As Hypnosis began to get more research and recognition during the second half of the 19th Century, researchers from other social sciences began to observe hypnotic phenomena in far off foreign cultures.
Trance traditions was an area of great interest to them, one of the most notable being shamanism. Originating from a Siberian word, Shamanism has come to describe healers who believe they heal by using trance techniques to manipulate the power of spirits. The term describes a role widespread in many countries across the world, including Asia, Africa and America.
Siberian and Central Asian Shamans were the first to be studied by Europeans. Central Asian Shamans had an important job in their cultures, acting as a channel for healing and communication with the spirit world. Similar to the Greek Sleep Temples of the ancient world, Shamans used suggestion, sensory overload and expectation in their ceremonies to heal.
Fascinated by their exotic costumes, drums and rhythmic chanting, Westerners then as in today, associated the word shaman with a costumed and masked tribal person dancing in the dark around a fire, accompanied by drumbeats in a mysterious rite.
In truth, however, the individual shaman – apart from his use of mask, costume and ritual – possesses a very real skill. All genuine shamans are able to achieve expanded states of awareness. They usually use this special ability to heal members of their communities – physically, mentally and spiritually. The traditional shaman is indeed a master of trance.
Hypnotherapists today use spoken language to help their clients enter a hypnotic trance. The use of hypnotic tales and storytelling is another overlap between ancient shamanic healing practices and the work of the noted hypnotherapist Dr. Erickson and all those who follow in his footsteps.
Like the shamans too, hypnotherapists use visual ways to fix attention, the use by hypnotherapists including that of swinging fob watches and the following of a moving finger…
Indeed the techniques of the imaginative hypnotherapist, like those of the ancient shaman, may utilize unusual objects in the treatment room; medicinal ointments to bring in the smell of the hospital operating room for a virtual gastric band operation, aromatherapy oils or the playing of special trance-inducing musical sounds (harmonious chanting and repetitive drumming) which are outside of the client’s normal world.
In summary, there is an interesting overlap between hypnosis and shamanism.