It should come as no surprise that the definition of shamanism is profoundly contested terrain. One of the problems has been that definitions of shamanism have been entangled in our own political and cultural concerns. We see in the figure of the shaman what we need to see — cultural resister, compassionate healer, master of ecstasy, psychotherapist, embodiment of indigenous wisdom. Shamans — irreducibly individual humans — thus become petrified, mute objects of our own imagination, stripped of language and voice; we face the shaman and repeat what postcolonial theorist Gayatri Spivak calls the “obsessively self-centered” question, Who are we? How are we?

After all, the term shamanism is simply an anthropological construct; there was no –ism to it until anthropologists put it there. Religious scholar Daniel Noel calls the concept of shamanism “fantastic, fictive, a work of imagination”; anthropologist Michael Taussig calls it “the Western projection of a Siberian name”; historian Andy Letcher calls it an “orientalist construct.” Like other anthropological constructs — think of terms such as totem, taboo, fetish — a word and practice found in one particular culture is used to label more or less similar practices in other cultures which are more or less distant, geographically or conceptually, from the original. It is, of course, in the more-or-less that the trouble lies, for four reasons.

First, it is inherently problematic to analogize across cultural lines. An American tattoo and a Tahitian tatu share ink pushed under the skin with a needle, but have such different — and often shifting — social meanings that we can question whether it is appropriate to call them by the same name; similar arguments would apply to generalizing the idea of shamanism outside the Siberian-Arctic complex. Second, the labeling of a practice in one culture with a word from another can be — or be construed as — a political act of imposition or appropriation; many Native Americans, for example, object strongly to having their traditional healers called shamans, as a term imposed from outside by the dominant culture. Third, calling someone a shaman is what Gayatri Spivak calls a catachresis — a linguistic error that subsumes the particular histories and lives of individual shamans under what she calls a master word, thus naming and defining their ineluctably unique experiences. And, fourth, defining the exotic other is a form of what Jean Baudrillard calls museumification, a way to label and then shelve the living specimens of our inquiry.

So what can we do? Part of the problem lies, perhaps, in how we think about defining things. Lawyers often break down a concept such as ownership into a metaphorical “bundle of sticks.” Ownership, for example, consists of a bundle of rights in property — rights to sell, lease, share, bequeath, donate, alter, repair, alienate, or destroy. Owning different things, or owning the same thing under different circumstances, may alter the number or type of sticks included in the bundle. So what I propose is a a shamanic bundle of sticks.

  • The shaman has a special relationship with the spirits, different from that of people who are not shamans. Relationships with these other-than-human persons, like relationships with human persons, are often subject to renegotiation, and may involve different and shifting amounts of power on either side. Relationships with different spirits may involve different degrees of trust, persuasion, control, or subordination. These other-than-human persons, like human persons, may be helpful, harmful, callous, malicious, indifferent, or tricky, and they may unilaterally terminate their relationship with the shaman. Such relationships with the spirit world may be considered demanding, dangerous, and exhausting.
  • The shaman has a special way of interacting with the spirits, different from that of people who are not shamans. The means of contacting, visiting, or inviting the spirits include, but are not limited to, ingesting psychoactive plants and mushrooms, fasting, dreaming, drumming, dancing, and undergoing states of pain, deprivation, and isolation.
  • The shaman interacts with these other-than-human persons on behalf of human persons, either individually, as clients, or as a community. The shaman may interact with the spirits as his or her own client as well, as when, say, seeking revenge against another shaman; but the actions of the shaman are embedded in community values, beliefs, and expectations.
  • At least some of the shaman’s performances are public, and involve the elements of dramatic performance — props, costumes, music, movement, players, audience, plots, comedy, suspense, stagecraft, conjuring, poetry, and dialogue. The shaman’s performance very often has a rhythmic accompaniment — a drum, a rattle, a maraca, a bundle of leaves tied together by a cord.
  • The shaman shares with the community a belief system, very frequently animistic, which constitutes a theoretical justification of the shamanic performance, although the shaman may have more elaborate metatheoretical constructs, as well as a greater knowledge of mythology, history, genealogy, rules, and plant and animal lore than people who are not shamans.
  • The shaman has a distinct social role in the community, and this social role may have a specific name.
  • The shaman sees things that people who are not shamans cannot. The shaman may be able to find lost objects, know where game is plentiful, discern who has cast a curse, diagnose the location or cause of an illness, persuade the animals to give themselves for food, or heal the sick by retrieving a lost soul or by removing intrusive objects from the body. The shaman may perform one, a few, or many of these functions.
  • The shaman’s relationship with other-than-human persons is usually achieved only after arduous training. A person may become a shaman willingly or unwillingly, sometimes after a life-threatening accident or illness, or may inherit or purchase the role.
  • The shaman’s power may be encapsulated as a physical object — a stone, a crystal, darts, phlegm, poison — kept hidden inside the shaman’s body. The shaman’s power may be manifest as one or more songs which the shaman has been taught by the spirits, and which may be in secret, archaic, or unintelligible languages.
  • The shaman can use the same techniques and objects to harm or kill that can be used to help or heal.

