Shamanic Practices of the Far East
The figure of the shaman has always been a prominent motif within the Islamic world, particularly in relation to the mystical domain of Sufism. From traditions passed down from generations, to even carpet weaving, roots of Shamanism can be found throughout Central Asia and the Middle East. Author of “Creation Myths From Central Asia To Anatolia: Images From The Creation Myths Of The Turks,” Can Göknil writes:
"Shamanism is a system of belief common to the Turks of Central Asia. Both men and women could be Shaman priests and among old Turkish groups they were called Kam. Kams dressed in elaborate garments to display their supernatural powers. Accompanied by the beating of drums in their rituals, they believed they could fly with the aid of their own guardian animal. During such flights they reached various levels of Heaven or the Underworld. Upon returning to this world, they used the information they had learned during their journey for the benefit of their followers."
In order to receive the information from these worlds, one must experience them first hand to understand. Both the “lower world” and the “upper world” are paradises, but they are of different energies and different beings inhabit them. The Lower World is a place of denser vibratory energy, whereas the upper is of finer vibratory energy. Both worlds are inhabited by beings that appear either in human, animal, imaginative or angelic form. These beings, having permission from Allah, God, and the Source of All to help, serve as friends and allies to the Shaman. The Shaman is one who, by traveling into both worlds, balances the energy and thus assists the Middle World to evolve towards paradise.
In the Quran, mentions of the existence of such places are written in Surah 6:35:“Seek a tunnel in the ground or a ladder to the skies and bring them a Sign.”
Esfand Burning: Persian Cleansing
In Iran and many of the surrounding countries, Esfand is used to fight against the “evil eye.” The concept of the “evil eye” is about falling victim to the jealous eye on behalf of another. The “evil eye” is known as “cheshm khordan,” which literally translates to “being struck by the eye.” Esfand seeds are burned while sacred prayers are offered, and the smoke and popping sound are said to take away the evil. This tradition has been passed down generation to generation since Zoroastrianism was prevalent in Iran, dating back 3,500 years ago.
Throughout the ages, and depending on the culture, the Shamans have included prophets, Gnostics, mystics, saints, Sufis and watchers. They took on tasks such as healing, divination, appealing to ancestors, manipulating the elements, leading lost souls and officiating public religious rituals. The drum or tambourine is the essential means of communicating with spirits and enabling the shaman to reach altered states of consciousness on his or her journey. The drum, representing the universe in epitome, is often divided into equal halves to represent the earth and lower realms. The beating of the drum allows the shaman to achieve an altered state of consciousness or to travel on a journey between the physical and spiritual worlds. Symbols and natural objects are added to the drum
Hand woven Kilim representing Upper, Middle and Lower World.
representing natural forces and heavenly bodies. Shamans may visit other worlds/dimensions to bring guidance to misguided souls and to ameliorate illnesses of the human soul caused by foreign elements. The shaman operates primarily within the spiritual world, which in turn affects the human world. The restoration of balance results in the elimination of the ailment.