Discovering Shamanism

June 14, 2024
A Journey into Ancient Wisdom and Nature Connection

Have you recently stumbled across shamanism and nature connection? Or maybe you are already on this path and want to deepen your studies and experiences?

Either way, you have company. The 2021 census revealed an upsurge in people practising shamanism, with a twelve-fold increase in the past decade, and the rise in interest in shamanism has reached mainstream media. Reading this in The Guardian and The Economist was pretty exciting. The old ways are making a comeback!

I know on my own path, when I discovered shamanism, I was perplexed as to what it was and why I was drawn to it so strongly. Unusually for me, I decided to dive right in and go for the experiential learning route rather than reading lots of books. I signed up to a year-long workshop programme and after the first workshop I was hooked.

Over the years I have deepened my knowledge in this path, and I often get asked by people how they can learn about shamanism. So that’s the topic of his blog: how to find out more about shamanism and nature connection and what difference this path will make to your life.

What is shamanism?

Before I go into the ‘how’, let me just define what shamanism is. A common definition is ‘walking between the worlds to bring back the energies most needed at this time’.

Indigenous people across the world have ways of shifting consciousness and moving between the worlds. This was researched by anthropologist Michael Harner in the 1960’s and he named this Core Shamanism. The word is taken from the Tungus tribe in Mongolia, and is the title given to a common practice performed by indigenous, nature-based cultures of shifting consciousness to go into the spirit realm and bring back healing energies most needed by the community.

I was never drawn to other indigenous spiritualities such as Native American, Peruvian, or Siberian Shamanism. When I discovered Core Shamanism it was like an epiphany. Finally, I had found something which felt right and made such sense, after all my decades of seeking. My interest has been reclaiming something very ancient that was lost to us here in Britain and relearning it.

My thirst was for finding out what our ancestors knew living so close to the land, this land, that we have forgotten. It led me to develop a fascination with stone circles and other ancient sacred sites, the ley lines that interconnect them, and the old spiritual practices that were performed by our distant ancestors. Core Shamanism was an important route for me into learning a spiritual practice that is based on our traditions here in Britain. Through my professional sustainability work I quickly came to realise that this practice, above all other things, is most needed at this crucial time for humanity.

And what about nature connection?

Here at The Way of the Buzzard, we teach more than Core Shamanism through our Mystery School. We also teach nature connection and give equal weight to both topics. The reason for this is simple. Indigenous people across the world have ways of journeying to the Otherworlds. This is one thing they have in common. However, they also have another thing in common: they are all nature-based societies.

Indigenous communities live closely to the land and are in tune with nature. They understand the plants and animals around them, and they understand the cycles of nature. This is part and parcel of who they are. So, in The Mystery School we teach this too. In our Western culture we have become separate from nature, and this didn’t happen by accident. Laws were written to ban people from their traditions of revering nature.

For example, in the 11th Century, King Cnut banned ‘the worship of idols… the sun or the moon, fire or water, springs or stones or any kind of forest trees’. For a king to feel the need to write this in law shows how important this kind of connection was to our ancestors and how important it was for the Christian Church to stop people from doing it. Then there were the Witch Hunts of the Middle Ages, where men and women were condemned to death for practicing the old ways.

Considerably closer to home and my lifetime, Jason talks of how as a boy he became a Jehovah's Witness. Upon converting to the Christian faith, he was told to stop talking to the trees and animals. He was told it was the devil’s work. In my Evangelical up-bringing, it was made clear to me that humans had dominion over nature and could do with the Earth what they pleased.

So, it feels kind of revolutionary to claim back this lost knowledge and nature connection is an important part of our practice.

Where do I start?

A question we often get asked by people who are drawn to shamanism and nature connection as a spiritual practice is: ‘Where do I start?’ A great place to begin if you like reading is by finding some introductory books to Shamanism. A good one is: ‘Following the Shamans Call’ by Mike Williams.

