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.


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

Six Inherent Human Qualities and the Shaman’s World

                 NORMAN W. WILSON, PhD

In my article, “What’s the Difference between a Shaman and a Doctor?” (December 17, 2018) I said I would come back and discuss a point made by Dylan Smeaton in his article by the same title. (July 2016). He states, “… there still is an element of care a shaman understands that a doctor still does not yet: the role that consciousness plays in the physical, mental, and spiritual health and well-being [of the human being].” I feel Mr. Smeaton should have developed each of these esoteric and yet inherent human qualities and then address their connection to healing-the shaman’s way. I also believe a fifth and sixth quality should be included: emotions and soul.

It may not be possible to be specific when it comes to definition of consciousness, physical, mental, emotional, soulness, and spiritual health. Hopefully, there can be a general agreement on working definitions.

I begin with consciousness. For quite some time, it was generally thought consciousness was located in the mind and of course, the mind located in the brain. However, today science is considering other possibilities. Maybe— just maybe—consciousness is outside of the human mind. Could it be cosmic? This certainly opens a can of worms. For now, let us say consciousness is awareness by the mind of itself and of the world. For the shaman, consciousness is a special altered state in which localized awareness is diminished. All there is is an unending cosmic awareness—of all things seen and unseen.

Mateo Sol has provided a unique definition of mind. He wrote, “. . . the mind is the ultimate software because it can only know what you teach it.[1] Does this not negate original thought? Creative thought? Isn’t there such a process called innate learning?

The physical element in light of modern medicine may appear to require little in the way of shamanic healing. From one perspective that might appear to be true especially with all the electronics and drugs currently in use; however, the shaman brings to the table something that many medical professionals do not. Even though shaman of old did not understand all the physics behind what he or she did, they provided a shift in vibrational energy for healing the physical body. They did this with drums, rattles, flutes, voice, and dance. Today’s shaman adds recorded sounds such as solfeggio and drumming in their healing practices. Chiropractic’s now use vibration to help with muscular issues.

The mental element may need a bit of clarification. For me, it refers only to the physical functions of the brain and the malfunctions occurring there caused by aging, disease, and drug abuse. Often we say a person has mental issues when in truth they are emotional issues. And this brings me to the next element. Shaman equate this with soul loss and that brings into play another set of shamanic procedures such as journeying.

Emotion really means one’s feelings. Feelings can be damaged by bullying, physical trauma, death of loved one, unkind comments, jealousy. Drugs and counseling are the general healing techniques used. Tranquilizers or amphetamine-based psychostimulants are the drugs of choice. The shaman offers herbal teas and what we now call essential oils. As in the mental element, the shaman may journey to regain his or her client’s soul or a part of the soul. Emotions when in the negative are also responsible for issues in the physical element and as such are never taken lightly.

The spiritual element from my perspective should not be confused or associated with any of the world’s religions. I am not implying those who are religious and practice their religious beliefs are not spiritual. All humans are spiritual whether or not they follow a particular set of religious beliefs. I am very aware that spirituality is in vogue today especially among the millennials. Spirituality, at least for me, encompasses compassion, empathy, and love. It includes respect for all living things. It is the recognition that we are one world, one race—the human race. Most likely beneath all of this is an innate desire to understand one’s inner life. This means being centered on the very deepest values and their values. It contains the idea of an inner path enabling a person to discover and live the essence of her or his being.  For the shaman, one’s inner life is expressed in one’s outer life. Healing, therefore, begins with the inner life. This brings me to the sixth element, the soul.

The human soul, long a fascination for humankind, is embroiled in a debate about the question of the soul’s survival after the body dies. If one accepts the premise that the soul is energy and I do, then modern physics gives us the answer: Energy cannot be destroyed only transformed. (The Second Law of Thermodynamics) Michael Roads in Wake Up World tells us the body dies and the soul continues forever.[2] In the shaman’s world, the soul or part of the soul may be stolen, lost, or kept back by a loved one. Further, that soul or its part can be retrieved and returned to its human body. I have written about this in my book titled Shamanism What It’s All About.

[1] [Date of publication was not provided]

[2] Wake Up World. 02/18/2015.



Original painting titled,”Ten Bears’ Last Spirit Quest” by award-winning American artist, Gerald Roberts. Original in color.

“Oh, great,” you say, “Now we can travel to Mars.” The word is worlds; not planets. Some say a shaman travels from one world to another physically; while, others say it’s the shaman’s soul that does the traveling. Yet, some shamans have felt they physically moved from one world to another.

Shamanic travel has been called many names. Among these are journeying, astral travel, and guided meditation, visualization, travelling, and altered states of consciousness. In recent years a new term has been added to the list: hedgecrossing. Apparently hedgecrossing is based on the Old Saxon word, haegtessa which is said to mean “hedge-rider.” Kelden in “Hedge-Crossing, Astral Projection, and Guided Meditation: Differences”[1] points out that haegtessa originally meant a hedgerow that divided property; that today, however, it functions as a metaphor. The metaphor references the boundary which divides our world from others. And, as you know, boundaries can be crossed.

Not everyone agrees with all the categories listed as shamanic travel. Sarah Anne Lawless is one such person. In her “Walking Between Worlds”[2] Lawless states, “visualization and guided meditations are NOT walking between worlds or trancework—they’re painting a lovely picture of doing so in your head.”

