January 9th, 2007

Shaman - Horse

The Witch and the Shaman

A LJ friend of mine commented on an article that compared the Shaman and the Witch. Judging the article, my friend said, "The (article's) difference is that shamans are distinguished only by their ability to astral project and lead a completely solitary existence!" and a commenter said, "Most of the pagans I know are shamans by his definition!".

The hubris of the original article was that it spoke in tones of authoritarian surety about the very large topic of shamanism. To this, I commented (slightly edited):
My feedback of "true enough" acknowledges that there are always exceptions. There are no absolutes. This is so especially true in the embrace of Shamanism. When I teach I give a little speech that goes something like this:

"The world of Shamanism is very rich and diverse. Each indigenous culture has it's own rich beliefs and practices. There are many differences between these local derivations. That said, there is also a core of general beliefs that are shared across the multitude. It is to these shared beliefs that I teach from. The result is a form of "modern" shamanism that informs and enriches the nonindigenous person.

Anything that I can share is only a broad overview of the shamanic path. There are many exceptions to what I have to share. In fact, there are exceptions to the exceptions. The only “pure” shamanic teachings would be indigenously specific. I don’t have the qualification to teach from this place. Very few people do. We in the Western world stand outside of those teachings. It is only in glimpses that we see the nuts-n-bolts of the indigenous. This is OK. What we have is enough to find our own shamanic connections to the world around us. We have enough to allowing the healing of ourselves, and in turn, we can reach out to facilitate the healing and embrace of the world around us."
I then put in my $.02 (slightly edited) about the Witch and the Shaman.
There is (almost) no difference if you look at the total breadth of each. Both paths are self-realized journeys of exploration and connection between oneself and the world as a whole. I say this as a person who has walked in the world of the Craft without committing to it.

The catch to statement of "no difference" is that there is no one-size-fits-all mold for either being a Witch or a Shaman. IMO the decision to be a Witch or a Shaman is a personal statement of intention (i.e. "I am a Witch" or "I am a Shaman") and the subsequent recognition of that role, Witch or Shaman, by those around you. A person can be called on not being a Shaman or Witch if they stray too far from the big generalities, but the landscape for those generalities is vast.

On a personal note, Shamanism, by the way I practice it, does have the wrinkle that other people recognize the person to be a shaman with a capital "S". A person can say, "I am on the shamanic path", but it is only others that can say, "That person is a Shaman". There are exceptions to this too, but this is my reality. In contrast (with BIG exceptions also!), the Witch can self-initiate,subsequently stating, "I am a Witch" with no affirming acknowledgement from others.