People may have a few or many of these sticks in their bundle; different people may have different bundles, with many, or few, or even no sticks in common. Yet they may all be shamans, or we may decide that one has just too few sticks, or just the wrong combination of sticks, to be included.

Now we can — I hope — engage in constructive discussion about these sticks. Perhaps I have left out some important sticks; perhaps some of the sticks I have included are only of marginal importance. But this approach has the advantage of directing debate toward specific features of the complex rather than toward a search for its single defining feature.

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20 Responses to “Who is a Shaman?”

  1. Marco says:

    In another post (I saw it in the past few days, but I couldn’t find it again), you stated that modern ayahuasca-based religious movements are not shamanic. Could you explain how you came to that conclusion?

    I was introduced to the drink called ayahuasca through the Santo Daime movement and have become familiar with it. I tested its ‘shamanity’ against the items in your bundle (of joy?). I checked eight of the ten items with a ‘yes, participants do that or have that.’ The two that didn’t fit were #6 ‘special role in the community’ and #10 ‘harm as well as heal.’

    The main difference between that movement and traditional practices with the drink — as far as I can tell and I will happily defer to your erudition — is that it is a collective practice in which the creation of a group ‘current’ of energy is important. I was told by another expert on Amazon cultures that it is virtually never drunk collectively with that purpose in traditional practice. There are a lot of other surface differences, most having to do with the prominence of Catholic motifs and symbols. And of course the drink itself is experienced as sacrament with obvious reference to the Catholic mass. But as you noted yourself abundantly, ayahuasqueros tend to be syncretic and inclusive anyway.

    I would appreciate your comments on this.

  2. Steve Beyer says:

    You raise a very interesting question, and I will have to think about it. Indeed, my inconsistency goes even deeper. As you know, there are numerous structural similarities between Santo Daime and the Native American Church; yet I am inclined to see Native American Church ceremonies as being shamanic, or at least as having significant shamanic components. Perhaps I am more heavily weighting the idea of the shaman as being the active agent of healing and the patient — or the community — as being relatively passive in the healing process; perhaps I am privileging the sucking shaman as being paradigmatic of the role. Hmmm.

    I always enjoy receiving your comments. Thank you for giving me something to think about. :-)

    – Steve

  3. Marco says:

    I think the issue of playing a specialized role in the community deserves attention. Santo Daime fardados are church members, parishioners, and hold all kinds of occupations in society. They do not offer shamanic services to ‘clients.’

    There is, however, such a thing as praying for others — translation: performing healing work. And, even beyond that, the difference may be less clearcut than it looks.

    I am a Northern resident of one of the large, cosmopolitan cities of the North. In your universalist vs. indigenist dichotomy, I would definitely be a universalist. My main motivation is keeping my head above water and if someone throws me a buoy, I am not going to make sure I grab it in the properly prescribed traditional way. I am just going to grab it.

