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4. How does one become a shaman?




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This article is from the Shamanism FAQ, by Dean Edwards deane@netcom.com with numerous contributions by others.

4. How does one become a shaman?

Some have wondered if the experience of shamanic ecstasy or flight
makes a person a shaman. Generally speaking, most would say no.
A shaman is more than someone with an experience. First, he or she
is a trained initiate. Usually years of enculturalization and
training under a mentor precede becoming a functioning shaman.
Second, a shaman is not just an initiate who has received inner and
outer training, but is a master of shamanic journeying and techniques
(shamanic ecstasy). This is not a casual acquaintance with such
abilities, there is some degree of mastery of them. Finally, a
shaman is a link or bridge between this world and the next. This
is a sacred trust and a service to the community. Sometimes a
community that a shaman serves in is rather small. In other
instances it may be an entire nation. A lot of that depends on
social and cultural factors.

One becomes a shaman by one of three methods:

a) Hereditary transmission;

b) Spontaneous selection or "call" or "election";

c) personal choice and quest. (This latter method is less frequent
and traditionally such a shaman is considered less powerful than one
selected by one of the two preceding methods.) The shaman is not
recognized as legitimate without having undergone two types of
training:

a) Ecstatic (dreams, trances, etc.)

b) Traditional ("shamanic techniques, names and functions of
spirits, mythology and genealogy of the clan, secret language, etc.) The
two-fold course of instruction, given by the spirits and the old master
shamans is equivalent to an initiation." (Mircea Eliade, The Encyclopedia
of Religion, v. 13 , p. 202; Mcmillian, N.Y., 1987.) It is also possible
for the entire process to take place in the dream state or in ecstatic
experience.

Thus, there is more to becoming a shaman than a single experience.
It requires training, perseverance and service.

 

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