Shamanic image with beautiful nature and a lake

Nordic shamanism

The history and background of Nordic shamanism

The word shamanism is derived from the Tongan word sa, which stands for feel, know, as does the word shaman. The shaman takes the help of protective spirits or auxiliary spirits where they reach a state of trance. The intention is to create communication with the supernatural world in order to assist its group members.

There are countless definitions of Shamanism and religious historians sometimes talk about shamanism as if it were something concrete and forget in such a way that the concept only exists as a theoretical construction, an empty concept in the minds of researchers.

Nordic shamanism is used today in all possible contexts and to denote the most varied phenomena.

The religious scholars

For religious scholars, led by Professor Hultkrantz, shamanism is defined as a circumpolar phenomenon, in which the shaman heals with the help of drumming. Social anthropologists have a much broader definition and see shamanism as worldwide and more as an attitude to life than as a religion. It is from a social anthropological perspective that I act as a shaman.

For me, it is important to understand the thinking and living conditions of different indigenous peoples and then relate them to the worldview and practice of the sacred and healing. The performances and their expression are archetypal. Therefore, they are easy for us to take with us once we release some of our western image.

Is shamanism a religion? A method to explore oneself? A method to cure and heal?

Shamanism can be different for different people. The word shaman comes from the Tongan word saman which means "he who knows". But is it a religion? You can answer both yes and no. It is not a religion in the sense that traditional Christianity is a religion but rather a spiritual approach to nature and the universe.

Mother Nature

Shamanism is ancient and dates back to Paleolithic times. The ways of expression have changed, but the foundation, Mother Nature as a living divine force, is common to all shamanic cultures. Shamanism is still alive outside the Western cultural sphere and today we are starting to become many even in the Western cultural sphere who again turn to Mother Earth and seek shamanic knowledge.

Shamanism was initially women-oriented. The Great Mother was at the center and most often it was women who were shamans. The woman's power to give birth and to bleed without being harmed was so strong that it was natural that it was the women who healed people, animals and nature. Today, it is at least as common for men to be shamans, but in some cultures it is still the case that a male shaman must be initiated by a woman and share her power in order to become a shaman.

Nordic shamanism

The Swedish word for shaman is viskvinn, völva. The shaman has, through trance, contact with the other worlds, with goddesses, gods and spirits. This gives the shaman knowledge of what needs to be done to heal people and to restore balance if nature is out of balance. In most cultures, the shaman achieves trance status through dance, but above all through drumming. In the Nordic countries, saithe has instead played a major role.

Shamanic Rituals

For the shaman, the ritual is the basis of the healing work. Healing itself is more important than the design of the ritual. Therefore, the shaman joins the ritual components based on the current situation. She never lets herself be locked in by ready-made ideas and concepts, but must be in the flow with the forces. Nor can she take another human being to where she herself has not been. Therefore, shamanism is experience-based and for the shaman, the mystery of life is not a problem to solve but a reality to experience.

What is a ritual?

Ordet ritual härleds från grekiskans arithmós, räkning. Över stora delar av världen har nummer tilldelats kosmiska kvalitéer och använts för att beskriva universums uppbyggnad och för att upprätthålla kosmos - ett ordnat universum. Nummer har också använts för att förstå, relatera till och ibland ändra det kosmiska inflytandet. Överför man det till ritual innebär det att man i ritualen dramatiserar den kosmiska strukturen för att förstå, relatera till och ibland förändra det kosmiska inflytandet.

The word ritual is derived from the Greek arithmós, count. Across large parts of the world, numbers have been assigned cosmic qualities and used to describe the structure of the universe and to maintain the cosmos - an orderly universe. Numbers have also been used to understand, relate to and sometimes change the cosmic influence. If you transfer it to ritual, it means that in the ritual you dramatize the cosmic structure to understand, relate to and sometimes change the cosmic influence.

Seen from this perspective, it can be said that the forms of therapy that try to initiate a symbolic process in some respects are a ritual because the client, by highlighting his experiences and feelings in the light, tries to create order in his own universe. At the same time, of course, there are differences between therapy and ritual.

A "traditional" ritual includes several components;

  • Common belief system
  • Use of body and movement, ie one acts
  • Performs concrete actions with symbolic meaning
  • Works with real and / or symbolic forces both within and outside the participants. These forces have the ability to influence the lives of the participants
  • The world is alive and everything created has its role to fulfill in creation.

What does a ritual do?

In general, the ritual has a structuring and / or transforming function, ie in the ritual the cosmic order is recreated and / or re-created.

Structuring personal rituals are used by most people daily - at ascension, breakfast, work, leisure and bedtime. These rituals are generally mechanical and unconscious, but they have in part the same function as a religious structuring ritual, ie to maintain the cosmic order.

A transforming ritual reshapes. It can be as simple as writing down a thought pattern you are no longer served on a piece of paper, burying it in the ground and working to dissolve the thought pattern as the paper rots. Initiation rituals are another example of a transforming ritual.

Why work with and use ritual thinking?

By acquiring knowledge about and using ritual thinking, we add an additional dimension to ourselves. The rituals were once born out of a genuine human need to find tools to deal with life and we humans have basically not changed but we are still the same people who for 100,000 years or more used rituals. It is no wonder that Nordic shamanism is growing stronger.

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