The major religions have identified the soul as the incorporeal essence of a living being. Some religions have said the soul is composed of five parts: soul, heart, shadow, name, and spark. Some philosophers have written that the soul has three parts, Plato being a good example. An issue for me is the meaning of incorporeal. It is defined as “something that has no material form or physical substance. Incorporeal comes from a combination of the Latin root words in- meaning “not” and corpus meaning body. (   I quarrel with this because the soul is essence, that is, the sum and total of energy, especially at the molecular level. The human soul is central to the personhood of a human being. As George MacDonald said, “You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.” In other words, personhood is not based on having a body. A soul is what is required. The function of the soul is to provide direction to one’s consciousness that allows the Spirit to realize its full potential.

A distinction between soul and spirit needs to be made before I discuss the shamanic care of the soul. Spirit is considered to be the vital principle or animating force within living things. And for this writer that includes all animal and plant life as well as human life. However we may arrive at a working definition of the soul, the shaman recognizes the soul as being a focus of physical, mental, and emotional issues.

I make a distinction between mental and emotional issues. Specifically, mental refers to the processes in the brain; whereas, emotional refers to one’s feelings, and of course physical refers to the biology of the body.

What then, does the shaman do to care for the soul? Obviously, the shaman attempts to identify the client’s issue. There are several things he or she may do. One of the first things I do after interviewing my client is to check the energy level. I do this by using a dowsing rod made of an old metal coat hanger. If it is determined the issue is mental then the area of concentration is the head.[i] Being cognizant of potential ear damage, the sounds I use are low pitched. For example, I will stand behind the client’s head and gently beat a drum, very slowly, or shake a rattle, or play a flute. The reason for doing this is to change the vibrational flow in the brain; thus, bringing healing energy to the area(s) needed. An essential oil is applied to the back of the head, just at the point for it connects to the neck (the brain stem) and the same oil is applied to the forehead. I use about three drops Frankincense. Then I apply three drops of Rosemary Essential Oil to each foot. Both Frankincense and Rosemary are excellent stimulants for increased healing energy flow.

Two points need to be stated at this time. First, for me, the soul is consciousness and consciousness is housed within the brain. Here’s the rub. Science isn’t in agreement as to exactly where consciousness resides. Second, for me, a non-scientist, soul (consciousness) resides throughout the whole brain.[ii] With that said, another aspect of soul care is the heart and all its energy. The heart has a direct relationship with the soul. I will discuss heart energy and soul in a future article.

In some cases, the shaman may do a soul retrieval healing. Peter E. Brown in “Shamanic Soul Retrieval”[iii] states, “A shamanic soul retrieval healing can integrate parts of ourselves that we’ve lost through childhood or adult trauma and abuse.” In my book, Shamanism What It’s All About Third Edition,[iv] I discuss soul loss and retrieving the soul.

[i] One of the things I explore with the client includes medical doctor visits, scans of the brain, etc. I also try to make sure that what I do is not contra-productive. I prefer that the client should have discussed any supportive treatment with his or her medical practitioner beforehand.

[ii] See Fiona MacDonald’s article in HUMANS (June 12, 2018) titled Harvard Scientist Think They’ve Pinpointed The Physical Source of Consciousness.

[iii] Huichol shamanism & plant spirit medicine healing. Peter has offices in Seattle. For appointment call 360-561-8722.

[iv] Zadkiel Publishing, 2018.

Copyright 2019 by Norman W. Wilson, PhD.


I am delighted to share with you an announcement from the Founding Director of The Traveling Shamans, Julia Widdop. She has announced Shamans are Traveling to Colorado for Shamans Camp and they are traveling from all over the world to the tiny town of Hotchkiss, Colorado, for the Traveling Shamans Camp 2019. The dates are July 26-28th. The primary goal of Traveling Shamans is to stimulate an interest in the environment, and its health; the human, the plant and the animal interdependence on that health.

