Jessica C. Buturla Hunter
* Sun Star Shamanic Healing *
Integrative & Intuitive Shamanic Wellness
(Formerly Hunter Healing Hands)
The Reality of Shamanism and Shamanic Training
Shamanism is a very sacred and serious spiritual pathway, and form of healing work. It is a pathway of Service and Sacrifice.
It is a way of life, a way of practice and reverence, and sacred belief; and also includes reciprocity, respect, integrity, responsibility, humility, and accountability. It is a devotion and a dedication from a place of service, that also has many sacrifices that come along the pathway. It is building, respecting, and maintaining right relations in all things - including developing strong relations with the Spirits.
This (developing Spirit relations) does not happen overnight; and takes time, work, and dedication. For without the Spirits, there is no Shamanism. The Shamanic Path really is a calling and a serious lifetime commitment. This is not always a “light and fluffy” spiritual pathway- this pathway has everything in it. That is not to say that Shamanism does not have its beauty and wonder – because it does also have that. But Shamanism isn't just all "love and light." It can be very intensive, dives into the depths, can also get very ugly, and involves a lifetime of continual work, sacrifice, and service. It is a balance between the Dark and the Light, and incorporates all that comes with that. Shamanism works with and interacts with the Spirits and the Spirit World. The Spirit world is complex, and has all types of different levels, landscapes, Spirits, and beings in there - both of Light and Darkness. It has everything, and not just what we necessarily want to believe or see. There are different forms of Shamanism out there; however, Shamanism falls under Animism. Shamanic cultures are also Animistic; however not all Animistic cultures are necessarily Shamanic. This is a whole other topic of discussion in itself. Many contemporary forms of this practice in Western / American culture is from the basis of the practices of Core Shamanism. However, other types of Shamanism are practiced as well.
Anyone can take Shamanic classes, workshops, or training programs – they are available out there for anyone who would like to learn about it, or deepen their own personal connection or personal spiritual practices with Shamanism. Anyone can learn how to Journey - that is a wonderful method out there available for anyone to learn, experience, and gain healing and access to the Spirit world and Helping Spirits. However.... taking any kind of Shamanic classes or training - or being able to Journey - is not an absolute guarantee that one will have the ability to facilitate Shamanic Healing work, and it does not guarantee that they have been "Called by the Spirits" either; for the training is just the training. Anyone can learn how to Journey if they want to; but being able to Journey alone does not make anyone a "Shaman" or Shamanic Practitioner. It just means they can Journey.
The ability to be able to facilitate Shamanic Healing work in itself, is a whole other component – and is the decision of the Spirits alone, and not by an individual’s own choice or decision. The ability to facilitate Shamanic work is also not guaranteed by just taking a Shamanic class or training program alone of any kind. There are many factors that go into this concept.
When the Spirits choose an individual to facilitate Shamanic work – that calling from them (the Spirits) is far, far from pleasant – and comes with repetitive and very cathartic “Shamanic Initiations.” These initiations are life altering, and can bring individuals to their knees – often coming with horrific trauma, near death experiences, and more of the like. The Spirits can make life unbearable, and put individuals through the ringer in these initiations. When one is chosen by the Spirits - These Shamanic Initiations come for the rest of that individual's life from the Spirits on a continual and repetitive basis – and they are never predictable or announced, and there is no avoiding or running from them. These initiations usually begin for a person, very early on in life, if they are called. The Shamanic pathway is a beautiful way of life - but it is by no means "an easy way of life" for those who are actually called by the Spirits. Most who have been called often feel like they are "cursed" rather than "blessed," and wish the Spirits never called them; and often, they don't want the calling. They don't get to live what most consider "normal" lives, and often feel like they are going crazy or insane, and experience constant challenges. If they try to reject their calling or reject the Spirits - they also pay a price. So they don't have any choice in the matter; it is part of their destiny, and this is where some of the sacrifices in this pathway come. Modern Shamanic Practitioners - the ones who have been truly called by the Spirits - will also say the same thing. The Shamanic Practitioners who are truly called - do go through similar experiences as described above regarding the calling, and initiations from the Spirits - for the rest of their lives. Not always so much fun; so why would anyone deliberately want or desire this? It isn't about "wanting this" or "choosing to want this," in any way, shape or form. If the Spirits want you, then you have to take it whether you like it or not. And if they want you, they will let you know, and it won't be a pleasant invitation to let you know....
