Core Shamanism, by definition, is based on universal principles of shamanic methodology, and does not borrow ceremony and practices from indigenous cultures.

“Core Shamanism consists of the universal, near-universal, and common features of shamanism, together with journeys to other worlds, a distinguishing feature of shamanism. As originated, researched, and developed by Michael Harner, the principles of Core Shamanism are not bound to any specific cultural group or perspective. See Core Shamanism, as distinct from indigenous cultural shamanism and neoshamanism.

For more context and background, see Dr. Harner’s book Cave & Cosmos, pages 45-46, and appendix D. In his discussion of Core Shamanism in Cave & Cosmos, Dr. Harner elaborates on why Core Shamanism does not borrow practices and ceremony from indigenous people (see p. 46). There are also related statements from Dr. Harner in The Way of the Shaman documentary.

In some FSS advanced trainings, occasionally specific practices are offered that were freely given to Dr. Harner by the indigenous people he worked with, along with permission for him to teach these practices to his students. When these practices are taught, the FSS credits the source and provides the context in which they were given to the Foundation.

For a deeper dive into these issues, see Bill Brunton’s article The Reawakening of Shamanism in the West.

These are complex issues. As interest in shamanism continues to grow in contemporary societies, the FSS remains committed to teaching authentic methodologies that are powerful and effective, without resorting to cultural appropriation.

Narrye Caldwell
FSS Faculty


Polestar logo design by Carolyn Fee ©2010 Foundation for Shamanic Studies
FSS Polestar highlights some of the questions we are frequently asked about contemporary shamanic practice. “Polestar” is defined as “something that serves as a guiding principle.” It reflects our commitment to helping practitioners stay oriented to authentic shamanic methods and ethics, while maintaining their own independent spirituality, which comes from learning directly from the compassionate spirits. Send us your practice-related questions for consideration for Polestar. Email gro.m1721770642sinam1721770642ahs@o1721770642fni1721770642 with “Polestar” in the subject line.