Shamanic Healing: What Is Shamanism And How Can It Heal You?

by Natasha Wanderly


Shamanism is the most ancient spiritual and healing practice known to man. In fact, shamanism and shamanic healing date back to over 100,000 years and have been practiced all across the globe — well before our current technologies of communication were possible.

How is it that the idea of shamanic healing has been so present and prominent throughout our world history? There must be something to it.

This article will cover nearly everything one needs to know about what shamanism is and how it works to heal our emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual bodies. It will do this by answering the following questions:

  • What is shamanism?

  • What is a shamanic journey?

  • How do shamans perceive illness?

  • What is shamanic healing?

  • Is shamanic healing right for you?

  • How does one find the right shaman?

What Is Shamanism?


Shamanism organically arose all over the world, all throughout history, as a response to the needs of people. Shamanism is an ancient collection of traditions based on the act of voluntarily accessing and connecting to non-ordinary states — or spirit realms — for wisdom and healing.

The word “shaman” comes from the Siberian Tungus tribe, and it directly means “spiritual healer,” or, more cleverly, “one who sees in the dark.”

Generally, there is one shaman per community. These shamans access the spirit realm for the purpose of individual and communal growth and healing — they do this by restoring and removing energetic pathways, recovering soul parts, and communicating with non-physical helpers to discover the spiritual aspects of illness and find answers to life’s seemingly impossible questions. This reality-penetrating ability marks them as the world’s very first doctors, storytellers, mystics, and even psychotherapists.

Shamanism comes with a great responsibility. Alongside simply accessing these worlds, they must possess the ability to transform what they have learned and experienced into a concrete change in the physical world.

This capacity to apply wisdom from the spirit realm in order to heal and transform the physical realm is what differentiates shamans from other “spiritual travelers.” For example, a medium can access these realms, but they lack the physical action while there. As well, a sorcerer may take action in an altered state, but their focus is generally not upon healing.

Shamans also act as great teachers, for they teach that everything is spirited; that all things are interconnected and alive, including (but certainly not limited to) the Earth itself, the stars in the sky, and even the wind in the air. For this, it is also the shaman’s role in a community to demonstrate and maintain the harmonious balance of humankind, nature, and spirit.

Although shamans in some ways may act as teachers, many shamanic healers do not consider shamanism to be a religion. They feel this way because, within shamanism, there are no dogmas, no sacred text, and no single founder or leader. While individuals of religious practices may practice shamanism, not all shamans are part of an organized religion.

How does a person become a Shaman?

All of this talk about shamanic abilities begs the question: how does one become a shaman? The answer is not entirely simple, as shamanism has taken on a variety of forms across time and space. Below, however, are a few different examples of how one may become a shaman.

By Birth

In many tribes, it is said that Spirit chose to incarnate itself as a shaman before it was even born into physical existence. For that, a shaman is known by the spiritual elders of a tribe as, or sometimes even before, he/she is born. As well, it is said that shamanic ability may also be passed down ancestrally. The young shaman will then grow to be guided and trained by an elder shaman.

By Initiation

In other cultures, prospective shamans must undergo what is known as “shamanic initiation.” This can happen through courageously enduring terrifying circumstances and not only face, but resolve, all of their fears — a real shaman will demonstrate immense strength and healing in this process.

As well, Shamanic initiations can happen during trances, dreams, or out-of-body experiences. During these non-physical experiences, they are granted a spirit guideand subsequently undergo “spiritual surgery,” where they are completely dismembered, bone by bone, and reassembled as a newly born shaman.

By Calling

When an individual has a very serious illness — or near death experience of any kind — and are visited by spirits (and sometimes even ghosts of their ancestors), they are said to have a “shamanic calling.” They can become shamans from these experiences because they are said to have known death, returned from it, and thus, have a secret of life not attained by others.

As well, some cultures, such as the Greeks, highly regard being struck by lightning as a supreme calling, as the lightening possesses magical powers of the sky.

What are the special abilities of Shamans?

A person can enter into the field of shamanism, when — and only when — they have obtained these special shamanic abilities:

  • The ability to voluntarily enter altered states of consciousness and maintain full control while maneuvering in and out of those various states.

  • The ability to be a mediator between worlds. They must be able to articulate the needs and wisdom of the spirit world to the physical world, and vice versa. These needs and teachings must not only be understood by the community as a whole, but also facilitated.