Shamans are gathering to sweat, smoke, & drum together. Shamans, shamanic practitioners, and artists in attendance will also lead ceremonies and workshops that are open to the public. Traveling Shamans Camp is totally supported by donations. Traveling Shamans Camp is being sponsored by the Shamanic Arts Center of Hotchkiss, Colorado. This yearly camp is the Center’s main public service activity and is open to shamans, shamanic artists, practitioners and the shaman curious.

Workshops being offered include a building a medicine wheel, divination methods, painting the inner journey, a drumming workshop and many more. Open Mic at the Main Stage will feature lots of musicians, storytellers, speakers, and dances, free entertainment supported by tips from the audience. We’ll have Bernie Heideman with Dances of Universal Peace and Big River John leading a shamanic trance dance.

Some fabulous shamanic artists will be showing in the hospitality area including Winter Ross, Chris Gentry, and SD Youngwolf. Or wander into the vendor area and get your cards read, have a cup of tea at the hospitality area, or buy cool stuff. Grab your tent and drum and head for Hotchkiss, Colorado. More details at


Norman W. Wilson, PhD

Feathers, traditionally been used for a variety of purposes. Feathers have played a role in implements of war, clothing, headdresses, and headbands. They have been used for blessings, spiritual ceremonies, purification, and healing.

A shaman makes use of feathers during a healing session. For example, before beginning a healing session the shaman may take a feather fan (a wing from a bird or several feathers tied together) and physically breathe through it or wave the fan over a client and chant through it. This is done to clear the area of any negative energy.

Once a client’s aura is identified and if the aura field is not strong, the shaman may use a single feather (eagle or turkey) to clear the area around the client. In addition to clearing a weak aura, fanning a client moves the air and creates new vital energy.

A feather fan is used during a smudging. Smudging involves the wafting of smoke from burning incense.

Among First Settlers (Native Americans) feathers were used to decorate battle clubs, tomahawks, ceremonial masks, medicine bags, talking sticks, rattles, and dream catcher as well as clothing.

Depending on tribal traditions, certain bird feathers were held in very high regard; for example, the Eagle, Bald, and Golden were sacred birds. They symbolized great strength, courage, and leadership. Both are often associated with connection to the creator.

A partial list of bird feathers and their uses is listed below.

Bluebird helps with happiness and personal fulfillment

Crow helps with balance and release from past beliefs

Falcon helps with soul healing

Hawk helps with farsightedness

Owl helps with seeing things normally

Turkey helps with abundance, pride, and fertility

Wren helps with personal protection

Contemporary shamanic healers may have their offices decorated with dream catchers that contain feathers from different birds. Masks, drums, rattles and head- bands that include feathers are often used to create a healing energy.

Shamanism and Love

Norman W. Wilson, PhD

World-renowned author Dr. Alberto Villoldo in Shamanism (Posted January 19, 2016) writes, “The shaman understands that we are attracted to those people that we have to learn with and learn through.” Shamanic teacher and author, Christina Pratt in her podcast, Why Shamanism Now states, “One of the great stressors in life is intimate relationships, both the having them and not having them.” An underlying assumption here is that shaman, male or female, have a mate. Historically, we know sometimes shaman were celibate. We also know early healers often lived apart from their tribe. And too, we know there were shaman who mated.

A shaman’s fundamental philosophical belief begins with respect—respect for all life be it plant, animal or human. There is a keen awareness that many illnesses are fundamentally emotional. These emotional illnesses have root causes such as an unhappy childhood, conflicted core values, low self-esteem, lack of parental love, or issues with one’s made. I am sure you can think of many more causes; however, the fundamental question for our consideration is what the shaman does about it.

The first thing a shaman does when a client comes in for a healing is to make a determination about the nature of the visit: Is it physical? Is it being upset much of the time? Is it the loss of appetite or an increase in weight? During this initial interview, the shaman asks about the client’s love life. This does not just mean their physical love life; it can also mean their spiritual love life. Yes, it does get personal and it does remain confidential. Sometimes, the client’s mate may be asked to come in for an interview. Long practice in the affairs of the heart has taught there is always more than just one side to a story.

