Have you had an experience with a specialist who could commune with or enter the supernatural world? Describe the experience and the belief system in which it functions. What is the role of the shaman (as we would define them anthropologically) in this belief system?
The ability to commune with the spiritual world is exceedingly difficult to understand if one is not prone to believe that additional dimensions exist to which one can aspire after leaving the current one. Whether there is an afterlife or a heaven, whether there exists a probability of returning as another form of life following expiration from this one, and whether individuals in this particular dimension can communicate beyond these invisible boundaries are the greatest unknowns in human existence. How to answer a question regarding shamanism and the role of the shaman, then, is entirely dependent upon one’s personal and intellectual beliefs and inclinations.
Shamanism is an ancient tradition and practice. The belief among a tribe or clan that one or more among them alone possess the ability or gift to communicate with the spiritual world and to commune with nature dates back thousands of years, and could be considered an early antecedent to the modern environmentalism that emphasizes the importance of mankind’s relationship to the natural world around it. Sects and religious denominations that have at their core a belief that all living matter, including plants and animals, are possessed of spirits, for example, the Sufi branch of Islam, are the modern-day heirs to that ancient system of beliefs.
The role of the shaman has been perverted to a large degree by clearly fraudulent practitioners who function solely to attract pecuniary compensation from gullible citizens. Fake séances and Ouija boards are the stuff of which malicious cons and practical jokes are made. To those for whom a belief in a spiritual world is sacrosanct, however, shamans and their more contemporary manifestations represent a vital link to another world. To some, that belief is grounded in the hope that saying goodbye to a loved one who is passing away or has passed away is only temporary, and that they will be reunited in a better place. Losing a loved one, human or pet animal, is emotionally devastating, and the thought that they are gone forever is too much to bear. Consulting a clairvoyant, psychic or fortune teller often represents a desperate attempt at reconnecting with those whom we’ve lost. This educator is not a believer in shamanism and clairvoyance. That said, an old family friend, a registered nurse, has experienced “events” that even I find a little too real to entirely dismiss, including communications from deceased patients whose lives she had labored to save. Because we are dealing, literally, with the great unknown, I would be hard-pressed to categorically dismiss all such episodes.