  • The ability to create and maintain balance of humankind, nature, and the spirit realm.

What Is A Shamanic Journey?

That invisible and mysterious place outside of time and physical reality (as we know it), has been referred to and looked at in many different ways: The Spirit Realm (as it has been referred to in this article), Non-Ordinary Reality, The Parallel Universe, The Other World (Celtic traditions), Dreamtime (Australian aborigines), and countless others. However this spiritual place is perceived and named, it is precisely where shamans go during their shamanic journeys.

A shamanic journey is always performed in a ceremonial context, as these realms are not to be taken lightly. Shamans enter these altered states of consciousness in order to communicate and connect with helping spirits to retrieve information; the information attained is generally brought back for healing purposes.

How to embark on a Shamanic Journey Trance

A shaman can enter the spirit realm via trance, which is oftentimes induced using rhythmic percussion (a drum or rattle) and/or shaman songs; this is the safest and purest method of reaching these altered states of consciousness.

During these trances, the brain enters the Theta brainwave state. The Theta state exists between being awake and asleep — it is where clairvoyance and creativity thrive, and deep spiritual connection can be experienced.

Plant Medicines

As well, shamans can be guided in their spiritual journeys with the help of various plant medicines. Plant medicines are highly respected and generally brought into awareness by previous communication with spiritual entities; however, shamans also report that the plants, themselves, told them of their power. These plants contain highly psychedelic properties and are oftentimes looked up to as spiritual entities, themselves — for example, Mother Ayahuasca.

Some of the more common plants used in shamanic journeys are Ayahuasca, IbogaSan Pedro cactus, psychedelic mushrooms (though not exactly a plant), Salvia, and Peyote cactus. Plant medicines will be further discussed in the “What is shamanic healing?” section.

Helping Spirits


During shamanic journeys, there exist a variety of helping spirits; these spirits come in the form of either spirit guides (humanoid beings) or power animals (also plants and insectoids) — they take on these familiar-looking forms in order to better relate with us. Helping spirits guide shamans and spirit travelers through these other worlds and assist them in healing individuals, the community, and the planet.

Power Animals

Power animals play a key role in the shamanic practice. According to shamanic wisdom, every person is born with the spirit of one or more animal. Animal spirits remain with us throughout our lives and help to guide and protect us. They are highly akin to the Christian concept of a Guardian Angel, and are essential guides to any venture undertaken by a shaman.

As well, power animals graciously lend their wisdom and attributes. For example, a Jaguar can teach one to walk fearlessly in the darkness and to pave the path in the midst of chaos. For that, as one moves through life, they can lose old and acquire new power animals, depending on where they currently need guided; it is also quite common for a single individual to have more than one power animal.

Spirit Guides

Spirit guides tend to come forth in these altered states in human, or humanoid, form. They help to guide shamans and spirit travelers through unfamiliar realms with ease and comfort — they establish a bond and are very trusted. A spirit guide is a teacher, a protector, and also a companion (some shamans even form a spiritual marriage with their spirit guides). These guides are oftentimes the gods and goddesses of the community, as well as ancestors wishing to help.

Not only do these spirits work with the shamans for the purpose of healing, they also provide wisdom when and where it is needed. Shamans sign a kind of spiritual contract with these spirit guides: “When I call, Spirit listens. When Spirit calls, I listen.”

Communication between Shamans and Helping Spirits

The communication between shaman and spirit is most commonly not as one would expect it to be. More often than not, these spirits of non-ordinary realms communicate with us in non-ordinary ways…

Generally, verbal communication does not occur — this is because verbal communication only needs to happen between two separate beings: one individual has an idea and would like to communicate it to another individual. However, in these higher states, separateness dissolves and thus does the need for verbal communication. The shaman and the spirit are of the same so the communication between the two can occur simply as a knowing.

The 3 worlds of the Shamanic Journey

In shamanic cosmology, the world is divided into three equal parts: the lower, middle, and upper worlds. These worlds are oftentimes symbolized by images of a “World Tree,” which is commonly referred to as “Axis Mundi.” The roots represent the lower world, the trunk represents the middle world, and the branches represent the upper world — it is the shamanistic trinity. Similar to how every part of the tree is necessary and equal, every world is necessary and equal; each world contains it’s own vibration, wisdom, and methods of healing.

