EVERY PERSON WHO INTEGRATES SHAMANIC practices and/or ceremonies into their lives is a shamanic practitioner to some degree.
Shamans are shamanic practitioners who have dedicated their spiritual practice to helping others in their community.
Not every shamanic practitioner is a shaman, in the same way that not everyone who works on healing themselves is a healer (and not everyone who receives medical treatment becomes a medical doctor).
The distinction between a shamanic practitioner and a shaman is an important one.
Everyone on this path must first heal themselves, and only then can they start to consider being in service to their community.
Folks who come to study shamanic work to heal themselves and their environment are shamanic practitioners.
It is also important to distinguish between shamans and clergy.
In some cultures, the two overlap, but this is not always the case.
Members of the clergy lead the community in devotional practices usually within established frameworks that have been passed down in a traditional manner.
While these rituals do provide a means for honoring spirit, their intent is not to bring participants into non-ordinary reality to directly communicate with helping spirits.
A community can have shamans who also function as clergy, but in some communities they have distinct roles, with the shaman tending to the working relationships with helping spirits and the clergy tending to ritual and liturgy.
As discussed in the previous chapter, shamanism is non-dogmatic and is not a cosmology unto itself.
Clergy, on the other hand, function within their specific dogmas and cosmologies.
This means that becoming a shaman is not akin to becoming a priest or priestess, but it is still a path that requires extensive devotion and commitment.
Once a practitioner transitions into performing ceremony and healing for other people, they are on their way to becoming shamans.
A teacher once described shamans as the original activists, because they are the ones seeking to bring harmony and balance among people, the earth, and the realm of spirit.
Before engaging in that work, we must first bring harmony to ourselves.
A shaman has, after years of practice, chosen a position of service to their community and their land.
They are there to help bring healing and harmony and help others with their shamanic practice.
Not every shamanic practitioner will become a shaman, and that’s perfectly fine.
Each of us has a path to follow, and not all of us will be called onto a path of service.
As you embark on this journey, do so without preconceptions or expectations, and let your helping spirits guide you on your path, whether it be as a practitioner or whether you hear a calling to teach and guide others.
Shamanic practitioners can come from any background, be from any culture, and be of any gender.
While I have witnessed gender discrimination against female practitioners within modern shamanic practices, there is no historical basis for this.
In The Norse Shaman, Evelyn Rysdyk discusses gender in Shamanism, presenting archeological evidence of prehistoric female shamans, such as the shaman at Dolni Vĕstonice in the Czech Republic, and the shaman uncovered in what is now northern Israel.
The key defining element of a shamanic practitioner is their personal commitment to study, practice, and grow and to develop an intimate working relationship with their helping spirits.
The working relationship is developed through a regular practice of accessing non-ordinary reality
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