Paul Sivert on his early path of shamanism…

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 it’s 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 in the 1980s. 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 it’s 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, and it’s 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 situation 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.

  • Shamans know about energy; how it works in many forms, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. They have an intense relationship with the spirit body and can communicate with it.
  • Shamans know and experience how to relax, go inside to that quiet space to receive messages of guidance.
  • Shamans have the ability to journey for knowledge, insight, awareness, messages, and memories.
  • Shamans know how to work with and interpret symbols, and can bring the symbols alive through expression.
  • Shamans know how to heal others. They have excellent insight into others’ personalities and character. They know how to apply healing while taking into account the human condition.
  • Shamans know how to have one foot in one reality and a second foot in another reality at the same time. They can communicate externally and internally at the same time.
  • Shamans know practical skills for helping others’ dilemmas of life. They take action when its called for.
  • Shamans have the ability to shift levels of consciousness at will.
  • Shamans are disciplined and persistent in their attempts to gain power and apply it for the good of all concerned.

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.”