Throughout the ages, mankind has sought to control the unpredictable forces of life by communicating with or ‘channeling’ supernatural forces. One such practice is shamanism. In shamanic traditions, the practitioner enters into an altered state of consciousness and convinces him/herself and onlookers that he or she is connecting to the spirit world. Join us as we explore shamanic herbs and other tools from around the world that shamans use today.
Herbs and Plants Used by Modern Shamans
Psychoactive shamanic herbs have historically been used to help shamans enter into a state of euphoria. In this state, their perception of reality is altered and they believe they are better able to connect with the supernatural world. The official term for shamanic herbs used to achieve enlightenment is ‘entheogens.’
While the choice of entheogenic herbs has traditionally been limited to what was available locally ‘ for example kratom in Malaysia and Thailand ‘ modern shamans now have access to shaman plants from around the world. Popular plants used by neo-shamans include:
Blue lotus: An Egyptian water lily that was traditionally soaked in wine and used to induce euphoria as part of religious ceremonies.
Kava Kava: A drink made from the Piper methysticum root in the Pacific Islands and taken by the men at official gatherings to bring on a sense of euphoria and wellbeing.
Kratom: Used ritualistically as well as medicinally and recreationally in Thailand and Southeast Asia, Mitragyna speciosa was used among shamanic herbs to induce altered moods, with the white-vein varieties being the most euphoric and the red-vein varieties being the most relaxing.
Palo Santo: A tree that is native to Central and South America, Bursera graveolens wood was traditionally lit by shaman or medicine men in Peru to clear the energy field of participants from misfortunes, negative thoughts, and evil spirits.
Cannabis: Typically smoked, the cannabis or marijuana leaf is well known for its ability to alter the user’s senses and even bring on hallucinations if a strain with a high enough percentage of THC is used.
How Shamanic Herbs Are Prepared
Above and beyond the choice of shaman plants, modern shamans have several ways in which they can prepare these herbs for ritual use. These range from dried and bundled sage sticks (the smoking herb is believed to clear an area of negative energy) to sweetgrass braids, incense, resins, snuff, blends for smoking, and e-liquids for vaporizing.
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