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The word "shaman" ( pronounced SHAH-MAN) has become a new-age catchword, used by many but understood by few. Originally, it comes from the Evinki people of Siberia, and literally means "the one who knows." Today, in the western world, some mean that a shaman is any kind of native medicine man or woman, while others think it is anyone with a strong personality and an intense stare. But, in fact, a shaman is defined by the way she or he works. Quite simply, a shaman is a woman or man who changes his or her state of consciousness, at will, in order to contact and/or travel to another reality to obtain power and knowledge. Mission accomplished, the shaman journeys home to use this power and knowledge to help either himself or others.

The education of a shaman
Traditionally, the would-be shaman is most often initiated spontaneously by the spirits. In our culture, these experiences are sometimes referred to as out-of-body experiences, psychotic episodes, revelations, or even very powerful dreams, depending on ow they occur and how they are viewed. Sometimes these experiences are also accompanied by illness, as in the famous example of Black Elk (see Black Elk Speaks by John Neihardt). In any case, when this happens, an experienced shaman is consulted and asked to teach the way of the shaman to the newly initiated one. Indeed, sometimes the teaching is the only cure for the illness. The teachings of the experienced shaman consist mainly of setting up learning situations for the neophyte, because the shaman realizes that the Universe is the real teacher. Of course each culture has it's own traditions, but whereas priests and ceremonial leaders are strictly restricted in their rituals by the pre-established cultural rules of their traditions, in many cases the information received by the shaman goes beyond the traditions
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Shamanic Healing
Healing is, and always has been, the main work of the shaman. Central to the understanding of shamanism, and especially shamanic healing, is the concept of power. Essentially, power in shamanism is not power as might, but rather power as energy . Traditionally, the shaman sees two main reasons for illness. The patient either has something inside which should not be there (an unwanted power intrusion), or is missing something that should be there (power-loss). As all things have a spirit or soul from the shaman's point of view, this holds true for illnesses as well. In the case of a power intrusion it is the shaman's job to remove the spirit of the unwanted power.

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