Shamanic Medicine: Holistic Healing
Updated: Jan 15
Antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, antidepressants, antifungals, antihistamines, anti-aircraft missiles…wait! That doesn’t belong there…does it?!
We are all familiar with modern medicines on the market today. Billions of dollars have gone into research and development to ensure we're protected against whatever disease may choose to attack us.
We're waging a war on diseases, heck, some would say we've reached the point of creating diseases just so we can build the ‘weapons’ to destroy them. War would be the appropriate word then, seeing as the global economy has made a habit of generating real wars for the same ends…according to some people.
I’m not here to talk about war, economics, or politics, but what I do know is that fighting generally yields only one response: retaliation. One cannot expect to pick a fight and have your opponent roll over and let you trample all over them.
I'm actually here to talk to you about shamanic medicine. “Shamanic medicine!” you say. I know what some of you are thinking, “spells, potions, voodoo chanting, etc, this guy is one crayon short of a rainbow.”
Hear me out. I’m not trashing modern medicine. Heck, I’m a regular patron of every medicine mentioned in the first line of this article…one or two of them on a chronic basis. I believe in them, I need them. You wouldn’t be reading this if those medicines didn’t exist.
What I do want to say, though, is they're not the only answer. Yes, we have homeopathy, acupuncture, reiki and so on, which fall into the category of Alternative medicines, but I want to talk about Shamanic medicine. Alternative medicines belong under Shamanic medicine, this is true, so then what makes Shamanic medicine unique?
Shamanic medicine goes one step further in the realm of holistic healing. To put it plainly, Shamanic medicine is Everything.
“Everything?!” you exclaim. “Even that faulty clutch kit the mechanic tried to put in my car last week?”
Ok let’s not get too carried away, stay with me here.
In the Shaman’s world, medicine is defined as the energy or power of something that heals through finding a balance. Everything has its own frequency at which it vibrates. If something that vibrates at a higher level, for example a parasite, comes into contact with something that vibrates at a lower level, for example you, then the equilibrium of the lower energy is upset.
The rule is always that the entity of higher energy pulls the entity of lower energy up to meet its frequency. Hence the parasite causes illness in you because it has disturbed your vibrational frequency.
Another example is a snake bite. A highly venomous snake bites you and injects its venom. The venom vibrates at a much higher frequency than your body. It is a frequency that is too high for your complex set of systems to survive physically.
As the frequency of the venom draws your frequency up you begin to react according to the impact of the venom on your system: sweating, trembling, nausea, increased heart rate, nervous system shut down, heart failure and death: a frequency so high that energy vibrating at this level cannot exist physically.
After all, matter is energy slowed down to such a point that it becomes physical.
Luckily for us, scientists have developed antivenom…there’s that word again, ‘anti.’ But I’m very grateful for that ‘anti,’ especially in a case as urgent as a venomous snake bite. The antivenom matches the frequency of the snakes’ venom and establishes an equilibrium in your body, essentially cancelling out the effects.
Like Heals Like
An important principle of Shamanic medicine is that like heals like. Instead of seeing the disease/affliction as an enemy that needs to be vanquished, shamanism sees it as an entity of higher vibrational frequency that needs to be matched in order to achieve an equilibrium.
This concept is nothing new. All medicines, from the saltwater you gargle with to the antibiotic that combats the virus in your system, work on this principle. It's just understood differently in different circles.
So, what am I going on about? Modern medicine works, it does the job. Does it though?
Of course, modern medicine works. The human race probably would’ve been wiped out by one of the rampant plagues we’ve experienced if it wasn’t for modern medicine. But modern medicine works on our physical being, and we are not only physical. We are emotional beings, we are mental beings, and most important of all, we are spiritual beings.
Where modern medicine sees healing taking place through ‘medication,’ a physical pill, tablet, liquid and so on, Shamanic medicine has a much wider perspective on medicine.
What is intention. My own excellent teacher and shaman, Lionel Berman, teaches the four ‘I’s. I will only deal with one here. That is intention. Everything is about intention. Let's take a scenario: if I want to buy the latest phone, I will do just that.
