Article and Video: The Role of Shamanism in Modern Societies with Dr. Alberto Villoldo, Jon Rasmussen and Guests

The Calling of the Shaman

As a modern urban shaman, I often find myself in discussions about what that really is, how I got involved, and what my life is like.  I’ve written much about the subject in my book Dreaming Your World Into Being, and many blogs, articles, and interviews.  It is an unusual calling and way of making a living, and I don’t think that has changed much since the beginnings of humanity.  The strange gifts of clairvoyance, moving through non-linear time and space, hyper-sensitivity/empathy, and generally seeing things differently or well ahead of most others make it difficult to assimilate into the rest of the society’s way of being.

Showing Up in the Village

The shaman notoriously lived at the edge of the village, or deep in the woods or mountains to make life a little easier on themselves.  The shaman finds comfort in their open dialogue with the rest of Nature where judgement, misunderstanding, persecution, and other more uniquely human issues don’t exist. Nonetheless, shamans and particularly modern shamans must stay engaged in the daily life of their community in order now to make their gifts available where needed and wanted most.

Personally, I am now very clear that my calling and role as a modern urban shaman takes precedence over all other more typical human endeavors. I’ve often struggled with questions like “Are you happy”? The very kinds of goals that I help my clients achieve are not as applicable with this kind of calling.  I use the analogy of asking the Dalai Lama for example if he would like to have a million dollar yacht. The shaman’s life purpose is to call on all the forces of Nature, both physical and non-physical to help our clients heal, thrive, and be in their power and freedom.  And the one contract the shaman has is that when we call our team shows up no matter what.  The fine print of the contract is that when the shaman is called, we show up no matter what.

A Self-Referencing Life of Service and Vision

This is a life of pure service, and whatever comes our way to sustain this calling and our life we are pleased to accept.  The life goal and destiny of the shaman is already achieved the minute we get in front of a client.  Any gifts beyond that moment is purely bonus.  The difference though between the monk and the shaman is that the shaman’s life and service is not restricted in any way by an external edict or regiment.  What we do or don’t do, what we eat, how we dress, what we say, how we pray, how we work, how we play are not dictated by an authority or institution, which allows in some ways an easier integration into the village, but in some ways more precarious and more difficult for everyone to understand.

The bottom line is that our service and the gifts we share through our work take precedence in our lives, and we are driven by an epic vision for humanity that may take generations to manifest before we can be truly and deeply fulfilled.

Recognizing the Shaman Early

As shamanism becomes increasingly re-established as an integral part of the society at large, I think it will be great to recognize at the earliest possible age those who have come in with this destiny.  Many of us spent the earlier parts of our lives struggling to fit in to the expected norms of our modern society, and only after discovering our calling began our journey of knowing ourselves, and letting others know who we really are.  Perhaps you know, or can imagine how difficult and confusing to everyone this abrupt shift can be after years of familiarity with who you thought you knew.  It will be so much easier on the shaman, their friends, and family and more beneficial to the community to discover and support the calling right from the beginning.


In 2007, friends and I embarked on a journey to document how shamanism is growing and being applied to modern societies all over the world.  We captured interview footage to start the discussion, and had hoped to create a full-length documentary film.  Then the financial collapse of 2008 hit, and funding dried-up.  I had since given the footage to friends in the hopes that it could be used in their projects, but saved some the interviews with Dr. Alberto Villoldo, Linda Fitch, Dean Taraborelli, Marcela Lobos, Jillian Vogtli, myself, and other distinguished healers and teachers.

I’ve just put together a sample of the footage in the following video, which I think is a great introduction regarding how modern shamans are effectively integrating shamanism into the mainstream realms of healing, psychology, and policy.  I hope to soon produce more videos with the bulk of the material.

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