From a personal perspective I choose not to use the words crossing over because of its past use relating to death. I prefer the word travelling or journeying when talking about both the physical and soul movement from one world to another. This brings me back to a potential question raised in the first paragraph: What do we mean by worlds?

Traditionally, shaman believed there were three worlds: the Lower World, the Middle World, and the Upper World. These are sometimes referred to as realms. Briefly, the Lower World was inhabited by the dead who were waiting for reincarnation; the Middle World contained incarnated human spirits, and the Upper World housed ascended masters, teachers, and other enlightened entities. Besides this traditional view, I believe there are two other areas open for shamanic travel: an area in which the spirit world and the natural world interconnect, and second, is parallel universes.

During hypnotic sessions, a hypnotist will suggest you visualize a place with which you are very familiar. You are to look for a tree with a hole you can crawl into, a large rock (large enough so you could sit on it), a hole in the ground to enter. Other times the suggestion might be a hill or a mountain for you to climb. Upon arriving at one of these physical locations, one is expected to meet a spirit.

A shaman, in a trance, may travel to another universe. Here, he or she will find a duplicate of the current physical world. Things may be either slowed or speeded up. It is here the shaman may change things: prevent something from happening or learn what it is that has caused a client’s issues.

[1] March 23, 201. Patheos.

[2] June, 18, 2010. Witchcraft & Magic.


Norman W. Wilson, PhD.

 Quite often at talks on shamanic healing, I am asked what the difference between a shaman and a doctor is. My immediate instinct is to say ‘you’ve got to be kidding.’ Fortunately, better judgment grabbed me. The question deserves a respectful answer especially in that shamanism as well as other healing approaches have been described as “alternative medicine;” a term I personally detest.

 First, both the shaman and the medical doctor spend a great deal of time in training. For some, it is years. A modern medical doctor will need a four-year undergraduate degree, four years in medical school and then three to seven years in residency training before they are eligible for medical licensing. That’s about 40,000 hours of training. National statistics suggest that doctors in the United States retire at age 65.

On the other hand, a modern shamanic practitioner(certified) takes anywhere from three-weekend classes, to eight to ten lessons via the Internet, or a three-year program. Having never taken any of these programs I cannot attest to their effectiveness. Local Native American tribes have different expectations for their healers. (Note I did not call the shaman. That word does not exist in Native American languages. Some Native Americans resent the word shaman.) I use the word because it is not common language not dissimilar to Kleenex has become a household word for tissues. One of my former college students was in training to be a healer. His grandmother was the tribe’s healer. She began his training at age four. He told me, at age eighteen,that by the time he was 21, he would be accepted as a healer. That’s a lot of years by any standard.

Medical doctors have to learn body parts, symptoms of diseases, what medicines to prescribe, what technologies to call for (X-rays, C-scans, etc.). The shaman learns energy points, disease symptoms, herbal and essential oil use (healers of old did not call plant oils, essential oils), plants and their healing qualities, He or she understands when an illness is emotional or mental related. The modern doctor may recommend a psychologist and counseling to a client; whereas, a shaman will travel to the spirit world for help. Note both seek help elsewhere. Today, we speak of specialists.

Dylan Smeaton, CBP in an article titled “The Difference between a Shaman and a Doctor”[1]states “The difference between a shaman and a doctor is that while the doctor’s knowledge of the physiology of the human body has never been better, there is still an element of care a shaman understands that a doctor still does not yet: the role that consciousness plays in physical, mental and spiritual health and well-being.”

In my next article, I will expand on Smeaton’s statement by making a distinction between consciousness/soul, physical/mental, and spiritual/emotional from a shaman’s point of view.

[1] Smeaton, Dylan. OK In Health, July 2016.

Shaman and Transcendence

Norman W. Wilson, PhD.

Typically transcendence means experience beyond the normal and ordinary. It may be supposed that such things as “near-death”experiences be classified as an example of transcendence.  Generally, transcendence means one has gone beyond the ordinary limitations of physical realities, that is, one has become engaged in a spiritual state. For the shaman,it means the potential connection to a particular spirit in Nature, in universal energy fields, realms, and or parallel universes.

 Much has been written about the use of hallucinogens and shamanic travel. Not all shaman use drugs. They use sound and like hallucinogens,much as been said about that. When I talk about shamanic transcendence I mean a significant consciousness beyond that which is called normal for the human being, specifically one that has been altered.

For me, this shamanic transcendence really means a self-transcendence. This, in turn, means becoming part of that which is greater than your. I am not talking about developing a “God-complex.” What is inherently involved here is a move out of the mundane everyday world, the world of repetitive routine, of accepting things as they are. Researcher Pamela Reed in 2003 suggested that it is here the individual “connects with dimensions beyond the typically discernible world.” It is at this crucial juncture that the shaman connects to these other worlds. These worlds often called the Upper Realm, the Middle Realm, and the Lower Realm do not equate with some religious concepts of Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell. At this point, for the shaman, it doesn’t matter what it is that is greater than the self. The shaman’s concern comes after the shift from ordinary time to non-ordinary time occurs. It is then, with her or his spirit guide or helper, the shaman pursues the answers to her or his healing questions, questions related to the patient’s issues.

In Canto XXV of the Dhammapada, we find this sage advice that is most important to transcendence: ” Empty your boat . . .when emptied it will go lightly.”