How To Become a Shaman (Advice From A Trainee Shaman)

by Jerry Gardner
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More and more people in Western society are taking an interest in shamanism, and even wanting to know how to become a shaman. Often referred to as the world’s oldest religion, shamanism is all about spiritual discovery, powerful healing, and self-fulfillment.

Shamanism can give meaning to circumstances that other religions sometimes struggle to explain.

It can heal longstanding emotional and even physical hurts. And, strange as it may sound, it can predict the past, present, and future. 

If you’re reading this article, you may well have asked yourself “How do I become a shaman?” In that case, you’ve come to the right place!

In this clear and easy-to-understand article, we’ll define exactly what a shaman is, and how you can become one.

We’ll consider what it takes to become a shaman, and describe what new skills you can expect to learn.

We’ll also underline the importance of working with a trusted teacher (and how to find one), before concluding with a brief look at shamanism initiation. 

Interested and intrigued? Read on for more fascinating information about the magical and wonderful world of shamanism!

What Is A Shaman?

understanding how to become a shaman

In a traditional, indigenous society, a shaman takes many roles: healer, advisor, head of ceremonies, teacher, source of wisdom, visionary, spiritual guide, and more.

In a Western context, our culture, society, beliefs, and needs are far removed from that traditional setting.

However, a shaman in the West still has a valuable and relevant role to play.

A shaman works by making contact with the spirit world, through dance, trance, meditation, ritual or other methods. They act as a bridge between the physical world and the spiritual realm. 

To become a shaman, you have to believe in concepts like guardian angels, reincarnation, spirit guides, dualism (humans are made up of a mortal body and eternal soul), power animals and so on.

The journey into the myriad possibilities of the spirit world is one of the things that makes shamanism so captivating and mesmerizing!

Looking After Spiritual Health

Although there are many differences between traditional and Western shamans, one thing they have in common is that they are responsible for people’s spiritual health.

Certainly, my own journey into becoming a shaman began with a profound sadness and disenchantment around mainstream religions. 

To my eyes, most established religions have abandoned the beauty and simplicity of their original creed.

Over time, they have superimposed many beliefs that were in direct opposition to the original system of belief, and they often appear to be more interested in power and politics than in people.

It seems to me that they have forgotten the primary purpose of religion: tending to people’s spiritual health and needs, and teaching them how to live and die.

When I was doing my training, my teacher made great play of the role of shaman as “wounded healer,” and that’s something that resonates very strongly with me.

Because the shaman has experienced hurt and pain themselves, they can empathize with other people and help them.

As well as drawing the distinction between the traditional and the Western shaman, I also think it’s useful here to differentiate between the personal and the practising shaman.

You can train as a shaman, and greatly benefit personally from your education, but you don’t have to practice as one.

Not everyone wants – or has the wherewithal – to become a practicing shaman, and that’s fine.

Or maybe you can take time to learn and hone your craft, before you feel ready to help others.

Who Can Take the Life Path Of A Shaman?

woman becoming a shaman

The path of shamanism is open to anyone who has an interest in matters spiritual. But there are certain other characteristics that are required too: an open mind, humility, and lack of pride, a willingness to learn, a generosity of spirit, and the capacity to admit that you may be wrong sometimes.

Tenacity, courage, enthusiasm, meditation skills, and altruism will also come in handy!

There is one school of thought that says shamans are chosen by others rather than through their own volition: that only certain people are chosen for the calling. That may or may not be true.

For sure, some people seem to be predestined or born to become shamans, whilst others are drawn to the path after a life-changing or life-threatening experience that gives them greater insight into how the universe works.

Perhaps the best way to explain this is to say that everyone can take the life path of a shaman, but only some have the skills, aptitude, and calling to become a practicing shaman.

There are many benefits to training as a shaman simply for your own spiritual development: it can bring great structure, contentment, peace, meaning, and fulfillment to your life. 

How to Become a Shaman

There are many routes to becoming a shaman; through reading books, via the web, or by attending a training course.

The central paradox at the heart of shamanism is that it’s an intensely personal, inner journey that you can only take by yourself … which at the same time is immeasurably enhanced by walking that same path with fellow students and being guided by experienced practitioners.

On the one hand, only you can ever truly know the power animals, spirit guides, angels and other spiritual entities that help you on your way.

On the other hand, there is much to be learned and gained from other people on the same journey, especially when you are taking the first steps towards becoming a shaman. 

Another reason for training in a group session is that you get to fully tap into the great power of shared experiences. You soon realise that such power is exponential.

Once you’ve been part of a mighty communal ritual, you’ll understand exactly what I mean!

Shamanism can be a lonely journey at times, so it can be very positive, re-affirming, and restorative to work in a group setting.

It’s also a reminder that all shamans work as part of a wider community.

What Shamanic Skills Can You Expect To Learn?

the skill you learn when becoming a shaman

For me, one of the greatest joys of shamanism is that it opens up a whole new world of possibilities, wisdom and subject areas.

In your training, you’ll learn about the upper world, the lower world, heaven, the underworld, and the many other spiritual dimensions that exist above, below, and beyond what most people know.

You’ll also become familiar with all the different entities and beings in the spirit world.

When you train as a shaman, there are many subjects and topic areas to cover. It’s rare that you find a shaman who is an expert in all of these spaces, but usually you will gravitate towards one or two that resonate with you.

