by Lloyd McDonald
As one of the oldest world religions, Shamanism is found in Siberian/Mongolian, Indian, Native American, and Native South American cultures and history. It’s been used to fight the oppression of religions and governments around the world for millennia. The word shamanism comes from the Manchu-Tungus word šaman which translates to “to know” meaning a shaman is literally “one who knows.” Although it’s traditionally seen as a religious practice and/or phenomenon, shamanism is also used more generally to describe indigenous groups in which roles such as healer, religious leader, and counselor are combined. Shamanic duties include being concerned with the health of a whole community, extending to the plants, animals, and the environment.
While a shaman’s skill set can vary from culture to culture, they’re thought to have the ability to heal the sick, communicate with the otherworld, and even escort the souls of the dead to the otherworld. During a session, shamans traverse the spirit world in an “elastic state” through fasting, isolation, the use of hallucinogens or intoxicants, music, and meditation. During these trances, it’s said the soul leaves the body to enter the spirit realm and acts as a mouthpiece for spirits and allows the shaman to focus on removing intrusive objects from the subject’s life or environment. That’s what attracted Shaman Candace Winters Johnson to the practice — removing intrusion from her environment.
Most days Johnson practices Shamanism — blindfolded, meditating, and writing session notes. This is a stark contrast to what her life looked like five years ago. She began meditating to bring calm to her busy life and restore order. It was during these meditation sessions she started having severe bouts with dizziness. As it often does, life had other plans. In December 2015, she discovered the dizzy spells were the result of undiagnosed Multiple Sclerosis. Further, her youngest child was diagnosed with gender dysphoria disorder and black mold was found in her family home. Johnson realized gaining more control of her rapidly declining health and changing family situation became priority number one.
She continued meditating, fixated on removing suicidal ideations and depression and how to fix things in her and her loved ones’ life. Curiosity led Johnson to do more research and discover modern-day shamanism. Realizing that’s what she was already doing with her focused, fixated meditations, she began learning more about shamanism and picked up the necessary certifications to support her skills and education along the way.
Notwithstanding the taboos and even apparent clash that could happen at the first, superficial comparison of shamanism and her traditional Christian upbringing, Johnson points to several examples of how the practice aligns with her upbringing — healing by the laying on of hands, the mind-body connection to overall wellbeing, and fasting with prayer/ meditation just to name a few. The word “shaman” comes from the Siberian word meaning one who sees into the dark or one who walks between worlds, and that is what Johnson’s practice does. She defines shamanism as “the intentional effort to develop intimate relationships with benevolent spirit guides or helpers.” It’s readily apparent from a conversation with her, Johnson has this intimate relationship with the spirits and in keeping with the tenants of shamanism, she uses those relationships for the bene t and healing of those who seek her help with healing.