Once the core issue(s) is identified the shaman may make any number of recommendations. Among these would be a healing session involving essential oils, herbal teas, and the use of the drum. The purpose here is to change the rhythmic pattern and to bring calm to the client. It is within that framework the client may then resolve the issue. After all, it is the client who does the healing; the shaman simply opens the channels to allow it to happen.

Copyright, 2019



At the very outset, I have to admit I have a bias against the use of hallucinogens for shamanic journeying. I also have to confess that I have never used any of the hallucinogens. With this said, I will attempt to bring reliable information about both the use of hallucinogens and shamanic journeying.

What is a hallucinogen? It is a drug that causes profound distortions in a person’s perceptions of reality. Under the influence of hallucinogens, people see images, hear sounds, and feel sensations that seem real but do not exist. Hallucinogens cause their effects by disrupting the interaction of nerve cells and the neurotransmitter serotonin. Distributed throughout the brain and spinal cord, the serotonin system is involved in the control of behavioral, perceptual, and regulatory systems and especially one’s sensory perception.

According to the Australian Drug Foundation, some of the immediate effects caused by using a hallucinogen include feelings of euphoria, blurred vision, distorted perception, disorganized thoughts, and paranoia.

What are the psychoactive drugs? There are four general groups that are included: stimulants, depressants, opioids, and hallucinogens. Our interest here is the latter. Among these hallucinogens are LSD, Psilocybin Mushrooms, DMT/Ayahuasca, and Mescaline/Peyote. Others are listed by the Ocean Breeze Recovery Organization ( For my purpose of dealing with hallucinogens and shamanic journeying, I will concentrate on Ayahuasca.

N.N-Dimethyltryptamine, is a naturally occurring chemical found in both plants and animals. It is the active hallucinogenic compound in Ayahuasca, the Quechua name for a tea brewed from the shrub Psychotria viridis, which is used for ritual purposes by the indigenous people in the Amazon. DMT may be among the most powerful psychedelic drug on earth. Its potential for powerful visual hallucinations makes it a favorite among those who desire to authenticate themselves as healers. It’s the drug de jour for shamanic journeying.

Reported problems caused by the use of Ayahuasca include increased blood pressure, severe vomiting, and profoundly altered states of consciousness. Typically, these effects begin within 20 minutes of ingestion and last as long as twelve hours. This, of course, depends on the strength and amount of Ayahuasca taken. There is little available information suggesting that Ayahuasca use creates lasting physiological or neurological damage among long-term users, especially those who use it for their religious activities. Assuming this is true, what then are my concerns about Ayahuasca use?

My first concern is the effects of Ayahuasca are highly unpredictable. A shaman who journeys to another realm does so for very specific reasons. It’s not a ride on a roller coaster. A second concern is the potentiality of a “bad” trip; one that produces terrifying thoughts, anxiety, despair, and insanity or even death. Cited in References are two articles that challenge reported deaths caused by taking Ayahuasca. My real concern is being in control of the journey. A shaman doesn’t just do a journey for entertainment. She or he does so for a specific purpose: to get help in healing and to return a lost soul or a part of a soul. In days of old, the journey would be to seek advice about a potential tribal war, a hunt, or a move of the tribe to another area. If you are hallucinating how can you know what the message is to heal, to help, or to guide? You can’t.


Shamanism and Parallel Universes


The old religious ballad Dem Bones[i] points out how all parts of the human body are connected. So too, we like Dem Bones, are connected to all things in the universe. And no one knows this better than the shaman. He accepts the notion that humans are star stuff and as such we are connected to what is now called the multiverse, that is, parallel universes. Consequently, we have parallel lives. This is not as strange as it may at first glance appear to be. Modern science things postulate there are as many as ten dimensions and some bold one are claiming there are at least twelve.

Does shamanism work in such a scientific view and if so, how? The controversy surrounding the origin of the word shaman may never be fully resolved. For practical purposes, it has a multi-national origin but one among the several is generally recognized as the origin: The word shaman probably derives from the Manchu-Tungus wordšaman, meaning‘one who knows’. A shaman is a person who has access to the spiritual world, to all cosmic creations and that includes parallel universes and any one of the identified dimensions.