"Shamanic Initiation is probably the least well understood of all of the many forms of spiritual awakening....and it may also be by far and away the most powerful. The initiatory processes in Wicca, Meditation, Yoga, Kabala, Buddhism, Zen, Vipassana, Tai Chi, Qigong, and even Kundalini or Kria Yoga, are like a stroll on the beach compared to the Shamanic Initiation."
- Hank Wesselman
Being "Chosen by the Spirits" doesn't make anyone "extraordinary" or "above" anyone else. If anything, it can make life much harder, and presents many challenges that are not always bearable or wanted. Those who are called have no choice but to deal with them (the repetitive shamanic initiations). And those initiations get very, very ugly. Many who are chosen will tell you that they would not have chosen this type of path and life, if they had a choice. So when you witness an indigenous Shaman, or a modern Shamanic Practitioner (who has been legitimately called) facilitate their work, please keep this in mind - it may look beautiful, wonderful, and mystical and amazing - and may even appear to look "easy" or mechanical to do the work from watching from the outside. However, you do not know or have any idea what that indigenous Shaman or modern Shamanic Practitioner truly goes through on the inside and underneath the work, what their lives are really like, or the sacrifices and prices they pay to do their work to serve the Spirits and the community. That is not always apparent on the outside appearance. Shamanism comes with very steep prices.
Many Native people think people in our Western culture are insane for wanting or desiring the Shamanic calling in their lives....Native people are so accurate on this. Native and Indigenous People know and understand what comes with the Shamanic calling - and many people in our Western / American culture, do not know, or truly understand. For in many cases, our Western culture has "glamorized" the Shamanic Pathway, and has diluted it down to appear as something completely opposite of what it truly is, or involves. Western / American culture often can use marketing techniques (fancy pictures, fancy metaphysical language, and more) to advertise this work, that on the surface, may appear very appealing and enticing. But those marketing techniques don't often portray what Shamanism or Shamanic Training truly involves. They can be very misleading, can often mask the reality of the work, and lead individuals into the work under false pretenses. This is known as "Spiritual Selling", and it is a very glamorized form of spiritual marketing. To the lay person, or the person who is not really educated in this work, that type of marketing can appear very authentic and legit. But in many cases, it is not. The "Spiritual Selling" approach, can also be very disrespectful to the work, and the Shamanic Pathway for what it truly is. Unfortunately, this approach is not just done in Shamanism in Western / American culture. It is also done in different areas of Healing, Energy, and Psychic work in Western / American culture. Often due to some of these marketing techniques - people in Western culture seem to "desire" the Shamanic pathway - but do not realize, there is a huge difference between "desiring" something, and destiny. Just because one "desires" something, doesn't necessarily mean it is part of their destiny. Shamanism is one of those pathways where you need to be very careful about what you "desire" - on many levels. Because what you "desire" isn't necessarily what you may get, according to the Spirits in Shamanism. And just because one "desires" to do Shamanic Healing, does not mean that they were called to it because they "desire" it.
When one gets the calling from the Spirits, taking training is still necessary – because attempting any type of Shamanic, Spiritual, Energy, or Psychic work without extensive professional training is not only potentially dangerous, but very irresponsible.
The Shamanic path is not a free for all in any way. Tampering with any type of Shamanic / Spiritual / Energy / or Psychic work without Professional Training - can often do more harm than good, even if the untrained individual attempts with good intentions, or even if they have natural abilities. In indigenous cultures, those called by the Spirits still train with their tribal Elders for many, many years. So just because an individual may be "called by the Spirits," or have natural abilities, does not mean they should bypass training of any kind. On the flip side of this, individuals also need to understand that if they have not been called by the Spirits, and want to invest in studying Shamanism or take any Shamanic Training - they need to understand that taking any training alone does not guarantee that “they are chosen or called by the Spirits” either. That is up to the Spirits and no one else. This has been since the beginning of Shamanic practices in ancient times, and still is applicable to modern Shamanic practices. That aspect of Shamanism has remained constant and unchanged, for thousands of years. That is not to say that one cannot practice Shamanism as their personal spiritual beliefs and pathway - they can. However, one needs to understand the difference between practicing it as a spiritual pathway, and practicing it as a spiritual pathway with a true calling from the Spirits involved. Because there is a difference. If you look at a Native culture that practices Shamanism - everyone in that culture may be practicing Shamanism - but how many in the culture are actually chosen by the Spirits to do the work as the Medicine man or woman? Maybe one or two within the culture.