    One thing I have been discovering over a year and a half of practice is that I often find myself performing a role in my own culture (Northern, urban, cosmopolitan) that would be easy to call shamanic.

    How do I define that word? Well, I am really afraid to do that in such expert company, but I will say that it has to do with perceiving consciousness and therefore society as a malleable medium that can be acted upon deliberately. Getting less vague than this would be a careless move. The point is this: there is a specialized learning that takes place, and, like it or not, it transforms your role in your interactions with others.

    So, are members of the Santo Daime in the cities of the North shamans? Is there such a thing as an urban shaman? Some people define themselves as such, even get business cards printed and offer consultations. In some cases, this reaches the border of silliness — and boldly crosses it. Yet it seems to me that, to the extent that traditional shamanic tools have become available to outsiders in very secular environments, the definition of a shaman in terms of his relationship to his broader social community deserves to be framed in more general terms than the client/practitioner relationship.

    How much of that perception is valid in Brazil? I am heading there for the first time and I will let you know.

    ” ‘Cause something is happening here
    And you don’t know what it is
    Do you, Mr. Jones?”

    Bob Dylan, Ballad of a Thin Man

  4. Marco says:

    More on who might be a shaman:

    Bia Labate is a Brazilian anthropologist specializing in the study of ayahuasca-based syncretic religions, neo-shamanism, urban shamanism and other recently evolved hybrid phenomena. She brings intellectual rigor and a wide-open curiosity to the understanding of these developments that don’t fit established categories.

    If you can read Portuguese, here is a good interview of her:

    http://p.php.uol.com.br/tropico/html/textos/1667,1.shl

    And this is a link to Alto das Estrelas, the institute she founded:

    http://alto-das-estrelas.blogspot.com

    The site has some stuff in English and a large archive, including presentations on visionary visual artists.

    Bia is active in NIEP, a coalition of Brazilian academics to bring sanity to the study of sacred plants:

    http://www.neip.info/

    She has been a consultant to various film and TV projects on these topics but I haven’t got those links yet.

  5. Marco says:

    Even more:

    http://www.neip.info/downloads/edward/chapter6.htm

    A chapter from an e-book on the NEIP website dealing directly with the continuities as well as discontinuities between mestizo shamanism and the Santo Daime practices. The rest of the e-book is interesting too, but this section is right on the topic of who might be, should be or shouldn’t be called a shaman.

  6. Anonymous says:

    with all due respect to your essay on who is a Shaman, I would like to add another rite of passage on becoming a shaman which is sadly overlooked perhaps due to others ignorance about it. and this is the trangendered individual who is a shaman. This type of shaman was
    created with having the male & female spirit, and is capable of walking in both worlds in the physical dimension and the spiritual dimension. a powerful shaman indeed.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I hope the Anonymous that posted that message could see that reply.
    The transgendered individual having the male & female spirit and becoming a shaman is the big “missed topic” in the discussion about shamanism.
    I feel this has something to do with the definition of “nagual” in spite of the known defintion of “double” as referring to the animal double.
    I wish you, and the knowledgeable Steve if he wish, could expand on the subject.
    I also believe that the sacred liar Castaneda refers to the “Naguals” as “double spirit” individuals (not necessary male+female but just double energetic body individuals) but, at the date, is the only one talking about it that i came across.
    Intriguing subject….
    By the way, Steve, congrats for the way you approach shamanism, very few like you. But then with such a curriculum…..

  8. Marco says:

    Dear Steve,

    To begin with, it is great to have you back posting after your break, with your trademark sharpness and eclecticism, and, it seems, a renewed appreciation for your visitors’ contributions. Your writing is outstanding. It is unique and quirky, but at the same time it shows your commitment to accelerating the flow of information and being useful within the global evolution we are all experiencing. I am grateful that your blog exists.

