Shamanism is an accepted way of life in Thailand that has been practiced for centuries.
Pre-Buddhist animistic beliefs are still a fundamental element of the culture that surrounds us.
It is the blend of both pagan animistic beliefs with the later Buddhist influence that makes Thai cultural practices so unique and interesting.
In particular, the people from Isan, Thailands North East region, and from the small hill tribe villages of the north, bring with them some intact traditions and individuals skilled in ancient ways of healing and the use of medicinal plants.
These tribal shaman achieve altered states of consciousness in which they profess to communicate with what is often called “the spirit world”. To a shaman and to the communities they serve, the spirit world is not a folk belief or a hold-over from earlier primitive religious practice. It is a real and palpable world, populated by entities with both good and bad intentions and who are believed to communicate with humans. The shaman’s job is to communicate with these spirits to find healing knowledge, in a world where energy is more powerful than matter.
A vivid account of these practices in Phuket during the 1970s can be found online in the academic white paper, “A Glance At Shamanism In Southern Thailand” by Mary Jane and Jackson T. Gandour.
Ancient shamanic practices have been recorded and observed as cultural phenomenon across every corner of the globe, from the Native American tribes in the West, to Japanese Shintoism in the Far East. Over the past decades there has been a resurgence in the education and practice of these traditions as a healing art.
Closer to home here on the island, Sophie Dubus is a Shamanic Healer and Soul Coach. A series of synchronicities in her life led Sophie to undertake intense core shamanic training programmes, involving a distillation of techniques coherent throughout many shamanic cultures. Sophie additionally trained in Mongolian and Siberian techniques, which were the primary areas of cultural knowledge from her teacher.
Sophie was clear to define that she was not a shaman, but a shamanic practitioner.
“This distinction is crucial. This means that I have been trained in shamanic techniques that have been distilled with permission from other cultures. Shamans are often chosen by their community and may undergo extreme experiences as part of their initiations and it can raise issues of cultural appropriation. Both shamans and shamanic practitioners work directly with spirits - such as ancestral spirits and spirits of nature. Because of this, it is very important to maintain the integrity of my work, and that of my relationship with these spirits.”
What Sophie practices is likely very different to Thai shamanism. In some cultures, shamans may work with what are termed 'ethnocentric spirits'. These spirits may have their own agenda relating to culture, ancestors and tribes, requesting specific rituals be performed to honour them. This is not part of core shamanism. The depth and breadth of shamanism across the world is truly fascinating, and a study all to itself.
Sophie explained that each and every shamanic healing session will be different, because she is directed by her helping spirits to do the healing. Typically it will begin with a short conversation, so the client may pose any questions. The client will lie down and usually remain lying during the session, unless otherwise directed. Sophie then connects with her helping spirits who will lead the session.
“I am merely a vessel, a 'hollow bone'.”
The hollow bone refers to one who can enter an altered state without their personal ego, making way for the Spirit to use them as a healing medium.
Experiencing a Shamanic Healing Session with Sophie is a rare opportunity to focus on your life intention and re-connect at a deeper, more intuitive level.
As you lie with your eyes closed, the air heavy with smoldering sage and Palo Santo wood, Sophie, now the hollow bone for the spirits to perform a diagnosis and begin the healing, moves around your being, sometimes singing, sometimes chanting. There are sounds of drumming and rattling, known as 'sonic driving', which is a way in which the practitioner achieves the shamanic state of consciousness in core shamanism. It’s an intense, but entirely comforting experience. Somehow it’s an inner journey more than the sum of its parts, like having awoken from a lucid dream. At the end of the healing session, Sophie relays the meaning of visions and messages from the spirits, and any insights on your animal spirit.
Back in the physical ‘middle world’, Sophie explains the range of impacts individuals experience from her healing sessions.
“I find shamanic healing to be very powerful. This could involve removal of negative energy or intrusions, soul retrieval and power animal retrieval. These are common practices in core shamanic healing. Sometimes the results may be subtle, sometimes strong. Sometimes it may be instant, at others, it takes time. But it works, even at a distance. In fact, I work with many people all over the world doing remote healing, just as effectively as in person.”