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How Shamans are Taught

A question that may come to mind when thinking of Shamanism is, how does one teach shamanism?

That is a fair question, and it should first be pointed out that the title of Shaman is not one that a person gives themselves. It is a title that is bestowed upon them from those that person serves. Giving ones self a title has very little meaning.

It should be clear, then, that except for knowledge, experience, and ability, there is little difference between a shaman and a shamanic student, except in how they are perceived by others. Something else to consider, and this is important regardless of what is being taught and by whom; a good student always learns from a teacher, but a good teacher also always learns from a student. This is to say that in any endeavor, including shamanism, we are always learning, so we are all students.

So to teach Shamanism, a person only basically needs to be on the path of Shamanism. This discounts someone who spent two weeks to read a book on Shamanism and figures that they know all there is to know about Shamanism. They are not truly on the path (though it is possible that at a later time, they will be.)

Learning Shamanism is a lesson in humility, so a good Shamanic teacher must have both confidence, often gained from the experiences they’ve had, as well as humility in knowing that there is ever more to learn. Though this may differ from place to place, most shamans will not teach at all, unless they have specifically been asked to teach. This is part of the humility…knowledge is never in any way forced on someone else. In fact, it can’t be. If a person doesn’t want to learn, no amount of teaching is going to do much to change that.

What does a shamanic teacher teach his/her student? Besides humility, a shamanic student is taught to become a keen observer, especially of animal and plant life. They are taught to respect the beliefs of others, even when they are quite different than their own. They are taught to strive to understand other people. They are taught that everything revolves in cycles; the seasons, sleep-work-sleep, life-death-life…linear time (seconds, minutes, hours, days, years, etc) are a construct of people to make things more convenient, but the cycles are much more important. They are taught that the hardest but most gratifying service is the one we give freely to our fellow man, animal, or place. They are taught patience, by their teacher and their guide, and by life itself.

So ultimately, if you are asking what it takes to teach shamanism, I submit that if you are already on the shamanic path and have been learning from a shaman, you are ALREADY a teacher. If you can offer guidance, but accept your own limitations, there is no reason you could not become a good and wise teacher. That doesn’t mean that you should ever stop your own learning process. Indeed, that will be continual, for your entire life. But that simply means that as linear time passes, with the grace of the spirits, you will become a better and more powerful teacher.