The first step is my intention: yes!! I want that phone. I will then make sure I save the money, I will find out where I can get the best deal, and on the designated day, I will wake up, put on my clothes, go to the shop and buy it. The fulfillment of that intention will be me sitting at home setting up my new phone. I won’t get that phone if I do not believe in my intention.
Nothing complicated about that. It’s a pity that we don’t set the same strong intentions for other aspects of our lives…
Shamanic healing and medicine is all about Intention. There is a non-negotiable rule in the world of shamanic healing and that is that nobody can ever heal themselves or others if they do not firstly see the healing process as already completed and perfect.
This means that if you want to be healed, you must see yourself as already healed. This requires a deliberate intention to be set. And it requires belief. Intention is nothing without firm and unwavering belief.
When you focus energy on the actual illness or affliction, mulling over the pain and feeling sorry for yourself because you might lose your spleen or you want to commit suicide, you are giving the illness energy.
The universe works in a very simple way. It listens to what you tell it. If it hears constant worry about the pain and potential loss and suffering and so on, it will give you just that. “Why?!” you ask. Because you asked for it, that’s why.
Types of Shamanic Medicine: Ritual and Ceremony.
Shamanic medicine comes in many different forms. After all, it is everything and anything. The secret to using it lies in our intention.
Of course if it is a physical illness one needs to take the physical medicine. Shamans from all cultures have recognized the healing properties of plants (and to a lesser degree, animals). Most of our modern medicines originate from plants and consist of chemicals that are found in the botanical world.
Something which has been completely lost from modern medicine is ritual and ceremony. When prescribing medicine, it's not likely your GP will tell you to wait until sunset, scatter a circle of salt, light candles, and have your friends dance and drum around the circle praising the efficacy of the medicine, all while you sit in the middle, face painted and feathers in your hair, taking the pills.
You would probably think he’s lost his marbles if he did. But on a serious note, it's so sad that we have lost this. Our modern lifestyles have shrugged off these ‘childish inconveniences’ like a dog shakes off a fly. But at what cost? “No cost,” many of you would say
However, the purpose of the ritual is to reinforce the intention. If only we had the time to do rituals such as these, it would increase our bond with the medicine, matching our bodies to the frequency of the illness, thereby promoting healing.
One day, when asked by my Shaman teacher how I take my chronic medication at night, I responded in a half-irritated tone, “I just grab the pills and chuck them down with some water.”
He could see my disdain for the medicines and stopped me right there and then,
“How do you think those pills feel? he asked. “Those pills have dignity, they have integrity, they are alive. They are made for a purpose and you disrespect them by treating them like that".
“Why not instead of showing disdain for them,” he continued, “put them in your hand and one by one, thank them for the job they do as you swallow them. Feel them going down your throat and bless them for the healing they give you.”
This was an eye-opener for me. It made sense. It also helped me to respect the value of modern medicine while still practicing shamanic healing
If you would like to explore more about ritual and ceremony in shamanic medicine, don Jose Ruiz presents a wealth of insight and expertise in his book, The Medicine Bag: Shamanic Rituals and Ceremonies for Personal Transformation.
Shamanic medicines are endless. They can be ideas, thoughts, or concepts that you come up with that promote healing. For example, having a conversation about the illness.
Set the intention every day to talk to your cancerous tumor. Greet him/her, acknowledge them for coming into your body to bring about a spiritual awakening (because like it or not, each and every challenge in our lives is a message to grow spirit).
Thank them for coming to you and waking you from your slumber. It's fine if you don’t know what their message is, but ask them, eventually, they might answer. Tell them they don’t need to stay, and gently send them on their way saying, “You can go now, I will move on and grow as a person.”
Sound crazy!!? Maybe…but the frequency of love and compassion is high, probably higher than that of cancer, and what else is healing but trying to match the frequency of the illness. The frequency of anger and hatred, victimhood, is very low and just drags your body lower, weakening it.
Heart and Mind
In addition to rituals and thoughts, ideas, and conversations, shamanic medicine comes in the form of emotions and spiritual play. It's not always easy when one is physically or mentally ill, but try and focus on positive things, ensure you surround yourself with people or things that bring you joy, love, and hope.
