Researching Shamanic Knowledge

The Foundation is dedicated to preserving, studying, and teaching shamanic knowledge for the welfare of all. The FSS has initiated a wide range of projects and programs for carrying out this three-part mission. Results from these strategic programs are incorporated into FSS courses worldwide.

Help us make this unique collection ready to accommodate researchers with fully functional archives and library. Please support the SKC and LEGACY PROJECT by donating to the Foundation.


The Shamanic Knowledge Conservatory (SKC)

This great archive, unique in the world, is preserving endangered shamanic knowledge for future generations. Progress continues at the SKC, under the direction of Michael Harner and Sandra Harner. With the invaluable work of former FSS research associate Gizelle Rhyon-Berry, a comprehensive catalogue of detailed descriptions of items in the entire Conservatory’s Western Collection was prepared. The collection includes nonordinary reality maps, transcriptions, Three-Year student homework, general submissions, and researched data. Description of every item housed at our archive is imperative for locating them efficiently, for preservation, and for possible future interest.

THE LEGACY PROJECT. The Legacy Project is devoted to the preservation and organization of the SKC as a scholarly and teaching resource. It focuses on the non-MONOR materials (see description of MONOR below), including books and periodicals, shamanic artifacts, field notes, photographs, slides, and audio-visual media, and other materials collected over the past century by Michael Harner. A preliminary inventory by a professional librarian-archivist of this exceptional multimedia collection, covering text, sound, and image, with both primary and secondary sources indicates: Over 5,000 books and about 3000 periodicals; thousands of slides, photographic prints and negatives, and audio cassettes; and abundant paper documentation, microfilm, open-reel tapes, motion pictures, drawings, oversize maps, and at least 3000 carefully prepared digital files.

WESTERN COLLECTION. The Foundation has acquired over 65,000 indexed pages related to shamanism and shamanic practices worldwide. There are five categories culled from 396 cultures: shamanic healing, about shamans, cosmology, eschatology, and divination. To ensure the survival of this irreplaceable depository, much of it has been digitally preserved, with copies stored in various locations against a future calamity. In addition to the indexed pages, the collection contains books, manuscripts, artifacts, drums, and various audio-visual media. Though much has been accomplished, much more work remains to be done to properly catalog and preserve this invaluable collection of shamanic knowledge.

The Mapping of Nonordinary Reality (MONOR)

The Foundation is involved in a long-term project to develop the world's foremost database of cross-cultural accounts of shamanic journeys, near-death, and other nonordinary explorations. These research materials are being used to begin to construct a map of the hidden universe discovered and rediscovered by shamans and others through the ages, independent of culture. This requires a great deal of anthropological experience and knowledge in order to accurately compare these shamanic experiences cross-culturally. The results of this ambitious project are expected to challenge orthodox scientific definitions of reality.

Beginning in the early 1970’s Michael Harner began collecting the experiences of Westerners engaged in shamanic practice, with special attention to their shamanic journey experiences to the Upper and Lower Worlds. As this collection expanded, the FSS established its MONOR Project especially to discover what, if any, cross-cultural regularities existed in the experiences of shamanic journeyers, both in the West and in indigenous societies. Today the collection, housed at the Foundation’s headquarters in Marin County, California, includes this extensive collection of research material:

  • Over 70,000 pages of researched data on cross-cultural shamanism and shamanic healing, and over 6,000 books and journals regarding the same.
  • Over 35,000 pages of voluntarily submitted descriptions of shamanic journey and other visionary experiences of contemporary Westerners. The collection began with audio recordings of Dr. Harner’s experiential and experimental workshops in core shamanism, both nationally and internationally. Found nowhere else in the world, the collection includes the very first shamanic journeys contemporary Westerners have experienced.

Research on Shamanic Healing

The Foundation studies the effectiveness of shamanic healing methods to help deal with illness and other problems of daily life. Significant findings become incorporated in the training offered to medical doctors, psychotherapists, and others through the Foundation's educational programs. A critical part of this work is accomplished through the Shamanism and Health Program, where the Foundation engages in research in a progressing effort to find how shamanic practices complement mainstream medicine.

One of the on-going projects of the Shamanism and Health Program is to collect, study, and archive reports of healing and cures following shamanic treatment of physical, emotional, and mental disorders. If you have done shamanic healing work with positive results for another, please complete our Shamanic Healing Questionnaire. Your responses from this questionnaire can make a difference in our understanding of these phenomena.

Preservation and Teaching

In addition to our research efforts, the Foundation's work includes PRESERVATION AND REVIVAL OF INDIGENOUS SHAMANISM and WORKSHOPS and advanced training programs.

Videos of FSS Field Expeditions



The Shamanic Knowledge Conservatory

Michael Harner
Sandra Harner

Modern Sami-made drum
Modern Sami-made drum.
Photo ©2011 France Viana.