Here are some of the skills you can expect to learn: 

  • Guardian angel, power animal, and spirit guide identification: journey into other worlds to find spiritual companions for both yourself and others.
  • Shamanic healing: channel beautiful, powerful, divine energy to help people heal
  • Rituals and ceremonies: give meaning and purpose to your life, and help to make things happen.
  • Meditation and breathing techniques: calm your soul and bring inner peace into your life.
  • Dream interpretation: discover the meaning of your own and other people’s dreams.
  • Soul retrieval: journey back to times of great stress or shock, and reunite soul fragments that may have become separated from the whole.

These skills are merely the beginning. As you become more confident and knowledgeable, you can explore deeper areas like journeying in time, past life regression, and bringing souls back from the underworld.

Finding a Trusted Teacher

It may seem strange to say it, but often your shamanic teacher will find you, rather than the other way round!

A quirk of fate, a happy coincidence, or a lucky break may all naturally lead you to the teacher who is just right for you.

As with all aspects of shamanism, when seeking out a teacher, you should be guided by your intuition.

A book that jumps off the shelf at you may lead to a website which leads to a shaman which leads to a course.

Having the right teacher is one of the most important elements of becoming a shaman, so it’s vital to choose one who is suited to you and your needs.

Some schools of shamanism offer a taster weekend session, and that’s a great way to get a feel for whether a teacher suits you.

Don’t be disheartened or put off if you have a false start. It will soon become apparent if your teacher is not for you, so if that happens, learn from the situation, gracefully move on, and with a little luck, your next tutor will be along soon.

It’s really important to be guided by your intuition and gut instincts here: if something doesn’t feel right, it generally isn’t. Rest assured that when you do find that one special teacher, you’ll instinctively know straight away. 

If you are starting from scratch and are unsure about where to go, a great first step is to buy one of the new age magazines.

They contain details of courses, practitioners and schools of shamanism. Read through the magazine carefully, and contact the school or practitioner that appeals to you.

If you’re buying your magazine from a health store or crystal shop, ask the staff if they have any recommendations: they’re usually very switched on and switched in!

Of course, the internet is another excellent source of information, but I think it should be a means to an end.

In my experience, it’s ultimately people who guide and help you, not electronic searches. By all means use the internet to set you on your way, but have a foot in the real world too.

Shamanism is very much concerned with the spirit world – and much of your guidance and inspiration will come from there – but it’s also about the people around you. Human interaction is a fundamental part of shamanism, wherein you learn from – and help – others.

The Light and Dark Of Shamanism

Shamanism works seamlessly and beautifully alongside other areas of spirituality. When I did my shamanic training, other students on my course included a clairvoyant, a white witch, a nun (yes, really!), a crystal therapist, a psychiatric counsellor and a Reiki healer.

They all said that the lessons and wisdom they learned in the shamanic course greatly influenced and improved their work in those related areas.

Naturally, there were other people on the course who had more “regular” jobs (myself included!).

For us, equally, there were wonderful benefits: from a personal perspective,  I improved my meditation techniques which helped me to think more clearly, I was more contented overall with my life, and I felt proud and empowered to have developed skills that for a long time had lain dormant within me.

Alongside the many and real benefits of shamanism, there are some downsides. As a practising shaman, I often feel extremely uneasy about sharing some of the information I see, particularly if it relates to a hurtful or unpleasant time in people’s lives.

Helping clients to release past hurts can be extremely beneficial to them, but it’s a huge responsibility on your part, and you have to tread extremely carefully at all times.

Also, some shamanic work can be tiring and demanding. Anything that involves the underworld is like that. It’s important that you know what you are doing, and have the support of other wiser souls around you, because there are some bad spirits and unwelcoming places out there.

Thankfully they are the exception rather than the rule, and with the proper training and procedures, you can protect yourself properly and stay safe.

A Brief History Of Shamanism Initiation

woman doing a shaman initiation

As with so much of this article, here we have to differentiate between the traditional and the Western shaman.

In a traditional, indigenous setting, shamanism training can take many years, finally culminating in a formal initiation ceremony.

This rite of passage often takes the form of what might be termed a “crisis journey”, where the trainee shaman must undergo an extreme physical or psychological challenge before coming out the other side.

The initiation process can take many forms: it may involve sitting in a darkened room for days on end, or taking a physically demanding journey into the bush with limited food and water.

Whatever form it takes, initiation is very much a transformative process, with the goal of opening up new levels of awareness and consciousness.

Whilst Western initiation ceremonies may be far less radical than their traditional counterparts, they have the same aim. Here, a simple, communal graduation ceremony often suffices to celebrate this rite of passage.

Where To Next As A Shaman?

Training as a shaman is like all forms of education: you only really start learning once you finish your course!

Indeed, one of the greatest joys of graduating is the opportunity to put into practice what you have learned. You often find that one or two areas become your specific focus. In time, that may lead you to greater new horizons: more advanced courses, and even being trained abroad by an indigenous shaman. The sky – and the underworld! – really are the limit!

Conclusion

Training as a shaman is a life-changing and life-enhancing experience.

The benefits for the self are many and varied: greater focus, clarity of mind, contentment and fulfilment in your life. And that’s before you even start using your newly-expanded talents and skills to help other people.

If you’ve ever thought about becoming a shaman, now is the time for you to take the next step. You instinctively know it’s the right thing to do – so what are you waiting for?! 

Thanks I hope you enjoyed this article on how to become a shaman.

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