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Subject area:    Shamanistic Studies Bachelor, Master, Doctorate
(keywords: shamanism, shaman, shamanistic, consciousness studies, altered states)


Awarding body:            Calamus International University.  For further details of CIU please see the about page.


Status of course:          The degrees are non-UK qualifications. For status of CIU please see the status page.  CIU is accredited by the International Association for Distance Learning.  


Entry requirements:      Bachelor - by accelerated entry - approx. 50% credit from previous studies and/or experience needed for entry.

                                    Master -  a suitable bachelor's degree is normally required.
                                    Doctorate -  a Bachelor's degree (and preferably a Master's) are normally required.


Method of study:            Distance learning (taught course units are textbook-based) Textbooks are not included in tuition fees. 


Start date:                        Any time of year (subject to availability)


Duration:                         The standard period of registration for an accelerated (advanced-entry) Bachelor's degree, a Master's degree or a Doctorate is a maximum of 18 months, after which registration lapses unless continuing registration fees are paid.  This plan ensures that students can (a) complete as soon as academic requirements are fulfilled and (b) do not have to pay for long compulsory registration periods of several years before the final requirements can be met.  In some cases, where the student needs to meet additional requirements, the agreed initial registration period will be up to 24 months.




This brochure should be read together with the Calamus general prospectus (catalogue) and Course Unit List.  Calamus International University degrees are not UK degrees and do not have government accreditation.  


Shamanistic Studies - the study of shamanism and related areas

Bachelor's Degrees

Bachelor’s degrees: Although there is no Bachelor’s degree specifically in shamanistic studies, interested students can make shamanistic studies a part of a joint degree or include it in most holistic-related Bachelor’s degree plans, for example the following majors: Holistic Studies, Religious Studies, Contemporary Spirituality, Metaphysics, Parapsychology, Personal Development.  The Calamus International University Bachelor’s degree is normally an accelerated programme with approximately 50% of degree credit being allowed for previous education and training (in any field) and the remainder taken by following an individually agreed syllabus based upon Calamus distance units (ongoing or future trainings with external trainers or schools can be incorporated in the plan.) This accelerated programme allows students to finish a Bachelor’s degree within 18 months or less.


This degree is made up of three main elements. The concentration of each element is decided individually by each student when planning the degree route. The three elements are:

(a)      Studying works on shamanism from different perspectives (including anthropological and instructional works and memoirs of personal experience and travel.)

(b)      Incorporating a practical element consisting of external workshops or field trips, a journal of one’s ongoing shamanistic or neo-shamanistic practice, or a comprehensive write-up of training & experience already taken. [Calamus does not provide practical training but we can suggest groups and teachers]. Students are responsible for any expenses associated with practical training.

(c)      Electives drawn from the fields of transpersonal psychology, parapsychology, psychic studies, religious studies, contemporary spirituality, regression and reincarnation studies, and personal development. 

The syllabus for the MA Shamanistic Studies is negotiated individually according to the student’s interests and prior relevant education/ experience.  Credit can be given for certain shamanistic training programmes.  45 credits are needed to attain the MA degree. (15 x 3-credit units or equivalent; a personal project worth up to 9 credits may be included).

The MA in Shamanistic Studies gives the student an opportunity to study, through textbooks and written assignments, some of the published work of authors such as Leo Rutherford, Kenneth Meadows, Michael Harner, Sandra Ingerman, Mircea Eliade, Ross Heaven, Caitlin and John Matthews, Max Freedom Long, Wolf Moondance, Gabriel Horn, Amber Wolfe, A.P. Elkin, Serge Kahili King, Alberto Villoldo, Fred Allan Wolf and others.  In addition, you can take some units from areas such as transpersonal psychology, regression and reincarnation studies, metaphysics, contemporary spirituality, parapsychology, Jungian studies, religious studies, etc.

The taught components of the distance learning degree comprise academic study and do not in themselves include fieldwork of any kind. The degree may be taken for personal interest, as a way of gaining intellectual knowledge to supplement shamanistic training or practice, or as a way of learning more about the subject before deciding whether to commit yourself to a shamanistic or neo-shamanistic training.

Once you start the course, you may apply for further credit for any shamanistic work you do after enrolment: for example, courses, workshops, retreats, field trips, private practice as healer etc. Calamus does not arrange such events but we can suggest course providers and event organisers.  If the student has not done so already, it is strongly recommended that he or she finds a group or teacher with whom he or she can learn some forms of shamanistic practice, whether in a traditional or in a Western setting.

The MA in Shamanistic Studies is not a training in shamanism or a route to becoming a shaman: that is why it is titled “Shamanistic Studies” and not “Shamanism”.  Students may just have a personal interest in the area, or some relevant education such as religious studies or anthropology, or they might already regard themselves as shamans and be practising some form of shamanistic work.  Students need to use their own personal judgement, combined with any appropriate advice from their shamanistic mentors, as to when and if to call themselves a “shaman”.  However this course does not in itself confer the right to call oneself a shaman – it is not the purpose of the course to convey such a right. Therefore people should not claim that they have been trained to be a shaman or initiated in shamanism by Calamus International University or any member of its adjunct faculty. The course may be taken for interest only by people who may incorporate some shamanistic elements into their work or lifestyle but do not necessarily want to style themselves by the title "shaman".

What is shamanism? The word “shaman” is an anthropological term for native or indigenous people who function as healers, spiritual leaders, seers, and conductors of sacred ceremonies. The word comes from the Tungus tribe of reindeer herders in Russia. The root of the word is thought by some to be “sa” – meaning “to know” as in the French word savoir. Likewise, the words witch and wizard come from another root meaning “to know”. Shamans are usually adept at entering other states of consciousness at will, for purposes of healing, prophecy, communication with spirits, discovering knowledge, or bringing a new song, dance, story or ritual to the community. One view is that the essential skill of the shaman is to be able to leave the body to go on trance journeys.

