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May 01, 2018

Mystical Shamanism

Tags: Michael Harner, Core Shamanism, Alberto Villoldo, Q'ero Indians, Andes Mysticism

Many people with varying trainings, lineages, or "calls from Spirit,” refer to themselves as shamans. It is hard to know who is legitimate and who is not, and what a shaman really is. In Cuzco, Peru, for example, you can find “shamans” all over town selling mystical experiences. Many have access to medicinal plants, but few have training in how to hold space for a client, or even how to speak to the medicinal plants in ceremony. There are others that say no one can call themselves a shaman or be trained as one; it is an honor only bestowed upon one by others. 

The actual word “shaman” comes from the Tungusic Evenki language of North Asia. According to anthropological documentation it is the word the Tungus, in particular, used to refer to their medicine person. Spirits inhabited their shamans, affecting others positively, and negatively, and shifting circumstances on the material plane. Some believe that this manifestation of shamanism is the only legitimate form that can claim to use the word “shaman.” Technically, they are correct, as it is a word specific to this one tribe in Siberia. Every other tribe has a different language, and therefore a different word, and each tribe’s practices also vary. While some use use spirits to do their bidding, and others do not, most tribes do have mentors helping young initiates refine their skills.

Michael Harner, initially an anthropologist who studied many forms of tribal medicine work in the 1960’s, studied the practices of tribes from the Amazon through North America, to Siberia. He is considered the first person to bring the practices of “shamanism” into western awareness. Familiar with the word from anthropological annals, he chose to use “shaman” as an umbrella term for all tribal medicine people. One of Harner’s gifts to the modality was realizing that the induction of a trance state for healing is key in getting them to heal. He noticed that these states are easily initiated by beating drums at a theta brain rhythm, entraining the brain into trance. He calls his collection of practices “core shamanism.” While they cannot be attributed to a single tribe, or lineage, his practices have become a very popular version of shamanism in the West.

Alberto Villoldo was a medical anthropologist who studied somatic illness for many years in Brazil, Haiti and many other South and North American tribes, in the 1970’s. Eventually dropping his role as anthropologist, he became initiated into the traditions of the Q’ero Indians of Peru. He spent decades learning their ways and was encouraged by his elders to share this wisdom with the West, as their prophecies indicated a time of great turmoil ahead. The Q’ero are not shamanic in the sense of the Tungus medicine people of Siberia, as spirits do not inhabit them in their work. Nor are they drum journeyers like the Harner clan. They are more akin to conscious weavers, working at the interface between the Creative Force and Nature. This requires cultivating a deep connection with Nature, a very a refined level of consciousness that is not clouded by personal agendas and wounding, and skill at working with the energetic threads of creation. Paqos, as they call themselves, are not born, they are honed through initiations, training, and practice. 

This mystical shamanism dovetails beautifully with our scientific understanding of energy and creation. From the perspective of quantum mechanics the world is made of energetic connections that can be manipulated and changed through consciousness too. The key in both perspectives is becoming crystal clear about what you are intending. In the goal oriented West, where we deny our wounding and compensate for it with personal agendas, it takes great un-learning to embody the grace of the Mystical Shaman, but this is the path to our future!

Christina Allen, Shamanic Healer, Teacher, and Founder and Director of the Austin Shamanic Center, combines a strong science (BA Physics, MS Neuroscience) background with decades of applied ancient spiritual wisdom (Master Yogi, Reiki Master, Shamanic Healer, based, in part, on Q’ero Indian traditions of Peru). ASC offers profound Shamanic Self Development Workshops, professional trainings, and personal healings. Learn more at

© Austin All Natural, May 2018

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