Shamanism and witchcraft are found all over the world in different regions and cultures, each having their own traditions, customs, language and practices.
The word “shaman” (šaman) meaning “one who knows” comes from the Tungusic language located in Siberia, which the English word comes from “šamán” from a southwest dialect of the Evenki language.
This word was later adapted into Russian (шаман) and German (Schamande) in the 17th century when the idea was brought further West.
Shamanic practices are found in many regions such as North America, South America, Celtic, Norse, Carpathian (Hutsul), Asia, Australia, Africa and South Asia.
These shamanic practices have common themes and beliefs that have been found historically even between regions that would have had no contact with the other regions.
Witchcraft has been found in many regions and has been adapted in modern times.
Witchcraft is a practice that can be added to any belief system as it is malleable to any practice.
In some places, witchcraft and folk magic has even been practiced along side Christian traditions and beliefs.
What is Shamanic Witchcraft?
Let’s begin by the definition of shamanism.
What is Shamanism?
Shamanism has been defined by some as a practice which “one communicates with spirits in an altered state of consciousness.”
This is often achieved through means of trance, meditation, music, dance, singing or chanting.
The role of the shaman can also involve being a healer, a counselor, community leader, a teacher, a guide or mystic.
It’s commonly heard that people will seek shamans in different cultures for healing and guidance that other conventional methods either aren’t effective or have produced little benefit.
The practice of shamanism in different cultures is unique to each region. The language and specific practices may differ; however the basic concepts are quite similar.
How does Witchcraft compare to Shamanism?
Witchcraft shares some common traits with shamanism and some of the principles today are adapted in part from prehistoric and historic practices of shamanism.
These core principle beliefs of spirit realms, spirit worlds, spirit journeys, astral travel, healing, medicines, animism and herbalism are found in many discussions on witchcraft topics.
Isn’t Shamanism a closed practice?
Certain traditions and practices within the “umbrella” of shamanism can be a closed practice.
This pertains to the indigenous practices whether found in North America, South America, Northern Scandinavia (Lapland), Siberia, Eurasia, and Australia / Australasia.
These cultures are reserved for those who come from these practices, which are strictly reserved for those within the said community or tribe.
Many of these specific teachings are taught and handed down through the generations which lose their significance, value, sacredness and importance when outsiders impose on them.
But what if you feel drawn to the concepts and beliefs of shamanism?
This is where more research needs to be done as there are similar core concepts of shamanism found in other cultures – which if you’re lucky, you may have one of these cultures in your ancestry.
(An Ancestry DNA test can help with that. FYI: Check to see if the test is on sale if you want to save some money. Ancestry.com / Ancestry.ca / Ancestry.co.uk usually has the tests on sale around big holidays of the year: Labour Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, etc.)
However, some practitioners may argue that even an Ancestry DNA test doesn’t give a “pass” to partake in these practices.
This is where careful research and study will need to be done, asking in the communities which some practices may require proper initiation, teachings, etc.
As mentioned above, there are shamanistic practices found in Europe, Asia and Africa.
Another note on the modern usage of the word “shamanism / shaman”:
The terminology and the use of the word “shaman” in English may seem to “blanket” the concept of what core foundation of shamanism is without coming up with a better or more distinguishing word. English often lacks definition is describing and defining or separating different concepts unlike other languages.
The terminology and definition of shamanism has a complex history. For an interesting take on shamanism, read Shamanism: A Practice of Early Turkic Beliefs
While some cultures may choose to use or distance themselves from the word “shamanism”, each culture and tradition, the language and word usage will differ on how to define the particular practice and define themselves in their own way.
As you explore the spirituality that is originally found in your ancestral lands (which may be shamanic in nature), there will be local terminology and words that will best describe the practice and spirituality.
Here are a few examples of shamanism in other regions:
Seiðr is a Norse shamanic practice that originates in the Nordic countries.
The Vikings write about seiðkonur (seiðr women) and völvur (singular: völva). This practice has a lot of the commonly found beliefs of shamanism with Norse mythology and symbolism integrated such as runes, bindrunes, stafir (staves) and galdr (galdur – “magic”).
To read more about Norse Shamanism, try:
The Norse Shaman: Ancient Spiritual Practices of the Northern Tradition by Evelyn C. Rysdyk
Seidr: The Gate Is Open by Katie Gerrard
Neolithic Shamanism: Spirit Work in the Norse Tradition by Raven Kaldera, Galina Krasskova
Celtic shamanism is found in the British Isles which likely heavily influenced modern Wicca and Celtic Wicca. Celtic mythology and symbolism add a different dimension to the spirit work and journey work that’s done in this form of shamanism.
Some practitioners don’t use the term shamanism to describe this Celtic practice and prefer to call it Celtic spirituality.
Trees and animals are important in this practice which use animals and trees found in the region that have symbolic meanings unique to the Celts.
To read more about Celtic Shamanism, try:
The Celtic Shaman by John Matthews
Fire in the Head: Shamanism and the Celtic Spirit by Tom Cowan
By Oak, Ash, & Thorn: Modern Celtic Shamanism by D.J. Conway
The Celtic Shaman’s Pack: Guided Journeys to the Otherworld (Books & Cards) by John Mathews (Author), Chesca Potter (Illustrator)
Advanced Celtic Shamanism by D.J. Conway
Carpathian (Hutsul) Shamanism (Ukrainian: Molfarstvo / Мольфарство)
In the region of the Carpathian mountains which extend from Poland, Ukraine, Hungary and Romania, there are groups of people who reside in these mountains that identify themselves as separate from other ethnicities of these countries.
