Equally feared and respected, the shaman has been a key figure throughout the history of human civilization. Could we someday revive their long-forgotten abilities and if so, what could we accomplish using the supernatural powers they once wielded?
Similar to the distinct types of magical practitioners, shamans were also classified into two different tiers – “black” or “white”. The black shamans were renowned as the most powerful and were sometimes called as “warrior-shamans” because they fought evil forces and were named military advisors during a war. They secured their power from the North Star and could be easily spotted as they usually wore black robes with very few, if any decoration.
The main role of the black shamans was to confront demons and the dark gods on behalf of their clients. This role they fulfilled by cursing and blighting enemy crops or herds.
During a war, the black shamans rode side by side with the army and helped to win campaigns using their mystic powers. In times of peace, they had a more constructive role as emissaries, diplomats or political advisors. Some shamans were so powerful and recognizable that they inspected the preparation and signing of treaties with the relevant magical formalities.
Black shamans were extremely feared, even after they died. In the 16th century when an occult one died, he was put in a coffin, his corpse then nailed down with sharp stakes so he could not transform into a powerful undead creature that haunts the living.
In contrast to the powerful warlords described above, the “white” shamans gained their magical powers from nature and everything that surrounded them. They performed at a tribal level, mostly as healers and mystics and they only had to deal with beneficent beings. It was their task to tame angry or evil spirits and exorcise them if they possessed humans. Besides the mystical encounters, they helped the tribe prosper and live at peace with the spirit world as well as the natural environment. On a physical level, because of their great knowledge and power of understanding, they were employed in an administrative role to take care of tribal affairs.
Shamans, either black or white were great spiritual leaders who could change the tide of events that were to follow. They possessed great intellect and understanding of the world, therefore providing remedies for the injured or alleviation for the dying. In ancient times, having such allies by your side was worth more than a treasure chest, as they could help you win the hardest battle.
Shamans of old believed in three worlds of coexistence linked together by the World Tree or Tree of Life. These were the Lower World or Underworld inhabited by the dead who were awaiting reincarnation, the Middle World or Middle Earth, where human spirits were incarnated, and the Upper World or Heaven, the house of the Gods. Various non-human spirits also inhabited each of these three worlds.
The shamans could access these other worlds in trance using the means of spirit travel. It is intriguing to note that in medieval times, European witches were presumed to fly to their Sabbats using their enchanted broomsticks. It is clear that this was not done physically, so the sorceresses were also practicing a shamanic form of spirit flight.