The Shaman’s Path and Healing

(edited/modified from a Suite101 WPSHM series I wrote in 2000)

The Shaman’s Path and Healing
© Jodi Lee 2012

I have often been interested in the differences in methods employed by the shamanic healers. Perhaps the fascination stems from their strong ability to focus while “journeying”, or perhaps it’s the methods to achieve the altered state required for “journeying.” Whatever the reasons, my ears perk up, or my eyes wander during conversations where the topic is brought up.

In my younger years, I always assumed “shaman” was a Native American term for medicine man. Once I was introduced to a broader spectrum of natural healing, earth based religion books, I discovered that many cultures use the term shaman to describe men and women who heal through contact with the spirit world, or “journeying”. And although I am meaning this first article to be an introduction of sorts, I’d also like to comment on a few of the books which I have kept over the past while. Each one has added a little something to my research, be it good or not so good.

“The Healing Craft” by Janet & Stewart Farrar and Gaving Bone: As I said in my review, this is an excellent work, and the section on shamanic practice is superb.

“The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom” by John and Caitlin Matthews: A truly stunning work. Another book by the same authors is “A Celtic Shaman’s Handbook.”

“By Oak, Ash, and Thorn” by DJ Conway: A great piece for the beginner seeking knowledge from various sources. This one is another from the Celtic perspective.

“Yearning for the Wind” and Shamanism as a Spiritual Practice for Daily Life” by Tom Cowan: Excellent books from several perspectives.

Between these books, talking to others, and various web-sites, I’ve found a fairly common description of shamanic healing practice – healing through ecstasy (trance – like state, or “journeying”) with the use of spirit or animal guides. Often, people refer to being called to the shaman’s path via a near death experience (in this reality or in alternate realities), serious illness, or dreams in which he/she has died. Also, one may dream an initiatory-like ritual, in which his/her organs are removed and replaced with others.

The shamanism practice is largely that of exploration of alternate realities. Through these explorations, shamans learn ways to help others through various methods of healing – Power Animal / Spirit Guide Connection or Retrieval, Soul Retrieval and Extraction. I will go further into each of these methods in the next Shaman’s Path article.

Some believe that shamanic healing is simply helping one to connect with the sub-conscious desire to be healthy, therefore attaining health by the “mind over matter” ideal. Others view it as a manipulation of energies – pushing out negative energies while infusing positive energies into the etheric body.

Either way, this is achieved in two stages. Attaining an altered state of mind (ecstasy) and maintaining the purpose for which one manifests the desired result.

Methods of Healing

Often times, through counselling or perhaps a person’s own “soul-searching”, people come to realize that they feel alone, not whole, as if part of their own being were missing. This often causes melancholy, listlessness, abnormal and occasional criminal behaviour. In rare, severe cases it may be a leading factor in suicide.

There are three main methods used by modern shamans of many paths (such as Native American, Celtic, and other various spiritualities). These methods include Animal/Spirit Guide Retrieval, Soul Retrieval and Extraction. Please note that these are the common methods of healing, there are others personal to each shaman. While I may utilize many methods in my own healing practices, I am not an expert on these methods. These are my personal experiences and notes from research.

Animal/Spirit Guide Retrieval

This method is not only practiced by shamans, but also by others interested in the metaphysical/magickal realms. It is not always a simple, fast solution – but often has very high results.

Animal/Spirit Guides come into our lives for various reasons, and can leave us once they feel they have served their purpose. While occasionally this will happen and we won’t notice – if the lessons taught by the guide have not “sunk” into our conscious mind and actions, our sub-conscious will attempt to facilitate learning by causing irregularities – manifesting as chronic depression, melancholy, irritability, anger, illness and personality changes. Although this does not always follow the loss of a guide, it can presage the need for one.

The shaman will begin by asking a few questions of the person requesting help. Through subtly placed inquiries, a shaman may gain some insight as to the person’s personality, their likes/dislikes, and the nature of the problem resulting in the quest for guidance from the Other Realm. Thus completed, the shaman will go into trance, using one of the various methods such as dance, drumming, or chanting to achieve an ecstatic state. It is in this state that the shaman can commune easily with the inhabitants of the Other Realm, and thereby gaining access to the person’s Animal or Spirit Guide. More often than not, this communication takes the form of symbolic imagery, rather than verbal communication.

Following Celtic ideology, there are many animal guides, although only a few are explained here. This that are explained are a few of the Power animals of Celtic mythology, and they are as follows:

Blackbird: The blackbird can help a person gain mystic knowledge;spirituality.

Boar: The boar helps release creative inspiration.

Bull: Symbolising strength and potency, the bull may come to one who is weak in nature.

Cow: The cow is a symbol of happiness and contentment.

Crane: Cranes are symbolic of the Triple Goddess, showing the fullness of life – youth, maturity and old age. Wisdom, learning of knowledge and keeping secrets are this animal’s points.

Crow: Crows have long been considered bad luck or an “ill-omen”, however the crow is also a guide to bringing knowledge to the recipient.

Deer: Represents knowledge and swiftness.

Dog: Dogs often symbolise companionship and steadfastness.

Dragon: Dragons of any sort represent the elements (there are lines of dragons for each element), therefore symbolising the content of the sub-conscious.

Eagle: Eagles bring forth hidden wisdom and knowledge.

Fox: As in life, the fox is cunning and swift of mind, as well as being able to view another’s true motives without being seen.

Hedgehog: Often, the hedgehog helps others bring down their gaurd, to be more accepting of others and life.

Horse: Stamina and will power are the traits of this animal guide.

Magpie: An omen of life and death, the magpie helps those who are unable to accept a death or loss of another.

Owl: Birds of great wisdom, the owl brings intuitiveness and keen sight to the recipient.

