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 Ethical Considerations in Shamanic Healing

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Maschile Capra
Numero di messaggi : 2142
Data d'iscrizione : 04.02.09
Età : 37
Località : Roma

MessaggioOggetto: Ethical Considerations in Shamanic Healing   Mar 5 Gen 2010 - 14:33


The Shamanism Annual – Shamanism December 2008, Issue 21

Ethical Considerations in Shamanic Healing

Susan Mokelke, J.D.

In this article I hope to surface some of
the issues involved in ethical shamanic
healing, as well as to provide some basic
guidelines. As with most decisions involving
questions of ethical behavior, this
commentary is not intended as rigid policy,
but rather as a flexible standard to be considered
thoughtfully and compassionately
in each particular case. It is hoped that this
might be a starting place for those beginning
a shamanic practice, as well as an
opportunity for experienced practitioners to
deepen their own understanding.1
Shamanic practitioners are part
of an ancient lineage of spiritual healers.
Since shamanic healing is a form of spiritual
healing, the question of ethics is of
particular importance. When Michael
Harner began offering training in Core
Shamanism in the seventies, shamanic
healing was relatively unknown. Thanks
to the success of his pioneering work,
today thousands of people worldwide
practice shamanic healing, and there
is currently considerable interest in
guidelines for the principled use of this
powerful method.
For those who practice shamanic
healing with clients face-to-face the ethical
responsibilities regarding appropriate
physical contact are similar to those of
a therapist. Confidentiality, too, must
be strictly observed. Any information
received from the client or during the
shamanic session must be kept private.
Because shamanic healing deals with
the spiritual aspect of illness, the parameters
of ethical practice often seem unduly
broad, vague, and imprecise. What is
permissible at the level of spiritual healing?
What about “distance” healings
offered by individuals, groups, and drumming
circles – where the person, place, or
situation being healed may be miles or a
continent away?
Those who have been involved in
shamanic healing or divination for any
length of time, either as practitioners or
as recipients, know that it is powerful.
Miracles of healing can and do occur. Difficult
questions are answered in surprising
and useful ways; problems that seem
nearly impossible to resolve suddenly
shift and elegant solutions appear. This
power deserves our respect and serious
consideration about where and how it is
In shamanic healing, to use the
power of the helping spirits consciously
and compassionately so that the work
we do will in fact be healing; there is one
essential ethical requirement: permission.
Permission means the express, informed
consent of the client for a specific individual
or group to perform shamanic healing
or divination – including the consent to
disclose any information about the client.
Healing without permission is
unethical and strays into the realm of
sorcery. It is unethical because each person
has the right and the responsibility
to decide what to do in matters of his or
her own soul. Each person has the right
to choose their path without interference
or undue influence. It doesn’t matter
how clear it is that the person needs help
or how sure you are that “they would
grant permission.” Unless you have
been asked, or you have asked and been
granted permission, you must not do the
Those who are drawn to healing typically
have a deep desire to help others.
It can be very tempting when you see
someone suffering, and know that this
person could be helped, to quickly ask
the helping spirits for a healing without
the person ever knowing anything about
But none of us is wise enough to
know what another’s soul wants or
needs. I’ve heard practitioners say that
if the helping spirits say it is all right to
heal someone, then it is OK even if you
don’t have the person’s permission. This is
not ethical – first because you should not
ask the helping spirits until you have permission;
and, secondly the helping spirits
may be all-knowing, but we as humans
are all too fallible, subject to errors of
interpretation as well as to hearing what
we want to hear.

