How Indigenous Shamanic Traditions Are Shaping Modern Leadership

It’s the 20th year of the 21st century and one thing that we as a global community have surely broken out of is the stereotypical shackles of leadership and authority. We look around us and besides the catastrophic environmental disbalance, we find stalwart resentment, protest, and efforts to overturn any form of leadership that draws from authoritative or conservative ideologies.

The contemporary world knows what it wants from its leaders, and what the collective ecosystem needs from its leaders. As we walk towards a future that lays its only chance at being bright in the hands of global harmony, sustainability, and well-being, individuals are seeking traditional, oftentimes, ancient wisdom to find approaches that have combined all of the above.

Amidst this discourse, one belief, practice, or philosophy, call it as you may, that is gaining spotlight has been Shamanism.

Before we delve into the details of understanding and comprehending where the indigenous traditions like Shamanism come from and how they influence our role as future leaders, let us first gain clarity on what we are dealing with, and dust off possible preconceived notions that have been webbing our minds and beliefs.

Understanding Shamanism and Indigenous Traditions
At the very fundamental level, Shamanism is about healing. Unlike contemporary modern beliefs, it is not about blind faith in the supernatural, but about a realistic understanding of the very natural.

Shamanism: A Pathway To Personal Development and Well-Being

Developed and passed on from the very ancient tribal and ancient communities, shamanism is based on the ideology that human beings are composed of not mere flesh and blood but also minds/ spirits and energies. The same goes for animals and any other living beings in the world. Shamans are known to possess the ability to ‘crossover to other non-material realities’ that allow them to directly communicate with everyone and everything in these realities. This ability consists of working with awareness, perception and intention, thanks to which shamans access the “otherworld”, or “non-material realities”.

Traditional Shamanic Techniques and Their Modern Scope

The extent to which a shaman’s ability and power progresses varies greatly according to the indigenous learnings and wisdom that has been passed on, but one most widely accepted method includes inducing a state of trance, a state of quiet mind, often by playing the drum to serve the purpose. The latter can be of very different nature. It can be the quest for a life purpose or vision, the search of solutions/answers to a personal or professional situation, the need to connect to a source of wisdom.

Indigenous Shamanic Traditions Across The World: A Look At The Regional Adaptations
As discussed above, since Shamanism is often primarily interpreted as a natural healing method, most people who perform shamanic practices are also known to be ‘medicine men and women’ or simply ‘healers’. The terms, however, do not encompass their virtues, values, propagation, and teachings as these expand beyond healing to personal development, empowerment, increasing self-confidence and resilience, and more.

In this section, we will explore how the indigenous traditions from different regions of the world have taken from Shamanism to develop practices, cultures, or religions that propagate similar lessons.

North and Central Asia
Although Shamanism is anciently believed to be originated in the northern regions of Asia, particularly among the tribes of Siberia, its influence has rapidly consolidated the whole world. While the north and central Asia mark the origination of some of the most revered shamanic practices, they also mark the most diversity in the following.

For instance, Manchu Shamanism or the Tungus groups managed to bring Shamanism to great ranks, even as far as politics was concerned. However, in regions like mainland China and India, the use of psychedelics in the shamanic practices lead to a complete legal ban. That has of course, not completely blocked out the influence, and shamanism in these regions is more sacred and closely associated with the divine than in other parts of the world.

South-East Asia
The influence of Shamanism, to date, is magnanimous in the East, to say the least. Right from China, Korea, Japan, to the Philippines, Shamanism is adapted and imparted as a part of their indigenous traditions. For instance, in China shamanism thrives among a community of Hmongs that believes in respectful sacrifices to please the spirits. Japan’s indigenous religion Shinto finds elements of shamanism combining with Buddhism and places spirituality of nature, including animals, in regards as high as the divine. Whereas Korea’s mudangs are the ultimate guiding light for financial and personal predictive solutions.

Shamanism in Europe has been eccentrically about migrants from the east and north Asian territories. However, the practices and beliefs, like druidism, dissipated with time – most of them being combatted and eradicated by the church and exist currently only in the form of folklore, tales, and practices limited to remote indigenous populations. Shamanism has managed to gain some mainstream attention through popular names like the Italian Carlo Ginzburg (historian), the Frenchman Claude Lecouteux (former professor of medieval literature and civilization at the Sorbonne) who brought back the reverence for this knowledge and wisdom among like-minded communities.

The American continents are like a goldmine of beliefs, traditions, and indigenous practices inspired by shamanic ideas and wisdom. Right from the Maya religion and priesthood to the Aztec astrology or even the ayahuasca, shamanism is deeply rooted in all things indigenous in this part of the world. While a greater part of the population follows no one religion or belief, all forms of diversified practices exemplify the undertones of shamanic ideas in one way or the other. Glimpses of this can be seen among the Mapuche people of Chile, the culture of Selk'nam and Yámana, as well as the Aymara community from the South.

Shamanism and Its Influence On Leadership Practices
That shamanism enjoys widespread influence even in contemporary times is not news. However, the way it has been interpreted has been largely diluted, quite commonly misconstrued as something that might be irrelevant to leadership. While on the stark contrary, shamanism is looked at as one of the greatest tools for mankind, going beyond its powers of healing to attain the right spiritual balance that we need as leaders of tomorrow.

In the above section, we came across several such regional adaptations of shamanism where the practitioners are held in the highest faith, often followed as leaders of the community. While the scope of the ‘healer’ or ‘close to the divine’ interpretation of shamanism might continue to be limited to certain communities, its acceptance as a spiritual stabilizer is undeniably entrenching every individual regardless of region, culture and traditions.

To ascertain the said point, let us point out the most basic attributes that leaders with the influence of shamanism can put into practice and trailblaze the path to sustainability, well-being for all and personal development:

  • Leading with purpose and authenticity: they know their purpose, actually they are purpose, and they reflect on which impact and consequences their decisions and actions will have on current & next generations as well as on our planet.
  • Increasing well-being or healing, oneself and entire communities: all-encompassing healing that does not limit to physical fitness but includes all forms of emotional, social, and cultural aspects.
  • Peeking into one’s own altered states of consciousness and tapping into the field of intelligence and energy surrounding us, either to search for information unknown/forgotten or to find truths that are beyond the existing realm or material reality,
  • Sensemaking, not just what is seen and heard, but from what is felt, sensed and also envisioned.


Imbibing Ancient and Indigenous Wisdom With Athena Wisdom Institute’s Leadership Program
When closely looked at, these attributes and the benefits thus reaped are not constricted to shamanic leaders, but to every individual who is trying to gain insights on life and betterment. And if that does not define how Athena Wisdom Institute’s shamanism-inspired leadership program paves the way, nothing does.

This program meticulously studies the invaluable principles from indigenous traditions that contemporary leadership needs to imbibe, it integrates them into a comprehensive, applicable, and industrious program, and empowers leaders of tomorrow to walk hand in hand with their reality and their innate wisdom. The trainers are themselves trained under globally renowned shamanic thought leaders like Chief Dancing Thunder himself, and others.

Ancient wisdom, indigenous traditions, and shamanism are truly treasures of yesterday that can enhance the leadership of tomorrow. And as rare as they may be, you have a chance at embracing them, with and at Athena Wisdom Institute.