I belong to some Facebook groups about shamanism

There’s a great deal of information posted in these groups and I’ve learn a lot, particularly from comments shared.

Shamanism has really come forward as a healing modality, and with it has come some territorial issues. There is little argument over the basic tenet that the word “shaman” originated with the Mongolian people, and that indigenous people in South America and the American Southwest had and have, healers with similar skills.

Beyond that, there’s a lot of divergence over what is a shaman today, and who may call themselves “shamanic practitioners”, “shamans” and what is cultural appropriation.

It reminds me of the time when there were territorial spats about Wicca and Witchcraft and who was “more” true to the path.

I am not qualified to weigh in on any of these topics, since I too, am relatively new to the shamanic path, but I am not new to my path, which has wound around a lot of spiritual practices, healing modalities and life in general. So I pretty much lurk and read and learn.

I surely do not with to offend anyone with portraying myself as something I am not, yet people who have put the term “shamanic practitioner” on a business card can receive some pretty nasty remarks.

So what is this about? Are there proprietary issues with using the term “shaman”? Does it need to be trademarked? Is it about keeping a pure lineage? Is it about having to pay a lot of money to receive a certificate from a well-known teacher? or keeping the marketing sharks at bay?

I don’t know. People in the real-life group I participate with have studied with “name” teachers and have humbly shared with those of us who cannot do so. Others share teachings they’ve learned from other places. We offer healing to the community and each of us, in our own way, bring healing to those around us.

Maybe it’s our culture that wants to label everything, so it can be categorized for easy reference. And maybe what we do, really doesn’t have a label.




5 thoughts on “Names and Labels

  1. I recently wrote a post on this subject from a perspective that is rarely represented and should be far more often — the linguistic one. An excerpt:

    It is not disrespectful for a someone engaged in shamanic work to use that word in self-description. As addressed above, the word shaman does not refer only to Siberian practitioners; the word samán does. (There’s another diacritical mark in that word, over the s, that I can’t reproduce on my keyboard.) It would be enormously disrespectful and inaccurate for me to say I am a samán; I am not one in any way. It is not disrespectful or inaccurate for me to say I am a shaman; that is the word in my native language for a person who does the things I do. That word has its origins in another language (actually in several others), but so do about 95% of all English words; it is a borrowed and borrowing language. There is strong evidence that samán also has its origins in a language outside the cultures that properly use it; that’s how language works. Does that make it disrespectful for a true samán to use that term? After all, it isn’t purely and 100% their word. By the exact same standard, no one not from Italy should be allowed to call himself or herself a doctor; that word is of Latin origin. Should it not be reserved only for healers of that ethnic origin?

    And on “shamanist” and words of that ilk:

    Somehow, sticking a suffix that doesn’t belong there on the word is supposed to make using the word “right.” Except no, it doesn’t. You’re still using the word; you’re just being a coward about it. When someone types “$hit” does anyone really not know they’re saying “shit” and are just too cowardly to go ahead and say what they mean? And a suffix does not cure the (inaccurately perceived in this instance) disrespectfulness of the word. Let’s try a word that beyond doubt is disrespectful. Are you being any less racist by calling someone a “niggerist”? Or are you just being a chicken-shit racist so you can try to fall back on “But I didn’t use that word”?

    If I sound annoyed, it’s because after 30 years of listening to people make pronouncements on linguistics that they aren’t even marginally qualified to make, I am annoyed. Please don’t think it’s personal; I wrote all this over a week ago. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, not annoyed at all! Thank you for reading and for a thoughtful reply. It is a perspective I did not consider, and gives me some clarity. After all, it’s less what I call myself, and morenwhat I do.


      1. It’s not an easy line to walk: One one hand, what you call yourself is never going to be as important as what you do, but on the other hand, I’m a poet, and seeing language misused puts my back up. And in a more practical vein, there has to be some reasonably brief and comprehensible term for things, because someone who asks what you do isn’t looking for a 45-minute dissertation. Giving one rarely wins friends. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post, and much-needed. Nice that you have a community to interact with…!

    My two cents, being a Shaman is like being a Doctor vs a nurse. It is just a label, in many ways, but indicative of years of expertise and study. The nurse has many talents and is absolutely integral to the atmosphere of healing/care, but all the same is not a doctor.

    For me it has nothing to do with money as I’m studying with my Shaman the old-school way, based on time/experience/verbally passed on knowledge. I actually wouldn’t consider anyone a Shaman that has done it in a weekend workshop or quickie certification/similar (a Shamanic Practitioner perhaps, but not a Shaman).

    I very happily refer to myself as a Shamanic Practitioner, because I know I’m not a Shaman, but I know I have a huge love of Shamanism and hope to make this my life’s work. That’s the space that the ‘SP’ label makes possible to occupy, IMO.

    Lots of love to you Karen!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you so much, Lee! I am super lucky to have an on-going opportunity to learn and to share. Shamanism, for me, is organic, always alive and present. But having a community to work with makes it possible for me to interact instead of just being on the sidelines. Love right back to you!

    Liked by 1 person

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