Shamanism – An Alternative to Modern Medicine?

The internet, television, and other news sources are sounding the alarm announcing new protocols for the treatment of diseases. These diseases range from Alzheimer, cancer, diabetes, MS, to Parkinson’s. Within this shout-out is near condemnation of pharmaceuticals and praise for other approaches. The intent here is not to list these approaches or to specifically discuss all of them. One among the many does require attention.

There is a proliferation of shamanic healers and practitioners within the United States. Dozens of organizations offering advice, membership, seminars, and certification abound. A bulging gold mine lights up the horizon of possible candidates for healing.

At this point, it is helpful to define shamanism. There is no need to trace the etymological history of the word. Shamanism is not a cult nor is it a religion even though there is an abundance of evidence that suggests a belief in a divine power circumnavigating the universe. Shamanism is an ancient form of healing. A shaman, despite some attempt to label them as a priest, is simply a healer, that is, one who knows remedies for certain physical issues.

One of several significant markers that distinguish a shaman from a doctor is the recognition that illness may not be just physical, but emotion based. Treating the whole patient is a 40,000 year old approach that is catching on in the 21st Century. Another difference between a shaman and a modern physician is the division of reality into three realms: upper, middle, and lower. And that leads to a third difference: A shaman uses spirit guides as he or she treats a client.

The shaman has a wide knowledge of herbs; whereas, the modern doctor has a depth in what drugs to use. The shaman is nature based and the physician is most likely man-made chemically based. There is a sound movement to make more “drugs” natural based which from some quarters is praise worthy.

A fundamental issue arises from a cleverly clothed advertisement or testimonials praising the marvelous wonder of shamanic healing. Whenever a practitioner proposes a “cure” be very cautious. If you have a pain in your side a shaman may not know that it is appendicitis, indigestion, blocked bowel, or cancer. Accepting shamanic healing as an alternative to modern medicine is a grave mistake. And no pun is intended.

Alternative leaves a bad taste. It implies that there is a better way and that may not be the case. Supportive and interrogative medicine suggests treatment along with current medical practices.