A shaman or a shamanic healer is a religious figure in traditional Indigenous religions. In their communities, shamans are considered healers or prophets. Shamans typically enter altered states of consciousness or trances as part of their healing rituals, which often utilize drums, medicines, and other tools.

In tribal languages, shamans are often referred to as “people who know.” Shamans are usually responsible for maintaining religious traditions within their culture. Shamans often access what they describe as a spirit realm or other dimensions.

While shamans are different and hold different roles in their respective cultures, generally, shamans are healers. They help to heal sickness with a holistic approach, incorporating the soul and the spirit in the healing process. Shamans and shamanic healers often believe that spiritual trauma can manifest as physical ailments.

Because shamans enter a type of hallucinogenic state, scientists have studied the way brain waves behave during their healing rituals. They have found that shamans enter a similar, but not exactly the same, state of consciousness as those under the influence of psychoactive drugs.

Modern Shamanism

While shamans have served as religious leaders for Indigenous tribes for millennia, some Westerners have been drawn to the spirituality of the practice. Some consider this to be cultural appropriation.

Shamanic healers are people who employ traditional shamanic healing practices, but may not have the same culture or lineage that true Indigenous shamans have. Their effectiveness and acceptance as a healer depends largely on their training, which could be questionable.

People who call themselves shamans or shamanic healers without being part of a particular heritage or ancestry may not be considered legitimate healers, because a portion of knowledge is lost without cultural considerations that have been passed down for generations. It is important to note that fraudulent certification courses and programs exist that may have little basis in actual knowledge and tradition.