Go within and imagine yourself as a huge tree that cannot be toppled by any affliction; this is shape-shifting. Imagine your cancer as a dead branch on the tree. It has done its job for the tree, but now it has died. Remove it with love and compassion.
Objects and Elements
Just about any object can be used as shamanic medicine. Popular items include stones, crystals, feathers, animal parts, totem animals, ancient relics such as rusted swords, any treasured object, the list goes on. Anything that has meaning to an individual or ‘speaks to them,’ catches their attention, can be medicine.
In addition, elements like water, wind, fire, earth, gold, iron, etc are shamanic medicine.
The key to working with objects and elements such as these is the intention and belief of the individual. It must be remembered that healing is intention directed to match a vibration, that of the afflicting agent. By matching the vibration, we neutralize it and healing takes place.
A crystal is a beautiful stone, clear, transparent, shimmering in the light. We place certain qualities upon it, such as purity, cleansing, revealing, a conduit of vision, of hidden sight. Crystal balls are associated with Gypsy fortune tellers, shamans who use it to ‘see the un-seeable, the future.
You didn’t really think that the Gypsy shaman actually saw things happening inside the crystal ball, did you?
What the Gypsy shaman sees is what her intuition tells her, a crystal ball is a tool which she has imbued with the desirable qualities that enable her to see, and therefore it aids her intention, belief, and energy to pick up the vibrations that carry the messages. Everything vibrates towards its destiny and purpose, some people have the gift of picking up and interpreting these vibrations.
Would a Gypsy shaman be able to carry out her work without the crystal ball? Who knows? Can a Catholic pray with the same conviction without a rosary?
An object that we hold dear if imbued with the desirable belief, can and does heal. Lighting a candle and picturing the flame burning away the illness inside you can and does heal. Meditating on the wind and imagining her blowing away the virus that infests your system can and does heal. It all resides in the intention, belief, and energy you imbue the object or element with.
Healing through Self-forgiveness
If you still think I’m sane then there’s a reason you’re reading this. If you’re still even here then I thank you. I would just like to mention practices such as prayer and meditation, rituals such as smudging, various ways of cleansing the body, and chanting mantras. These are all useful practices that all contribute to holistic healing and I will be discussing them in the future.
One last concept I would like to share with you is that of blanket forgiveness. This is a ritual used for mental, emotional, and spiritual healing and is taught by Lionel Berman.
It is fairly simple but extremely powerful. Across the month of one’s birthday, the following mantra needs to be recited thirty-three times a day for thirty-three days:
I forgive myself
I forgive everyone
I forgive ALL past experiences
I AM FREE…
- Louise Hay
Try it and see what happens. We all need this kind of healing. But you must mean it, give it the intention and belief it requires.
So, in conclusion, I would like to reiterate the fact that Shamanic medicine and healing is holistic. No matter the affliction, healing has to take place on every level of existence, mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual.
How often has a physical injury or ailment got you down and resulted in emotional stress, depression, and anxiety? Don’t feel bad about it, it's natural.
In the same way, emotional and spiritual trauma can be the cause of physical ailments. Most often we focus on the physical event, “Oh, he got cancer, it was probably the unhealthy diet and all the preservatives he was eating“ or "Shame, she has severe back pain, it must be genetic as well as the gymnastics she did in her youth.”
But what about the emotional trauma she suffered during an abusive childhood? The disappointment of not being quite good enough to achieve her dreams? The sickening resentment towards her husband because he’s insensitive and she never learned to deal with her emotions? This is a huge burden to carry, and the heart and mind cannot carry it alone. The body has to help, otherwise, she would drown beneath the weight.
Use the prescription medicine, it plays an essential role in healing. But don’t neglect the others, the Shamanic medicines, they are two-thirds of the healing.
If this article has piqued your interest look at the following books for further reading:
The Shamanic Journey: A Practical Guide to Therapeutic Shamanism by Paul Francis.
Shamanic Healing: Traditional Medicine for the Modern World by Itzhak Beery.