Urban Shamanism

by Janine Donnellan

In ancient times Shamans were the world’s first healers, priests, therapists, wise men and women. Most indigenous societies around the world relied on someone who could perform this role when they needed guidance, faced illness, loss of spirit, or other crises.

All of us have ancestral roots in cultures which were more earth honouring, more in tune with the spirits of the land, plants and animals and in essence, more shamanic. Shamanic practices were conducted in many regions of the world, including the folk traditions and ancient mythologies of Europe.

Witches in those times were also Shamans, they were in tune with the earth and the seasons, they healed the sick and they worked with the ancestors and other spiritual beings for divination purposes and to assist the passage of past souls into the Afterlife. In modern witchcraft, many focus solely on the craft, through spells, rituals and sabbat celebrations. Those who explore witchcraft further learn to work deeply with the spirits of the land, and to work on healing all levels of their being. Witches are known to communicate with animal familiars, the deceased, faeries, angels and gods. One of the definitions of a Witch is “a walker between the worlds.” That phrase is also used to describe Shamans. We stand with one foot in the physical and one foot in the spiritual, both firmly rooted. We act as the gate between worlds – a crossroads to aid others on both sides. We form partnerships between the human and spirit worlds for the good of all.

Although there is still a lot to be learned from traditional/indigenous shamanic practices, it is important to realise and accept that we cannot go back in time and exist as our ancestors did. The world is undergoing rapid change and growth and in this complex society the modern Shaman cannot rely purely on ancient techniques. The Shaman is expected to integrate into their knowledge base, new technologies, scientific advancements, and a standard of professionalism and a code of ethics. Shamanistic healing in the new millennium is about vibrational healing on multidimensional levels.

Modern Shamans can still play an important role in their community. Each ancestral group has certain practices and beliefs specific to that culture which can enhance the modern shaman’s role in society. Of course our times are different to the ancients and our requirements are now different. Most of the population lives in highly populated cities; where we have the advantages of global communications and scientific and medical advancements. The modern day Shaman can integrate their ancestral knowledge and combine modern advancements in their Shamanic practices, whether it is through psychotherapy, mainstream medicine, meditation or through the many healing modalities that are being offered today in Healing centres around the world.

The modern day Shaman can draw on the knowledge of our ancient Shamans and indigenous groups and can adapt this knowledge to their own particular environment and ecology in which they live. It is therefore important that of each of us study the wisdom of our own ancestors, as well as honouring the teachings of other indigenous cultures. It is also important to note that it is also our responsibility not to copy or imitate non ancestral tribal customs unless we have permission to do so.

Through modern shamanic practices, we can now reclaim our ancestral heritage and we can rediscover our interconnectedness with all beings; we can feel the direct presence of Spirit in our lives; we can envision a new, sustainable future; we can learn to grow, heal and evolve as spiritual beings, and learn to live from our hearts, not just from our minds.