Why finding the ‘Right’ Shaman is so important
One of my pastimes is fielding online questions about Shamanism (primarily on Reddit).
By far the #1 question I’m asked in online forums and PM’s is: How do I find a Shaman? And, if I do find a Shaman, how can I know if the Shaman is ‘good’ and will be the right Shaman for me? I completely empathize with the often desperate feelings that accompany these messages. As I’ve learned more and more about the Shamanic cosmology and all of what goes into the healing process (including but not limited to spirit guides and evil spirits), I’ve also realized just how lucky I was to find my Shaman. She is a solid, caring person with huge reserves of integrity.
There are more than enough stories available online that are downright terrifying: bad trips, chaotic ceremonies, poorly cooked medicine and dodgy Shamans. Most recently, there has been the death of a young British man in an Iquitos Ayahuasca centre, likely caused by an existing mental instability that was not handled appropriately by the Shamans. All of these incidents serve as cautionary tales about diving head first into Shamanic work without first ensuring you’re working with the right Shaman.
‘Rogue’ plant medicine ceremonies are also on the rise. People are cooking the plant by themselves or in small, informal gatherings without a Shaman present. In my opinion, it’s a direct result of a pumped-up spiritual bro-ness that seems to falsely equate self-empowerment with the ability to shrug off all ceremony and ritual, even if the rituals have been practiced for over 4,000 years. The prevailing wisdom, or lack thereof, seems to say that a Shaman isn’t needed in 2016.
Shamans are more than rattle-shaking placeholders.
They act as the go-between between the ‘here’ or our world and the ‘there’ of the greater cosmos, brokering the safe passage of all the ceremony’s participants through the night. Key word: safe. Remember that Shamanism is the world of both dark and light energy. Part of the Shaman’s job throughout a ceremony is to protect the space and make sure that it remains clean.
Equally important, the Shaman cooks the plant, a process that can take several days. During that time the Shaman uses the force of their will to merge consciousness with the spirit of the plant. The strength of a Shaman’s intent is not something to joke about: à la Castaneda, “Intent is what sends a shaman through a wall, through space, to infinity.” They use that same reality-crushing power to inject the medicine with healing intentions specifically tailored to you and your needs. You don’t just drink plant material – you literally drink the hopes and wishes that the Shaman holds for you.
Both of these points aside, doing plant medicine work without a Shaman is simply like going sailing without a skipper. You’re probably fine if you stay in shallow waters and luck shines your way, but you could also be one step away from a life-threatening disaster.
Now that we’re all clear that a Shaman is completely necessary, let’s talk about how to find one.
How to Find a Shaman
*Debbie Downer alert*
If at all possible, don’t search for your Shaman; let the Shaman find you.
I know: it seems like crap advice and is likely not what you wanted to hear. Yet it’s the truth. Shamanism, like all spiritual paths, will find its way to your doorstep if it’s the right thing for you. I don’t like to make promises on this site, but I’m almost willing to promise that if you’re meant to join the Shamanic path you’ll eventually get there someway, somehow.
When I first came across Shamanism, I was meeting a journalist that had just been on a retreat with my Shaman. We were due to chat about press coverage for a luxury brand that was sponsoring a ladies’ luncheon for my VIP personal shopping clients. I could never have imagined that day would change the direction of my life.
Be open to the possibility that life is unfolding as it should.
You’re under no responsibility to push it along.
Undoubtedly, the best method for finding a Shaman is within your community. You may ask healers you are seeing, new-age or spiritual centers in your area or friends that have worked with a Shaman for a recommendation.
Although I do moderate in a few Reddit forums et. al., I would NOT recommend these sites for finding a Shaman. Generally, they get flooded from time to time with people who have had their first plant experience and have come back to rave about their Shaman/experience/healing center/etc. to anyone who will listen. What you need is an objective opinion or referral and these people may not be able to give it to you because of where they’re at in their own process.
Here are a general list of questions to ponder as you go about finding a Shaman:
1. Do you know anyone personally that can vouch for the Shaman? Spend some time talking with this person and understanding what the process was like for them.
2. Do you trust this person’s opinion? In your eyes, are they grounded and respectable? Have you known them long enough to have seen a change in their behavior and/or outlook on life?
3. How long have they known the Shaman? Were they in touch with their Shaman before or after the ceremony? How involved was the Shaman with helping them develop an intention for the ceremony?
4. Did they find the ceremony difficult, and if so, did the Shaman intervene when needed? Did they feel fully supported by the Shaman at all times?
5. How much preparation was provided to the ceremony participants? Were they given a diet to follow before the ceremony?
6. What can you find online about this Shaman? Any reasonably well-known Shaman will have their own website, blog, YouTube channel or similar, in addition to interviews and client testimonials.
Things to Watch Out For
A list of major no-no’s
Anything Illegal or Unsafe
This one drives me slightly mad. I live in the Middle East. Alcohol can only be drunk in hotels, and drugs of any form are expressly forbidden. Yet somehow, there are Shamans and pseudo-Shamans that hold ceremonies here. If the Shaman is willing to risk your personal safety or freedom by holding a plant medicine ceremony in such a way that could cause you harm, why would you ever trust them to vouch for your mental and spiritual well-being?
A real Shaman should never be selling you on their services or aggressively suggesting you need to attend a ceremony or healing of any kind. This is not to say that a Shaman will not or cannot market their services or retreats as is normal; what we’re talking about here is an intense level of salesmanship that makes you feel pressured to commit even if you do not feel you’re ready.
The Overnight Shaman
I’ve heard of a pseudo-Shaman who proudly tells clients he’s worked with plant medicine 20 times, and now leads others in ceremony. In no other profession would this be acceptable. A personal trainer that has been to the gym 20 times would not be anyone’s first choice. Go with experience – your Shaman should have 20 years of plant experience, not 20 sessions.
This is a touchy one. On one hand, Shamanic ceremonies are powerfully cleansing and unlike any other healing modality out there. On the other hand, there is absolutely no guarantee you’ll get the healing you think you want; you’ll only get the healing that you can handle and need. If the Shaman is making huge promises on what you’ll be able to clear by working with them it’s likely that they’re being dishonest.
No Background Checks
If a Shaman will take you into a plant medicine ceremony without meeting you first, that’s probably a bad sign. Plant medicines, especially Ayahuasca, are intense experiences. It’s imperative to be ready physically, mentally and emotionally. The Shaman should invest time with you beforehand to make sure that this is the right move for you and be upfront with you if it isn’t your time.
Have you had any experience with Shamans? Anything to add to the list? Let me know below in the comments. ♥