Shamanism is a range of traditional beliefs and practices concerned with communication with the spirit world. A practitioner of shamanism is known as a shaman. There are many variations of shamanism throughout the world; following are beliefs shared by all forms of shamanism:
- Spirits exist and they play important roles both in individual lives and in human society.
- The shaman can communicate with the spirit world.
- Spirits can be good or evil.
- The shaman can treat sickness caused by evil spirits.
- The shaman can employ trance inducing techniques to incite visionary ecstacy.
- The shaman's spirit can leave the body to enter the supernatural world to search for answers.
- The shaman evokes animal images as spirit guides, omens, and message-bearers.
Shamanism is based on the premise that the visible world is pervaded by invisible forces or spirits which affect the lives of the living. In contrast to organized religions like animism or animatism which are lead by priests and which all members of a society practice, shamanism requires individualized knowledge and special abilities. Shaman operate outside established religions, and, traditionally, they operate alone. Shaman can gather into associations, as Indian tantric practitioners have done.