follow..

Be aware that some of these entities can be malevolent or complicated to deal with. Often, rituals involving drugs, sacrifices, and other sources of power have the potential to attract more dangerous entities

Practice Shamanism Step 10

Step 5. Find a teacher

Although you can develop your own shamanic practices, almost everyone finds the guidance of a teacher or traveling companion helpful. It can be a shaman who practices the traditional shamanism of your culture or a shaman with a “neo-xamanic” tradition. This step is recommended before trying any of the steps below or if you have a dangerous or frightening encounter with spirits.

Practice Shamanism Step 11

Step 6. Be careful with drugs

Entheogens, or substances that “generate the divine within,” can be powerful allies in affecting our consciousness, but they are not always necessary. Learn how to hone your own skills as a shamanic practitioner before integrating them into your practices, and learn how to use them with trusted human individuals taking care of you.

Many legal substances are used in shamanic traditions, such as tobacco. Some drugs, such as peyote and ayahuasca, are legal or in a gray area when used by people who can prove they are part of a traditional culture

Practice Shamanism Step 12

Step 7. Conduct healing rituals

Healing is the main duty of many experienced shamans. The exact ritual varies and is usually passed on by teachers. It can involve many techniques:

  • Dancing, singing or playing instruments to attract spirits.
  • Offering food, drink, tobacco and other substances to the spirits. Sometimes spirits are taken into your body first.
  • Draining the disease out of the body and into an animal, object, or symbol.
  • Traveling to another reality to intercede with spirits on behalf of the sick person.
Practice Shamanism Step 13

Step 8. Practice divination

Many New Age shamans use magic wands, spiritist gatherings, crystals, and other divinatory implements. Some try to see the future, while others use these tools to seek guidance in their own lives or to communicate with spirits in the afterlife.


Respect the beliefs and practices of others. Understand that the visionary experiences you may have may also not be as easily understood or appreciated by others


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