Shamanism is a term that originally pertains to spiritual practices by indigenous people of far northern Europe and Siberia, founded in the belief that humans inhabit a multi-world, multi-dimensional universe that is made up of physical beings and spiritual beings as well. This term now applies to all traditions worldwide that share common beliefs in spirits and the ability to contact, journey with and interact with them, through different spiritual practices or ceremonies. In all shamanic cultures there is the appearance of the shaman, who is the spiritual leader or person with the specific capacities or abilities necessary to contact and interact with the spirits.
The Peruvian Amazon is a perfect example of the expansion of the use of the term shamanism. The native traditions in the Amazon now are considered to be practices under the umbrella term shamanism, while in the past they were known solely by their local names. In the last few hundred years there has been an expansion in the shamanistic practices in include not only indigenous shamans, but Mestizo (a person of mixed racial ancestry especially mixed European and Native American ancestry) shamans and now Foreign Shamans (westerners whom have left their home countries to live in the Amazon to learn the traditional practices.)
Since the umbrella term shamanism now applies to so many varied and different cultures it has lost a lot of its specific meaning. Locally the cultures while recognizing themselves and being shamanic typically differentiate between themselves with terms that specify the nature and focus of their practices or the types of plants or tools they use. In the Amazon the use of medicinal plants is common so many of the differentiation between shamans lie in the types of plants they specialize in. For instance three common types of shamans are the Ayahuasquero (shaman that specializes in Ayahuasca), the Palero (shaman who specializes in the use of medicinal trees), or the Sananguero (shaman that specializes in the sanango trees.)
Due to the nature that traditional shamanism is based in the exploration of other worlds, dimensions and spirits, it is fundamentally based in dualistic philosophies where there exists a subject/object relationship between the practitioner and the world at large. This inherent dualism is rarely if ever transcended and typically maintained at all time as the shaman is in communication with the spirit world and individual spirits.
The Shaman is the head of the tradition, practices, spirits, and ceremonies. The shaman, due to the dualistic nature of the main philosophies, is imbedded in a dualistic world where the psychological division between light and dark, good and bad, and right and wrong are maintained. This opens the shamans to falling on either side of those divisions resulting in a dualistic sub grouping of shamans into healers and witchdoctors or good ones and bad ones. This differentiation is exemplified in the western culture with movies characters like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Luke is the good master and Darth and bad one.
Shamanism is growing changing and evolving. Each new practitioner is the next generation and the direction that shamanism is moving. Shamanism is growing strength and popularity in western cultures and as it continues to grow people will continue to seek it as a viable spiritual expression.
Shamanism in the Peruvian Amazon is widely practiced in a mixture of traditional and non-traditional spiritual practices. Traditional practices and beliefs are strongly rooted in magical spiritual realities that include the existence of millions of different kinds of spiritual beings. The non-traditional practices have been added to the traditional ones by westerners whom have come to the Amazon to participate and learn. The sharing of ideas, abilities and practices is common to Amazonian shamanism so the inclusion of other kinds of practices takes place with fluidity seamlessly becoming part of the common understanding and vocabulary.
The dualism is very strong in the core philosophy and leads to a very defined and clear division between healers and brujos (witchdoctors). The healers consider it their role to balance the brujo and help protect humanity from them. The brujo uses their skills for hire to hurt and harm. This division is played out in intense psychic battles between the healers and the brujos. It is commonly understood that the healer has to defeat the brujo to be able to help or heal the patient. In these battles the shamans engage each other utilizing the help of huge forces of spirits battling in multiple dimensions simultaneously.
In the last few decades westerners have begun to take great interest in the shamanic practices of the Amazon focusing on the visionary plant Ayahuasca and Ayahuasca practices. Shamans have been sought out to aid with all kinds of afflictions in a wide range of physical to mental illness including the likes of cancer, gastrointestinal, mental and psychosomatic illnesses. This has generated a growing western Ayahuasca culture in the traditional Amazon.
The traditional healing philosophy is that the plants and universe contain different spirits some of whom are doctors that interact with the patient, while in a state of trance, and heal. The shaman is present to guide the trance and the interaction between patient and spirit. While that belief is widely agreed the specific details of each kind of spirit and healing methodology is not agreed on due to the differentiation between shamanic lineages typically but not always defined by family or blood lines. While the details in the methodology may be contended between lineages, in the presence of the true healers, real life transformation takes place.
Amazonian shamanism is a dynamic evolving form of practitioners, practices and plant uses. In all this differentiation it is important that a participant find the shaman that focuses on the types of practices in which the participant is interested.
Universal ShamanismUniversal Shamanism is a new form of shamanic practice developed by Hamilton Souther that no longer focuses on or even recognizes duality.
It is based in universal philosophy and uses the traditional shamanic practices like the Ayahuasca ceremony as a way of training in the philosophy. The foundational difference is that Universal Shamanism begins with the definition that the participant is both the subject and object in the perceived duality, therefore representing no duality.
The spirits are no longer considered to be separate from the participant but rather part of the wholeness of the participant. There is no philosophical separation and no opposites, no opposing forces. Life is experienced as a great singular manifestation. Life is understood to be a single expansion and contraction that takes place simultaneously where the unification of love and the manifestation of time occur now.
The participant learns to focus their third eye on unification instead of manifestation and in doing experiences Love, God, Divinity, Truth, Oneness, Wholeness and Peace. This experience is not considered separate to self but rather the unification of self and the perception of all that a human being really IS.
As the narrative of life is dynamic and experienced as ever changing the Universal Shamanic practice is always the same: Find Unification in the same space as the Manifestation. As this process unfolds the universal philosophy is learned and applied to the entire definitions of self, life, love, the world, the universe and humanity.