How I Learned to be a Shaman

How I Learned to be a Shaman

by Sarah Petruno, Shamana


I didn’t train with Sandra Ingerman. Or Alberto Villoldo. I didn’t go to the Four Winds Society or the Foundation for Shamanic Studies. I have also never been to Peru and I have not been initiated into the Q’ero shamanic tradition.

Nope. None of those things.

But yet, I still call myself a Shaman.

How can that be?

I work deeply with the Spirit World to heal spiritual, energetic, and physical issues in my clients. It’s healing on the planes of the spiritual and energetic body that can then be carried over to heal the physical illness on the surface.

It can be said, really, that it’s the shaman who orchestrates the healing, but those in Spirit who carry on the work behind the scenes.

I have no living teachers of shamanism.

I was taught how to be a shaman by the Spirits themselves.

Here’s How:

When I first discovered that I was to become a shaman, I was living in the college town of Madison, WI in my off campus 1 bedroom apartment. I was a PhD graduate student of Psychology at the time and it was in a reading given by my twin sister, Amanda Meder, a medium, where I learned my soul’s purpose.

In the reading, a long lost relative came through from my father’s side.

My father had long since died and we’d become estranged from the family, so not only did I not know this individual, I didn’t have anyone living to ask about his existence.

He said he was a great-great-grandfather, that he was a shaman and that I also had the gift of shamanism. BUT, that no one in our family knew he did this and he practiced in secret while he was alive, so we would indeed have no one to ask.

Two weeks later, my sister received an email from a distant relative asking if she knew her great-great-grandfather was a shaman. She immediately called me - and there it was - it was real.

The man in the reading was real and I was a direct descendant in his shamanic lineage.

I knew no living shamans, especially not Eastern European shamans.

My great-great -grandfather was the last living relative in my ancestral lineage of shamanism to practice and he died decades before I was born.

But, if this was my gift, I had to learn. I didn’t know about shaman schools or elitism or trainers or teachers, I just started practicing . . . with him.

I taught myself how to enter a meditative state and 4 nights a week for months, while in a full time graduate program, I started working with those in Spirit.

Each night, and in each meditative session, he taught me how to do different things. My ancestor shaman, and many other guides, spirits, and helpers showed me how to feel energy, how to move it, how to tell the difference, how to manipulate my hands, and how to position my body when working with energy.

I learned how to ground, how to call down Divine Light and how to heal. Practices, I later learned, that were exactly in alignment with the practices of other shamans. They showed me through images, clairvoyance, they told me in words, clairaudience, or they simply nudged me to move my body in certain ways. I learned how to deliver messages from Spirit, and to hear, and see their messages, too.

Shamanism is two fold, it’s energetic and it’s spiritual. Once I had the two arms down, I started putting it together to practice on my willing family members and friends.

How I Learned to be a Shaman

Soon, I started taking clients for free, to practice.

Each free practice session was also teaching for me. Each new free client had a new problem that I had not yet encountered. And my great-great-grandfather showed me how to heal it.

Soul retrievals, auric repairs, chakra balancing, attachment removal, and more - slowly, I learned all major and minor techniques.

It was only later I learned that the things he taught me how to do, actually had names for each procedure in the shamanic community. That’s right - the way I learned each technique from my grandfather in Spirit, was the exact technique that was being taught in physical world schools.

As I started to move away from my 4 night-a-week training sessions, I learned that there was an institutionalized system and an elitism structure to Shamanism. I learned that many shamans listed on their websites the schools they graduated from and the teachers they trained under. Most, not even within their own cultural heritage or lineage.

My teachers were all in Spirits and ancestors within my cultural lineage - Eastern European. There are shamans in every culture, and this is mine. Outside of my sister who coached me through several rough spots, I learned the art of shamanism without living teachers.

I knew this was unusual. But I also knew from my own research, that I could do with competence every single practice that was taught in a school with living teachers.

I also learned in that research, that Sandra Ingerman herself, was also trained in many her practices by her Spirits - just as I have been taught by my Spirits. Whew, with Sandra on board, I learned it wasn’t so unusual!

A Shaman’s primary gift comes from the Spirit World, and if that’s the case, learning directly from the Spirit World is the ultimate in the training that could exist.

My lineage is Eastern European. My ancestry comes from the area of the world that is now known as Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Romania. This is where my shamanic lineage and heritage stems. In this country, most shamanic lineages are from Native American or South American descent, specifically Peru.

Unfortunately, the Native American shamanism, practiced widely in North America, is a style of shamanic healing that does not match my heritage and doesn’t particularly connect with me on a soul level.

Sure, some to-be shamans in North America do connect with a Native and South American lineage and teaching, but not all do - and this prevalence is what drives many to-be European heritage shamans away from the practice as a whole.

Why are there seemingly fewer European shamanic teachers?

For many hundreds, if not thousands of years, there’s been a trend of shunning, shaming, and ostracizing spiritual healers, shamans, and mediums in Eastern Europe and in United States Settlements of peoples from Europe, calling them witches and otherwise blacklisting them from regular society.

This caused, and rightfully so, mediums, healers, and shamans from these lineages to fear for their lives and take their practices underground, or stop practicing shamanism altogether.

This is why many people from these lineages of European ancestry have a hard time getting into these fields or finding teachers from their history. In many cases, the practice died long ago with the last willing and brave practitioner in the family line.

This is what happened in my family.

When my great-great grandfather came to this country, he practiced in secret. He became a Christian and religiously went to Church. No one in my family knew and to this day many, but not all, deny he was ever a shaman at all.

Yet, over 40 years after his death, he taught me everything he knew, as my Ancestor in Spirit. My great-great grandfather, the Shaman.

You don’t have to go to physical school or find a living teacher to be a Shaman. Schools and Teachers are conduits for teaching spiritual practices - but they aren’t the only conduit.

You can learn spiritual practices directly from those who live in the Spiritual World - the Spirits themselves - your Ancestors and Guides will teach you the techniques, if your path is to be a shaman.

If you don’t have a living teacher, that doesn’t mean you can’t be a Shaman.

You just have to do what a Shaman would do and ask the Spirits for help.

And they will help. Chances are, you probably have ancestor who is just waiting for you to ask.

I did, and I didn’t even know it.

With love,



Watch the video on YouTube! 

(Read more about what it means to be a shaman, here).

LAST UPDATED: March 29, 2015


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