The different type of Shamans in the West
(All language used in this text is gender neutral intended)

1. The plant medicine shaman
In the West there are many opinions that your way into shamanism is with plant medicine. This is valid but it’s not the only way. These shamans are learners of the plant spirit who teaches them. They get their power from the psychoactive plant. It takes years of apprentice work with a teacher who works with a specific plant spirit to be equipped to be a curandero or a plant shaman.

2. Lineage based shamans
This is when shamanism runs in a lineage you belong to. This doesn’t have to be blood, although it can be. It can also be an energetic lineage of a path where the community accepts you as one of their members by way of transferal of certain rites of initiation. The lineage keeps you accountable in your medicine work, there are elder spirits who overlook the ethics of the group. I belong to the lineage of the Q’uero shamans of Peru. I have been initiated by way of rites which energetically places me in the teachings of their medicine.

3. Sorcerers
In Carlos Castaneda’s books sorcerers are seen as shamans. There is however a known difference between the two and that is that a sorcerer works on their own behalf. They are powerful and could do things for their community if there is personal gain involved. Often monetary gain. The shaman works from a lineage for the highest good of all beings, not only for personal gain.

4. Shamanic practitioner
This is also a category that I belong to. These are people who follow the shamanic path, have healing abilities and work for the greater good. They are passionate about shamanism and often times are powerful but they don’t always belong to a lineage or have been accepted as the shaman of their community yet. A lot of Westerners fall into this category because we don’t have the structures and close knit communities to recognize and hold us in our medicine.

5. Core Shamanism
This was a path found by Dr Micheal Harner. After studying shamanism for years he took all the similarities among all shamanic cultures and made it into a practice. These shamans are powerful but they do not belong to any specific lineage. This is an Academic approach to an Indigenous art.

6. The Fraud shaman
This is someone who calls themselves a shaman but has undergone no personal rites of initiation. They are often the people who attended a weekend workshop and likes the image, the attire and the status of a shaman. They however possess no power except that of deceit and are often great actors. These people have no respect for the art and often leaves detrimental results in working with people.

7. The spirit shaman
This is the shaman who has been taken by the spirits and has been initiated through them onto the path of shamanism. This often happens to shamans who don’t obey their calling and they get sick. In the Zulu tradition it is the Ancestors who manifest sickness onto the shaman who has not stepped into their role. Often times this leads to death, so the shaman has to survive this in order to be a shaman.

8. Struck by lightning
Another way in which someone gets initiated into the shamanic path is by getting struck with lightning.

It is very important that you make sure that the shaman you are working with is reputable and has had proper training, apprenticeship or initiations. Our Western structure doesn’t have the tight community support and supervision of the indigenous which leaves a lot of people practicing shamanism ‘’running free’’ without proper ethical codes, techniques and supervision.
Remember a shaman may ask money. In the old days they would receive chicken, tobacco or what was appropriate at the time. These days energy exchange is in the form of money. However, thousands upon thousands of dollars for a healing or ceremony is suspect. Remember shamans work on the basis of the highest good of all.
Light and love
Sammy