During a shamanic journey, shamans must travel between these 3 worlds to access the wisdom and/or healing methods they need, whether for the individual or the community. Typically, a shaman must travel to the lower and upper worlds through a type of non-physical portal, creating a sense of “popping out” or, “popping through” to these other realms.

Lower World

Contrary to popular assumptions, the Lower World is not one of shadows and evil goblins — it is in no way the same as the idea of “hell” or “the Underworld.”

Actually, the Lower World is the world of the invisible interconnectedness of nature; it is a place where natural spirits, like our power animals, vibrate and live. It is where all aspects of nature, from mountains, to rivers, to fireflies, can be communed and connected with.

One may experience the lower world, for example, by transporting to an African-like safari scene, where they may commune with spirit animals of recognisable form, such as lions and zebras, or mythological — and even legendary — creatures.

Albeit an Earthly scene, the normal rules of Earthly physics don’t necessarily apply. For that, it is possible to breathe underwater while dancing with whales, fly in the sky with eagles, and even ride river rapids on a giant leaf. Being in this world feels much like a terrestrial lucid dream.

The Lower World is said to be a place of creativity and healing, and, much like a dream, represents the subconscious mind.

Middle World

The Middle World is the spiritual dimension of our physical world — it is where our ordinary conscious/waking reality resides.

However, it can also be accessed in non-ordinary states; such states include astral projection and remote viewing/seeing. The non-ordinary Middle World is generally where a shaman first enters upon leaving their physical body; it is in this world that they can communicate with spirits that live in this physical reality, such as the spirits of the moon, plants, animals, and living human beings.

However, this is also the world in which “lost souls” often reside — souls that have not yet been able to pass over (popularly called ghosts). In fact, because of these lost souls, there is an entire sector of shamanic training called “psychopomp work,” which aims to help these souls complete their process of crossing-over. The Middle world is a tricky one to travel; spirits met and communicated with in this world are not to be taken seriously, as there are really no moral grounds or standards.

Typically, though, shamans journey to the Middle World to commune with nature (where they usually discover new plant medicines) recover lost and stolen objects, or to do long-distance healing work.

This world is said to be the place of our ego, or our conscious mind.

Upper World

The Upper World, unlike the Earthly Lower and Middle Worlds, is abstract, imaginative, and other-worldly, often referred to as the “heavens.” It consists of fractals, prisms, and all things geometric and kaleidoscopic. One may experience an emerald green world with pyramids built upon clouds and DNA-looking strands spiraling in and out of the stars in the sky — in the foreground, can be found a spirit guide.

In this world, spirit guides appear in all shapes and sizes: young, ancient, god-like, animal-like, and a mixture of animal and humanoid. It is where star nations, celestial and planetary beings, and angels and archetypes will be found… This world consists of anything and everything one can — and can’t — possibly image.


A shaman’s main purpose for visiting the Upper world is to commune with spirit guides, or spirit teachers. These teachers help shamans in both divination and in healing; their wisdom teaches of our deepest and truest selves and allows us to flower into harmony within ourselves and the greater whole. Shamans go to the Upper World to attain this wisdom; it is where pure Spirit resides, and unlike the Middle World, these spirits can — and should— be taken seriously.

These Upper World spirit teachers are to provide shamans with their education. From the spirit’s perspective, this is an important communion as they are otherwise unable to reach physical, or ordinary, reality.

The Upper World is said to be the place of our higher selves — of our super-conscious that permeates all space and time.

How Do Shamans Perceive Illness?

With life, there is suffering in the form of illness. We believe that is it microbes, viruses, bacteria, and injuries that cause our physical bodies illness. In the same respect, we believe that it is primarily an imbalance of brain chemistry that causes mental and emotional illness, such as depression, addiction, and so on.

Shamans, on the other hand, perceive these as the effects. They believe that, for true healing, one cannot simply mask and suppress these effects, or symptoms, with medication — they believe that we must address the root cause. The root cause is something far beyond viruses, bacteria, and brain chemistry; the root cause comes from the internal, non-physical realm: the spirit.

