A shaman is someone who has a certain control over his or her state of trance.
You can put it that way, in general terms.
A shaman works with 'spirits', with the soul of things, and can deal with the great forces that live among people and the worlds in which they move.
A person is in constant contact with his environment, which he explores, and changes.
We are all interconnected. With each other, with the grains of sand under our feet, through the air we breathe.
We do realize we ‘re not alone, and we sense a dependency on each other and our surroundings in many ways. This complete connection, and interdependence, is a core of the shamanic worldview. The term 'spirit' here mainly has the meaning of 'the essence of a phenomenon'.
The bird flies with wings. Wings consists of feathers. A drum vibrates the air, and makes the wind blow.
A shaman ‘travels’, and for good reason.
The soul is able to leave the body at death, but also in dreams, or at the state of trance.
In the latter case the soul is able to return. Now this is the specialization of the shaman.
The shaman has mastered the technique of sending the soul out to 'other worlds', and not only that, he often also gives a direct report of this journey, in the midst of the group in which he lives. The shaman may be an eccentric but certainly does not live in isolation. He stands in the middle of the community where he performs his functions as a shaman, often in addition to his normal work.
To be a shaman means to embrace many roles; healer, counselor, priest, lonely mystic and being an essential part of the community which he serves. The idea is that many forms of life can incarnate in the shaman, become a temporary part of his system. These can be other people, the deceased, animals, plants, but also natural phenomena such as running water.
Collaboration between all these forces, which you can think of as different forms of energy, enable the community to realize plans, ward off harm or evil, investigate or manipulate their environment.
Shamanic worldview consists of a many layered structure; the space we occupy in life and the space within ourselves. It is therefore possible for different bodyparts to be ruled by different ‘ghostmasters’. Shamanism doesn’t have a hard differentiation like body. Ego, soul, earth, history, future, minds, and emotions. Our lives take place in spaces, dimensions, if you will, that are not closed off but accessible. What the shaman can do well for his community is to take full advantage of this 'travelling' between different aspects of an event, person, or place to protect, direct, and care.
Using the basic technique that is the guided trance for the shaman, he can go from room to room and still return in one piece. The worlds he travels are better understood geographically as a "topography of states of mind" than as truly separate places. Worlds intertwine and represent in themselves a truth, and eventual cause of the events around us.
The different realities are also intertwined in the language of the shamanic culture. A trip to another planet is mentioned in the same breath as getting your groceries around the corner.
During the journeys of his soul the shaman stands in the centre of his community of which he’s a part. He relates directly to them via mimicry, movement, sound and text. He enacts an open stage show whilst surrounded by the community and is encouraged on his travels by their reactions.
The shaman tells stories and takes his audience with him. He depicts what people do not see and joins forces. He brings about and leads the transformations that result from his travels, the encounters, and from all the daily life around him.
All methodes are used to make the invisible visible and to allow the community to share in the experience. This experience is both purpose and goal in one.
In such "ecstasy" of trance, the shaman describes what he sees and encounters by singing, dancing, screaming, whatever it takes to paint a vivid picture.
His costume is full of symbolism, with mythical animals and roads and cosmograms.
His drum is his magical horse capable of taking him anywhere. Dressed in feathers, pieces of metal, masks, rattles, and amulets, he starts his journeys in life, stamping the earth as he leaves it.