Weird health

16th October 1998 at 01:00

In common with most of the New Age healing therapies that caught on in the early to mid 1980s, shamanism takes a holistic view of human well-being. But rather than muck about with pressure points, energy flows,scents, herbs, or even your inner child or higher self, shamanism taps directly into the spirit world.

It is based on the theory that disturbances of mind and body are caused by spiritual inbalance, also described as a loss of power or soul. When this happens, "inappropriate" entities (modern shamans never talk about "evil" spirits or demons) make themselves at home in your body and can be shifted only with the help of more kindly spirits.

Shamanism, or "mastery of the spirits", has been around since pre stone-age times. The word is said to derive from the Tunguso-Manchurian word shaman, meaning "to know". Adherents say everything that exists, including inanimate objects, has its own powerful spirit or energy.

These spirits surround us in a parallel dimension (where our ancestors also hang out) but to harness their power you need a shaman or "walker between the worlds", a kind of cross between a witch doctor and a spiritualist. The shaman drums or dances himself into an ecstatic state until transported to "another reality", then summons tried and trusted spirit friends to come and sort you out. A rattle is usually used for this purpose.

Next, as the patient lies peaceful and relaxed, a kind of spiritual adjustment takes place that shifts "stuck energy" and re-empowers the soul.Some people say they feel and see things during this process, while others feel hot or cold. When it's over, you should have been disconnected from undesirable influences and reconnected with more beneficial ones.

But it may take three or four sessions and if the spirits (for reasons best known to themselves) are not in the mood to help, it may not work at all.

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