Shamans, Ancient and Modern, and Animal Relationships


              By Dr. Michael W. Fox

DEAR DR. FOX, I am student studying anthropology with an interest in animals. I have read that “A shaman is said to have the ability to speak with animals, and some of them express that they can shapeshift into animal forms by using hallucinogens or a combination of dancing, drumming, and singing.” (Quote from Äikäs T, Fonneland T. Animals in Saami Shamanism: Power Animals, Symbols of Art, and Offerings. Religions. 2021; 12(4):256. )

This is also a good resource of information:

I would like your opinion since your website has some spiritual content that seems to put you in the category of a shaman.

D.B., Fresno, CA

DEAR D.B., Thank you for sharing your interest and for raising an interesting subject. I am not a practicing shaman but embrace the need for such sensibilities in these times. The book by Cambridge University anthropologist, The Shaman: Voyages of the Soul, Trance, Healing, Ecstasy, and Healing From Siberia to the Amazon (Little, Brown and Company, publishers, 1995) I highly recommend for learning more about what he documents, stating: “When shamans talk of other worlds, they do not mean that these are disconnected from this world. Rather, these worlds represent the true nature of things and the true causes of events in this world.”

In contemporary times we still have shamans in our communities whose views may or may not be ridiculed as amateur pretenders and explorers of mystical, even demonic realms. But in my opinion, just as Dr. Albert Schweitzer proclaimed “Within every patient there resides a doctor, and we as physicians are at our best when we put our patients in touch with the doctor inside themselves,” careful observation of animals and nature can awaken the shaman in us. I see many holistic veterinarians, ecologists, conservationists and wildlife rehabilitators as latter-day shamans and healers of our broken connections with animals and Nature.

The demonization of shamanism to abolish the animistic spirituality that embraces the freedom of all peoples and species is evident in corrupted religious and politically allied fundamentalists seeking power and control.

The shamanic doorway is through an empathetic open heart-mind. Egotism and anthropocentrism are two barriers of our nature and nurture/culture that shamans and all who seek to serve and heal must break by putting others before self and self in all. This doorway may be opened by a deep emotional wound such as the suffering or loss of a loved one; an intense emotional, inspiring, transcendental experience in Nature, or with beings other than human. This door will never close behind those who pass through and become disoriented, even psychotically deluded or develop some escapist addiction or obsession, if their anchor with reality and all they love is not broken. This is the link of the psychic and the thread of the shaman in the entanglements of the quantum field of cosmogenesis and human evolution.

I wish all students can find and open that door to discover all that lies beyond. The empathosphere, for instance, has been shown to us by animals and resonates with shamanic remote sensing and spirit travel. ( For details, go to also show us that there is life after death in dimensions that await our inevitable fate. ( See

The shamanic healing power of sensing and feeling where a suffering person or animal is hurting can take its toll. Veterinarians and others healers and health-care providers who have passed through the doorway can burn out in the fires of empathy if there is no understanding peer-support or some degree of protective, self-disciplined clinical detachment and objectivity. But that detachment can impair both empathy and quality of care and is all too common when not modulated by spiritual experience and maturity.

From the Christian perspective of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Catholic priest who sought to unify science and religion with evolutionary cosmogenesis and was aware of the powers of Nature and our place therein, Christ is the “Cosmic Christ” or the “Omega” of revelation. He is an emanation of God which is made of matter and experienced the nature of evolution by being born into this world and dying. His resurrection from the dead was not to heaven, but to the noosphere, the area of convergence of all spirituality and spiritual beings, where Christ will be waiting at the end of time. When the earth reaches its Omega Point of the Parousia, everything that exists will become one with divinity. (Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre (1 January 1968). Science and Christ. Collins.)

In my time shared with Frank Fools Crow, Ceremonial Chief of the Teton Sioux, he instructed me to trust in the lights that will show me the way and which Christians call angels. But first we must fearlessly trust and submit to the higher powers of divine love and revelation when we go through the door.

I strongly advise young people not to try any psychedelics or other ritual ceremonies without a guide. Often the best beginning can come from simply sitting still in some natural place and quietly observing: Or walking quietly with your dog and seeing what she or he does, and stop and stroke and make eye contact. This is the first step in ethology, the science of animal behavior, and as you learn how animals behave and communicate, you will be more able to commune with them.

I fear this door is closing for too many of our youth but there may be hope since 41 states are now suing Meta, claiming its social media is harming them by building addictive features into Instagram and Facebook. (See article by Cristiano Lima and Naomi Nix, in the Washington Post.

The planetary existential crises that we face today will be more severe for future generations. They can meet these challenges in the spirit of a humanity that puts compassion, the power of love, into action, caring for those who suffer and protecting all in need in the shamanic tradition. The alternative of surrendering to the consequences of our collective inhumanity and what many see as Nature’s retributive justice, and simply enjoying life as conspicuous consumers living in ignorance and denial, I see as the extinction of all that makes us worthy of the self-anointed title of Homo sapiens.