Informed consent means that in ordinary
reality the person who will receive
the work knows, at the very least, that
you will be offering spiritual healing and
that you will be working with helping
spirits on their behalf. If the healing is
to be face-to-face, it is important to let
the person know that there may be some
physical contact and to ask them if it is all
right to touch them if necessary during
the healing session.
Express permission means that the
person has asked you for healing or you
have asked them and they have said, “Yes.”
If the person is alive and conscious, this
means a direct ordinary reality “yes.” It
does not mean that you asked them in a
dream or in a journey or telepathically,
or asked your power animal or teacher,
or that you had your power animal ask
their power animal, and so on.
If a person is in a coma, permission
should be obtained from the immediate
family in order to do shamanic work.
Even then, the person’s soul should be
contacted in the journey to ask what
work, if any, he or she wishes to be
In the case of deceased persons, for
psychopomp work or other shamanic
healing involving souls, permission is
still required. Souls are souls, living
or dead. When journeying to help a
deceased person, their soul should be
asked what, if anything, it wants done.
For shamanic healing work performed
on behalf of children under about
the age of twelve, you should have a
parent’s, preferably both parents’, permission.
On a case-by-case basis, depending
upon the maturity of the child, you may
also need permission from the child.
Where healing is done with the child
present, the child should have shamanic
healing explained to them in a manner
appropriate to their age and one or both
parents should be present during the
session. For most teenagers under 18, just
as for adults, express permission of the
teen as well as a parent is required for shamanic
Within a healing session, clients will
sometimes ask questions or make requests
about another person. Remember, you
may only work with the client; you do
not have permission to work with the
client’s spouse, relatives, or anyone else associated
with the client. I.e., you may not
ask for information about another person
or offer healing to another person.
Most of the time, clients will come
to you with a specific request for healing
for an injury, illness, emotional problem,
or for divination help for a particular
difficulty in their lives. For example, a
client asks you to “heal my broken heart.”
In this case, you have express permission
to work on his “broken heart” and
whatever you see that is related to that
issue. You do not necessarily have permission
to go beyond that. However, it is
not unusual to ask the helping spirits for
healing for one thing, and have another
seemingly unrelated issue surface. Some
shamanic practitioners feel that if they
have a client’s permission for healing for
one thing, that permission extends to
a general permission for healing. Others
confine themselves to healing only
what was requested. Though the issue of
permission is somewhat flexible and each
shamanic healer has to decide, in consultation
with the spirits, what to do in an
actual circumstance, it is best to err on
the side of caution. Fortunately, in most
cases you can simply ask the client if they
want you to address the additional issue.
Since clients come to you for shamanic
healing, shamanic healing is what
they should receive. Until you become a
master in more than one healing discipline,
it has been my experience that trying
to combine two or more modalities
simply weakens the power of the healing.
Shamanic healing has its own unique
power – in the hands of an experienced
practitioner it is usually sufficient to
get the job done. As to ordinary reality
interactions during a healing session, even
though you really want to help, resist the
impulse to offer advice, therapy, medical
diagnoses, legal suggestions, relationship
counseling, conflict resolution, etc. If you
feel these things might help the client,
suggest that they may want to obtain additional
help from a trained professional
in these fields.
I am sometimes asked about working
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Maschile Capra
Numero di messaggi : 2142
Data d'iscrizione : 04.02.09
Età : 37
Località : Roma

MessaggioOggetto: Re: Ethical Considerations in Shamanic Healing   Mar 5 Gen 2010 - 14:34

with animals. I apply the same guidelines
I use with people to my work with
animals. I journey to the animal’s soul
and I ask for permission.

