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The Seven Jobs of the Shaman

The Number Seven...

Have you noticed how the number seven keeps on popping up whenever we discuss shamanism? In fact, the number seven is a universally spiritual and religious number.

God created the earth in seven days. There are seven chakras in your body; seven colors of the rainbow, there are seven directions one can go… and there are seven types of people who inhabit the planet.

Ok, hold on a minute, seven directions? Seven types of people?

We all know the four directions of the compass: north, east, south, and west.

That’s simple enough…but in the world of the shaman there is also the lower world – downwards, the upper world – upwards, and the middle world – inwards.

These other three directions don't exist on the physical plane, but rather on the spiritual plane. We go there primarily for healing purposes. I won’t go into these now but will discuss them in a later article.

Also, the seven people…who are they?

Well, it’s generally accepted in Native American tradition that humans are just one of the seven peoples who inhabit the earth. The people of the earth are as follows:

  • The Stone People,

  • The Standing People (trees, plants),

  • The Four-legged people,

  • The Finned people (fish etc),

  • The Winged People,

  • The Two-legged People and

  • Creepy Crawlies (many and no-legged people)

I like this view. It cultivates humility and understanding of the world around us and makes us see that we're truly part of the complex web of life. We don't own it, we're a part of it.

Another important number seven when it comes to the shamanic way of life is the ‘Seven Jobs of the Shaman.’

What are the Seven Jobs of the Shaman?

If we're seeking to live a shamanic lifestyle, we need to embrace the seven jobs of the Shaman.

I’m purposefully talking about a shamanic lifestyle because not all of us are practicing Shamans. However, it doesn’t mean we can't apply the principles and practices to ourselves and our loved ones.

Even a practicing Shaman will specialize in certain jobs, and integrate the others into their practice to varying degrees.

Some Shamans may be communicative healers, others may heal through touch, some by creating a sanctuary, and others may focus on divination or herbalism.

When you look at the seven jobs discussed below, you'll recognize one or more of your talents and hopefully be inspired to apply the ways of the shaman to make your enjoyment of the activity ever more meaningful.

The Story-Teller

Now many of us are good at telling stories. Some do better after a few shots of vodka and others do well when they have a good audience. Others don’t need much of an audience at all.

Storytelling is one of the most important talents of the shaman because it's universal no matter the culture. We all like a good story, and when it has meaning, even better.

By ‘meaning’ I mean does it teach you something? Does it bring about some enlightenment and evoke a little wisdom? Think Jesus and the Parables.

The purpose of story-telling from a shamanic perspective is to connect with the psyche of the community or individual on a deeper level than a simple story about how "so and so" lived happily ever after.

The story must tap into deep cultural beliefs and wisdom and therefore make meaning for the listener. At the same time, it must be simple otherwise, the audience will be lost.

The key to the story is that it should start a process of healing. Healing through realization, healing through understanding, and as they say, understanding is love.

The Burden Basket Weaver

The next job of the shaman is to be the ‘Burden Basket Weaver.’ This is the Counselor, the listener, and the sharer of wisdom.

Some of us are good at listening and some of us are good at talking. Here one needs to be good at listening.

It involves a fair amount of empathy and compassion to be able to put yourself in the other's shoes and understand their situation, and it involves a lot of wisdom and experience to make that person feel heard.

An important part of being the Burden Basket weaver is to be able to provide skills and tools to the patient to be able to fix their situation. Only they can put things right, but they need the practical know-how and the shaman can provide that.

The Alchemist

“Whoa!” you say, “this is getting a bit heavy…doesn’t the alchemist turn lead into gold? Is that even possible?”

OK, what are we talking about here?

Alchemy is about transformation. Turning something of lesser worth into something valuable and refined. If you research alchemy you’ll come up with a load of information that can be overwhelming. I’ll simplify it.

On a shamanic level, alchemy can happen on a physical and spiritual level.

Spiritually, it’s more metaphorical, for example, by pursuing gold i.e. wisdom, peace, and enlightenment, we need to challenge and break down the lead within us i.e. our limiting beliefs and other stuff that is holding us back.

For now, it'll probably be more practical to talk about it on a physical level. Incorporating alchemy into your life could be as simple as cooking your favorite meal – using fire and raw ingredients to make something delicious.

Another vastly simple example could be lighting a candle or some incense when you prepare to meditate, do yoga, or some inner journeying. Taking the ‘heavy’ energy of the day and creating lightness.

