Traditional Shamanic Healing

with Dr. Patrick Hanaway

photo (62)

Marakame Initiation 2009, La Laguna, Mexico

The term ‘shaman’ can easily be over-used and misunderstood. We hear about tea shamans, food shamans, and those who treat people using shamanic tools after taking a weekend workshop! It is no wonder that some look upon this designation with skepticism and concern. Traditional shamanic healing connects us to the sacredness of our lives and the world we live in and is offered by an initiated healer after years of apprenticeship.

I was exposed to indigenous healing traditions from the Cree elder named BearHeart in rural New Mexico and from Tibetan refugees in India and Nepal during my residency training.   My first job was providing Western Medicine to the people of Isleta and Jemez Pueblos in New Mexico, seeing the interplay of traditional perspectives and Western medicine. It wasn’t until I moved close to the Bering Sea in Bethel, Alaska in 1992 and lived amongst the Yup’ik Alaskan Natives that I began to experience the depth of practical wisdom, healing and connection that traditional native life provides.

Don Jose y Don David

Don Jose y Don David, Tepotzlan, Mexico. Courtesy
Sylvia Malkah Calderón C.

Still, I never imagined that I would offer such deep medicine and traditional healing to others; for the path of becoming a shamanic healer requires a ‘calling’, as well as a teacher, an apprenticeship, an intact tradition, an initiation, and community… without a community, there is no Marakame. After a ‘Heart Connecting’ Vision Quest in 2002, I was invited to learn the healing traditions and pilgrimage path of the Huichol people of the Western Sierra Madres in Central Mexico through the lineage of my teacher, Waviekame Eliot Cowan.

In 2009, I was initiated as a ‘Marakame’ (i.e. shaman) in the Huichol tradition through the elder oversight of Tsurriakame (elder shaman) Don Jose Sandoval. Since that time, I have integrated these teachings of oneness and connection into all of my work as a doctor, father, husband, community leader, medical director, and teacher.  I have been called upon to work with rituals and ceremonies that guide community to reconnect with the living, singing world and offer individual healing sessions to people who long for reconnection, balance and alleviation of suffering in their lives.  Traditional Shamanic Healing sets things into motion to bring about balance. To learn more, see my colleague, Deanna Jenne’s beautiful website.

Who will benefit from shamanic healing?
Just about anyone, but it is particularly beneficial for those who have become disconnected from meaning and purpose in their lives. There are times in which particular experiences, memories and traumas can prevent other healing modalities from being effective. These indicators point to the potential benefit of shamanic healing approaches. Unfortunately, this aspect of ‘healing the spirit’ has not received much attention until recently.

What does shamanic treatment look like?
Preparation and a special setting are required for shamanic treatments. The client greets me in the morning after fasting from food and water for twelve hours. We meet around a special fire, as FIRE supports and helps provide the transformative forces called upon for healing and helps the healer connect with and call upon them.  Special feathers and other tools may be used as a part of the healing process, but the exact nature of the interaction is determined by connecting with the divine forces that are present.