In shamanism, it’s all about the Entities with whom you have formed relationships. Some of those relationships may be akin to spiritual slavery, in that one deity (it’s usually a deity) has grabbed you and made you their tool, while granting you certain powers and protections; as an example, I work with two primary dieties, Odin and Thor. They both protect me and push me to do their work.
Shamanism is also distinct from mysticism in that it is goal-oriented and work-focused. For the shaman, the question “What’s it useful for?” is all-important. As the servant of a tribe, rather than as a sole quest for oneness with the All, the shaman has to stop short of entirely merging with the other side. Instead we must find ways to make these experiences useful to the betterment of our people. Shamanism is set in a context that values all worlds equally, and sees the body, flesh, blood and Earth as sacred. The point is to make things easier for people here and now. Therefore, Shamanism is intensely practical, making use of every tool of “ecstasy”, as the anthropologists like to call it, in order to make actual change in the world.
There is no standard definition however a useful one is as follows: It is a practice that involves a practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to encounter and interact with the spirit world and channel these transcendental energies into this world. A shaman is a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of benevolent and malevolent spirits, who typically enters into a trance state during a ritual, and practices divination and healing.
There are those however who fall more in the category of Shamanic Practitioner. A Shamanic Practitioner is someone who learns shamanic techniques, and perhaps has some voluntary dealings with spirits, and does what they do because they want to, not because they have to. It’s much easier and safer to be a shamanic practitioner, although there are a small number of people who start out in the latter category and end up in the former one.
On another level a shaman is a person who interacts with both the ordinary world and the non-ordinary world of spirits, usually acting as a sort of intermediary between the two in which he/she brings messages and healing. The shaman uses different modalities to journey in to the non-ordinary world. Shamans are present and are common in many tribal cultures though they are known by many different names, some of which you might be familiar with like curanderos, witch doctors, witches or oracles.
This person is often responsible for both the physical and spiritual health of people in their community, and he or she may also be called upon to invoke spirits to aid or to predict the future and/or interpret omens. Shamanism is based in animism which is the oldest spiritual tradition known to humanity. There are many aspects to shamanic work and there are many benefits that you can attain. The most important of them all being, soul healing.
I use the term Shaman in the 20th century adaptation that has evolved through the studies of anthropologist and other scholars. Traditionally Shamans were only called as such in the ancient Mongolian tribes. Anthropologists and scholars used the term to describe other highly similar tribal Wise Men/Women, Medicine Men/Woman, Sage Men/Women. However, each area and each historical people/tribe like the Norse/Viking, Celts, Anglo-Saxons, even modern Native Americans had a specific term which they use to describe that position in their society. It is by tradition and of all Shamans, that I follow the path of my ancestors who came from Ireland and what is now Norway. As a follower of Asatru, the correct term for me would be Gythia. People do not recognize that word or many of the others in use, so I like others often revert back to the term “Shaman” for a quicker understanding of who we are.
A shaman intervenes and works with what is underlying in the body, not treating symptoms or aliments, but working and focusing on why whatever has manifested has done so and how it has affected you. Your body doesn’t lie, yet our minds will have us jump through hoops thinking too often, and not feeling. I try to help you by talking with your soul and body using the tools and training I have accrued in order to try and help you achieve balance and/or understanding to what is happening allowing healing on many levels to occur. By unlocking energy, removing blockages, and removing the veil I can help you actively change how you view your situation or position and empower you to make massive shifts and recoveries on your own.
I am not surprised that you asked me this question. In short, the answer is simply no. Seeing a Shaman is not a replacement for modern medicine, it IS however a great and wonderful complimentary treatment to go hand in hand with modern medicine. Most of the medicine that is out there has been handed down through accumulated knowledge and wisdom over centuries. While some people see that some treatments are as bad as the ailment, they are still tools used to try to help your body fight whatever is harming it. Just like in medicine, as a Shaman what we do is still called “practicing” because we never stop learning and we never stop growing and our skills become more refined and honed.
A huge movement in the medical community is about using a “holistic” approach to tackling major illnesses and it seems to be taking hold. They see that working on healing the mind, heart, spirit, and energy of a patient is as equally important AS treating the illness through modern medicine.