More and more often people ask me, "Are you a shaman?" or address me as a shaman. Sometimes I'm a little taken back by this event, because on one hand I have spent a lot of time, energy, and money to learn and practice shamanism. However, I can't say its a title I feel totally comfortable with yet. I guess part of the dilemma is my own preconceived notions about who a shaman is. Instantly, I have a mental image that a shaman is an elderly wrinkled person with a bright and wise face. However, when I reflect on this image, I have never met this type of shaman. Most of the shamans I've met are in their forties or fifties, with successful careers in the mundane world as well as practicing and teaching shamanism. So how does one become a shaman anyway?
By most authorities there are three ways for a person to become shaman. Or more precisely initiated into shamanism. The first way is the person is self selected, the way I chose some nine to ten years ago. The second is they are selected to be trained by some older shamans, sometimes after having survived a life-threatening accident or sickness. I know several shamans from this way and its interesting to listen to their stories of transformation. Many of the stories are quite inspiring and memorable. The last way to become a shaman is to inherit the role of shaman form their ancestors, mother, father, or grandparents usually. I've also met this type of shaman too, and its often interesting how they have assumed the role of shaman. Generally, whatever the way the shaman is selected, there is a `long' training period and often times the shaman had to pass a rigorous and sometimes brutal test before becoming a shaman in their own right. I can certainly attest that the path for me has not been easy. The tests and lessons for me personally have been at the least arduous.
However, just because someone is initiated as a shaman doesn't make life a bed of roses. Shamanism will not eliminate the blocks, test, or obstacles in your life. On the other hand, shamanism can help you to be more successful in solving life's problems, and living a more enriching life style. The key to this success is taking action for whatever the situation that is confronting you at this time. Just like I have done, you can learn to use your own shamanic powers in a way to help yourself become stronger, powerful, and more alive.
There is much that shamans know and many qualities they possess. The following is a list from Jose and Lena Steven's book Secrets of Shamanism.
Hopefully, you are learning about and practicing these qualities and attributes of the shaman as I have. I think the next time someone asks me if I'm a shaman, I'll look them square in the eye and say, "Yes, I am."
written by Paul Sivert