Shaman

From The SpiritWiki

A Shaman is an indigenous individual who induces Connection (in self and sometimes client) via Connection Practice and often with the aid of Connection Supplements. The goal of shamanic practice is to make a strong Connection to The Fabric for the purposes of healing, gathering information and insight (divination, clairvoyance), or harming another person.

Syncretic Terms

Mystic > Arendiwane, Karadji, Shaman, Shamanic Principle, Wise One

Related Terms

Shaman > Connection Supplement, Dream Experience, Drums, Guardian Boards, Holy Ones, Quartz Crystals, Sacred Stones, Shamanic Principle, Spirit Lodge

Notes

Laughlin and Rock note that scholars have had some difficulty coming up with a definition of Shaman that includes relevant contours, but note that in general a shaman is someone who occupies a positive social role (healer, priest, spiritual guide, oneirocritic, visionary) and uses altered states to do their work.[1]

"medicine men" is a misnomer. In many cultures, women are shamans."Among the Ashanti and many other African peoples, female doctors are frequent, as they are with the peoples of Borneo, Australia, and Siberia. Among North American Indians, the Creeks and Dakotas have about as many women as men shamans.[2] Amongst the Shasta of California, one becomes a shaman after having shamanic dreams. Both men and women may have such dreams and when they do, they become "doctors."[3]

The term is used by the Tungusian tribes, and was first recorded by "Russian (chiefly Cossack) explorers and conquers of eastern Siberia in the second half of the seventeenth century." [4] Laufer argues it is a term native to the North Asian tribes, and not linked to Sanskrit based traditions.

Shamanism, as practiced in ancient and modern times, revolves around the healing power of Connection, Connection Practice (like drumming) and the use of Connection Supplements to help induce a Connection Experience.

Don Antonio, an Otomi shaman, suggests shamans must have high ethical standards. Their foremost responsibility is to heal and end suffering. [5]

Dow suggests shamans use 1) biomedical treatments (drugs, herbs), 2) psychological support (comforting, reassuring) and 3) transformative psychotherapy. Shamans use insight, helped via connection to "superhuman helpers," to heal. Shamans do personal counselling, family counselling, and work with the self-esteem and will of the patient (see for example [Zaki]]) to heal. [6]

Definition: A shaman is a person who, "in a state of dissociated trance" is "capable of communicating directly with spiritual beings." [7]

Blacker divides Japanese shamans into two types, a medium and an ascetic. A medium (or miko) enters trance and channels a spirit, or is possessed by a spirit, who takes over, uses the voice and body. An ascetic is primarily a healer who gains their powers from a regime of ascetic practice. [8]

Furst notes that shamanic practices the world over share certain commonalities. "Like the ecstatic trance, divine election, animal transformation, bird-like flight of the soul, knowledge of the worlds of the spirits and of the dead, mastery of fire, rebirth from the bones, the magic arts of curing, and the guardianship of the traditions and the psychic and physical equilibrium of the community- these" [9]. Furst also suggests that early cave paintings may have reflected shamanic journeys.

Furst suggests shaman's lived in a world where there was no distinction between the sacred and profane. [10] In the ancient world, was connection more commonplace?

Krippner provides an interesting survey of healing practices in various contexts, and by various actors, including shamans, priests, mediums, sorcerers, witches, and the like.[11]

Rogers makes the interesting point that a study of shamanism should be more than just a collection of "curiosa," but may have a lot to teach us about relationship between body and mind, [12] something the western model isn't so great at doing. I would add shamanism can also teach us something about the interrelationship between the Physical Unit, the community, and Consciousness/Spiritual Ego.

Otomi Shaman Don Antonio suggests there are shamans and sorcerers. Shamans heal while sorcerers harm. Also, Otomi shamans believe that all people have a relationship with the spirits, but that shamans are simply more knowledgeable than the average person.[13]

It is believed by some that shaman's have the ability to harm and even kill using energetic/psychic darts which are shot at specific targets. For example, amongst the Shasta of California, a "pain" or a "small needle-like object" can be thrown at an individual to cause sickness. [14]

Healing

In ancient times, shamanic practice was linked to the powers of women, and ancient Goddess worship.

"Nine thousand years ago in Old Europe (throughout the Balkan areas, the Mediterranean, and the Ukraine) women were the shaman rules of the agricultural city-states. Within their temples and in their fields they performed magical mind-body practices and visualized the crops healthy and plentiful. They envisioned members of their community as prosperous. The shaman women of Old Europe descended from a much older feminine tradition of sacrality that originated in the Palaolithic period, in which women symstematized magic practices to secure plentiful food sources from the plant world. They created magical practices to protect women during pregnancy, and to bring their bodies into balance after childbirth. The magical practices of Old Europe were a continuum of feminine sacred tradition that was based on growth and nurturance."[15]

An almost universal aspect of shamanic practice is healing. [16]

The Jivaro Indians of the Ecuadorian Amazon recognize two types of Shaman, a bewitching shaman or a curing shaman. Both kinds take a connection supplement, natema, in order to enter the supernatural world. Amongst the Jivara, Shamanism is basically a man's job, though a few women shamans exist. [17]

Healing is a central component of the Mazatec shaman's practice.[18]

Healing is a central component of contemporary women's shamanic practice. [19]

Pathology? Bryce Boyer notes that Shamans are not mentally ill (as some of his time suggested) that they are generally accepted as normal by their cultures, and that in some cultures shamans are "healthier psychologically that their societal mates." [20]

Trance Channeling

"Possession-trance and spirit mediumship, the latter involving verbal communication, are the most salient characteristics of the pau’s dramatic healing rituals. During these altered consciousness states, the countenance of the pau changes, taking on the wrathful appearance of their deity and speaking with a commanding voice, impatiently demanding obedience, sometimes hurling insults at those present."[21]