    Congratulations on your book’s publication. I can’t wait.

    This is a follow-up to my comments from last year under “Who Is a Shaman?” I hope this place is appropriate for it. If not, please post it where you think it belongs.

    [Digressing: is there any way to index – by date? by topic? alphabetically? – your now abundant list of articles?]

    I think the question of whether the ayahuasca-derived organized religions deserve to be called shamanic hinges on another issue: is shamanism something that happens only in traditional cultures and disappears in the modern world, or is it a universal product of all human societies? I do not know if any learned opinions about this question exist. Maybe you do…?

    You can guess where I stand on the issue. I think that, beyond all the culture-specific activities and the local color, shamanism is simply the set of all the practices that seek to affect life by consciously acting in the invisible – “astral” or “spiritual” – realm. Within that definition, in North America, traditions like Christian Science, Religious Science or even “Think and Grow Rich”-type systems could be viewed as forms of Western shamanism, albeit primitive ones from the point of view of a practitioner from a “primitive” culture. The notion of “treating” a problem by changing the way one perceives it strikes me as eminently shamanic.

    Are there shamans in New York City? I don’t mean shamans from South America leading workshops or dabblers who put that word in their resume. I mean people who act upon the collectively created reality called New York City the way a traditional shaman affects his village’s culture. Here again, I’d say the answer depends on whether one believes that there is indeed an invisible, astral or spiritual realm. Questions within questions within questions… An Amazonian Russian doll.

    My own answer is yes (and yes and yes). There is a fabric which is made of the combined worldviews of human beings. We call that fabric the world. We all influence it through our thoughts and perceptions, and the only pertinent distinction is whether we do so deliberately or unconsciously. In that perspective, the person who reads the “Daily Word” in the morning and sets out to spend the day with a – for example’s sake – grateful attitude IS a shaman. Obviously, I cannot prove it because it depends on how one defines the term. But I offer as supporting evidence the fact that it would not occur to a member of a traditional culture to do that kind of thing. On the other hand, our society does not acknowledge this hypothetical person with a special name or function and that scores a point for “no”, because the question “who is a shaman?” is essentially a sociological or anthropological one.

    I am a Daimist. As I posted here before, I believe the main difference between something like the Santo Daime and shamanic use of the tea is the collective “current” in the ceremonies (“corrente” in Portuguese) which has no equivalent in traditional Amazon cultures. Yes, the moral ambiguity of the shaman’s role gets lost in the Daime’s Christian manicheism. Yes, some specific practices like darts and phlegms are not part of it. But the attitude towards the invisible, the visible and their interrelationship is the same. And let me assure you, Santo Daime people take the issue of healing or curing quite seriously.

    Sorry for being so long-winded. I had to get it off my chest.

  9. Rianne says:

    I think being a shaman in this time of day is more about standing in direct contact with the planet(which you can indeed see as a spirit), respect and love all life on it, cause simply everything is alive, and seeing the greater vision behind it all instead of just the personal human view, using that to open other people’s eyes so maybe we can all together bring everything back into balance..

  10. Rianne says:

    To think we live in a society where people are afraid of psychedelic substances, shamans are badly needed to bring out the knowledge they learn from their experiences to other people who are afraid to find out for theirselves, to show them what’s going on.. So maybe finally there will be somekind of change, in which people and nature are not completely alienated from each other anymore.

  11. Caitanya says:

    “The shaman has a special relationship with the spirits, different from that of people who are not shamans”.

