Shamanic healing or shamanism is a form of traditional method of healing performed by members of a tribe, called shamans or ritual leaders, who perform the healing ritual upon achieving altered states of consciousness. 8,9,10 The principles behind shamanic healing focus on the belief that any physical, mental, psychological or emotional disorder is associated with spirits’ activities or forces of another spiritual dimension. 9,11 Shamanic healing may have begun about 25,000 years ago and is common around the world from various groups of Native Americans, Africans, Asians and Siberians.
A shaman serves as a mediator between the members of the tribe or community and the world of spirits wherein his or her distinctive methods include journeying, or entering a shamanic state of consciousness, to obtain information from spirit world. 12 Information given dictates how a disease should be treated, or gives interpretation of a dream, or provides some understanding of challenging situations. A shaman utilizes various medicinal plants or herbs, gemstones, minerals and the like as instruments to deliver his or her healing services with the main objective of restoring spiritual balance between natural and spiritual world.
Only through achieving a shamanic or altered state of consciousness (ASC) by various methods including music, dancing, meditation, chanting or use of psychoactive plants can healing be performed. 10 Current policies promulgate; however, have not yet been entirely successful; the human rights of indigenous people. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) work hand-in-hand to “allow minorities to practice their cultures, religions and languages”.
In this regard, draft declarations of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 1994, states that the indigenous people may exercise their “right to traditional medicine and health practices and protection of vital medicinal plants, animals and minerals; to determine, develop and administer health programs affecting them; and to have access, without discrimination, to health services and medical care”. 13 According to the WHO (World Health Organization), data about demographic profile and health status indicators among indigenous groups do not provide adequate information.
Therefore, health priorities among indigenous groups are unclear and usually not entirely addressed by the established modern facilities, if present, in a particular region of minority groups. 13 WHO also stresses that “enjoyment of highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental human right” of which is not consistently and accurately attained by indigenous groups due to certain financial, geographic and cultural barriers to the access of modern medical facilities. 13,14 Instead, traditional medicine continues to be the “only source of healthcare in rural areas”.
Indigenous societies are still alarmingly affected by communicable diseases and nutritional deficiencies resulting from environmental degradation, food shortages and disruption of livelihood. 13 Fragmentation of social structure, loss of autonomy and authority are some of the contributors often leading to psychological, mental and behavioral problems of indigenous members. Increased alcohol intake, substance abuse, feelings of depression and suicidal tendencies are common.