Nicholas Noble Wolf, traditional shaman, has walked the path of shamanism for over thirty years. He is a traditionally initiated shamanone who has undergone the prerequisite, physical shamanic death initiations and has shown the ability to call upon the powers and gifts received during the course of those initiations. An honored man, he dedicates the ways he carries, which have been passed down through an unbroken lineage for innumerable generations, to the welfare of the Earth and all her peoples.
Nicholas offers shamanic healing (shamanic doctoring), shamanic ceremonials for caretaking the Earth and oneself, and shamanic classes and workshops including an annual shamanic wilderness retreat in the wilds of the Four Corners mountains and deserts. He sees that these things work together for the health and welfare of each individual. For example, the classes and workshops are intended to assist a person in knowing how to maintain balance between themself and the rest of the world. Ceremonials are an integral part of maintaining that balance. You can say that knowledge and ceremonials are preventative. When an out-of-balance condition has occured, one has become more susceptable to illness and disease. If that out-of-balance condition has allowed disease and illness to occur, then often the person will require shamanic healing by a shamanic doctor. The goal, then, of the shaman is two-fold. First, to heal the person of that disease. Secondly, the shaman should be expected to correct the condition that allowed the disease to manifest, otherwise it will return in some manifestation.
When discussing shamans, shamanism and shamanistic practices, it is helpful to have an understanding of what the terms used mean so that communication might occur. When one person uses a word in discussion with someone who holds that word to mean something different, great confusion can result.
The following terms and concepts with their definitions are provided by Nicholas to assist people in understanding what others might find a term to mean so they can clarify their own usage as needed so that communication is maintained.
All visitors are encouraged to comment on, and ask questions about, any terms and concepts, offering their understanding or opinion. Furthermore, all are invited to suggest new terms and concepts for inclusion. Just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The word shaman comes to us through Russian from the Evenk people of Siberia (referred to as Tungus by Russians). It is sometimes spelled saman, but shaman is more accurate. Generally, when used as a noun, it has no gender, however some use it as a masculine term with the feminine being shamanka, but this is actually a Russian change, the Evenk people would say shaman in all cases. My friend, Sangerel (disceased), use to refer to a female shaman as a shamaness. As she was Buryat / Mongol, who am I to dispute her verbage.
Shaman may also be used as a verb, defining a state of being. For example, "he is shaman" is equally correct to "he is a shaman".
Mircea Eliade (Shamanism, Archaic Techniques of Ecstacy, 1951) generally defined the shaman as a MASTER of ecstatic flight (journey).
The shaman gains this mastery through having talent, receipt of specific instruction and practice, and undergoing shamanic initiation. While it takes more than shamanic initiation to make one shaman, successful completion of the initiation is certainly a major test in determining if one is shaman. Amongst all cultures, the shaman's initiation requires a death of the initiate (generally administered by his teacher) wherein his physical body dies, his spirit leaves the body traveling to the land of the dead where he is greeted by ancestors and/or spiritual beings who provide teachings and medicines to the initiate. The initiate then makes decision to return to the land of the living, heals his body and "reincarnates" back into his same body. Upon his return, he shows that which he has learned during the initiation to his elders or teacher establishing the validity of the experience. Generally, after a period of time during which the new shaman reintegrates his experience into his self, he is introduced to the community as shaman. Note that this initiation is somewhat different from a near-death experience in that the initiate is purposefully "killed" and makes his own decision to heal and return.
A shamanist is a person who operates in a shaman-like way, but is not shaman. A shamanist may conduct ceremonials, use various techniques to reach trance-states, and perform various healings and doctorings.
Medicine means a relationship with a spirit or spiritual power such that that spirit or power will respond in accordance with one's intent--will do what we ask of it based on any agreements that may have been made. If one has an animal medicine, then that animal spirit will serve that individual in accordance with its ageement. A person claiming a medicine is making a statement of ability and has therefore proffered a claim. As with any claims, those who question such a claim have every right to request proof. This is one reason why those with medicines will virtually never say they do. Who wants to go around proving it all the time? That proof could look thusly: If a person claimed deer medicine, then they would go out and call a deer to come. Similarly with other medicines. If a person truly has that spiritual relationship, they will be able to speak to the spirit of a deer and have that deer respond in accordance with their call. It is traditional that one who feels they have developed a relationship to the extent that&& it could be called a medicine to undertake this showing in front of an elder or (at least) discerning peer.This showing is of utmost importance as it is so easy to convince oneself of a special relationship, when in truth, one is dealing with an aspect of oneself (see power animal
) as opposed to another. My experience is that when one carries a medicine and has performed a showing, they virtually never say they carry that medicine. After having performed the showing, they KNOW what they have. If it is necessary in discussion to speak about one's medicine, a wise person will typically refer to their "friend".
Medicine Man / Medicine Person
A medicine person or medicine man is one who carries a plethora of medicine. You could say that it is both quantitative and qualitative. Many may carry medicine, but that does not make them a medicine person. A medicine person would have a large arsenal at his/her disposal and dedicate that to the welfare of the people. It is generally considered that by their nature, a shaman is a medicine person. A shamanist may or may not be.
Underworld or Lower World
I use the term underworld. Lower world seems to be a term coined by Michael Harner--I am not sure if it is the exact same. The underworld is the portion of our soul where we store our power (life-force) as well as our traumas and "monsters". Often when I descend into the underworld, I feel a dropping sensation much like going down in an elevator. Of course, it is not linear, but that is a way to discuss things. It is also known as hel (Teutonic) or hell. Each person has an underworld soul or part of their soul. There is also a grand underworld that is beyond the person.
When a person dies, they travel through their underworld where they must reconcile any monsters that they have created there. During shamanic journey, the route to the celestial also is through the underworld. As I know it, there are 13 underworlds.
Earth Realm or Middle World
The earth realm is where our every day attention is maintained. This would be our jump-off point for our journey into alternative realms. It is also an aspect of the soul.
Celestial or Upper World
After passing through the underworld, we may travel to the celestial realms. Within our own soul, the celestial is where we connect with source. The grand celestial or 9th celestial is also known as heaven and where the spirits of the dead who have passed through the underworld reside. As I know it, there are nine celestial worlds. An initiated shaman may make the journey to the 9th, while shamanists are limited to the seventh. The Eagle stands with his feet on the 7th branch with his head extending into the 8th.
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