The major premise behind this above bold statement is based on the scientific principle that all things vibrate. Second, vibration creates fluid energy. Even the so-called “dead stars” are still vibrating. The shaman, through trance, connects to the subtleties of that vibration, resonates with spiritual energy, and transfers that to his client.

Enoch Tan reminds us that “The secret of anything is consciousness of that thing. Intention is the offspring of consciousness. When you are conscious of something, you are also intending it. What you intend is what you manifest.” A shaman manifests healing energy and can do so whether its this universe, a parallel one, or a different dimension.

March 30, 2019

[i] Written by James Weldon Johnson and first recorded in 1928 by the Myers Jubilee Singers. The song is based on Ezekiel 37:1-4



The old saying “what’s old is new again” certainly applies to the area of shamanism. Shamanic healers for thousands of years used sound, stones (crystals), herbs (plants) to help their patients. Evidence also indicates early shaman used hallucinogens to walk (journey) between spiritual realms and or dimensions (parallel universes). To do so, they used drums, rattles, flutes, voice, and dance to go into a hypnotic trance. I know of no ancient records indicating breathing played a role in journeying. However, with that said, it doesn’t mean such records do not exist somewhere.

In the way of a reminder, shaman journeyed to other realms, dimensions, or parallel universes for several reasons. Among these are determining the future, success in the hunt or war, moving the tribe, retrieving a lost soul, and of course,  seeking help in dealing with an ill patient.

There is an ancient yogic breathing technique that produces a hypnotic trance. Coming out of India, it is at least five thousand years old. It is Ujjayi and the word itself is Sanskrit and means one who is victorious. It now means “victorious breath.”

Ujjayi breath brings about the spontaneous and natural movement of energy from the root center to the crown. It is a whole-body experience that channels via the spine. For the shaman, Ujjayi provides several benefits prior to going into a hypnotic trance. Among these health benefits is an increase in the amount of oxygen in the blood thus vitalizes brain activity, builds internal body heat, regulates blood pressure, builds energy, and detoxifies both the brain and body.

I feel it is necessary to point out there are issues in deep breathing. This is a warning! If you have cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, glaucoma, retinal detachment, aneurysms, or are pregnant or had recent significant injuries or surgeries DO NOT participate in Ujjayi breathing. If you are not sure regarding any other physical issues consult your medical doctor before attempting any form of deep breathing techniques.

Use a flat surface to lie down on, preferably yoga mat placed on the floor. If you have neck issues place a small bolster under your neck. Make sure your breathing is not impaired. DO NOT do this deep breathing standing up. You may fall and injure yourself. If you are new to Ujjayi, a good suggestion is to do this for a maximum of twenty minutes. As you gain practice, increasing the time is fine. NEVER do this while alone. Always have someone with you who is familiar with this breathing technique. An additional safety device is to have a timer set to go off at the end of 20 minutes. Make sure the timer’s sound is pleasant; not harsh. Have a notebook or journal nearby.

Here are the specific steps:

  1. Take a deep slow breath, filling your lungs. Hold your breath for the slow count of three. Exhale fully. Begin breathing in immediately. The plan here is to create a constant pattern of in and out.
  2. Increase your breathing to a bit faster; a tad faster than normal. Do not go ninety miles per hour. Too fast breathing will cause unnatural tension.
  3. As you exhale through your mouth, make sure it is fully open; place your tongue behind your upper teeth. As you exhale you should hear a mild sound something like an ocean wave. At about ten minutes into the exercise, you should begin to feel sense of euphoria or (if you are a practiced breather) an altered state of consciousness.
  4. Your gentle alarm should sound at the end of the 20-minute session. Prearrange to have your partner place his or her hand gently on your shoulder. This is a second reminder that you should bring your breathing back to normal.
  5. Before slowly getting up, reflect on what you experienced, what message you received, what you learned.
  6. Jot down in your journal a few of your reactions and observations.

January 21, 2019