Shamanistic Healers

All societies have healers who use ASC in community rituals to interact with the spirit world (Winkelman, 1986b, 1992). These shamanistic healers share core characteristics of shamans—ecstasy (ASC), community, and spirits—reflecting psychobiological principles of the brain that are manifested universally (Winkelman, 1992, 2000). The biologically based ASC central to shamanism is also the foundation of shamanistic healers' training and practices. ASC enhance integration of lower brain processes with frontal processes through induction of synchronized theta wave patterns that entrain the brain with common patterns across the neuraxis (nerve bundle running from the base of the brain to the frontal cortex). Community has a variety of psychosocial functions and psychobiological effects in healing, including eliciting opioid-mediated immune system enhancement. The spirit world is a symbol system for social identification and self-development and differentiation. Shamanistic healers share other characteristics, including: beliefs that spirits and humans cause illness; using spirits in therapeutic processes; and ritual manipulations for the restoration of health (Winkelman & Winkelman, 1991). Other types of shamanistic healers (e.g., mediums and healers) differ from shamans because of the effects of their respective societies (agricultural, politically integrated) (Winkelman, 1986a, 1990, 1992).

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