Distance Work

Shamanic healing works in a dimension
beyond space and time, making it
possible to offer this method effectively
at a distance, without being in the presence
of the client.
Lately there has been a proliferation
of requests for distance shamanic
healing, often communicated via email
or in drumming circles. This has vastly
increased the opportunity for people
to receive shamanic healing and has led
to some impressive miracles of healing. It
has also made the question of permission
even more critical – and harder to know
for certain that it has been obtained.
There are many kinds of “non-local”
healing requests one can receive: for
prayers, sending light, holding a specific
intention – world peace, for example
– and many others. While these requests
have their own ethical considerations, I
am not addressing them in this article,
which is limited to the ethical practice of
shamanic healing and divination.
When a request for shamanic healing
is made, whether by email, phone, or in a
group or drumming circle, permission is
still essential. The same rules that apply
for work face-to-face with an individual
client extend to distance healing. The per-
son requesting healing must have given
his or her informed, express, consent for
the healing – and to have their information
released to a group for a healing
done by a group.
It is particularly important when doing
work in drumming circles or through
group emails to do only the work that
was requested. So, if a person asks for
divination help, only divination work
confined to the question that was asked
should be done. If a specific healing is
requested, follow the parameters set for
the healing.
For example, if the request is for a
“successful knee-replacement surgery,
with minimal pain and fast recovery,”
there is no need for you to also ask for
“release of fear,” a competent surgeon, and
so on. Respect the distant client’s right to
define what they need.
Lastly, especially when working via
email, if you receive information that
needs to be communicated to the client,
communicate it privately – typically
through the person who made the request
– not as a reply to the group. Even using
email, maintaining the client’s privacy is
an important consideration, and is not
What about requests to help with
natural or man-made disasters? The issue
of permission can be particularly confusing
in these cases, especially if you are
dealing with another country and culture,
whose ways and people are unfamiliar.
Permission is still essential in these cases,
but permission from whom or what? If
you want to help, it is necessary to make
an initial shamanic journey to the place
in the Middle World where the incident
occurred. Ask the spirits of the place and
any souls you contact if they want help
– always ask before doing any work. If
you receive permission to help, then you
can engage in shamanic healing within
the scope of the permission you receive,
with the assistance of your helping spirits.
Occasionally, I have seen requests to
do shamanic work to influence a specific
outcome in the larger world – elect a
certain candidate to public office, “open
the heart” of a person in power, even
stop a war, etc. There is no permission
for shamanic work in these cases, which
are beyond the scope of ethical shamanic
practice and, however well-intentioned,
border on sorcery.
Even working with something like
the weather has ethical considerations. If
you work to “end a drought” or to bring
rain, for example, this work can also
affect surrounding areas in unintended
ways. The Earth is a whole, a living organism
– everything we do has consequences,
everything we do affects everything else,
for good or ill.
Healing is a profound and many-layered
undertaking. Often the right thing
to do is ambiguous and difficult to define
– even more so because there is so much
need, we care so much, and really want to
If there is any doubt about whether it
is appropriate to offer shamanic healing,
the simple answer is to ask the intended
recipient, whether it be a person, animal,
or place. If you do not receive clear permission,
do not proceed unless and until
you do. If you receive permission, then
work closely with your helping spirits,
stay within the parameters of the request,
and do the work.

A Notes

1. I wish to acknowledge and thank
my teachers – Michael Harner, Sandra
Harner, and Alicia Gates – for their wisdom
and guidance in the ethical practice
of shamanic healing and divination.
Susan Mokelke, J.D., is the Executive
Director of the Foundation. She is an
FSS Faculty Member and a graduate of
the Three-Year Program.
Here are a few scenarios of shamanic
healing ethical problems, some from my
own practice and others related to me by
clients or colleagues. Each raises issues
of permission, which may be considered
from the standpoint of the ethical responsibilities
of a shamanic practitioner.
A client asks for a shamanic divination
to determine when a seriously ill
relative might die.
An exercise class instructor decides
to offer a healing meditation at the
end of a class. She instructs the participants
to pair up. Then she offers
a kind of guided visualization. She
asks the pairs to send healing first
to each other, then to each other’s
family members, then to the world. A
shamanic healer is in the class.
A client claims she was sexually
harassed and asks for shamanic help
dealing with it. After the session, the
practitioner telephones someone who
knows the man in question to find
out if it could be true, and what she
should advise her client to do about it.
(Consider: Would it make any difference
if the practitioner had the client’s
permission to ask the other person?)
In a journey, a shamanic practitioner
meets the soul of a dead relative. The
deceased relative asks the practitioner
to perform a shamanic healing for a
living person.
A shamanic practitioner, after consulting
with her helping spirits, journeys
to the scene of a natural disaster
outside of her own country and immediately
begins to do psychopomp
work. (Consider: What if another
shamanic practitioner tells her that he
received permission to do the work
– either from the spirits at the site or
from his helping spirits?)
A client requests help in resolving
a conflict she has with a neighbor.
Without intending it, during the
session the shamanic healer receives
personal information about the
neighbor that could be important for
the client to know. He tells the client
the information.
A client requests shamanic help in
dealing with a dispute he has with
a business colleague. The shamanic
practitioner tells him he should
consider filing a lawsuit against the
A person asks for psychopomp work
to be done for a close relative. The
deceased person’s other relatives are
strongly opposed to it.
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