Why I Refuse to be Called a Shaman

By Luisa Elena Kolker

The word shaman is a religious designation, signifying a holy person from the indigenous Tungus region of Siberia.

I work with the modalities and in the traditions of shamanism, so I call my work “shamanic.”

And, I have never and will never call myself a “shaman.”

I was born into a family lineage on my mother’s side of curanderas from Mexico and Central America, and I was born with the gift of second-sight that runs through that bloodline.

I trained in a daily, years-long, one-on-one apprenticeship in the 1980s with my beloved teacher Ioanna Salajan. This training was not a joyride. It was challenging, and often ego-deflating. Ioanna taught me, in many ways, to “get over myself.”

The healing work I practice was not learned in a weekend workshop, nor in a certification program. It has been my vocation, my dedication, and in combination with being a licensed psychotherapist, my livelihood for over 35 years.

And… I have never and will never call myself a curandera or a shaman.

I was raised in North America primarily as a white female of Mexican and Russian-Jewish descent. I was raised with the privileges afforded to anyone who looks Caucasian.

In my opinion, a white person who calls themself a “shaman” is highly suspect.

As we are seeing now, fake “shamans” have little to do with an authentically inherited, maturely-developed ability to wisely and humbly serve one’s community.

The self-proclaimed shaman, in the end, is likely clinging to an empty husk that they think disguises the emptiness and confusion underneath.

Wisdom, humbleness, and emotional maturity are, in my experience, the hallmarks of an authentic healer.

In determining who is a “shaman,” please engage your critical thinking skills, pay attention to your inner knowing, and discern with care.

In Love & Transformation,