Then, to complement the theory, it’s so important to get cracking with the experiential. We can do so much ourselves, but I believe it’s by learning from a teacher and learning from each other that our shamanic practice will really take off. The shamanic path is transformational, but it will only be so if we actually do it, rather than just read about it. If you are someone who diligently follows the exercises described in books, and this then forms part of your daily practice then you might get away with learning solo. But if not, you will need to seek out someone to learn from if you are really looking to embrace shamanism and all it has to offer.

We are big on the experiential here at The Way of the Buzzard. When I first came to the Earth spirituality path, I used to practice on my own. I would do the exercises out of books. In our Mystery School our courses are full of theory, which we research and share through video tutorials. But they are also full of practical activities that we talk through and we give a choice of options in many of the lessons, so folk can do what appeals to them most.

How can this practice help me?

Often people are drawn to shamanism and nature connection but they can’t put their finger on why: it just feels right, and is a natural progression in their spiritual enquiries. I know this was the case for me. However, looking back I can see that I was drawn to this path for a reason, as it is so beneficial for the things that I most needed support with in my life.

When Jason and I read about the upsurge in shamanism following the most recent census return, we were inspired to undertake some research among our Mystery School members. We wanted to understand how shamanism has empowered our members and changed their lives. Four themes emerged.

Theme 1: From Disconnection to Grounding

Before discovering shamanism, many of our members felt a deep sense of disconnect. They described feeling unrooted, fragmented, lost, confused, and uncertain. This lack of connection left them feeling adrift in the modern world. However, shamanism has provided them with much-needed support and grounding. Members now describe themselves as feeling grounded, happier, and more aware. They’ve found a way to achieve peace whenever they need it. One member eloquently put it, “Shamanism has been my rock. It helps me cut through the modern illusion and bring it back to what matters.”

Theme 2: From Loneliness to Belonging

Before shamanism, a significant number of our members felt alone. They lacked a sense of belonging and felt that others didn’t understand them. Shamanism has brought them a sense of belonging and community. Members have found their tribe and are now in contact with like-minded people who are encouraging and uplifting. This connection has provided them with a support network that truly ‘gets them.’

Theme 3: From Searching to Direction

Before shamanism, many were on a quest for something more, feeling that something was missing from their lives. They described it as being behind some kind of veil, always searching for an extra dimension to life. Shamanism has given them clear direction on their life path. Members have developed knowledge and skills, and are in contact with their spirit guides who reassure them that they are on the right path. They have learned valuable skills such as shamanic journeying, shamanic drumming, nature connection, and interpreting the messages from trees and animals. One member shared, “Shamanism helped me to connect to myself and my purpose.”

Theme 4: From Emotional Struggles to Self-Acceptance

Before shamanism, emotional struggles such as depression and anxiety were common. Many felt self-conscious and unsure of themselves. Through the shamanic toolkit, members have developed and improved their self-awareness. They now trust their intuition and have gained a greater understanding of themselves. This journey has helped them to accept who they are and understand the reasons behind their feelings and behaviours.

The stories and experiences of our Mystery School members are a testament to the profound impact that shamanism can have on someone’s life. This practice provides grounding, a sense of community, direction, and emotional healing. If you’re feeling disconnected, alone, searching, or struggling emotionally, shamanism might just be the path that helps you find your way.


Ever since I can remember, right from the onset of my adult life, I have felt separate. I thought and felt differently to everyone else I knew, but I always felt at home out in nature. At times when I didn’t have access to open countryside, my mental health suffered.

It is natural for humans to live closely with nature, entwined with the movements of the seasons and living side by side with the trees and animals. Bridging this gap between nature and the Otherworlds and humans is so important. Bridging the gap for me has meant I no longer feel separate from what is really important. It has meant I have felt a homecoming. As I pursued my line of enquiry I began to make friends with people who were like me. Now I am no longer alone, and in fact the opposite has happened, as through The Way of the Buzzard Jason and I  have built a community of fellow travellers to share this journey with.

