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History of Spiritual Healing

Spiritual healing has been around for ages. Ancient Egyptians and Greeks went to their priest-physicians when they needed help. One of the most famous of these priest-physicians was Hippocrates, who brought standards to medical practices around 400 BC. He believed that the best approach to a diagnosis included observing nature, life, and a natural healing process.  Today medical doctors still take the Hippocratic oath when they become physicians.

North American Spiritual Healing History

In America, most people are familiar with the idea of an Indian Medicine Man. Some Hollywood depictions paint a caricature of the actual practices used by indigenous American people. Native Americans believe that any healing process should be completely holistic.

Sometimes their rituals involved entire families if not the whole community. They analyzed dreams and stressed ridding the body of toxins through special baths, fasting, and the use of herbs. They also prayed to their higher powers through music, chant, drumming, and dance. Native Americans believe in healing a person, not necessarily a disease.

The traditional Medicine Man, or Woman, as the case often was, watched the goings-on in their environment. They observed the animal life, birds, climate, and other actions or changes to determine whether the future would be successful or difficult.

The Maya Indians used the sun cycles, moon cycles, eclipses, and the movement of Venus to plan their lives. They prayed for protection from evil in themselves and in their community. They believed that everything, even vegetation, and minerals had a life force. They respected animals and only killed them for food, then asking for the spirit of the animal to be returned to the animal kingdom.

Sweat Lodges

Sweat lodges or medicine lodges have gained certain notoriety due to an incident in Arizona where several people died in a non-Native American sweat lodge. The Lakota Nation has actually filed suit against the owners of that lodge for desecrating their beliefs and violating peace between Americans and the Lakota nation for using a sweat lodge improperly.

In Native American culture, these lodges are used to promote health and community among their people. These lodges are tent type structures or dug out of the ground with planks for tops. They use heated rocks to provide heat within the structure. Sometimes the orientation of a lodge directs it toward a specific spirit. Often they face East with a sacred fire burning just outside of the lodge. These lodges are sacred to the Native American people. The ritual includes either silence or chanting along with offerings and prayer.

Medicine Men or Women will be in charge of the sweat lodge, the purpose of sweating is to drive out negative spirits from the body. There is also a raised state of consciousness that comes with the rise in body temperature. This allows participants to reach the spirit world on a personal level. It is in this context that true healing is said to begin. The Native Americans do not mix the sexes in their sweats nor do they attend in the nude. This is in contrast to some new age sweats and is in keeping with their traditional sacred nature.

Many Native American Spiritual healing practices were outlawed until 1978. At that time the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was passed allowing activities and rituals to again be practised. There have been difficulties as some of the lands once used to consecrate their rituals now serves other purposes. However, in the Native American or American Indian medical system, the use of traditional practices and rituals is still sometimes used.


Shamanism is a range of beliefs or practices that involve communication with the spirit world. The Shaman is known as the practitioner of the said craft.

The Shaman is able to:

  • Treat illness and serve as healers.
  • Enter supernatural realms to receive answers to problems within their community.
  • Be the intermediary between the human and the spirit world.
  • Lead a sacrifice.
  • Tell stories or songs to preserve their tradition.
  • Tell fortunes.

Although there are many differences in the different beliefs that comprise Shamanism there are some common threads shared by all. Shamanism itself is made up of the idea that the world is pervaded by forces that are invisible by that affect the living.

They believe that the cause of a disease is in the spiritual realm such as evil spirits or witchcraft. They use both spiritual and physical systems to heal these ailments. The Shaman will confront the spirit that is causing illness by entering into the sick person body. They banish the infectious spirit and bring healing to their patient. They are also experts in plant life and will prescribe herbs for treatment.

In the modern communities, the belief in Shamanism has grown. It reflects a path to knowledge rather than a specific faith. It is a belief instead of the reality of spirits, not necessarily reflected in particular cultural group. They believe in what is called the Axis Mundi or a pathway between heaven and earth for the sole purpose of spiritual contacts. The term ecstasy is used to refer to the wholeness that is created when these spirits are reached. It is a personal quest for inner power and knowledge. A practitioner of Shamanism can live in both the real world and the spirit world, having achieved balance.

Those who have reached this point of balance say they feel more comfortable with themselves and the world around them. Obstacles that had previously stood in the way of their achievements are removed. Those who are ill have a new energy that heals them.

Westernized shamans will use spiritual extraction, past life regression therapy, and hypnosis to reach the spiritual balance that provides healing.

Shamanism has been called into question as the occult because of the practice of channelling spirits that take the form of animals. Some of the plants that are used have hallucinogenic properties which also promote the belief that it is of the occult. In North America, notably among the Navajo the use of Peyote produces this effect. This is considered an altered state of consciousness. This state leads to self-discovery, knowledge, and healing. Other plants used in ritual are tobacco, fly agaric, and psychedelic mushrooms.

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