    Some people have these complex relationships and are not concerned with being considered shamans by themselves or others. One such is a Grandmother in the Santo Daime tradition who brought the Umbanda rituals, beliefs and influence forward into the syncretic SD mix. As a little girl a powerful shaman had a profound influence on her, and while she is now an elder, or a Madrinha in the SD church, she doesn’t present herself as a shaman. She incorporates many different beings from the spirit realms during large ceremonies where healing is administered to others, calls into the ceremonial works the Umbanda spirits from that tradition, Saints from the Catholic tradition and spirits of the Amazon forest where she lives. There is absolutely no question when your working with her that she is masterful and competent in her relationships to the spirit world. She would qualify in any category Steve has listed above and yet isn’t interested at all in the question of what she is, but only concerns herself with individual, personal, community and Global healing.

    http://www.grandmotherscouncil.com/about.html#maria_alice

    Although the element of collective shamanism is often used to refer to those doing works in the SD tradition, that doesn’t make everyone involved a shaman, but it is also very possible that together they are performing as an individual shaman might, affecting many of the same outcomes as a shaman would, and using many of the same methods, only doing so together and as a group. It’s collective shamanism, and it’s shamanism of a new kind, and it has many elders within it who would easily qualify as a shaman should they choose that function and relationship to their community as an individual. In my experience with them the room is not full of shamans, but instead can, at times, and even without an elder present, affect clear shamanic outcomes for the benefit of those present.

    I don’t think we need to soften the definition of a shaman in any way to encompass shamanic style relationships with spirits. I don’t think simply applying shamanic techniques to a situation classifies that person as a shaman and yet that all those applications may have very beneficial outcomes. I don’t think that having classic types of shamanic experiences signifies one as a shaman either. I think those experiences come with the territory when practicing indigenous animist spirituality and that the spirits interact in similarly archetypal and informative ways.

    One important element I didn’t see mentioned above in the list is initiation, both by an existing shaman as he or she passes the mantle to the next generation and everything involved in that transfer, and also the all important initiation undertaken by the spirits themselves on the one becoming a shaman. With both it is only undertaken after much training has taken place and the elder, or spirits, or both together decide it is time. When the gift of a lineage is bestowed in this way then you have a shaman with all the attendant responsibilities to his or her community, and one with a conscious relationship to the guiding and helping spirits who will dictate how that relationship should be carried out.

  12. Ken Mori says:

    Wonderful sight Steve! And wonderful contributors! Thank you all. Caitanya’s comment is beautiful, and reflects a truth for some (but not all) that deep interaction with the spirit world is facillitated with deep humility and little outward expression of “Shamanism.”

    What is a Shaman remains a fascinating question for some of us; for me, it is connected to my own questions about my relationship with spirits. I am still early in a process of learning about the spirits that are drawn to come through me to help and heal. And my relationship with ‘dark’ spirits that feed like mosquitoes on strong emotions and pain. I consider myself a family shaman (not speaking of it openly), working on the energetic present, past, and future of my spouse and children. My limited energy is best focused close to home. Yet even within this limited realm, I have found there to be spirit energy along ancestral lines that is much more than I can heal and acceptingly compost back into the smooth fabric of life supporting dream. So I try to get out of the way and let the helping spirits do the work.

    All of the above is prelude to this perspective: We are all shamanic beings (plants, animals, and all of creation included) whether we know it or not. Every thought and interaction has spirit dimensions. We are all living a remarkable shamanic adventure with daily initiations, quests, and heroic journeys. Armed with humility, acceptance, and gratitude: Fare well Sisters and Brothers!