This path has helped me with decision making, which was something I used to struggle with. Once I learnt how to go on shamanic journeys and how to read the signs in nature, I found making huge life decisions astonishingly easy. Putting trust in my guides, and following their signposts at every turn has enabled me to confidently make big decisions in my life. I have left a career on the strength of an encounter with a Blackbird, left a home on the back of an Eagle sighting and know I am in the right place when hearing the call of a Buzzard. If I need support on anything, I know who I need to go and ask.

And like some of our members, I am someone who suffers with anxiety. Having the reassurance of my spirit guides around me has helped. Learning the old ways of coping that our ancestors used has helped. Having a connection with the trees has helped. Being able to read the signs of animals when I am out in nature has helped. We live in challenging times. There is a lot happening to be anxious about now and there is a lot on the horizon to be anxious about too. Having an Earth-based spirituality practice helps keep my feet firmly on the ground… most of the time!

A path to empowerment

Today, many of us seek guidance for a richer, more rewarding life. Shamanism offers a path of ancient wisdom that was ours a thousand years ago when we lived as indigenous peoples in forests of Britain. This is our native heritage and rediscovering this can infuse our lives with deep meaning.

Two thousand years ago we didn’t call it shamanism, in fact we probably didn’t call it anything. It was just what we did. It would be the equivalent of giving ‘eating’ a special title now. This is why every year Jason and I see hundreds of people just ‘get it’ straight away, and are hungry to learn more and more. Humans are just hard wired that way.

Despite the material comforts of modern progress, we often feel disconnected. Indigenous cultures, less technologically advanced, possess deep knowledge about living in harmony with our souls. These are truths we've lost. It's clear we need a new perspective amid today's social, ecological, political, and spiritual crises. It is time to reclaim back this lost knowledge.

So, do you fancy diving in with us? Are you looking for that something that will give you the spiritual guidance that you are seeking? Are you looking to learn the old spiritual ways of our ancestors that walked our land? Then, come along with us in this adventure. We would love to share it with you.

We are opening the doors to our Mystery School to new members between Monday 17th and Friday 21st June. Here is the link to find out more. A warm welcome awaits!

About the Author


Nicola Smalley is an edge-dweller, shamanic practitioner and writer living in the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Natural Beauty in north Lancashire, England.

Following a career in corporate sustainability, she now runs The Way of the Buzzard with her husband Jason. Her passion is anything connected to nature and the mysteries of the Earth.

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  1. I feel that shamanism has guided me back to my childhood. To one particular tree, where I grew up. The sycamore tree. When reading upon the trees properties I felt a sense of.. homecoming..of being able to bridge the child me with the adult me, as if the two worlds had been cemented together. I now wear a sycamore seed in silver around my neck to remind me of this beautiful connection. I can't wait to see what a true learning of shamanism through the mystery school can show me over a longer period of time. Thank you for both of your guidance, teachings and the mystery school to enhance all our growth as a community.

  2. I feel that shamanism has guided me back to my childhood. To one particular tree, where I grew up. The sycamore tree. When reading upon the trees properties I felt a sense of.. homecoming..of being able to bridge the child me with the adult me, as if the two worlds had been cemented together. I now wear a sycamore seed in silver around my neck to remind me of this beautiful connection. I can't wait to see what a true learning of shamanism through the mystery school can show me over a longer period of time. Thank you for both of your guidance, teachings and the mystery school to enhance all our growth as a community.

    1. Thank you Keely, I have loved reading your story here. The way you describe ‘two worlds cemented together’ explains it so well. And a homecoming. It is so good to see you here in our Mystery School, welcome 🙂

  3. I am so glad I found the way of the buzzard. I feel so much happier now on my shamanic path. I no longer suffer with the deep depression and despair I lived with previously. And if that was all I had achieved I would be grateful, but it holds so much more and I am excited for my future now. 😍 Thank you Nicola and Jason blessings to you both ❤️

    1. Wow, what a thing to read here Kim, thank you so much for sharing this. It kind of blows me away tbh that The Way of the Buzzard has had this impact. Thank you!

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