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Friday, January 10, 2014

12:15 am est 


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What is Shamanism?

Despite the seemingly universal nature of shamanism, different cultures and individuals have elaborated distinctive forms of shamanic practice. Shamanism as a practice has rarely become a formal social institution. Almost everywhere, shamanism was in the past and still is today a set of local activities and perspectives, rather than an ethnic or national institution.

Five fundamental features define shamanic perspectives or worldviews.

1. Shamanic practitioners share the conviction that all entities- animate or otherwise-are imbued with a holistic life force, vital energy, consciousness, soul, spirit, or some other ethereal or immaterial substance that transcends the laws of classical physics. Much of the shaman’s long training is dedicated to developing a high ethic, a value system founded on a deep reverence for all life. (Tedlock 05) The Polynesian mana, Lakota wakanda, Peruvian causay, Chinese Taoist ch’I are conceived of as powerful forces that permeate everything.

2. Shamans believe in the web of life in which all things are interdependent and interconnected; there is a cause and effect relationship between different dimensions, forces, and entities of the cosmos.

3. Shamans organize this complex reality by saying the world is constructed in a series of levels connected by a central axis in the form of a world tree or mountain. (Tedlock 05) Shamans travel to these worlds moving up or down through the cosmic levels and sometimes sideways into alternative worlds upon the earth.
The shamans of the mountains in Peru travel through a three world cosmology, the Ukhupatcha, the underworld, the Kaypacha, the middle world- this world as we know it, and the Hanakapatcha, the upperworld. There are sub worlds of stones, plants, ancestors, angelics and more. The shaman will travel to these worlds to perform soul retrievals, destiny retrievals and healing for the community.

4.Societies everywhere designate certain individuals as taking on the role of “shaman” for their group. Such people have the capacity to understand and change events in the ordinary world. They can accomplish this during normal waking consciousness or more typically they will enter an altered state of consciousness by rattling, drumming, fasting, undertaking a vision quest, engaging in lucid dreaming and luminous awareness. Shamans are people of percept. When they want to change the world, they engage in perceptual shifts that change their relationship to life. They envision the possible, and the outer world changes.

Compared with their peers, shamans excel in insight, imagination, fluency in language, and knowledge of cultural tradition. That knowledge lies at the heart of shamanism is indicated by indigenous terms for shamans from cultures all over the globe. The term shaman itself comes from the Evenki language of Siberia and means “the one who knows.” Other terms for shaman refer to key characteristics of their public performances, including Sakha- oyuun, “to jump, leap, or play,” Yurok- kegey,”one who sits or meditates as a practice”, Buryat -khatarkha, “to dance or trot like a reindeer,” and Huichol mara’akame, “singer.” Because shamans are able to prophesy, to see and know things that ordinary people cannot, in Inuit they are called wabinu, “seeing person”, and angakut, “seeing with closed eyes.”(Tedlock 05) Shamans are known for their superb concentration. During a journey they must focus for long periods without distraction, but their attention is not fixed immovably on a single object as is a yogi’s. Rather, their attention is fluid, moving freely as their journey unfolds.
The shaman is an empiricist. The shaman depends primarily on firsthand experience, of the senses , to aquire knowledge.

The shaman operates in non-ordinary reality only a small portion of her time, and then only as needed to perform shamanic tasks, for shamanism is a part time activity. The master shaman is usually an active participant in society.

5. Shamans recognize extraordinary forces, entities, or beings whose behavior in an alternative reality affects individuals and events in our ordinary world. They understand that actions or rituals performed in the ordinary reality can lead to effects in the alternative sphere.

At the heart of shamanic practice is the active pursuit of knowledge. Shamans are primarily concerned with the maintenance or the restoration of equilibrium in all elements of the individual as well as the cosmos. Shamans, like scientists, personally pursue research into the mysteries of the universe, and believe that the underlying causal processes of that universe are hidden from ordinary view. (Harner)

The Nature of Shamanism

Shamanism consists of both a healing practice and a religion sensibility, with startling similarities between shamanistic ideas and activities in cultures as far apart as Siberia, the Amazon basin, Southeast Asia, and Nepal.

Birth and death provide key actions and metaphors within these shamanic systems, and novice shamans are said to ”to be born to” or “to die to” the profession. Later, in their subsequent practices, they may assist at actual births and deaths.

In the distant past there probably were purely shamanistic communities, but today shamanism is only one spiritual strand mixed together with others, including, in various degrees, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and various folk religions. Because it lacks an institutional framework and a central figure, shamanism appears, disappears, and reappears in varied historical and political settings. Flexible and innovative, shamanic ideas have been adapted in the remotest jungles and deserts on earth, in the courts of Mayan kings and Chinese emperors, among intellectuals in post-Soviet Siberia, and contemporary pagans in Europe, North America, and Australia. (Tedlock 05)

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