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The Shaman is the Master of Ecstasy.  The word ‘ecstasy’ comes from the Greek ‘ek-stasis’, which means ‘to stand outside of’. The Shaman is adept at standing outside of ordinary reality, simultaneously inhabiting this world and who they are in it as well as embodying their greater identity (totem/medicine) and traversing other worlds. As the Shaman journeys to other worlds she/he travels in awareness and is always in control. With this, on return, the Shaman is fully aware of where they have been is able to tell the story of their experience in a way that is meaningful and healing to their client or community.

The Shaman stands on the edge of perception, with one eye in this world and one eye in the other. From this state of divided consciousness the Shaman reads the margins- past, present, future and the multiple simultaneous realities we all inhabit everyday and beyond.


The doorway through to other worlds is made through intensive ritual practices, which may include starving, thirsting, ingestion of certain psychoactive plants, dancing, chanting, acting, dreaming, vision quests and sweat lodge ceremonies to name a few.  Tools of ecstasy may include rattles, drums, clap sticks, bones, stones and other sacred medicine objects.  Such rituals are specific and resonated deeply within the shaman and the client/community.


Typically, the path of the Shaman is not an option. One is fated to the task usually by enduring and surviving some kind of terrible ordeal such as spirit illness, though in some cultures the Shaman is chosen due to bloodline or chosen by the elders and apprenticed to a Shaman- quite often for demonstrating extraordinary childhood characteristics that set the child apart from the community. Irrespective of the way one is called to be a Shaman, initiation by way of ordeal is undertaken. 



Preceding the ordeal the initiate is removed from the community physically and psychologically. Preparation for the initiation proper may take weeks, months or even years.


The ordeal itself is induced  through assaults to the body, mind, soul by way of extremes of thirsting, starving, infliction of pain, ingestion of special foods and drugs all designed to create an opening in the fabric of existence. Space, time, embodiment perceptions all radically altered as the crisis approached. 


Common themes include descent to the underworld or other such unfamiliar and destabilizing environs. Demonic beings, total dissolution, dismemberment and other such encounters with brutal destructive forces were to be endured. With this, there was no guaranteeing one would survive.


Put simply, the preparation of the initiate is about meeting this moment with detachment. The initiate stands at the edge of the abyss, where there is no life, no purpose, no meaning, no evidence of self or soul and bears witness to their own death. It is here, at the peak of terror, that transformation occurrs. In this moment, there is an apotheosis of suffering, pain and madness. No longer is the initiate slave to such powerful and destructive forces but is now master.


Here the Shaman’s medicine is discovered. This is the gift of the Spirit World and comes in the form of an elemental totem, usually an animal spirit.
It is in the realization of one’s medicine that a spiritual identity evolves to carry us through life.


After the ordeal, the Shaman returns to their community of origin. It may be the same place but is irrevocably different. The Shaman is forever changed, their path way re-awakened with many awesome and daunting responsibilities ahead. Carrying now a greater sense of the possibilities of the world around and living somewhere between the here and now and other places, the Shaman walks with one foot in this world and foot in the other.  It is here in the limen that power lies.


The journey of the Shaman is utilized in transpersonal psychology as a model of crisis and renewal in terms of life transition. At its core is the theme of separation, transition and return.  Fundamentally we all need to be adept in our own way of identifying the signs of such undertakings and have a solid sense of the resources we bring to bear on such encounters and make the necessary adjustments to not only survive or cope but to bring through the gifts of spirit so as to walk our paths strengthened by such experiences.  Most of us will never become Shamans but through attending to our healing in such a way we just may glimpse our true nature and our relationship to Spirit, opening us up to compassion, vision and the many possibilities in terms of human potentials and how that may speak to us.

We all have within us far more potential than we are lead to believe.

Shamanic Healing >> Services | What is a Shamanic Practioner? | The Shaman - Master of Ecstasy |