"A shaman may be defined as a man or woman who is in direct contact with the spirit world through a trance state..." [22]

"In other words, it would be more correct to class shamanism among the mysticisms than with what is commonly called a religion.[23]

"In Central and Northeast Asia the chief methods of recruiting shamans are: ( 1) hereditary transmission of the shamanic profession and ( 2) spontaneous vocation ("call" or "election")."[24]

"The Jivaro believe that the true determinants of life and death are normally invisible forces which can be seen and utilized only with the aid of hallucinogenic drugs. The normal waking life is explicitly viewed as "false" or "a lie," and it is firmly believed that truth about causality is to be found by entering the supernatural world or what the Jivaro view as the "real" world, for they feel that the events which take place within it underlie and are the basis for many of surface manifestation and mysteries of daily life."[25]

There are certain common elements of the shaman's experience including the sensation of a soul as separate from the body, feelings/visions of flight, metamorphosis into an animal, bird, fish, or spirit possession, reptiles, snakes (anaconda), and large felines, especially Jaguars. [26]

The World Tree

"The shaman’s work also requires a cosmos of a specific shape. For most Siberian peoples, the cosmos appears in three superimposed layers or tiers. In the middle lies the human world. Above it lie seven layers of heavens, a number to which a Babylonian origin is usually assigned. Below it lies a dark underworld, sometimes also disposed in seven levels, in the nethermost of which stands the palace of Erlik Khan, the Lord of the Underworld, and where sometimes nine underground rivers have their mouths. Joining these various cosmic levels at the very centre of the universe is a marvellous giant Tree. With its roots in the lowest underworld and its crown of branches in the highest heaven, this Tree in all its splendour is at once the axis of the cosmos and the source of ever-renewing life. Thus the shaman, as he travels either upwards to heaven or downwards to the underworld, to planes sealed off from ordinary ungifted persons, follows the ‘hole’ made through the universe by this Tree. His journey is therefore made at the very centre and core of the cosmos." [27]


Footnotes

  1. Laughlin, Charles D., and Adam J. Rock. “What Can We Learn from Shamans’ Dreaming? A Cross-Cultural Exploration.” Dreaming 24, no. 4 (December 2014): 233–52. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0038437.
  2. Rogers, Spencer L. The Shaman: His Symbols and His Healing Power. Illinois: Charles Thomas Publishers, 1982. p. 26.
  3. Dixon, Roland B. “Some Shamans of Northern California.” The Journal of American Folklore 17, no. 64 (1904): 23. https://doi.org/10.2307/533984.
  4. Laufer, Berthold. “Origin of the Word Shaman.” American Anthropologist 19, no. 3 (1917): 361-371. p. 361.
  5. Dow, James. The Shaman’s Touch. Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, 1986.
  6. Dow, James. The Shaman’s Touch. Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, 1986.
  7. Blacker, Carmen. The Catalpa Bow: A Study of Shamanistic Practices in Japan. Taylor & Francis, 1999. p. 3-4.
  8. Blacker, Carmen. The Catalpa Bow: A Study of Shamanistic Practices in Japan. Taylor & Francis, 1999. p. 4.
  9. Furst, Peter. “The Roots and Continuities of Shamanism.” Artscanada, 1974. p. 34
  10. Furst, Peter. “The Roots and Continuities of Shamanism.” Artscanada, 1974. p. 34
  11. Krippner, Stanley. Spiritual Dimensions of Healing. New York: Irvington Publishers, 1992.
  12. Rogers, Spencer L. The Shaman: His Symbols and His Healing Power. Illinois: Charles Thomas Publishers, 1982.
  13. Dow, James. The Shaman’s Touch. Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, 1986.
  14. Dixon, Roland B. “Some Shamans of Northern California.” The Journal of American Folklore 17, no. 64 (1904): 23. https://doi.org/10.2307/533984. p. 24.
  15. Jamal, Michele. Shape Shifter: Shaman Women in Contemporary Society. New York: Arkana, 1987. p. 5
  16. Peters, Larry. Tibetan Shamanism: Ecstasy and Healing. California: North Atlantic Books, 2016.
  17. Harner, Michael J. The Jivaro: People of the Sacred Waterfals. London: Robert Hale & Company, 1972.
  18. Wasson, R. Gordon, George Cowan, Florence Cowan, and Willard Rhodes. Maria Sabina and Her Mazatec Mushroom Velada. Flo. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974.
  19. Jamal, Michele. Shape Shifter: Shaman Women in Contemporary Society. New York: Arkana, 1987.
  20. Boyer, L. Bryce. “Shamans: To Set the Record Straight.” American Anthropologist 71, no. 2 (1969): 307-8. p. 308.
  21. Peters, Larry. Tibetan Shamanism: Ecstasy and Healing. California: North Atlantic Books, 2016.
  22. Harmless, William. Mystics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. p. xi.
  23. Eliade, Mircea. Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. New York: Penguin Books, 1989. p. 8.
  24. Eliade, Mircea. Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. New York: Penguin Books, 1989. p. 13.
  25. Harner, Michael J. The Jivaro: People of the Sacred Waterfals. London: Robert Hale & Company, 1972. p.134
  26. Harner, Michael J. “Hallucinogens and Shamanism: The Question of a Trans-Cultural Experience.” In Hallucinogens and Shamanism, edited by Michael J Harner, 155–75. New York: Oxford University Press, 1973.
  27. Blacker, Carmen. The Catalpa Bow: A Study of Shamanistic Practices in Japan. Taylor & Francis, 1999. p. 7.
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