In Westernized shamanic culture you will often hear the term ‘hollow bone.’ This is a succinct way of describing a complex process. Basically, before setting out to practice any sort of shamanic technique for another person the shaman should have done a significant amount of work in self-reflection and Ego clearing so that when information comes through for the client, it is in the most pristine form that it can be in. Please understand, this is a psychospiritual cultural understanding of modern shamanism, and it really speaks to the shaman’s ability to walk between the Spirit and material worlds in an ethical manner that maintains integrity and balance. A shaman’s practice should be based on the goals of reducing pain and suffering and promoting love and healing. It doesn’t mean the shaman has ceased to be a human being and will not have human experiences. Shamans are subject to the entire range of human experience and emotion, and sometimes even moreso than usual, as a characteristic part of the shamanic path is tribulation, pain, and suffering.
But this ‘hollow bone’ is of utmost priority in seeking a shaman because without being a clear conduit, a shaman can unknowingly cause harm. This does NOT mean a shaman has no ‘Ego’ or can’t have opinions or ideas. It means that while doing ‘Spirit work’ the shaman has done sufficient work in Ego detachment and clearing to be able to be a clear conduit. It means the shaman has a good degree of mastery over the various states of consciousness and the Ego’s relationship to those states. It is difficult to know in a single conversation, unless one has exceptional discernment, whether a shaman is a true hollow bone. But there are potential warning signs to consider.
Some warning signs could be:
- The shaman is talking more than listening.
- The shaman is creating dependency of the client, disempowering, rather than empowering.
- The shaman is asserting authority over the client.
- The shaman is not supporting healing in direct and obvious ways.
- There is a lack of warmth, and the shaman shows little or no signs of unconditional positive regard.
- There is a lack of connection.
- There is a rigidity and lack of accommodation.
- There is a dissonance, rather than a resonance with the interaction- something doesn’t feel right, or there is a fear or dis-ease happening that is beyond expected nervousness at the unknown nature of the situation.
- There is direct interpretation of your experiences provided by the shaman, which can create dissonance, fear, doubt.
Keep in mind that when you first contact a shaman to evaluate the potential services, especially if you don’t have prior experience or don’t know what to expect, you may be nervous and anxious, and this can cloud your ability to discern if the situation is right for you. It’s also important to understand that shamans are human beings too, and any interaction is just a snapshot of a moment. But I believe the most important thing to consider in deciding if a particular person is the right fit for what you need is: Did I leave the interaction feeling understood, accepted, encouraged, and empowered?
It seems valid and appropriate that you would want to spend some time interviewing a potential shaman prior to scheduling specific services. If I do not know you, I require some discussion prior to agreeing to provide services just to get to know who you are, what your expectations are, and to assess if I am the right person to assist. I would never agree to offer services I did not feel were appropriate or out of my scope of practice, as the foundation of my healing practice is integrity and ethics. I accept that I am not the right person for everyone, and that this does not limit me or my potential client’s ability to heal. I can’t speak for other practitioners, but I encourage questions. Some questions you might consider asking a potential practitioner are:
- How did you come to be a shaman?
- Who mentored you, or what training/experience have you had?
- What have you done to become a ‘hollow bone’?
- What is your understanding of healing- how do people heal?
- How many sessions will I need to attend?
- What methods do you use in your work?
- Were there any times you could not offer the service someone wanted, and why?
The more questions you ask the clearer you might become about whether the shaman is the right person for you to work with. Ultimately, you are your own authority. The power of healing resides with you, and regardless of who the potential shaman is you are seeking services from, you should avoid giving over your power or authority to anyone. Don’t put anyone on a pedestal or altar, because not only will they disappoint you, you might experience power loss, or even worse, soul loss in the process.
Keep in mind that much of shamanic practice can be done in distance and/or via video chat, as the Spirit world is always accessible and from anywhere. However, because the shaman is herself (or himself) usually a medicine carrier (meaning the medicine is in them, and they are the medicine), being in-person and having the experience of being with the shaman is powerful and is my preferred way of working. If you’re looking for a local shaman, it’s always a good idea to ask around and try to get referrals from current and former clients. I am sure there are additional sites that provide directories of shamanic practitioners, but here are two I feel enough confidence in to share them:
Foundation for Shamanic Studies
Society for Shamanic Practice
Many blessings on your path of healing!