Call of the Selkie


Shamanism is said to be the world’s oldest spiritual tradition. It has been practiced by some indigenous peoples around the world for thousands of years. There is no agreed definition of the word but it is especially associated with the native peoples of Siberia in northern Asia. The word itself is an anthropological term that was first associated with the ancient magical religions of the Turks, Mongols,  Tungusic and Samoyedic-speaking peoples. After observing similar religious ecstasy practices in other parts of Asia, Africa, Australasia and the Americas, it became used in a broad way to describe these unrelated traditions. 

While each culture has its own unique practices, there are underlying cross cultural similarities. These cross cultural practices are the foundation of core shamanism that was made popular by Michael Harner. Shamanism is a rightly contested word that has become an umbrella term to describe all manner of spiritual new age practices. I wholeheartedly agree it is often misused and used inappropriately. The word sells, this is a sad reflection of the consumerist western world we live. I have struggled with my own usage of the word, so I decided to try to explain my thoughts and feelings on the subject.  


Shamans are indigenous spirit intermediaries who work with nature, elemental and ancestral spirits for the benefit of their community. They have the ability to alter their state of consciousness, to travel in a trance state between the world of man and spirit, to divine information, to heal, they have prophetic visions, interpret dreams, read omens, fight malevolent spirits and escort the dead to the afterlife. They are someone who is chosen by the spirits. Not someone who chooses to work with the spirits. It is a path that is often hereditary but not always so. It is not a life that any person would chose to live, for classic initiations can result in death or madness. If a person accepts this path, the initiate undergoes rigorous training by an elder shaman in their particular indigenous ways. This training can last for many years to ensure they have the experience necessary to work with the spirits for the benefit of their community. The title of shaman is one that is given based on their ability. In my opinion, NO one should claim this title. This is disrespectful. 


This doesn't mean that people who were born into non indigenous cultures cannot be competent seers, soul midwifes or healers. For the invisible world of spirits is all around us. Sometimes people are born with natural spiritual abilities. As in traditional initiations, some also gain these abilities through illness, or near death experiences. They become what is often referred to as the 'wounded healer'. Shamanism is a path of direct revelation, where the spirits are the teachers but human teachers are also important. Therefore I trained in core/cross cultural shamanism over a number of years in a bid to understand my own spiritual experiences. First as a shamanic practitioner with Stephen Mulhearn and then as a teacher with the highly respected Sandra Ingerman.  Although I learned a lot, I still felt there was something lacking in the core trainings. For me this was the connection to my own culture's ancient magical traditions. You can read more about this on the Folk Magic page.

I believe that most people in the west who think they are practising shamanism, are in fact practising animism. This is because both share similar beliefs and some practices such as nature and ancestral worship. For me, it is simple everyone can practice animism/shamanism BUT not everyone can be a shaman in the truest sense of the word. You can read more about animism on the Animism page. 


"The course was enlightening and invaluable. It has given me the confidence to grow as a healer and given me lots of new ways to work". (Dawn Teague)