- Among the other worlds of many shamanic cosmologies, the existence of realms under the earth are significant. Shamanic initiations and journeys may entail a visit to these places. Piers Vitebsky writes about the frequent and calm ritual descents of Sora shamans into the underworld to converse with ancestors. To do so, shamans prepare themselves by ceremonial means and then enter a trance and become monkeys climbing down a huge tree. Since the Sora underworld is the home of the dead, the shaman must be careful not to become trapped or obligated to remain there, for example, by eating the food of the dead or playing with children there. This not only illustrates the common understanding that underworlds are dangerous places but also reinforces the notion that shamans are distinct from other people in their familiarity with death. Heathen shamans also enter the underworld in trance ceremonies or seidr. A common initial experience of core shamanism, as taught by Michael Harner and his colleagues, is a descent into the underworld to discover one’s power animal or helper. Light trance is induced by rhythmic drumming (sometimes prerecorded) and initiates are guided to visualize themselves descending. A similar combination of visualization and guided meditation or self-reflection is utilized in Jungian therapeutic contexts. Sylvia Perera, for example, turned the ancient Sumerian poem Descent of Inanna into a powerful therapeutic tool, emphasizing allegedly shamanic themes.
Historical dictionary of shamanism. Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis. 2007.