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Shaman and Shamanic practitioner: know the difference

Over the past few years, people throughout the world have become more and more aware of shamanism. What was once a subject of mystery and misconception is now being looked at more seriously. People are waking up to the fact that the shamanic way of life is actually quite fulfilling. This is especially relevant in today's world, where many people have lost touch with nature and the natural way of life and have adopted an artificial lifestyle that leads to unsatisfied and unhealthy lives.


There is still a long way to go before people fully understand shamanism. It is believed to have originated more than 30,000 years ago, so there's a lot of catching up to do for people. There is still confusion about terms like the shaman, shamanic, and shamanic practitioner. Often people use these terms interchangeably – below we delve into what each one means.



Who is a Shaman?


You can only be a shaman if you are supported by a spirit as any healing done by a shaman is only possible as a result of the way they interact with the spirit world. In fact, it is believed that a shaman cannot actually call himself or herself a shaman as it is up to the spirits or the other people in the community to use that term. Shaman is not a word that should be used lightly.


Traditionally, it has been a very respectable position in a tribe that comes with a lot of responsibility. A shaman is the one who takes care of the healing needs of the people. And it might not even be in their hands whether to be a shaman or not. As stated already, it is the spirits that can call upon a person to be a shaman. The position can be passed down through the generations, often without the person having much say in the matter. It is a highly sacred title.



Who is a Shamanic Practitioner?


A shamanic practitioner is a person who is actively engaged in shamanism. This is more applicable in modern times where more and more people are adopting this way of life even though they might not have cultural roots in shamanism. These practitioners also play a crucial role in spreading the message of this way of life. A regular practitioner can have a range of shamanic abilities of healing and interacting with the spirit world.


Generally, people who practice shamanism like to call themselves shamanic practitioners. They believe that it is a more appropriate way of describing who they are and what they do. This is especially the case for those who are under the apprenticeship of a shaman. Out of respect for the shaman, they refrain from calling themselves shaman as well. Of course, if they are eventually chosen by the spirits, they may be granted that title.



The difference between a Shaman and a Shamanic Practitioner


A shaman holds a more respected title, and a shaman practitioner is a person who engages themselves in this way of life. The difference is much like yogis and practitioners of yoga. Yogis commit themselves to the process and they often shun societal life altogether. Their life mission is to attain liberation from the physical world. For a practitioner, though, yoga is more of an activity that is done for health and healing benefits and is a way to enhance their life experience. The same is true of a shaman and a shamanic practitioner.


Shamans usually live in rural areas and this allows them to stay true to their shamanic way of life. It also ensures that the chaos and complexities of urban life do not distract them or their practice. In a way, by staying in the rural areas, they live in an environment that is more akin to the way their ancestors lived.


On the other hand, a shamanic practitioner often lives in a city or town.


There is no strict rule whereby a shamanic practitioner can't call themselves a shaman and it might be appropriate to do so when trying to spread the message of shamanism. However, there needs to be some sense as to the difference between the two out of respect to a shaman.

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