The 3 Causes of illness

From a shamanistic perspective, there are 3 classic causes of mental, emotional, and physical illness:

Disharmony (or Power Loss)

Disharmony, or power loss, oftentimes occurs when someone has lost an important connection to life, or when life seems to lose it’s meaning. This can happen either subtly or catastrophically; either way, we experience a loss of livelihood and meaning, and experience disempowerment in the process. This loss of will, or life power, strongly and directly affects our energetic matrix, and can cause us to become quite vulnerable to illness.

A common, yet tragic, example of this is when there is an elderly couple who have spent most of their lives together and one of them dies. The survivor oftentimes goes into a life crisis upon the loss and, shortly after, incurs an illness (such as cancer) and dies — that’s disharmony.


Fear is the most common cause of illness. Fear is responsible for emotions such as anxiety, stress, anger, jealousy, etc. Scientists and researchers also heavily agree that when these stress-producing hormones are present, they quickly begin to disintegrate the protective mantle of the body’s immune system, as well as it’s overall energetic matrix. Illness, as a result, is inevitable.

Half a century ago, the Renaissance physician, Paracelsus, honorably noted that “the fear of disease is more dangerous than the disease itself.” Shaman’s would surely agree with Paracelsus’ findings.

Soul Loss

Soul loss is the most extreme — yet, sadly, still common —  cause of illness; in fact, it is the most serious diagnosis and a major cause of severe illness and even premature death.

Soul loss is most often experienced after a traumatic experience takes place, such as fighting in a war (an all-too-common trigger of PTSD), a bitter divorce, or intense bullying. In some cases, these experiences can be so shattering that one’s soul can begin to fragment and dissociate. In the most extreme and overwhelming cases, these soul parts get too far lost and fail to return.

We have heard people say things like, “I have not been the same since the incident,” or “a part of me died that day.” These remarks are red flags for soul loss. As well, the following symptoms are also commonly present:

  • Feeling “not all here,” or fragmented

  • Blocked memory

  • Emotional distance, or complete apathy

  • A lack of joy, motivation, or enthusiasm

  • Addiction

  • Suicidal tendencies

  • Chronic depression and negativity

This all may seem a bit heavy, that’s okay. The point of all this talk about suffering is to enlighten about possible healing methods — not the traditional pill-form “healing” methods that only mask the symptoms, but real healing methods that nurture and mend the root of the problem: the wounded spirit.

What Is Shamanic Healing?

In the shamanic perspective, true healing — spiritual healing — cannot be done on a physical level. Healing means to return to wholeness, and returning to wholeness is purely an inside job. Spiritual healing addresses the root — the spiritual — problems that cause dis-ease.

It is important to note that shamans believe that despite their great accessibility to the spirit realm, all healing is self-healing. A shamanic healer knows how to move and manipulate the energy of another’s body and can pass wisdom through from the spirit realm, but true healing must take place inside the spirit of the individual.

In other words, a person must be willing and ready to take full responsibility for his or her own healingn—  there is no magic pill that lies outside of one’s spiritual body. A shaman can be an outstanding tutor, but will not give all of the answers. It is also important to note that shamanic healing is not to be a substitute for conventional medical or psychological services, but is to instead be worked with adjunct to.

All of that being said, there are two main types of shamanic healing practices: a shamanic healing session, and a shamanic plant medicine healing ceremony. The main difference between these two types of healing is that in the latter healing practice, the clients goes on a journey with the shaman.

Shamanic Healing Sessions

Albeit an ancient practice, an increasing number of people are currently turning to shamans to support their well-being. As shamanic healers exist in nearly all cultures, their exact customs may vary, but the essence of what they do remains the same. They act as a sort of “hollow bone,” or an intermediary, by merging with the spirit realm and connecting with helping spirits to channel energies and wisdom in order to aid in healing within individuals on this dimension.

The helping spirits of the shamans are able to diagnose the cause (since they are spirit, they can easily see all that is happening on the spiritual level) of an illness, give insight, and then help to facilitate the required treatment for healing. For that, during a shamanic healing ceremony, the shaman must go on a shamanic journey to retrieve this energy and information — that is the core of a healing session. As well, many shamans will perform a bit of energy work in order to integrate the effects of the journey, locate, and release blockages, and increase the body’s ability to heal.

What typically happens in a shamanic healing session?


*Please keep in mind that, as this is a worldly practice, specific customs may vary. Every shaman is unique, but there are a few elements that generally remain the same.


