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There is no "new shamanism." Either it's shamanism, or not.

Tiny gourd rattles made from gourd stems.
H K Gresham

There seems to be an awful lot of people who have no idea what shamanism is but are eager to call themselves "shamans" and to proclaim themselves experts on whatever they have made up and called "shamanism." And there are plenty of publishers eager to cash in on their scam by publishing their books, CDs, and so on.

In fact, though, indigenous shamans almost never refer to themselves as shamans. Why not? For one thing, because their language always has its own words for shamans and what they do.

For another thing, in many cultures calling yourself a shaman would be considered bragging, and the spirits frown on that. Often, they frown on it to the extent of refusing to help anymore, effectively taking away your power.

Most real shamans are pretty humble and, outside their own culture, pretty quiet about it. So when you hear someone calling himself/herself a shaman, you can be almost certain that they are not.

Sometimes it's an honest mistake. As we've discussed here before, translation is a very inexact process. So with indigenous people, they may be using the only word they know of in English for a healer or other magic practitioner. And they may be honestly wrong in what they are saying.

The truth is shamanism is defined by these three things:

1. Shamanic work is done by journeying to the spirit world in a deep trance and negotiating, fighting tricking, or otherwise getting information or power from the spirits there to affect the everyday world.

2. Shamanism is a path of service. A shaman serves a particular group who depend on her/him to fulfill the function of shaman for the group.

3. Shamanism is based on animism, the belief that everything has its own spirit (or is a spirit), including animals, plants, stones, localities, weather patterns, and some fairly abstract ideas. There are no gods or goddesses in animism.

So when you see a practice described as shamanism, or a person described as a shaman, remember those three things. If they don't apply, what is being described is not shamanism or a shaman. It is ignorance, make believe, or a pure and simple scam.

There are many kinds of healing, many forms of magic, many valid belief systems in the world today. You don't have to be a shaman to heal people or situations. You don't have to be an animist to do magic (causing change in the world, using your mind).

There is no need to take anything else and try to pass it off as "shamanism." Except to sound important or to scam people for money---or both.

Fakes and pretenders can often be charismatic and charming. Some actually have some abilities and will use them to impress you and gain credibility---and money. But that does not make them shamans. On the contrary, in the field of shamanic studies, it makes them sorcerers.

For more information on what real shamans are and what they do, read the Houston Shamanism info website, Shamanista:

To learn to go into trance and do shamanic journeying, join the Houston Shamanism Meetup group:

Houston Shamanism Meetup is a warm, friendly place to meet others who share your interest in shamanism, and to learn by doing in a safe, supportive environment.

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