  13. Oaktree says:

    To your comment under “Natufian Shaman” about the “ongoing kerfuffle” regarding Upper Paleolithic art and shamanism – kerfuffle it is ;), but I would very much appreciate an answer to my questions regarding the “neuropsychological model” for altered states of consciousness proposed by Lewis-Williams et al. Derived from pre-1970 literature on ingestion of psychedelics (e.g. Heinrich Klüver and Ronald Siegel) as well as more recent laboratory experiments they developed a what they call an “idealized” form of three overlapping stages experienced in ASC – “entoptics” > trying to make sense of these geometric forms > passage into the third stage via a tunnel or vortex followed by iconic hallucinations. They speak of an “idealized form” because apparently not everybody necessarily experiences the different stages as outlined, but on the other hand the “idealized form” is fully applied to the Upper Paleolithic parietal art. Furthermore they state that “ a broad similarity between drug-induced and non-drug induced states can be accepted” and therefore they lump a great variety of ASC under the blanket of the neuropsychological model. However, the neuropsychologist Dr. Patricia Helvenston together with Paul Bahn claim that the “three stages of trance model” as they call it “is most consistent with hallucinations produced by the ingestion of mescaline, LSD, and psilocybin” and since none of these substances were available during the Franco-Cantabrian Upper Paleolithic that settles the Lewis- Williams et al hypothesis regarding art and shamanism. On the other hand the renowned British mycologist Roy Watling apparently states that Psilocybe semilanceata may well have been present in this area and at that particular time. Be as it may, unless evidence for the use of this mushroom can be found at cave art sites or at campsites this does not take us any further.
    To my knowledge neither L-W nor Helvenston or Bahn have ever used psychedelics (neither have I). I would, therefore, very much like to hear from you
    • whether the three stages of the neuropsychological model are indeed only most consistent with the intake of mescaline, LSD, and psilocybin (what about the Coso – jimsonweed and the Tukano – yajé mentioned by L-W) or whether in your opinion the three stages could possibly also apply to ASC induced by vigorous dancing (San as per L-W), drumming, singing, fasting, etc., etc. all outlined by L-W.
    For example I cannot see any evidence for the model in Anisimov’s description of an Evenk shamanic performance.
    • Could geometric imaging occur in a variety of ASC even if the continuation does not agree with the model, e.g. a circle of light or a star floating past and combined with beautiful colors and or light may at times be seen in meditation, but I certainly would not apply the entire neuropsychological model to such a practice.

    There would be many more questions one could raise, but despite the fact that the hypothesis of ‘Upper Paleolithic artist shamans’ is rather tenuous, it has had a tremendous impact – Lewis-Williams and Pearson have traveled with their neuropsychological model into the Neolithic, some scholars have started to use the magic word ‘shamanic’ for prehistoric rock art images or just geometric forms in different parts of the world.
    Would love to hear your answers and thanks for your time.

  14. Steve Beyer says:

    I attempted a response to this comment over here. Take a look and let me know what you think.

  15. The shaman is the archetype of all artists.

    Here are some ideas from the book Nierika that I am about to publish…

    “Visionary art is evidence of a world that does not yet fully exist; a world that we are calling into being through the very act of creating and participating in the work. This is not an art that will support the present system of environmental exploitation, social alienation and spiritual commodification. This art is not just painting–though it is that–not just poetry, nor just music, nor just something for a target audience to consume. This art is an integration of creative manifestation and daily life; of technical craft, spiritual practice and cultural experimentation. Visionary art is dissolving the boundaries between audience and performer, between work and play, between activism and prayer. In this way we are returning to the tribal, shamanic roots of art, tapping into an endless potential for healing, community and transformation.”
Eve Bradford, synergenesis.org

    Inspiration is a textured energetic field. It is coloured and transparent. From the quantum void (the field of infinite possibilities) the essence of this fabric (the matrix of creativity) weaves itself into alchemical correspondence through the artist vessel and into the physical world as visionary work of art. The artist vessel is an empty recipient: feminine yin force. The muse fills the empty vessel with inspiration: masculine yang force.

    “The shaman transmutes the visions seen under states of trance through sacred art; these methods of communication are at the basis of the shamanic path.” Terrence Mckenna, Foods of the Gods

    Art is connected to life and to breath. The word inspiration communicates drawing air into the lungs and is related to the primal breath. Pneuma from the ancient Greek word soul πνεῦμα, signifies breath, wind, spirit. The word etymology comes from the Greek etymon; true meaning, from ‘etymos’ true and logos, word. Inspiration is the blessing of transmitting a message and communicating through the sacred language of art.

