The purpose of Shamanism is to integrate conflicting aspects of the human psyche with each other, and the whole with the Cosmic Psyche, and to develop the power and self-knowledge to enable the shaman to achieve results that are beyond the abilities of the undeveloped, un-self-aware psyche.
Integrating conflicting aspects of the human psyche is the basis of all character development, and is essential to achieving balance and happiness. It releases and channels those potentially limitless psychic powers that are inherent in all of us.
The difference between a healer and a shaman is that a healer is a person who is able to use the forces of light to effect a cure in the body, mind, or spirit of another, without using the forces of the Shadow, because of the nature of some illnesses, this method is not always effective, and a shaman must be sought for a cure.
A shaman is a healer who has walked up to the Underworld gates of his/her own personal hell and then walked in. He/she has confronted and conquered his/her self-created demons, such as fear, insanity, loneliness, self-importance, and addictions, has unflinchingly confronted his/her own Shadow self as well as the evil of others, and can successfully deal with forces of darkness equally with those of light.
A shaman can do exorcisms and can reverse hexes and the results of black arts that have been used on a patient, because by dealing with one’s own Shadow and coming to terms with that Shadow self, one gains peace of mind and balance, and the black arts have no control over that person, for his/her personal fears and inner demons have already been dealt with. Both the shaman and the healer can effect cures, but only the shaman is trained in dealing with any type of black arts that may have caused illness.
For clarification, a shaman is not a sorcerer, one who is trained in and uses only the black arts to accomplish their purposes. Many people in today’s society are calling themselves shamans without any knowledge of exactly what this means. If the would-be shaman does not have the ability to look at his/her own shadow side, he/she will not be able to follow the path of the shaman. He/she would never be able to confront or handle the results and/or intentions of the black arts.
A shaman’s medicine colours are black and white because he/she walks the world of Light as well as Shadow; the polarity of man’s existence. Black and white also represents the balance a shaman seeks to maintain, both inside himself/herself as well as bringing that balance to his/her clients. It is well expressed in the Eastern concept of yin-yang.
In ancient traditions, the would-be-shaman was sent to a certain location to dig his/her own grave, and then spent the night inside that grave, totally alone. The grave opening was supported by limbs, covered by a blanket, and then filled over with dirt and debris. Absolute darkness and total silence quickly cause the initiate to be confronted by his/her fears. The basic idea of the initiation was to break down all former notions of ‘self’, and to cause the initiate to face his/her inner fears and demons.
When the initiate is released from the grave, the old persona and ways of life of the one “who was put in the ground” truly are dead and buried. A “new” person emerges, reborn, with the right by initiation to be called a shaman, and to heal.