"If the Spirits want you, there is nothing you can do,
and if the Spirits don't want you, there is likewise nothing you can do."
~ Nicholas Breeze Wood
Shamanic Training is an extensive dedication – and usually over a period of many years with a mentor (or mentors) combined with the Spirits, and then continual training for the rest of one’s life. Shamanic Training is not completed in a one day or weekend workshop, or just in a matter of weeks or months. Shamanism and Shamanic Training – is not like going to college, completing the courses, and getting a degree – the Shamanic path is a whole other “Animal” in itself, and cannot really be compared to that format. It also cannot really be compared to any other form of spiritual or energetic healing work. Shamanism is in it's own category and realm, and operates in its own way. Shamanic training is also not "mechanical" in the techniques - meaning, that it isn't just about following steps and getting automatic results from just following instructions, or just because you took a training. It involves work, dedication, and development of shamanic skills and relations with the Spirits - over a period of many, many years.
In our current society, it is very popular to take online courses and seminars. Online courses and seminars can be very informative, yes. However, think of them as an adjunct to in-depth training, rather than a replacement for in-depth training. There is also the misconception that "reading a book" is a replacement for training. Again, books can be great and informative. However, they are also and adjunct to, and not a replacement for training. Many in-depth training programs in Shamanism / Shamanic Healing, are done in person with a trained mentor. Legitimate and Reputable Contemporary Shamanic Practitioner Programs - range anywhere from at least 2 to 4 years of training, depending on the type of Shamanism or Shamanic Healing being taught. Even after Practitioner training (or Teacher training, if one has also taken that training), continued and ongoing training is highly encouraged even after that. This is a life long path and life long work that is not finished after taking training.
Shamanic training cannot “Certify Shamans” or "make" anyone a “Shaman” – this is a common misconception. Additionally, calling oneself a "Shaman" or assuming one can just take on that title for themselves - is far from appropriate; and that includes just taking the liberty of labeling oneself as a "Medicine Man" or Medicine Woman" - also not appropriate.
For no class, no program, no person, and no training of any kind is capable of "making" anyone a "Shaman." No one can be made one. This is an absolute truth in the pathway, and unfortunately there are misconceptions out there about this. It is very easy for people to be misled - when there are classes, teachers, and training programs out there that claim they can "make" someone a "Shaman," or claim that one can receive a certificate that says they are a "Shaman." These are "spiritual selling" tactics that are not true. The other spiritual selling tactic that is being used out there is - to "ask the Spirits to call you to be a Shaman." I am also seeing spiritual selling advertising out there that is saying, "everyone can be a Shaman." This is simply not true, and that is not how this works. Shamans are born into their destiny; not made into their destiny. Again, a decision made only by the Spirits alone, and it is not something that is asked for, or can be asked for, or decided by any human being. Only the Spirits.
Although Shamanic Practitioners and Shamans - both can and may be capable to facilitate some type or form of Shamanic Healing - there are still do's and don'ts around terminology, and respect for the title of the word, "Shaman." The term “Shaman,” is often misused, misrepresented, and disrespected - in many cases out of societal ignorance. One cannot label themselves a “Shaman” and it is highly recommended not to do that - for multiple valid reasons. In contemporary Shamanism, individuals who have completed appropriate extensive Shamanic Training Programs, who facilitate Shamanic Healing - are known as Shamanic Practitioners. Even if a contemporary Shamanic Practitioner has been legitimately called, that does not mean that they have a right to automatically label themselves as a "Shaman," or a "Medicine Man or Woman." They don't have that right at all, and should not just assume they do.
In Conclusion The Shamanic path is powerful, amazing, and transformative in so many ways. But it also includes a lot of work, study, dedication, commitment, service, humility, and sacrifice. What comes from this type of healing work, and walking this path, is beautiful and can leave one in a state of awe on so many levels. But it can also be very much the opposite side as well - and that too, is part of this path. Shamanism is not just one side, or the other; it is the balance of the Dark and the Light - and all in between - the whole of it all. ~ Jessica Buturla-Hunter