Someone asked a question about a shamanic perspective of cancer in a shamanic group online which started a good discussion. So I just thought I’d share some info here I’ve gained from experience which might or might not be useful.
Firstly, I think it’s important to understand the biology of diseases as they can often give insight in the spiritual nature of them as well which is what this piece will explore in a brief way.
The first point is cancer isn’t one disease, two people with the same cancer may have completely different genetic drivers, and even in the same person, if the cancer has spread, the tumours can be genetically different in different areas of the body. Which is often why it is difficult to treat. This is called tumour heterogeneity.
So from a shamanic perspective, when you are treating it energetically, you are often not treating one ‘cancer’ spirit, as there could be many ‘drivers’ of the disease. These will need to be tracked carefully, and it can take a long time to get to the root of all of these.
One thing cancer is incredibly good at is evolving around treatments, in this way it is like a trickster spirit. It may seem like you are removing one aspect of the disease, but it can then find another way to grow. It is also like a Hydra in this respect, so if you focus just on removing intrusions, many different heads can grow. Which is where conventional medicine’s obsession with killing cancer cells hasn’t always been successful long term.
But even conventional medicine is changing, and many are viewing it now as an immune disease, givng birth to some amazing new immunotherapy treatments. This is where it gets interesting, as what does unite all cancers, is there ability to evade immune system detection, leaving them to grow unabated. They often hijack natural defences the body has against auto-immune diseases to do this. So proteins that healthy cells use to stop the immune system eating them, are used by cancer cells to survive.
Again, from a shamanic perspective, this can mean that the spiritual cause of the cancer is also very good at hiding. When you work a lot with cancer patients you may find that it is not always obvious when going into their energy bodies that there is even anything wrong. Spiritually the disease can often evade detection in the same way as physically.
The way I like to see it is the immune system, on a spiritual level, is akin to our ‘power. ‘It is what protects us from the invasive spiritual forces (intrusions) that cause disease. Thus, working with a person to build up their personal power is essential when treating cancer. What this means to each individual is completely different and this is when we must be very creative in our treatments.
Some general pointers can be looking at deep rooted self esteem/ self love issues, the suppression of more aggressive/protective qualities and traumas that caused the body to shut down its natural defensive abilities.
It is very common for cancer patients, previous to diagnosis, to say they weren’t often sick. This is a sign that the immune system may not be functioning properly as normal periods of sickness, especially when the body has to raise its temperature through fever, is a sign of a healthy functioning immune system.
Cancer cells cannot survive heat in the same way as normal cells- one very successful alternative treatment to cancer is hyperthermia where very high temperatures are used to target and kill cancer cells. Indigenous people would have understood this intuitively, hence the power of sweat lodges etc when it comes to getting or keeping well.
The power of the fire in its cleansing but also empowering and protective aspects is hugely important when treating this disease. Shamanic trance work often is referred to as heating up the person spiritually, is a good tool to work with also.
Finally, if you look at cancer from a metabolic perspective what is happening is, due to lack of oxygen, the cancer cells revert to a much more primal way of getting energy- primarily through burning glucose and the fermentation of lactic acid,- The Warburg affect.
The body does this when it is under stress- it is used in the flight and fight response to gather a lot of energy in a short period of time and was probably how we evolved from environments that had low oxygen levels.
Shamanically speaking, again the cancer is hijacking a natural bodily process, or putting it another way, a natural process is out of control. In many ways it is the body trying to gather energy or power when there is a lack of it, due to damaged mitochondria, to heal itself. Or, as an indigenous shaman said when treating someone ‘sometimes nature turns against itself.’
The important thing here spiritually I think is its a primal, survival response to a real (or perceived) lack of energy/ power. This can often be caused through traumatic experiences of overwhelming fear which can be at the root of this disease sometimes. Again, the healing of traumas and the gathering of spiritual power is so important in this. And anything that is spiritually and emotionally empowering to the person going on this journey can help.
Personally, what I’ve found is that shamanic healing done in the right way, can really empower all the other treatments that the person is going through by getting to the root of some of the psychospiritual/ emotional causations of the illness. This will mean the physical treatments- conventional and/or alternative- have more chance of being successful. But these are just some pointers and aren’t meant as any kind of definitive guide as they barley scratch the surface of what is a very complex subject.
Each person is unique and getting to this root can often take time. It’s much more a journey of healing, rather than seeking that one magic bullet which will solve everything. And each journey of healing involves many different layers.
Finally, probably the greatest gift that shamanic healing can assist with is the focussing of intent and harnessing of the power of prayer, to engage spiritual forces that will help the person find the exact healing they require to prosper and thrive once more. In that way, it’s the helping spirits who decide what is best in each individual case and our job is trust them completely, whilst also helping the person engage the power of their own inner healer/ guide.