Shamans are among us. Or, at least, shamanic practitioners. Many people believe you would need to travel very far—perhaps back in time—to meet an actual shaman. There have been scholars who argue that practicing shamanism today is a form of cultural appropriation. While the term shaman is reserved for those who were born into the role or accepted the role in a tribal community, a shamanic practitioner is anyone who learns from teachers and studies how to relay messages from spirit guides. Sky Yeager, a local shamanic practitioner, noted that “everyone can trace their lineage back to a time when shamanism was practiced.” But first, what is shamanism?
According to Yeager, “Shamanism is a form of energy work. You can focus on help to deal with pain, family issues, or when facing any kind of a crossroads.”
In the simplest terms, a shaman is a facilitator between the physical world and the spiritual world. Yeager emphasized that she is simply the messenger; she communicates with the person’s spirit guides—which can take the form of ancestors, animals, or guardian angels— and “relays messages or returns lost power or soul fragments, sometimes helping spirits extract energies that may be causing issues.” The result is giving the client whatever they need to feel whole, or to make a decision that will lead them to the right path.
Shamanism involves a deep connection to nature; there is the belief that people can attain greater health through acknowledging the connection between all living things and finding ways to appreciate the natural world. The practice varies, but a session typically involves journeying, a form of meditation initiated through the rhythmic sounds of a drum or rattle. The client will be asked to focus on an area of their life from which they wish to move forward or to heal. One can journey to meet their helping spirits, their future selves, or to travel to the past and address ancestral wounds that may be impacting them today. Unlike the physical world, the spiritual realm is not limited by time or space.
Once a month, Yeager and a few other practitioners lead a healing circle here in Corvallis, which is available in exchange for a voluntary donation. It’s a chance for people to discover the practice with other community members who may be experiencing shamanism for the first time.
“We trust that by providing this service, the right people find us when they need to, and that it does ripple out into the community as a whole,” said Yeager. For her, it’s important to maintain a safe space for people to explore the practice. Because of this, “there is a screening process if someone wants to participate.” The practitioners also take referrals from people they’ve worked with before.
While it’s called a healing circle, Yeager pointed out that this is a loose term. Healing gives “the impression that something is broken in someone. No one is ever broken.” Yeager prefers the term “tending,” like you would tend a garden. “Tending makes the person whole,” she said. Just as we take steps to ensure our physical health—check-ups, a healthy diet, exercise—there are ways to develop spiritual health.
Yeager also participates in Science of Mind and Spirit, a Meetup group that holds discussions on a variety of shamanic topics, as well as the occasional journeying and ceremony. If you aren’t into group work, Yeager has just expanded her services to include private sessions.
At the age of 17, she knew she wanted to be a shaman—at least, on a subconscious level. She had always loved nature and had developed a great interest in what she calls “soul work.” However, it wasn’t until she read the work of Sandra Ingerman that Yeager realized she could study shamanism and eventually become a practitioner.
For Yeager, it’s not her task to convince people that seeing a shamanic practitioner would be beneficial for them. According to her, curiosity is no coincidence. If you find yourself interested in learning more about shamanism or journeying, it could be your guide telling you it’s time to do some spiritual work.
Shamanism has roots all over the world, from parts of Asia to our own backyard. It’s Yeager’s belief that every person is capable of becoming a shamanic practitioner, and can partake in the ceremonies that can create a positive impact on the individual, their community, and the Earth. We just have to listen to our guides.