From Faculty & Friends: Isa Gucciardi

What is death from the perspective of your tradition?

It is important to note that when we speak about a ‘shamanic worldview’ we are talking about the relationship to reality shared by cultures across the world. It is important to remember that because I am speaking so broadly, my statements may apply to one tradition more than another. Shamanism is the oldest form of spirituality. Shamanic traditions, in one form or another, are the centerpiece of the majority of cultures that have ever existed.  Although shamanic practices differ in form from culture to culture, their essence is more or less the same. Shamans are the priests, the healers, the educators, the psychopomps (those who guide the souls of the dead), and the mediators of their communities. In their various roles, they help their community members mediate the relationship between life and death. They create and lead ceremonies to commemorate people’s passing and counsel those who are left behind. In the role of psychopomp, the shaman assists those who are dying as they move from the realms of the living into the realms of the dead.

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