A typical healing session can take place inside or outdoors, it is of the client’s preference; whichever way, the area must be quiet, safe, and relaxing. A “sacred space” is created. This space is dedicated to opening, releasing, and healing. Effects such as a candle display, incense or palo santo (holy wood) burning, an altar with crystals or special stones, soothing music, and a comfortable place to lie down on are usually included.

Open Conversation with Shaman

The first thing that will happen is an open discussion between the client and the shaman; for this, the shaman will hold a respectable, non-judgmental space. They may discuss the client’s history, and/or how their soul is feeling at the present moment. The shaman will inspire and encourage the client to dig deeper into their story and really open up as they both hunt for truth and healing potential.

These conversations are usually effortless and productive, as the shaman is trained in fostering and nurturing that safe space, and the client is willing to be transparent in order to heal.

Energetic Work

Next, they move into the ceremonial work. At this time, the client can lie on their back, wearing loose and comfortable clothing. The shaman will then assess their various energy centers (usually found along the 7 chakras of the body). At this point, the shaman can sense where unnecessary energy is being stored, where stagnant energy can be released, and where empowering energy can be placed.

The Shamanic Journey

When the energy work is complete, the shaman will then describe to the client what they may experience during the following part of the session: tingling and warming sensations, meditative-like states of consciousness, an emotional release, and/or the energy of the spiritual communion itself.

The shaman is then ready to access non-ordinary reality, and proceeds to induce a trance (theta brainwave state) via rhythmic percussion (generally using a drum and/or rattle).

Then, there are the shaman journeys…

Within this shamanic journey, the shaman connects with his or her spirit helpers/guides and travels through the 3 different worlds (as mentioned previously) in search of wisdom and healing for the client.

While in this non-physical trance, the shaman may also do either hands-on or hands-off energy work, by channeling energy from the spirit world and moving it throughout the client’s body accordingly.

This portion of the ceremony typically lasts about an hour.

The Return

Once the shaman has returned from their journey, they are again ready to hold space for discussion. Here, they will discuss with the client what was experienced (on both ends), what wisdom and advice was gifted to them from the spirit realm, and what the client can then begin implementing differently in their lives in order to heal.

Integration: an Essential Step

Following a shamanic healing session, many deeply rooted energies have been shifted. Therefore, for the days, weeks, and even months following the session, it is advised that clients take special note of how they are feeling — they can do this by keeping a journal to keep track of progress for future insight and guidance.

The client will normally feel changes and shifts in their energy, and need not fret, for this is all part of the healing process — toxins that have long been stored in one’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual body have been released, as well as unhealthy habitual thinking. It is the shaman’s greatest advice to listen to and accept the energetic changes one may feel following a session; any discomfort will pass and new, vibrant, life energy will take its place.

For the following months after a session, the shaman will frequently check in with the client to see how everything is enfolding for them and to offer any comfort and/or additional guidance that may be needed.


Shamanic Plant Medicine Healing Ceremonies

Although the healing is still done from the very core of one’s being (the spirit), this second healing practice differs quite greatly from a typical healing session as the client goes on a spiritual journey.

With much relaxation and deep meditative techniques, non-ordinary realms can be accessed organically using the same trance-inducing methods as shamans. In this way, one can be completely present and in control.

However, there is another route one can take to achieve this healing and access these non-ordinary states: plant medicines. The difference is that the plant is the vehicle in which one is riding around in, and each plant has it’s own unique way of touring these worlds.

In recent years, the curiosity of many people in the Western world about indigenous cultures and their plant medicines have peaked. This recent attention, however, has been accompanied by the misperception of the medicine, the experience provided, and its immense healing properties.

In shamanic culture, these plants, although entheogenic, are not considered a drug; rather, they are considered highly respected and sacred medicines. Shamans believe that these plant medicines are deeply connected to the Spirit, or Source, and can easily show us to these non-ordinary realms where great knowledge can be attained, growth can be accelerated, and true healing can take place.

That being so, these plant medicines are to be ingested and experienced in a ceremonial context, and with a trained shaman. The shaman’s job during one of these ceremonies is to join the client in his or her journey, hold a safe space, guide, protect, and intervene if needed. The Shaman also helps the client to later interpret, understand, and integrate their experience.