Pig: The pig is symbolic of the sacred “food” of spiritualism.

Raven: Another sacred bird, the raven brings the ability to see through the mists and develop foresight.

Salmon: This sacred fish of the Celts brings shamanic knowledge and the understanding to us it for practical means.

Swan: This beautiful bird brings spiritual balance and growth to help with life transitions.

Unicorn: Fabled beast bringing the Other Realms and Physical Plane into balance, and the understanding of different realities.

Wolf: Often the wolf brings protection and guidance by revealing a path to a person seeking enlightenment, possibly via a teacher.

Wren: These sacred birds are considered to be messengers from the Other Realm. Often, wrens as guides are only transitional.

When a person’s guide is found or revealed, the shaman brings it into her/himself, and then at the end of the trance, transfers the essence into the heart center of the recipient, thus transferring the qualities of the guide into the person. Through careful inner listening, learning and adaptation, the recipient then begins to take on those qualities, bringing wholeness to their lives.

Soul Retrieval

Repairing a soul shattered by traumatic events, severe illness, or a near death experience is called “Soul Retrieval”. The shattered pieces may number from a single fragment to any amount of pieces.

Soul Retrieval, unlike Animal/Spirit Guide Retrieval is a fair bit more complicated. Often times the soul fragmentation is diverse in nature, and the fragment(s) may not wish to return and re-integrate with the soul, or when it does return and re-integrate it is emotionally and psychologically stressful for the client. This stress is brief.

The methodology remains the same however. The client can be present, or if the need of absence arises, Soul Retrieval may be performed by the Shaman without the client’s physical body. The Shaman, as always, must begin by grounding or getting rid of any personal conflicts or problems. Once this is done, the Shaman will proceed to set up the working area, arranging the totem symbols, setting his/her other tools in place (wand, staff, incense etc) within easy reach. One tool used here and not with the other methods (or very rarely with the others) is the use of a “Soul-Catcher” crystal.

I have no personal experience with these crystals, and, as I expected, very little information is available online and my research continues; in the meantime, I move forward with an explanation of a session. If there are more than one or two pieces of a soul which need to be returned, it is best they are left, and searched out later. This is because of the stressful situation that may arise upon re-integration (the process I spoke of earlier).

The process begins with the Shaman using whatever means he/she is comfortable with in gaining access to the alternate realities. Steady drumming, bells, or consistent white noise will work. To me, attaining this alternate reality is somewhat akin to deep meditation and Astral Travel combined (yes, I do see a difference between the two).

There are many possibilities as to where the fragments of soul journey to, however in Celtic Spirituality, the fragments become residents of the Blessed Isles. The Shaman journeys to the Isles and finds each piece.

Once found, the Shaman will converse with the piece of soul, finding some common ground on which to discuss a return to the main body of the soul. These fragments should never be forced into returning, they should come home of their own free will. If they are forced to return, re-integration may become emotionally painful for the client, and the fragment may eventually leave again.

If the fragment of the soul wishes to return, the Shaman will carry the fragment home via the crystal, which is then placed upon the Third Eye (brow) area of the client, when the Shaman returns to the physical. If the client is not present, the Shaman will direct the fragment home over the Astral Plane.

Again, coming back to the physical world is simple enough – a change in the drumming, bells or other sounds is often sufficient.


Imagine my surprise, when in my research I discovered that I had been practicing a form of Shamanistic healing when I use crystals and stones, or when I use Aura Surgery.

I hadn’t realized previous to this article series that that is precisely what I was doing. The methods used are also known as Extraction. This is the method, or group of methods used to pull the negative energies or intruding energies from a soul, or the etheric spirit body of the patient. I have found that this is often the method that is used by people all over the world, and they are doing this much the same way I do, and are just as blind to the fact that they are indeed this method.

To begin, the Shaman has the recipient or patient lie down. The Shaman then goes into the state of ecstasy needed to access the spirit world. From here, the Shaman will contact his/her spirit or animal guide(s) and enlist their help in locating the energies, and the extraction of the energies. The entire etheric body of the recipient is scanned for dark spots, or spots of energy that are colder and “stickier” than the rest. At these spots, the Shaman can do one of several things, but they all amount to the energy being pulled or “sucked” out of the area, and placed into a neutral area.

The extraction itself, as I said, can be done in several ways.

Crystals or Stones: These can be placed on the physical body, to draw in the negative energies. This is something that I have been doing on and off for many years, without really realizing that was what I was doing. I personally carry the stones with me in an amulet bag, and they work on my spirit areas almost continually. Once or twice a month I will take the stones and cleanse them. Should I be working on someone else with a problem, the stones suited to that problem are placed on the body, and left for a while. When the session is complete, the stones are placed in salt water, and then buried (if it’s warm outside) or placed in a container to be buried later.

During healings such as this, the energy is pulled into the stone, and trapped there. If the energy is particularly stubborn, the healer may resort to placing his/her hands over the stone, and then pulling them back in a sucking motion.

Surgery: In this method, the Shaman will use his/her hands to cut out the dark spots from the spirit body. The energy is literally scooped from the body, and placed into a neutral zone (like a bowl of water) and the area filled with positive energies from the spirit guides, and then sealed. In severe cases this may need to be done several times over, in order to completely cleanse the etheric body of the disease.

Sucking: Once the areas needing to be cleared are determined, the Shaman literally sucks the energy from the etheric body by using his/her mouth. I have seen images of a Shaman using an everyday straw for this, as well as one where the Shaman cups his hands around the area, and then sucks through the vent formed at the top of his hands. I would suggest that only experienced Shamans use this method, although I didn’t find any research to bolster that opinion; I can’t see where anyone should be using this method if they haven’t the experience to protect themselves and their patient properly.

I hope this article has sparked an interest in shamanic and/or spiritual healing practices!

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