Shamanism is a religious practice that focuses on a shaman; an individual believed to possess extraordinary powers through altered states of consciousness. Even though shamanic skills differ from one culture to the next, they are all generally known of having the ability to communicate with the spirit world, to heal the sick, and to escort souls of the dead to the other side.

The word Shaman is derived from the Mancu-Tungus term ‘Saman’ which literally translates to one who knows. Practice of Shamanism and the existence of Shamans is common among the peoples of Northern Asia by virtue of its origins, both as a phenomena and as a religious system. Shamanism can also be found among other indigenous cultures such as Australian Aborigines, America Indians, Arctic peoples and a few African groups where the term Shaman is basically used to refer to a religious leader, a healer, a counselor, and councilor combined charged with the responsibilities defined above.

It is common knowledge that Shamanism originated among the hunting and gathering communities, and that it stayed on with some of these communities even with the introduction of agriculture. It is often found side by side with animism a belief system that holds the view that the world is inhabited by a plethora of spirits that could either help or obstruct human efforts.

Some unique traits identified by Shamans include; special clothing, accessories, and rites which is characterized by the following features:

(a) Communication with the spirit world as well as their ability to heal and divine; such Shamans are seen and perceived to be very resourceful by the society in dealing with the transcendent world.

(b) Most shamans are normally known to be endowed with unique spiritual gifts such as intuition, eccentric personality that is normally accompanied by a physical defect such as an extra toe or finger, more than the given set of teeth and so on.

(c) Shamans are usually believed to be given assistance in carrying out their duties by a group of spiritual beings.

(d) The choice of a Shaman and the subsequent endowment of exceptional and supernatural abilities is believed to come from spiritual being. The candidate is normally picked during the stage of adolescence who sometimes resists this calling; however, the spiritual beings would compel the teenager to heed this call by using various tactics such as attacking him with a host of illnesses including mental illness in order to break his resistance so that he may conform to their calling.

(e) Depending on their belief system, initiation of a Shaman can either take place on a spiritual level or on a physical level-or sometimes both.

(f) The Shaman is believed to be able get into a trance state and contact spirits in the spiritual realm on various issues; contact of spirits in the spiritual world by the Shaman could sometimes be accomplished by allowing the soul of the Shaman to leave his physical body at will and access the spiritual world or act as a medium of a spiritual being who would wish to relay a message.

(g) There is also the element of combat with between the shaman and an animal mostly a horned cattle or a reindeer. The combat is usually done as a sort of a ritual where the outcome means well being for the winner and misery or destruction for the loser.

(h) When going into a trance, as well as healing ceremonies or mystical combats, the Shaman equips himself with certain instruments such as a drum, a drumstick, headgear, metal rattler, gown, and staff. The unique shapes and types of these instruments are significant in identifying and differentiating the species and forms shamanism

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