One must feel called — not pressured — to participate in a plant medicine ceremony. They must be ready to make a change in their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual lives by applying what they have learned during their ceremony, meaning that these plant medicines are to be taken seriously, with great intention, and not dosed recreationally. One must also be ready to completely surrender to the plant and let it take them where they need to go; the plant spirit always knows exactly what one most needs to see, feel, hear, experience, and thus, learn.

Since these plants are so powerful, they are oftentimes looked at by shamanic cultures as spiritual entities or Gods and Goddesses. Many common shamanic plant medicines include, but are certainly not limited to: Ayahuasca, Iboga, San Pedro cactus, psychedelic mushrooms (though not exactly a plant), Salvia, and Peyote cactus.

To give a brief overview and an example of what a plant medicine ceremony is, we will take a quick look at the (currently) most popular of these plant medicines, Ayahuasca.



Unlike any other sacred plant medicine, Ayahuasca is comprised of two separate plants: the chacruna leaf (Psychotria viridis) and the Ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi). Alone, neither of these plants produce medicinal nor entheogenic properties. However, when combined, they work together and become a very powerful and sacred medicine.

Both of these plants are found in the Amazon rainforest in South America. Astonishingly, in this particular rainforest, there are over 80,000 cataloged leafy plant species. Yet, somehow, the psychopharmacologists of the Amazon (the shamanic healers) knew exactly which two unsuspecting plant species would create such a magical and psychoactive medicine when combined.

The history of Ayahuasca use dates so far back that anthropologists and researchers have yet been able to trace its origins; however, the shamans claim that the plants, themselves, told them during a Middle World shamanic journey.

The plants are collected from the jungle and brewed into a sacred tea. The tea, when taken ceremonially, throws open the gates to the spirit realm and reveals mystical, non-ordinary worlds that are unperceivable in ordinary consciousness.

Traditionally, it was only the shaman who would drink the Ayahuasca brew; they would do this in order to induce their shamanic journeys during a healing session and bring wisdom and guidance back in order to assist in healing individuals and the community.

Currently, however, the use of this brew has positively evolved to reach more and more people; now, any interested person (not just an experienced shaman) can experience the extraordinary healing power of Ayahuasca.

Unfortunately, many Western cultures have yet been able to fully understand the healing and medicinal properties of this unique plant substance. For that, it is illegal in many countries. Yet, it is not only legal but highly praised in it’s birthplace: the Amazonian countries of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, and Brazil. In these countries, foreigners have the opportunity to partake in an Ayahuasca ceremony with a respected shaman.

It is during these ceremonies that participants are able to face the root causes of their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual illnesses head-on and delve deep into the healing process by allowing the spirit of Ayahuasca to take them on a journey to these realms of non-ordinary consciousness. Within these realms, deep-seeded issues that have long been hidden within one’s subconscious mind are revealed to them.

Mother Ayahuasca, as the plant spirit is often referred to (due to it’s feminine and mother-like qualities), will always teach the participant precisely what they most need to learn in order to fully, truly heal themselves.

An Ayahuasca Ceremony

As specific traditions within Ayahuasca ceremonies will vary from shaman to shaman, these following customs generally remain the same:

Preparation — Ayahuasca diet

Ayahuasca is a total spirit, mind, and body cleanse; for that, a special diet (or dieta, as it is commonly referred to in South America), is highly recommended.

Usually, during the first half of a ceremony, there is a fair amount of purging; from either or both ends. This is because Ayahuasca is purifying the physical body of toxins before it moves on to mental, emotional, and spiritual body purification.

A great way to lesson, or, in some cases, completely avoid, the purging process is to begin the purification process the week before the ceremony. Specific dietas vary, but usually require one to abstain from drugs, alcohol, and processed foods. In some cases, dietas even require the absence of sex, salt, meat, spice, and sugar.


If the diet is followed properly, one is sure to reap the benefits soon after the tea is ingested. Plus, in many cultures, respecting and following a dieta is paying a great homage to Mother Ayahuasca.

The Ceremony

Each shaman has their own personal way of setting up the ceremonial area. However, ceremonies are typically held just after sunset in a safe, relaxing, and comfortable environment, most notably within the highly energetic confines of the Amazon Rainforest.

Commonly, there are about 7 participants and one shaman present during a ceremony, all of whom ingest the brew. The shamans creates a very open and safe space by lighting incense and candles, setting up altars, and playing soothing percussion. He or she will also clear and protect the energy of the space by filling the room of, and blowing onto the crown each participant, a form of sacred tobacco called “Mapacho,” as pictured above.

