Shamanism is a religious practice that involves a practitioner (shaman) interacting with what they believe to be a spirit world through altered states of consciousness, such as trance. The goal of this is usually to direct spirits or spiritual energies into the physical world for the purpose of healing, divination, or to aid human beings in some other way. Beliefs and practices categorized as "shamanic" have attracted the interest of scholars from a variety of disciplines, including anthropologists, archaeologists, historians, religious studies scholars, philosophers and psychologists. The Modern English word shamanism derives from the Russian word šamán. The term adopted by Russians interacting with the indigenous peoples in Siberia. The Sanskrit word śramaṇa, denotes to a holy figure and Central Asian languages, along with Buddhism, could be the ultimate origin of the Tungstic word, with the root (sā) meaning "to know.” So, to put it all together, a shaman is an indigenous, holy figure, that contains wisdom or knows the unknown. A female shaman is sometimes called a shamanka, which is the word shaman plus, the Russian suffix -ka (for feminine nouns).
There is no single agreed-upon definition for the word "shamanism" among anthropologists, but it is suggested that there are three shared elements of shamanism:
1) Practitioners consistently alter consciousness
2) The community regards altering consciousness as an important ritual practice
3) The knowledge about the practice is controlled.
The term "shamanism" was first applied by Western anthropologists as outside observers of the ancient religion of the Turks and Mongols, as well as those of the neighboring Tungstic speaking peoples. The term was used to describe magic-like religious practices found in parts of Asia, Africa, and Australia and incorrectly applied to many indigenous spiritual practices. The words “shaman” and “shamanism” do not accurately describe the variety and complexity of indigenous spirituality. Each nation and tribe have its own way of life, using terms in their own languages.
Shamanism is a system of religious practice, often associated with indigenous and tribal societies, and involves belief that shamans, with a connection to the otherworld, have the power to heal the sick, communicate with spirits, and escort souls of the dead to the afterlife. Shamanism encompasses the premise that shamans are intermediaries or messengers between the human world and the spirit worlds. They treat ailments and illnesses by mending the soul, alleviate traumas affecting the soul or spirits are believed to restore the physical body of the individual to balance and wholeness. Shamans also claim to enter supernatural realms or dimensions to obtain solutions to problems afflicting the community or visit other worlds/dimensions to bring guidance to misguided souls and to ameliorate illnesses of the human soul caused by foreign elements. Shamans are said to operate primarily within the spiritual world, which, they believe, in turn affects the human world. The restoration of balance is said to result in the elimination of the ailment. Commonly, a shaman "enters the body" of the person to confront the spiritual infirmity and heals by banishing the infectious spirit. Shaman’s may use ritualistic practices like, drumming, trance, chanting, entheogens and hallucinogens, spirit communication and healing. Many shamans have expert knowledge of medicinal plants native to their area, and an herbal treatment is often prescribed. In many places shamans learn directly from the plants, harnessing their effects and healing properties, after obtaining permission from the indwelling or patron spirits. In the Peruvian Amazon Basin, shamans use medicine songs called icaros to evoke spirits. Before a spirit can be summoned it must teach the shaman its song. The use of totemic items such as rocks with special powers and an animating spirit is also common.