"[Shamanism] is far older than any "formal" religion on the planet. Its heart and soul - the ecstatic journey to the otherworld in quest of wisdom - transcends the names, formulae, and doctrines that are characteristic of organized religions. Any religion may include elements of shamanism, and most of them do, but shamanism itself cannot be contained within the confines of any single religion." (North Star Road - Kenneth Johnson)
Shamans have long believed their powers were the powers of the animals, of the plants, of the sun, of the basic energies of the universe. In the garden Earth they have drawn upon their assumed powers to help save other humans from illness and death, to provide strength in daily life, to commune with their fellow creatures, and to live a joyful existence in harmony with the totality of Nature. ~(The Way of the Shaman - Michael Harner)
The shaman, female or male, is the community specialist in direct dealings with the Beyond —underworld, upperworld, or inner world; a wielder of numinous power; a master of ecstasy (Mircea Eliade) who whether healing, warring, predicting, weather-making, cooking herbs, arranging hunts, making masks, accompanying dead souls, or locating lost ones, performs as master of the operations of the unconscious.
Shamans are women and men who are spiritually alive, and who experience different levels of existence from everyday reality. Shamans learn to work with cosmic forces, and the forces of nature which are in us and around us. A true definition of a 'shaman' is elusive, for the shaman exists in her actions, and it is more helpful to think of shamanism as something one does, rather than 'being' a shaman - it is much more a dynamic, function than a precisely defined role.
"What is a shaman?
He dreams like all men do
But he remembers" (19/5)