Wikipedia Definition of Shamanism:

There is no single agreed upon definition for the word “shamanism” among anthropologists. The English historian Ronald Hutton noted that by the dawn of the 21st century, there were four separate definitions of the term which appeared to be in use. The first of these uses the term to refer to “anybody who contacts a spirit world while in an altered state of consciousness.” The second definition limits the term to refer to those who contact a spirit world while in an altered state of consciousness at the behest of others. The third definition attempts to distinguish shamans from other magico-religious specialists who are believed to contact spirits, such as “mediums”, “witch doctors”, “spiritual healers” or “prophets”, by claiming that they undertake a particular technique not used by the others. Problematically, scholars advocating this position have failed to agree on what this defining technique should be. The fourth definition identified by Hutton uses “shamanism” to refer to the indigenous religions of Siberia and neighbouring parts of Asia.

Dictionary Definition of Shamanism:



the animistic religion of northern Asia, embracing a belief in powerful spirits that can be influenced only by shamans.


any similar religion.


Video About Shamanism

A Shaman’s Definition of Shamanism:

Shamanism is the art and science of engaging with the forces of Nature, in it’s physical and non-physical forms, beyond the limits of linear time and space in order to affect the desired changes in the life experience of the beings who are asking for this service.

The shaman uses natural and learned gifts and abilities to act as a mediator of souls between the world of the physical and psychological, conscious and unconscious, and the world of the archetypal consciousness and purely spiritual or energetic quantum fields.  The shaman may also employ the help of elements of Nature, such as plants, stones, bones, animals, sound, and non-physical teams of helpers to achieve the altered state of consciousness that are sometimes necessary to access the field beyond linear time and ordinary space, and to move or introduce energies to affect the desired results.

The intent of shamanism is to ultimately empower and free beings from impeding influences of the past, present, and future to enable them to create their own experiences.  This is in direct contrast to sorcery, under many forms and names, which is intended to dis-empower and bind beings to gain an advantage over others.  It is important to make this distinction when asked “what is shamanism?”

Throughout the known history of human beings, there have always been and still are individuals born into villages, towns, and neighborhoods with the gifts, intent, abilities, and propensity to be the shaman, healer, sage, or medicine person.  Every language has a name for this person.  The English language has widely adopted the word shaman from the Evenk language of North Asia.

The techniques of shamanic ritual and shamanic journey are universal with minor differences related to culture, language, and location.  The shaman training and initiation is also very similar throughout the world.  There are only so many ways to engage the non-physical and physical forces of Nature and human soul that work effectively.  I like to use the analogy of heart surgeons:  Whether trained in Africa, China, Europe or the Americas, there are so many ways to operate on a heart without killing the patient and the most successful techniques are going to end up being very similar and limited.  It is the same for the very ancient techniques of shamanism.

Neo Shamanism is a term that is gaining popularity to describe the growing re-introduction of shamanism into modern society.  As is the case with ancient cultures, mythologies, and ways of living being affected, influenced, and often destroyed altogether, much of shamanism has also been affected or driven into secrecy in all but a few isolated tribes of un-broken lineages.  Unlike Religion however, shamanism is and always has been an open and non-hierarchical system that evolves with it’s society and wisely adopts the best available practices.  So I consider Shamanism or Neo Shamanism wherever it is practiced today to contain the most comprehensive training, techniques, and world-views that resonate most with the people it serves and its intent to improve their quality of life.

In Service,

Shaman Jon Rasmussen
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