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  • Writer's pictureAshley Brothers

Shamanic Death: Spiritual initiations to becoming a Shaman - Ashley Brothers

Shamanic death, also known as "ego death" or "spiritual death," is a spiritual initiation that refers to a symbolic or metaphorical experience of dying to one's old self, beliefs, and attachments in order to undergo a profound transformation. It is a central concept in shamanic practices and other spiritual traditions, where individuals seek to transcend their limited sense of self and connect with deeper aspects of consciousness and the universe.

There are several ways in which one might experience shamanic death, each involving a unique process and perspective. Here are some common ways shamanic death can be understood and experienced:

  • Symbolic Death and Rebirth: In shamanic practices, individuals often engage in rituals, ceremonies, and experiences that symbolize death and rebirth. This can involve various forms of purification, fasting, or isolation, where the individual undergoes a process of letting go of their old identity and attachments. This symbolic death is followed by a rebirth, marking a new beginning and a closer connection to the spiritual realm.

  • Dark Night of the Soul: This concept, found in many spiritual traditions, including shamanism, refers to a period of intense inner turmoil and existential crisis. During the dark night of the soul, individuals confront their deepest fears, doubts, and uncertainties. This experience can lead to a sense of ego dissolution, where the old self and its constructs are challenged, paving the way for a transformative spiritual awakening.

  • Ego Dissolution: Ego dissolution occurs when the sense of individual identity and separateness dissolves, leading to a profound sense of interconnectedness with all of existence. This can be induced through meditation, contemplation, or the use of psychedelics. In shamanic practices, ego dissolution is seen as an essential step in transcending the limitations of the ego and accessing higher states of consciousness.

  • Near-Death Experiences (NDEs): Some individuals report having near-death experiences, during which they believe they briefly crossed over to the afterlife before returning to their physical bodies. These experiences often lead to a fundamental shift in perspective, as they challenge preconceived notions about life, death, and the nature of reality. Shamans might intentionally induce altered states resembling NDEs to gain insights from the spirit world.

  • Vision Quests: Vision quests involve solitude and introspection in nature, often accompanied by fasting and meditation. During these quests, individuals seek to receive guidance and insights from the spirit realm. The challenging conditions and introspective practices can lead to a transformational experience, where the old self is shed in favor of a renewed sense of purpose and connection.

  • Soul Retrieval: In some shamanic traditions, a shamanic practitioner might undergo a symbolic death in order to journey into the spirit world and retrieve lost fragments of the soul. These fragments might have been lost due to traumatic experiences. By bringing these fragments back, the individual is spiritually reborn, with greater wholeness and healing.

In all these experiences, the underlying theme is the dissolution of the ego and the shedding of attachments that keep individuals bound to limited perceptions of reality. Through shamanic death, individuals aim to transcend these limitations and open themselves to expanded consciousness, deeper wisdom, and a closer connection to the spiritual realm. It's important to note that these experiences are deeply personal and can vary significantly from person to person, depending on their cultural context, beliefs, and spiritual practices.

Ashley Brothers - Institute of Conscious Evolution LLC, Bend OR

Author of A Living Prayer Blog, public speaker, holistic practitioner, and teacher of energy medicine, shamanic healing, and psychic channeling


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