FSS Polestar: Core Shamanism, FAQ

When Michael Harner first introduced The Way of the Shaman in 1980, shamanism was little known outside of academia. The renaissance of contemporary experiential shamanism is largely due to his pioneering work over the last several decades researching, developing, and originating the methodologies of core shamanism.

As a result of Dr. Harner’s groundbreaking work, today tens of thousands of the Foundation’s students and many thousands more who have learned from these students are practicing shamanic methods of direct revelation from the spirits—a welcome phenomenon that offers hope for our Earth and its inhabitants. At the same time, the rapid growth of interest in shamanism and the resulting proliferation of programs and trainings that claim shamanic roots has resulted in much confusion and misunderstanding about what core shamanism is and about its power and efficacy.

As taught in the workshops and training programs of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, core shamanism:

  • Consists of the universal, near-universal, and common features of shamanism, together with journeys to other worlds, a distinguishing feature of shamanism.
  • Offers students the opportunity to learn and practice authentic, powerful, and effective shamanic healing and divination methods to high ethical standards–working with guidance and power provided by the compassionate helping spirits.
  • Is an independent spirituality, a path of direct revelation from the helping spirits.

The Foundation’s training in core shamanic methods provides the basis for a shamanic practice. To practice successfully, however, in addition to the methodology, one must build strong connections with the helping spirits, who provide the power for effective healing. These connections develop in strength over time through disciplined training and experience. Ultimately, we have found that success as a shamanic practitioner is dependent upon:

  • Developing spiritual power through working with the compassionate helping spirits over a period of time.
  • A disciplined and ethical application of the core shamanic healing methods taught in the workshops and trainings under the guidance of one’s own helping spirits.

For more about Foundation training, see the Getting Started guide: https://shamanism.org/workshops/shamanic-training-getting-started.pdf

A great starting point for learning about core shamanism is the FSS workshops FAQ page: https://shamanism.org/workshops/faq.php. Many common questions are addressed, such as:

What is a shaman?
https://shamanism.org/workshops/faq.php#faq1

What is core shamanism?
https://shamanism.org/workshops/faq.php#faq2

What about the quality and authenticity of the Foundation’s training programs?
https://shamanism.org/workshops/faq.php#faq4

If I complete the training programs of FSS, will I be a shaman?
https://shamanism.org/workshops/faq.php#faq11

In future Polestar columns we’ll talk about a number of these issues in detail, including some inspiring examples of the power of core shamanism in practice.

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Polestar logo design by Carolyn Fee ©2010 Foundation for Shamanic Studies

FSS Polestar highlights some of the questions we are frequently asked about contemporary shamanic practice. “Polestar” is defined as “something that serves as a guiding principle.” It reflects our commitment to helping practitioners stay oriented to authentic shamanic methods and ethics, while maintaining their own independent spirituality, which comes from learning directly from the compassionate spirits. Send us your practice-related questions for consideration for Polestar. Use our CONTACT FORM, and put “Polestar” in the subject line.

FSS Polestar: Can you learn shamanism and shamanic healing online?

As interest in shamanism grows, online training offerings are emerging. There are pros and cons to this trend. On the one hand, never before has it been so easy to connect with shamanic practitioners and shamanic resources from all over the world. This is an exciting development, since no one with access to a computer need feel isolated in their pursuit of information about shamanism. The downside is that the sheer volume of material makes it challenging to sort through it and to determine what is accurate, legitimate, and useful. And, even when you find accurate resources, having information and truly knowing are not the same thing.

We are both physical and spiritual beings. Shamanism is an embodied practice, traditionally taught and passed on within a living community, even though the spirits work outside of space and time. Through many years of experience teaching the methods of core shamanism, we have seen that the profound depth of live interaction among participants—supported by the power of the gathered circle and the presence of the compassionate helping spirits—is not duplicated in an online format. Though shamanism is an independent spirituality that emphasizes methodologies that help you connect directly to the spirits for answers and knowledge, it is no contradiction that achieving this personal freedom is most effectively facilitated by learning within a grounded and harmonious in-person community.

Online offerings can provide useful introductory information about shamanism and shamanic healing—what it is and its relevance to the individual and our world. As to shamanic methods, just as one can experiment with shamanic journeying by following the process set forth in Michael Harner’s The Way of the Shaman and Cave and Cosmos, an online course in shamanism may provide you with a glimpse into another reality of great power and possibility. This may help you to determine if shamanism is an good fit for your life, worth pursuing fully in a circle of like-minded students through in depth training with highly experienced shamanic teacher-healers.

More About Shamanism

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Polestar logo design by Carolyn Fee ©2010 Foundation for Shamanic Studies

FSS Polestar highlights some of the questions we are frequently asked about contemporary shamanic practice. “Polestar” is defined as “something that serves as a guiding principle.” It reflects our commitment to helping practitioners stay oriented to authentic shamanic methods and ethics, while maintaining their own independent spirituality, which comes from learning directly from the compassionate spirits. Send us your practice-related questions for consideration for Polestar. Use our CONTACT FORM, and put “Polestar” in the subject line.

FSS Polestar: Shamanic drumming, live/for yourself or recorded?

Question: “I’ve heard that some people do live drumming for themselves while they journey instead of using a drumming recording. How does this work? Isn’t it hard to do both? And is one method better or more powerful than the other?”

Whether you listen to a drumming recording (digital audio such as an MP3 or a CD) or drum/rattle for yourself while journeying is largely a matter of personal choice and experimentation. We all have to find the way that works best for us, given our personal situation and needs. Many people, after learning the basic journey method, find it both highly effective and convenient to journey with a recording. For one thing it’s quiet, so you’re not in danger of disturbing others. Effective drumming recordings keep a consistent 3-7 beats per second and you can adjust the play time to make short or long journeys as desired, which can be particularly helpful for new journeyers. For some, using a recording can also facilitate a deeper release to the spirits in journeys. And, since most contemporary practitioners rarely have the luxury of an assistant who can drum for them, many practitioners find it works well to use drumming recordings during healing sessions. They report that this helps them to make deeper connections with the spirits, frees their hands for the healing methods, and permits them to focus more intensely on the client.

Most practitioners form strong relationships with their drum and its spirit. For some, doing their own live drumming becomes an integral part of their journey and healing experiences. You might feel a draw toward this, or receive a message from the spirits to drum for yourself while you journey or work with a client. Experiment with your drum and see how it works for you. You can ask your helping spirits for advice about how to proceed. Some people find drumming for themselves forges a very powerful connection with their compassionate spirits, and love the sensations of sound and vibration when interacting with the live drum. As you beat the drum, it sings to you, opening your heart to a beautiful collaborative dance with the spirits.

Remember, the measure of effectiveness in shamanism is “did you get the help and answers you were seeking for yourself or your client?” You’ve been given a set of workable tools and methods for your practice. You are encouraged to find your own way, in consultation with your helping spirits, to bring forth the spirits’ power and knowledge.

Note: When calling in the spirits before and during a healing session or for a ceremony — except in surroundings where sound might be prohibited or disturbing to others — nearly all practitioners will drum, sing, and rattle powerfully for themselves.

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Polestar logo design by Carolyn Fee ©2010 Foundation for Shamanic Studies

FSS Polestar highlights some of the questions we are frequently asked about contemporary shamanic practice. “Polestar” is defined as “something that serves as a guiding principle.” It reflects our commitment to helping practitioners stay oriented to authentic shamanic methods and ethics, while maintaining their own independent spirituality, which comes from learning directly from the compassionate spirits. Send us your practice-related questions for consideration for Polestar. Use our CONTACT FORM, and put “Polestar” in the subject line.