For many the idea of becoming a shamanic practitioner is a noble one though maybe not altogether well thought out. This type of work is equally rewarding as it is dangerous. It is the latter of which many want-to-be shamans seemingly overlook. Until they get in trouble!
So what kind of trouble can be encountered? One can get possessed by an unwanted spirit, go into some form of mental illness, take upon oneself another persons ailments, anger spirits sent by someone who has performed dark sorcery and that is just to describe but a few!
In order to work effectively, in any environment, one should think of safety first. Spiritual work is no different. View yourself and all that is around you as though waves of energy are bouncing all about. Which is in fact a correct view but we will put those details aside for now. How would you want to protect yourself, your environment and the person coming to you for help?
Amulets! In short, you can view an amulet as a form of armor. This armor does not make you invincible but adds a layer of protection between you and possible trouble. The most common form of amulet are items such as teeth and bone of certain animals. Such as the teeth from boar, wolf, bear, panther and other larger predatory animals. By wearing these items which have been fashioned, blessed and anointed by a master shaman they invoke the spirit of that animal. The animals spirit comes to aid the shaman from attack by other spirits.
Metallic objects are also amulets. Brass, copper, bronze mirrors and bells. These came about as those we served developed into working with metals. The shamanic purest may turn nose at their use but they are quite effective. Our ancestors used them as they became available so you are not out of line in their usage. Typically, a mirror goes over the heart area while another goes over the back on the opposite side. Protecting from malevolent spirit intrusion by “reflecting back” the unwanted energies.
Stones and crystals of various colors, shapes and sizes are also used as amulets. There are so many stones and crystals with various powers that would warrant a book of their own. I suggest finding a couple good books on the spiritual uses. However, I will give you a couple crystals that are well known.
Amber, quartz and various colored glass beads have been found in ancient shamanic burial sites. The majority of which were worn in some fashion as amulets to negate the energies of malevolent forces. There are some stones and crystals, however, which cross both the amulet and talisman line. This can also be said about numerous other items fashioned from animal bone or metals.
Talismans can be best viewed as “energy reserves.” That is to say, sources of energy to boost or fall back on for the shaman or the helping spirits. For example, quartz is among one of the most common to be used to greatly boost the gifted powers. Animal parts like the claws of an eagle or hawk can boost the strength of “extractions,” by reaching into someone to grab hold of an illness for example. Talismans add strength which is why nearly every shaman or medicine person has them at the ready.
Knowing now what amulets and talismans are we let us also cover a few other often overlooked assets.
A shaman may have a small cane like staff or a larger one depending on the guidance from spirit. In European tradition this staff is symbolic of the umbilicus. Giving the power of connection between the Great Mother and the bearer. Often this item is a work that takes many months, if not years, to acquire. There should never, ever, be a rush into such matters no matter how much ones desire calls forth. It is best to take it as the spirits guide you.
My own journey was one of nearly 2 years. I had felt the calling to acquire a staff so I consulted spirit. Which I was then guided into the wood to make offerings to call forth the location of the one to work with me. I walked the wood many times until a rock person told me that the one was nearby. I looked around and there stood the one. I then made offerings to and returned to make further offerings to the wild spirits of the wood. Then there was the wait for when I should harvest the wood. Then having to let the wood cure until told to begin the next step. Without continuing on, suffice it to state, that this was a process of nearly 2 years with many offerings. Now I have a great staff at my disposal as well. The purpose of which serves as a resource of power and help. Some staffs act like birds or horses for the shaman to fly or ride upon. These staffs can also act as guides and protectors so they are very valuable to those who are gifted with such an ally.
There is also the very clothing a shaman wears. Deer, bear, wolf, bull hides that allow the shaman to gain the powers and protections of that animal. It is as if the shaman and the animal become one within one another. The wearing of the deer antler is very common. This great blessing from deer spirit gives the shaman an extra sense, like an antennae, as well as a protection of those horns. In European tradition these horns are symbolic of the ancient shovel used to uncover the ancestral goods. A power of discovery, connection with the ancestors and the bearer of great wisdom. The number of points on the horns is often an indicator of the experience of the shaman as well but not always. Often one finds bird feathers as well being worn in a head dress fashion. This blessing from the bird spirits empowers the shaman to “fly” to places needed for help and healing. Further allowing the calling upon bird spirit for help as well. This is an immense power to have as birds can be found nearly everywhere. They see many things from afar and can alert to potential dangers well before their arrival!
Totems are another tool. These are often carved out of wood but can be of stone, bone or even metal as well. Commonly, shaped into an animal and used to call upon that animal as a protector, guide or source of knowledge. These can also be very large. Which would then be found in a grove or auspicious location to venerate ancestors, Great Spirit, Great Mother Earth, Great Father Sky or other forces of Nature.
Another form of a crossover between totem, amulet and talisman is the mask. Often made of wood, clay, animal hides or a mixture of the aforementioned. Examples of which can be found among many cultures. Some historians have labeled many of these masks as “death masks,” because they depict a human face. In actuality, they are ancestral masks to invoke the ancestors. The shaman wearing such a masks invokes the ancestors for help and healing. Likewise, if the mask be of an animal or other mythical spirit then in turn those energies are being drawn upon for help and healing. These masks are, in my opinion, some of the most under rated tools available to us.
Surely you have a better understanding now of these tools and their uses. There is, of course, much more depth to these practices which comes under the guidance of a master shaman. As an initiate grows there should be many questions asked of the master shaman. Furthermore that master should be helpful and caring towards the initiate in these matters. At times we can all become impatient but we need to refocus that misguided energy into our current work. Much of this work comes slowly but then at times it comes in rapid bursts. Maybe we can say it best this way. “Enjoy the ride on the way!”