Being human means we suffer (yes, I took that little gem from the Buddhists). Our bodies are susceptible to injury and illness, and our minds struggle with emotional difficulties, addiction, and more.
You probably have a pretty good idea of what’s behind your challenges—from viruses and bacteria, to brain chemistry and the microbiome, to emotional trauma and straight up injury.
While these factors are important to understand and work with, from a shamanic perspective they paint an incomplete picture.
Shamanism holds that everything originates in the unseen world before it manifests physically—and that includes illness and disease. By tending to the spiritual and energetic roots of illness in addition to whatever physical, mental, and emotional support is needed, we can heal more fully.
Causes of Illness from a Shamanic Perspective
On a basic level, shamanism views illness as an energetic imbalance of some sort—either something is there that shouldn’t be, or something should be there that isn’t.
That said, there are a few areas of imbalance that are helpful to understand:
In shamanic terminology, the idea of “power” could be likened to life force, vitality, or chi. The late shamanic teacher and physicist Claude Poncelet also defined it as “the ability to transform energy,” which makes sense—when you are fully empowered, you are more capable of creating the changes you want to see.
There are many reasons we lose our power—it seems to be part of the human condition. A few things that appear to be connected to power loss are: having our boundaries violated, sacrificing our own integrity to get certain needs met, internalizing limiting beliefs about ourselves, and anything that disconnects us from our true divine nature. In some traditions, there’s even the act of stealing power.
How do you know if you have power loss? This often shows up as a lack of vitality or zest for life. If you seem unable to make positive changes or take action on your dreams, power loss could be at play. Other common symptoms of power loss include chronic illness, depression, fatigue, low self-esteem, poor boundaries, suicidal feelings, or ongoing misfortunes.
This might sound scary, but it’s actually very common from a shamanic perspective. Soul loss is when a part of your soul’s essence leaves, usually due to some sort of emotional or physical trauma. This can be from a sudden shock, such as a car accident, or an ongoing difficulty, such as an unhealthy relationship.
When part of your soul essence leaves, it does so to protect itself—soul loss is a survival mechanism. And not to worry, your soul essence is never fully gone and is usually comfortably waiting in the unseen world for an opportunity to return.
How do you know if you have soul loss? If you’ve ever experienced an injury or trauma and never quite felt the same again—even after your physical symptoms healed—there could be soul loss. Other symptoms include addiction, PTSD, depression, a weakened immune system, dissociation, grief, or, in extreme cases, coma.
Entanglement is often the result of power or soul loss. It occurs when we take on energy that isn’t our own—this may come in the form of intrusions, attachments, cords, or even possessions. I’ll go into more detail about what all these terms mean in future posts. For now, just know that this is all totally natural, even common, and very fixable with shamanic healing.
Symptoms of entanglement vary widely. You might have localized pain with an intrusion or enmeshed relationships that are sustained with energetic cords between you and another person.
Now, I know “possession” sounds intimidating, and it kind of is. Yet, in my own healing journey, working with possessions has been one of the most powerful practices I’ve experienced. Basically, some sort of spirit becomes enmeshed in your field with varying degrees of influence on your personality and life. It is an amazingly healing process to decouple from this outside influence and reclaim your sovereignty through shamanic healing.
Much of what we experience has actually been passed down through our lineages. This is a complicated subject, but in short, I work with three main types of lineage healing:
- Blood lines—this is the lineage held in your DNA, your genetic makeup
- Milk lines—similar to blood lineages, milk lines incorporate other influential relationships, such as adoptive or step parents and important caretakers
- Light lines—this is your own spiritual lineage, comprised of the many lives you’ve lived and all the vows, beliefs, influences, and experiences you carry from them
Shamanic work can help you uncover not only unhealthy patterns and curses, but also the hidden gifts within your lineages. It can also help you heal ancestral trauma in ways that serve generations to come.
Disconnection from the Natural World
For most of human history, our daily survival depended upon being in right relationship with the natural world. We recognized the spirit in birds and trees and rocks and rivers—in Mother Earth herself. We honored the sun, stars, and moon.
This need for intimacy with the natural world runs deep in our blood, yet we’ve largely forgotten how to nurture this relationship. As a result, we’re collectively becoming more and more out of balance with our environment.
The effects of this on our planet are clear—I won’t go into a laundry list of environmental destruction here. But what does this mean for us? What soul-level illness might be occurring because we’re missing out on some of the most important relationships in our lives?
Shamanism doesn’t ask that we all go live off the grid (and I’m in no hurry to give up my Netflix subscription!). But it does recognize that healing our relationship with nature is essential to the survival of our species and the planet. As above, so below; as within, so without.
So, are you worried you might have soul loss and intrusions and—gulp—even a possession?
I can’t emphasize enough how common and normal all of this is. Shamanic healing has been around for thousands of years, and as my own teachers say, it wouldn’t have lasted this long if it didn’t work. The reason we’re discussing these causes of illnesses is so that we can tend to them and heal.
Also, please note that this information is not intended to define or diagnose anything you’re experiencing. Your “symptoms” could be related to something that would completely surprise your human mind. And in truth, these areas overlap quite a bit (and since when has the spirit world been a fan of categories anyway?).
If you’d like to learn more about shamanism and shamanic healing, check out some of my favorite Sounds True resources—I’d be recommending these even if I didn’t work here. 🙂
Juniper Stokes is a shamanic practitioner, clinical aromatherapist, and certified yoga and pranayama instructor. When she’s not in her apothecary or working with clients, you can find her writing behind the scenes at Sounds True, backpacking in the Colorado mountains, and spending quality time with her loving man and two feline familiars. Learn more at alchemessence.com.