Then, the shaman suggests that each person set an intention for their journey, whether that be to surface past wounds or to learn self-love. The group then prays together and gives thanks to Mother Ayahuasca.

Finally, one by one, each participant drinks the brew and begins to journey. . .

Once the medicine kicks in, the shaman will begin to sing icaros, or shaman songs, which help to intensify the medicine and further protect the energy of the room.

The Return

Ayahuasca typically lasts around 5 hours. As everyone in the ceremony begins to return to waking, conscious reality, the shaman will again use Mapacho to clear the energy of the space and ground each individual.

The floor will then be open for sharing and heartfelt communion.

Afterward, each participant can personally discuss their experience with the shaman, who will then help to integrate their experience to this physical reality and provide advice on how to incorporate their newly discovered wisdom into their lives for optimal healing.

The following days, weeks, and months will involve an identical integration process to a shamanic healing session.

Is Shamanic Healing Right For You?

We have now discussed what shamanism and shamanic healing is, as well as the two main types of shamanic healing methods. Now, it is time to discuss whether or not shamanic healing is right for you.

Below are characteristics of someone who may find it wildly appropriate to explore shamanic healing:

  • Possesses a strong desire to create more meaningful relationships with oneself, others, nature, and the spirit world;

  • Is ready to move forward beyond old thought patterns, limiting belief systems, and unhealthy habits that no longer serve them;

  • Is ready to dig deep down and willing to seek genuine self-inquiry into order to move into a greater self;

  • Wants to create real, positive, and lasting change within themselves but feels somehow “blocked” and wishes for guidance on how to move forward;

  • If one chooses the plant medicine route, they are willing and able to fully surrender to the experience and trust that they will be guided to exactly where they need to be;

  • Is willing to put forth the effort needed to fully integrate new wisdom and healing;

  • Is patient and willing to take the time that may be needed to heal.

If you believe that shamanic healing may be the answer you’ve been searching for, the final section may be of good use.

How Does One Find The Right Shaman?

Shamans are people. For that, just like anyone else, they come in all shapes, sizes, attitudes, and flavors. In order for one to find the right shaman, it is advised to follow these guidelines:

Methods and Specialties

Just as all shamans have their own unique preference and style of healing, every person who seeks healing has their own preferences, as well. For that, there is a lot of beauty to be found in the vast variety of shamans and their various methods of healing — one shaman may be perfect for one person but not-so-great for another.

Some shamans work a lot with stones and crystals, while others focus on rhythm and chanting. Some shamans personally train clients to embark on their own shamanic journeys, and others journey alone. Some work one-on-one, while others work in a group setting. There are also shamans who specialize in specific fields such as addictions, PTSD, soul-retrieval, and energy balance.

In order to get the most out of shamanic healing, the right client must be matched to the right shaman.


It is of great importance to note that although someone has the title of “shaman,” this does not automatically make them a patron saint of ethics or a supernatural, God/Goddess-like being. Someone can claim that they are a shaman but that does not always mean they have the best of intentions. Below are some positive shamanistic qualities to look out for:

  • They are humble — a real shaman does not walk around as if they are a rock star;

  • They are trustworthy;

  • They do not push personal boundaries;

  • They let you come to them (it is common in South America for “shamans” to approach tourists on the streets and offer them a brew; this, typically, is not genuine);

  • They accept you as you are, without even the slightest hint of judgment;

  • They possess a playful, peaceful demeanor;

  • They are of pure spirit.

However, it is primarily about whether or not one feels good and comfortable around the shaman.

Qualifications and Training

As there are no formal standards to becoming a shamanic healer, it is important that the shaman can provide positive feedback from her/his other clients. As well, they should be able to tell a genuine story of how they became a shaman and be willing to discuss how they learn from the spirit realm.

For example, if a shaman wishes to do a soul-retrieval, but has no prior history of training or can’t explain how they learned soul-retrieval from the spirit realm, they perhaps have not been fully trained to perform this higher-level task.

Personal Intuition

Above all else, it is advised to listen to your intuition. If something feels off with a shaman, it probably is — listen to that. If in the depth of your being everything feels right, you have found your shaman.