A shaman can enter the spirit realm via trance, which is oftentimes induced using rhythmic percussion (a drum or rattle) and/or shaman songs; this is the safest and purest method of reaching these altered states of consciousness.
During these trances, the brain enters the Theta brainwave state. The Theta state exists between being awake and asleep — it is where clairvoyance and creativity thrive, and deep spiritual connection can be experienced.
As well, shamans can be guided in their spiritual journeys with the help of various plant medicines. Plant medicines are highly respected and generally brought into awareness by previous communication with spiritual entities; however, shamans also report that the plants, themselves, told them of their power. These plants contain highly psychedelic properties and are oftentimes looked up to as spiritual entities, themselves — for example, Mother Ayahuasca.
Some of the more common plants used in shamanic journeys are Ayahuasca, Iboga, San Pedro cactus, psychedelic mushrooms (though not exactly a plant), Salvia, and Peyote cactus.
During shamanic journeys, there exist a variety of helping spirits; these spirits come in the form of either spirit guides (humanoid beings) or power animals (also plants and insectoids) — they take on these familiar-looking forms in order to better relate with us. Helping spirits guide shamans and spirit travelers through these other worlds and assist them in healing individuals, the community, and the planet.
Power animals play a key role in the shamanic practice. According to shamanic wisdom, every person is born with the spirit of one or more animal. Animal spirits remain with us throughout our lives and help to guide and protect us. They are highly akin to the Christian concept of a Guardian Angel, and are essential guides to any venture undertaken by a shaman.
As well, power animals graciously lend their wisdom and attributes. For example, a Jaguar can teach one to walk fearlessly in the darkness and to pave the path in the midst of chaos. For that, as one moves through life, they can lose old and acquire new power animals, depending on where they currently need guided; it is also quite common for a single individual to have more than one power animal.
Spirit guides tend to come forth in these altered states in human, or humanoid, form. They help to guide shamans and spirit travelers through unfamiliar realms with ease and comfort — they establish a bond and are very trusted. A spirit guide is a teacher, a protector, and also a companion (some shamans even form a spiritual marriage with their spirit guides). These guides are oftentimes the gods and goddesses of the community, as well as ancestors wishing to help.
Not only do these spirits work with the shamans for the purpose of healing, they also provide wisdom when and where it is needed. Shamans sign a kind of spiritual contract with these spirit guides: “When I call, Spirit listens. When Spirit calls, I listen.”
The 3 worlds of the Shamanic Journey
In shamanic cosmology, the world is divided into three equal parts: the lower, middle, and upper worlds. These worlds are oftentimes symbolized by images of a “World Tree,” which is commonly referred to as “Axis Mundi.” The roots