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Shamanism

 
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Terri R.
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Joined: 21 Apr 2004
Posts: 257
Location: So. Calif.

PostPosted: Wed Apr 28, 2004 10:25 pm    Post subject: Shamanism Reply with quote

Prehistoric paintings indicate that shamanism was practiced in Europe at least 25,000 years ago. However, shamanism has been found in most tribal cultures in every continent, from Alaska to Borneo. The witch doctors of Africa (sangomas), medicine men of North America, yogis of India, witches and wizards of Europe, and the vegetalistas of Peru, are all shamans who, more or less, follow the same practices.

The word Shaman comes from Siberia, from the language of the Evenk. Among the Tungus of Siberia it is both a noun and a verb, though the Tungus have no word for shamanism. Historians of religion and others in society use the word "shamanism" to designate the experience and the practices of the shaman. Therefore, "shamanism" is a description of an experience, not the name of a religion, or group of religions. 

Much of what we see today in many of the "New Age" circles, such as "Trance Dance," is a new form of so-called shamanism and has little connection to real shamanism. During my exhaustive search for Web sites on this particular practice, I came to the conclusion that real Shamans (and I mean no offense to anyone claiming the title of "Shaman") do not have Web sites... they probably don't even own computers! Smile I did, however, find a page with an excellent overview of Shamanism, by Dean Edwards. http://deoxy.org/shaover.htm#2

The essence of shamanism is the ability of the shaman to enter a trance, or dream state of altered consciousness, and use their ability to bring about changes in the physical world. At times, the person they are healing will also be brought into this same state. (Because of the profound emotional states that can be entered into during some rituals, you should always look into the background and credentials of anyone you plan to consult.)

The techniques used by a shaman include rattling, chanting, drumming, dancing, and the taking of natural hallucinogenic drugs. Drums are a feature of the northern shamanic traditions, whereas rattles and hallucinogenic plants are significant in South America. In Peru, shamans are known as Vegetalistas because of their skilled use of dangerous plants. They also believe that knowledge, particularly medicinal knowledge, comes from the plants themselves. Among the "plant teachers," large trees are considered to be very powerful.  Trance, altered states of consciousness, and even hypnosis has been used by every culture in one form or another throughout human civilization. 

Shamans also use herbal medicine and cleansing rituals. Traditionally, shamans were not only highly skilled at healing the sick but had the ability to foretell the future, interpret dreams, and ward off evil spirits. Shamans in the hunting societies were men, often having status equal to that of a chief or leader. In the more agrarian societies of India, Asia, and Africa, many shamans were women, and in Korea, all shamans are women.
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