Episode 8: The Role of the Shaman

What this is – Hello and welcome to the “The Shaman Podcast”

Speaker –        Mark A. Ashford

                        I am a Usui Tibetan Reiki Master and Teacher for IARP

                        I am a Registered Teacher and Practitioner for Canadian Reiki Association

                        Tibetan Shaman

Some of the other sources are:

So, let’s get to the subject of this Podcast…. Role of the Shaman

As Healer and Guide

The shaman is a healer. This is their principal role. 

They have access to, and influence in, the world of benevolent and malevolent spirits. To reach out to these spirits, they undertake a Soul Journey during which they are in an Altered State of Consciousness or trance. The trance is induced during a healing ritual that seeks to divine and understand the cause of a person’s illness and gather information from the spirits to allow the Shaman to heal the recipient.

Mongol shamanism had ninety-nine deities:

  1. Fifty-five of these deities were White, i.e. Beneficent for mankind. 
  2. Forty-four were Black, i.e. Terribles to all the evildoers of mankind and to the enemies of the Mongol Nation. 

In total they are the national gods of Mongol Shamanism. They were the Spirits of Ancestors of every clan, the souls of dead chieftains, shamans and shamanesses who during their life had devoted themselves to satisfying the requirements of the members of their clans and who in the World of Spirits should solve the difficulties in the life of the current members of their clans, commoners and nobles and even serfs.[1]

Black shamanism is a kind of shamanism practiced in Mongolia and Siberia. It is specifically opposed to yellow shamanism, which incorporates rituals and traditions from Buddhism. Black Shamans are usually perceived as working with evil spirits of the lower and Underworld, while white Shamans work benevolent spirits of the upper world.

The banners of both white and black shaman flew in Mongol tribal camps and were each guarded by white and black Lord Spirits of the Clan. Nobles of the clan would escort the banners during ceremonies and feasts.

As Oracle

Shaman were astrologers and Oracles. Everyone, especially tribal leaders wanted to know what the future would bring. Will it bring war, will they be successful in the struggle? Will crops and animal husbandry be successful. Will the tribe merge with another though marriage?

The history of the shaman in this role goes back into the very remote past long before the advent of Buddhism in Tibet in the 7th century. 

Historically, Oracles, divination and Astrology were a feature of Bon religion the pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet.

Bon held the spirit or soul of the individual was a world or realm of energy which humans are able to contact. For example, humans are able to connect with physical things such as food, a chair, and other people. On the spiritual level they are able to connect at the psychic level with other spirits and those on the different levels of existence.

When the Buddhist Dharma appeared in Tibet, they were able to include the Bon world view into their own. The Buddhist world exists in three parts: one solid, one psychic and one mental. 

The change happened when the famous tantric master Guru Padmasambhava came to Tibet and tamed the subtle world – the deities of the Bonpos – and bound them under oath to obey and defend Buddhist teaching. These deities became protectors of the Buddhist faith and of Buddhist practitioners. They became Cho sung, protectors of the Dharma. According to Tibetan tradition, he tamed these beings through powerful mantras and spells which bound them to obey those who held the power of the spells.[2]

The deities are sentient beings. They are beings, just like people or animals and anyone else, but without a body. They also have a mind or spirit, and, a voice. Without a body they cannot communicate with those who communicate on a bodily level. So, they are samsaric beings. 

Samsara is the term for the everlasting cycle of being. It is the cycle of becoming and passing away, or the cycle of rebirths in the Indian religions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

As such, they are not higher gods, as we would understand the great gods of India or Tibet. They are gods linked to the land, mountains, lakes and to the geographical features. We could in a way say that mountains and lakes are their bodily aspect. They are the subtle aspect: the speech and mind aspect of mountains, valleys, rivers and lakes, especially mountains and lakes.

Providing Continuity

They provided continuity to the tribe and a reliable connection to the spirit world. In this way they were a communicator from the human physical world to the spirit world and back again.

They were an educator of people about the spirit world as well as about medicines and herbs and natural healing solutions. They kept the tribal stories, myths and essential tribal wisdom that made the tribe they belonged to different from another. 

They understood and passed down information about their trance states, how to induce them and how to control them. Their clothing, symbolic regalia and objects were passed down to enrich subsequent generations of shaman.

They are the keepers of tradition, ancient texts, books, and scripts as well as way things should be done. Songs, dances, music, and observance are also carried forward from shaman to shaman within the tribe. 

Shamans usually have expert knowledge of medicinal plants native to their area and often prescribed a herbal treatment. It is believed shamans learn directly from the plants, harnessing their effects and healing properties, after obtaining permission from the indwelling or patron spirits.[3]

The chieftains and nobles may change, but the shaman remains.

As Protector

One of a shaman’s main functions is to protect individuals from hostile supernatural influences. 

The shaman may act as psychopomp conducting the spirits of individuals who have just died to the proper refuge for dead spirits.

Psychopomp literally means “guide of souls” there are creatures, spirits, angels, or deities in many religions whose responsibility is to escort newly deceased souls from Earth to the afterlife. 

They do not judge the deceased, simply to guide them. Appearing frequently on funerary art, psychopomps have been depicted at different times and in different cultures as anthropomorphic entities, horses, deer, dogs, whip-poor-wills, ravens, crows, vultures, owls, sparrows and cuckoos. When seen as birds, they are often seen in huge masses, waiting outside the home of the dying.[4]

What next?

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[1] Ibid.

[2] Dr Fabian Sanders, “Tibetan Oracles and Himalayan Shamans.”

[3] Wikipedia, “Shamanism.”

[4] “Psychopomp.”