It’s the process of using fire to bring about transformation and healing.

So, bring a little alchemy into your life. It's simpler than you think.

For those who would like to have a more in-depth understanding of alchemy from a shamanic perspective, take a look at James Endredy’s book Shamanic Alchemy: The Great Work of Inner Transformation.

The Body-Worker

We all know this one and have more than likely made use of a body-worker at some point in our lives.

These are people who practice things like reiki, acupuncture, administering massages, and so on. They often go through formal training to be able to do their job. However, bodywork can be done by anyone.

If we have a little know-how, it's easy to give our partner a massage. Or alternatively, we could smudge somebody using a white sage incense stick.

Smudging is something anyone can do and it can be a very relaxing and healing process for the person who is being smudged.

My partner often smudges me to heal negative energies that have accumulated and cleanse my aura.

Simply find a comfortable spot, and create a peaceful environment by lighting a candle and placing some stones, a feather, and a bowl of water in a circle to create a safe space – it's important to have the four elements represented.

My partner scatters some coarse salt around the area where the smudging will take place. This helps to make the space sacred and protected.

Light the smudging stick and gently allow the smoke to waft over the body from head to toe. It's useful to stop at each chakra and watch the smoke to see if the energy is peaceful and harmonious or chaotic – practice will allow you to start reading the action and movement of the smoke.

Use the feather to help smooth the energy and ‘wash’ the chakra with the smoke form the smudging stick.

Smudging someone is a peaceful and healing process for both parties. Check out these White Sage Smudging Sticks to get you started.

The Herbalist

Many of us enjoy gardening, and this is the slumbering herbalist inside us trying to come out. Some of us allow the herbalist out by actually growing some vegetables and herbs and combining the herbalist with the alchemist to create something delicious.

Why not take it one step further and use your medicinal shrubs and herbs to start making tinctures and other forms of healing lotions, teas, and so on.

Combine herbs like lavender, rosemary, or lemon verbena with aqueous cream to make a refreshing body lotion.

Boil up some soothing tea with lemon balm or chamomile that’s growing in your garden.

Make a tincture with various herbs that can be applied to cuts and sores. Or simply break off a piece of aloe and bulbine and rub it on a small wound, I can promise you, it works.

A herbalist needs to know their plants. Research recipes well so you don’t poison yourself. Thomas Easley and Steven Horne have written a wonderful book, The Modern Herbal Dispensary: A Medicine Making Guide, which shows you how to make over 250 herbal medicines simply and safely.

The Place of Wellness Keeper

A Shaman should always be someone who keeps a place of wellness, a healing sanctuary where people can go to find a little bit of peace and healing.

Some of us have a little healing sanctuary without even realizing it – that favorite spot in your garden with the bench and archway with the creeper growing over it. A warm room where one is surrounded by homely things.

A good healer will, themselves, be a place of wellness. It is the job of a Shaman to hold the space for someone who needs to heal, and that means making your heart a place of wellness for whoever needs healing.

Make your heart a place of wellness for others to feel safe to heal, and then create that special place in your home where loved ones or clients can come and have a burden basket woven for their troubles or some bodywork done.

The Rainmaker

OK, I know you did a double-take there.

For the sake of this article, we'll focus on the figurative meaning of bringing rain to a parched and barren inner landscape.

It could be as simple as putting a smile on someone’s face, doing a kind deed or making someone feel better about themselves.

Empathy, understanding, and compassion are key here in order to reach out often to those who make themselves unreachable.

The Rainmaker can also be seen as a culmination of the other jobs, be it counselor, place of wellness keeper, herbalist, storyteller, or body-worker…or all of them combined.

On a literal level, yes there are Shamans out there who can bring rain. Don’t believe it? I like the motto: I’d rather have a mind opened by wonder than close by belief.

Find your Shamanic Space

We all have the ability to live a more shamanic life. Find your talents, your compassion, and love, and reach out or be available to those who need healing. We’re all healers in our own way, it’s within us.

The seven jobs of the Shaman require intention, intuition, imagination, and integrity.

Set the intention, evoke the imagination, be guided by your intuition, and do it all with integrity.

I would like to acknowledge my teacher, Lionel Berman. He taught me about the seven jobs of the Shaman.

This post was originally published on July 9th 2021, and updated on April 4th, 2022.

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