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What is Shamanism?

By Patti Wigington

For many Pagans who follow a religious or magical system rooted in the natural world, shamanism often has some appeal. Let’s look at the different types of shamanism, the symbolism found in such systems, and how we can apply an ancient practice to modern Pagan spirituality.

The word shaman itself is a mutli-faceted one. While many people hear the word shaman and immediately think of Native American medicine men, things are actually more complex than that. “Shaman” is an umbrella term used by anthropologists to describe a vast collection of practices and beliefs, many of which have to do with divination, spirit communication, and magic. In most indigenous cultures, including but not limited to Native American tribes, the shaman is a highly trained individual, who has spent a lifetime following their calling. One does not simply declare oneself a shaman; instead it is a title granted after many years of study.

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