Two questions frequently arise in discussions of shamanism: who is a true shaman and is it appropriate for shamanistic thought and methods to be spread in so-called advanced societies? There are no clear answers and we encourage open-minded thinking about these questions. Traditionally, shamans know who they are and so do members of their tribes.

This course does not support the extreme view, held by certain non-European tribal writers, that only tribal shamans can use the term “shaman”.  It is ironic that such critics may adopt use the term “shaman” to describe themselves even though it is a term of European origin and they are not European, so it could be argued that by their own logic, they have no right to use the term.  “Shaman” is a word whose modern usage transcends time and culture.

Most of the old knowledge has died or is preserved by a few.  Some traditions are only known second-hand, or are blends of knowledge from different sources. Like gurus, not all native shamans on the “New Age” workshop circuit are what they seem. Various Western authors have presented versions of an eclectic shamanism, rooted in tribal wisdom, suitable for teaching to Westerners, and styled “contemporary shamanism”, “urban shamanism”, “neo-shamanism” or other terms. Yet the non-tribal world has its own forms of work in other realities. There are techniques of energy healing, sensing the powers of flower essences, mediumship, channelling, mesmerism and hypnosis, and deep guided inner journey work and dreamwork as found in various schools of psychotherapy. There are dowsing and remote viewing. There are Wicca and the Western Mystery Traditions. Then we have astral projection, near-death experiences, past life regression and past life healing, spirit releasement and depossession, techniques of psychic protection, and healing of homes, sites and the planet using a variety of techniques including dowsing, Feng Shui, and radionics. In the world of therapies we have shamanism combined with NLP, and shamanism combined with EFT (Emotional Freedom techniques) and energy therapies, presented as unique integrated disciplines. Turning to other parts of the world, we can find the remarkable feats of advanced yoga practitioners and the trance possession, healing and other manifestations of African and Afro-Hispanic religions. And we have modern neo-shamanism as evidenced in trance dance, shamanistic postures, the later work of Castaneda, and perhaps even chaos magic.  From Hawaii, we have various modern variations of Huna taught by different trainers.  Countless blends of some of these practices and traditions exist under different names. There are people claiming that they have been initiated by spirits, and those who claim that shamans may only be initiated by a living person. Some 20th-century practices, such as LSD psychotherapy, have disappeared though interesting records remain for the student.  To complement the shamanistic studies in this degree course, the student can take a number of electives focusing on Western and other paths to altered reality and consciousness.

It could be said that shamanism has evolved and that people practising many Western "alternative" healing and psychic disciplines would be known as shamans if our societies were still tribal. 


Master's applicants should normally have a Bachelor’s degree; in some cases alternative qualifications will be considered (please send CV/resume for evaluation if necessary). Students should also show a strong interest in shamanism and have previous relevant personal experience which might come from psychic, healing or esoteric work, academic study, or other relevant knowledge or experience.

Pre-course reading

Although we do not insist on pre-course reading, the following introductory works will be helpful for people new to the study of shamanism:

Drury, Nevill. The Elements of Shamanism.  Element, 1989.

Harner, Michael. The Way of the Shaman.  HarperSanFrancisco, 1992.

Ingerman, Sandra. Shamanistic Journeying: A Beginner's Guide. Sounds True Inc. 2008.

King, Serge Kahili. Urban Shaman. Simon and Schuster, 1990.

Meadows, Kenneth. Shamanistic Experience.  Element, 1991.

Rutherford, Leo.  Principles of Shamanism. London: Thorsons, 1996.

Rutherford, Leo. The Shamanistic Path Workbook. Arima, 2006.

Scott, Gini Graham. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Shamanism.

Walsh, Roger. The World of Shamanism: New Views of an Ancient Tradition. Llewellyn, 2007.

Doctoral studies

You may also be interested in a taught doctorate such as the Doctor of Metaphysics or Doctor of Religious Studies which can be taken with a focus on shamanism.  These degrees are taught doctorates with an optional project.

A PhD by research and dissertation is available; however this degree demands sound academic writing and research skills and those without such skills may be asked to take a special course.  If you are a published author in a relevant field, it could be possible to use ongoing research for your next project as the basis of a Ph.D, subject to approval. The Ph.D. will need taught courses to be completed in addition to the dissertation if appropriate postgraduate transfer credit is not available. 


Credit requirements


Bachelor -  120 credits including transfer credits.

Master -  45 credits including any transfer credits if the degree includes a thesis, or 48 credits without a thesis.

Doctorate (taught or research) - minimum 60 credits including any transfer credits if the degree includes a dissertation, or 70 credits without a dissertation.  The Ph.D. must include a dissertation.  A research doctorate will normally incorporate postgraduate transfer credits or credits from professional trainings.  If insufficient transfer credit is available then some CIU taught course modules may need to be taken in addition to the research programme and dissertation.    


One credit is nominally equivalent to one semester hour as in the typical American degree programme. The average course unit taken with CIU has a value of 3 credits or 3 semester hours.



Further advice


This brochure cannot cover everything, and further advice is available on enquiry. For best advice, please send us a copy of your curriculum vitae or resume with details of all relevant trainings you have done.

To see our prospectus and course unit list, and also to download an application form, please go to our downloads page

To see our tuition fees on-line please go to our tuition fees page

Calamus International University which awards the degrees is not a UK or US university - for status details click here.

If you have any queries please contact us, preferably by email on

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