The Carpathians are home to the Boyko peoples and the Hutsul peoples, which Hutsul are found in these regions.
The Hutsul have a form of shamanism which a male practitioner is called a mol’far (мольфар) and a female practioner is called a mol’farka (мольфарка).
In Poland, shamans are called “whisperers” and believed to hear and speak to spirits.
The whisperers and mol’far have different skills and talents whether it be healing, herbalism or divination.
Not much is written outside of these regions about Carpathian shamanism, but more information can be found here:
Carpathian Shamans – Ukraine Molfar & Polish Whisperer’s Magical Rites
Mol’far (subtitled in English)
Musok / Musog (Korean)
Musok (Musog) is a polytheistic and animistic ethnic religion consisting of worship of gods, ancestors and nature spirits.
The shamanic practice is referred to as musog (or musok) translated as Muism, “the religion of the mu (shamans).”
Some may know this practice as Shinism.
To get a modern perspective about Korean shamans, check out this NY Times article.
For reading about Korean shamanism, try:
Shamanism: The Spirit World of Korea by Richard (Editor) Guisso (Author), Chai-shin Yu (Editor) (Author)
The Paintings of Korean Shaman Gods: History, Relevance and Role as Religious Icons by Kim Tae-Gon (Author)
African shamanism is diverse depending on the regions and traditions within Africa.
The best teachings and examples of African shamanism will come from those who are experienced in it.
For those who are interested in learning more about African shamanism, here are a few titles to explore:
Zulu Shaman: Dreams, Prophecies, and Mysteries by Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa (Author), Luisah Teish (Foreword), Stephen Larsen Ph.D. (Editor)
Iboga: The Visionary Root of African Shamanism by Vincent Ravalec (Author), Mallendi (Author), Agnès Paicheler (Author)
Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman by Malidoma Patrice Some (Author)
Shamanism and Witchcraft
Ideally, blending a mixture of shamanism and witchcraft will reflect your own cultural background and ancestry which shamanism is deeply rooted in spirit work and ancestors.
This will require doing further research to understand the shamanic and pagan practices of where your ancestors come from so that you can have a witchcraft and/or shamanic practice that is suitable for you.
So, what is Shamanic Witchcraft?
Shamanic witchcraft is a blend of shamanism and witchcraft which to the core are similar.
It’s important to note that the shamanism and witchcraft that are blended are congruent with your own ancestral lineage, traditions and customs which will be more appropriate.
This is where more research on the practitioner’s part will be necessary as the depth of different cultures in shamanism and witchcraft are diverse.
Getting the Basics of Shamanism
There are some books on the market that can give the basic principles of shamanism that are commonly found in most traditions and cultures such as spirit work, spirit journey, healing and divination.
These practices are commonly already found in witchcraft, so if you have already read some books on spirituality and witchcraft, you may be familiar already with these concepts and terminology.
Most shamanic practices subscribe to the belief of the Upper World, the Middle World and the Under World.
In the Upper World, there are higher evolved beings, beings of light, spirits and higher vibrating entities.
In the Middle World is where we currently are, where we live, sleep, work and function; it’s everything that we see before us.
In the Under World is where the shaman does intense work, where the ancestors and dead reside.
A shaman will travel these worlds in search of medicine, healing and work. This includes spirit journeys, ancestral communication and sometimes to do soul retrieval which is needed after soul loss occurs.
To find out more on the basics and foundations of shamanism, check out these titles:
The Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft: Shadows, Spirits and the Healing Journey by Christopher Penczak (Note: this book is somewhat based on Wiccan structure, but has exercises and information that are very useful)
Plant Spirit Shamanism: Traditional Techniques for Healing the Soul by Ross Heaven (Author), Howard G Charing (Author)
Shamanism, Witchcraft and Study
Reading, studying and practicing shamanism is a delicate process that requires research and developing your own understanding.
Topics to include in shamanic and witchcraft studies include herbalism and crystals.
It’s important to note which plants, trees and crystals are found in your ancestral lands that may have been used for healing and/or magical purposes.
Many shamanic practitioners are taught their skills and techniques which is often reserved for certain people within a community or culture.
While some shamans may teach the principles of shamanism in person or online, it should be carefully noted and assessed who is teaching, what tradition they’re teaching and why.
This is why it’s especially important to honour the ancestral lineage of one’s own culture as this is a cornerstone in many shamanic practices.
Hopefully, the information and the links provided herein will spark your interest or curiosity to delve into your own practice or research.
Interested in undertaking your own spiritual journey?
Want to visit and gain wisdom from the underworld, to meet dark gods and goddesses, work with ancestors, heal the spirit and discover past lives?
Get started on your journey with the Underworld Journeys in Witchcraft e-book.
Witchcraft & Healing with Baba Yaga
Spiritual Underworld Journeys in Witchcraft
Witchcraft & Divination with Beeswax
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