Can you choose to become a Shaman?

Shaman's drum - Learn more about Shamanism in the new Shamanism Movie, Shamans of Rock in Roll

Shaman’s drum depicting symbolic map of the Universe

Well no, not really. A shaman is chosen by the spirit world.

According to the shamanistic worldview – the universe has three levels – an Upperworld, Middleworld, and an Underworld – and it’s full of spirits.  Shamans are adept at traversing these worlds – and contacting and dealing with the spirits they encounter along the way.

Anthropologists have identified several characteristics that are common to most shaman candidates.

A shaman candidate will usually from an early age be a dreamer and they will have “out of the ordinary” perceptions.  Their dreams connect them to the spirit world and will ultimately connect them to the their power.

Consider this description of a young shaman candidate among the Tungus in Siberia

A child who has dreams, different from ordinary ones, who is subject to strong emotions, change of mood, and in general, when his behaviour is not like that of other children, is supposed to be a candidate . . . 1

The shaman candidate will also have suffered “shaman’s sickness” – which is caused by an event or trauma such as family tragedy, illness, or rejection. These experiences force the candidate to become familiar with the spirit world. 2

As they apprentice with an existing shaman, 3 the initiate will learn to journey to other worlds again and again. They will also receive instruction on how to make and use their healing tools: their drum, costume, ceremonies, and herbal remedies. And, they learn healing songs and dances.

Ultimately, as part of their initiation, the candidate must journey down into the Underworld and encounter the spirits associated with their “disease.” If they recapture their soul from these spirits they are healed. Their self-cure ultimately empowers them to act as the healer for their tribe.

So, can you choose to become a Shaman?

No one actually chooses to become a shaman – they are chosen – and they can transform and heal themselves – or suffer the consequences.

By Patrice Hall


  1. Shirokogoroff, S.M., Psychomental Complex of the Tungus, (New York:  AMS Press, 1980), 349.
  2. Mircea Eliade, Shaman­ism: Archaic Tech­niques of Ecstasy, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1964).
  3. In some cases the shaman candidate will apprentice directly with the spirit world – and not with a shaman in the physical world.


  1. So if Shamans are chosen from the Spirit world, am I able to become a Shaman? How were the four Rock and Roll legends chosen? Do you know if they were self declared shamans, or just more in tuned to the spirit world?

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