    “The term entheogen derives from a Greek word meaning “to realize the divine within” and was used by the ancient Greeks to describe states of poetry or prophetic inspiration. Greek knowledge is seeing. The word physis derives from the Greeks and means originally to see the essential nature of all things.” 
Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2073597992/chemical-theatre

    • Dr Tathata says:

      When you quote Terrance McKenna you quote someone who has no ‘authority’ beyond his own made up opinions and ideas. He didn’t know what he was talking about. He was a profoundly confused and misleading individual and a false prophet. So, don’t quote a Bozo like McKenna to me–it makes me think you haven’t got a clue and have never done your homework and are not to be taken seriously.

      • david says:

        McKenna was a philosopher. He was actually an ethnopharmacologist who, despite what you claim, was actually very knowledgeable in the realms he spoke of when it came to using entheogens or plants as medicine. Of course we all like to speculate on the origin of life, language and society; McKenna was no exception. Of course nobody has any proof of the origins of language use. Of course nobody knows where the origin of life began. But it is all irrelevant. McKenna opened minds. McKenna was an inspiration for many, and he taught an entire generation how to use entheogens in a safe way through his lectures and writings.

        Your tone is accusatory and judgmental. If you want to convince people, it is a better method to try and come to understandings, not lay down broad judgments i.e. “He was a profoundly confused and misleading individual and a false prophet. ” This is your opinion. Who is to say who is a legitimate prophet? Is there some test for this? Who is to say our entire society isn’t confused and mislead? And I don’t believe McKenna called himself a prophet, ever. Before you attack a dead man’s legacy you should be careful of the judgments you pass.

        And please, stop trying to enforce your ownership of the word “shaman.” It is a word that was used by westerners to describe a whole swath of people who communicate with spirits for the good of the community (usually).

      • BarryWhite says:

        Dr. Tathata, thank you for mentioning that you are a doctor.

  16. Dr Tathata says:

    Look–whatever efforts you may make at escaping the banal and pursuing the sacred–it IS NOT and CANNOT be Shaman-ism. I lived with Maria Sabina and what she practiced was definitely NOT Shamanism. A Shaman is a role and a vocation for a person living in archaic times, with an entirely different cognitive model of reality–a reality that was sexualized and spiritualized. They had various jobs to do. The ‘techniques of the sacred’ that were employed to preserve the psychic harmony of the community and retrieve lost souls were dependent on a view of intervening in a different sort of order of things that any modern person can realize. Look–you have a world view inherited from materialistic scientific concepts. You cannot simply throw it away. Without the archaic view of the Universe, Shaman-ism is meaningless. Say you are a psycho-naut. Say you are a seeker after the Holy–say you are a student of wisdom or even an advocate of natural healing–but don’t call yourself a Shaman–it would be a lie. So–what was Maria Sabina, then? She was a Spiritual Healer, a Spiritual Savant, an Oracle, and a Psychopomp. But she was not a Shaman. She did not climb the cosmic tree. She chanted the name of the Catholic Saints, for Christ’s sake. Catholicism was the foundation of her spiritual model. So, whatever you think you are doing exploring your soul with entheogens–call it something other than Shamanism–if you have any regard for the truth of the matter.

  17. BarryWhite says:

    Yes, I have some concerns. I work in the psychic field. I have had many visions. and Im getting massively attacked. not so much darts cause I can handle that. more attacked at the physical level, and my family also. Yes this is a real issue for me. unfortunately. Im worried about what I have to do re: my job and woudl like your advice. I will leave my job if I have to, but good grief I dont want to. And I can handle myself. Im not going to become an evil sorcerer, I already handled that part of me. I know I get ‘possessed’ at times. I already saw that werid part of myself. I have who-knows-who whether they are in-body or what doing stuff to me. yes I do have the vision and whatnot and at times I am uberconfused. Im working on getting a teacher again. Hard to know who to trust. As you say, shamans are unpredictable. Everyone is human. You can trust God and the inner guru that is about it folks. Anyhow just wanted to hear comments. Cause Im getting hammered. maybe I am a beginner still but any comments are appreciated. name is fake thanks.


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