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Thread: Shamanism - your perspectives

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    Cool Shamanism - your perspectives

    Greetings.
    I am currently writing a paper on the history of intellectual thought regarding Shamanism (title: "From Devil-Worship to Universal Religion: A Diachronic Perspective of Intellectual Thought Towards Shamanism).
    Since I've hit upon a bit of writer's block, I thought that I'd kill some time by asking you folks what YOU think of shamanism. Would you term it a "universal religion?" Is it truly "Devil worship" in a way? Are there any analogues to the modern Wiccan resurgence?
    I'm actually pretty knowledgeable about this topic (65 sources will do that for you), and I feel that I can answer questions and moderate this topic.
    So, people, go to it!

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    Re: Shamanism - your perspectives

    Good topic.

    I have never studied Shamanism in depth but am quite interested in it. I've known one person who called himself a Shaman. He was a little troubled with Ego issues, but he did describe some of the experiences he had. If he was truly a Shaman, he would go into trances and did some work through sleep states. Mostly, he tapped into core energy pools and gained limited knowledge based on his limited questions. His interpretation of the information was, I feel, somewhat affected by his Ego...but that's what interpretations are for.

    I knew another person who studied under a Shaman. He was probably the most serene and forgiving person I've met. His connection to the group soul of humanity allowed him to remain untouched by negativity in what was an extremely negative environment. He had visions and altered states that were quite Native in the description.

    Neither of these people were "Demonic" or "evil" in any way I could detect and I spent a fair bit of time with them both, talking and working. In fact, I've never met a person at all who I would say was "demonic" or "evil". Met some nasty ones...even met some who wanted very badly to be Satan worshipers, never panned out for them though. As it turns out, they weren't really evil.

    But, back to Shamanism, do people generally think this is evil? If so, it must be a reaction to the unknown.

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    Re: Shamanism - your perspectives

    The connotation of "Evil" dates back to the pre-Enlightenment church attitudes towards Shamanism. For example, in several areas, the church held miniature "Inquisitions" where those who claimed to be shamans were put to trial (See Ginzburg's The Night Shamans).
    Shamanism today is given a negative connotation when it is equated with "witchcraft". Interestingly, Goethe's Faust is a wonderful treatise on 18th century thought towards shamanism. Shakespeare also references shamanism in "MacBeth" (Act IV, Scene I - the Witches' scene). In both of these, shamanistics acts are cast in a negative light.
    Ok...back to talking amongst yourselves

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    Re: Shamanism - your perspectives

    You are knowledgable and quick too!

    I talk amongst myselves all the time.

    Is modern day shamanism much the same as the original traditions...or do we know?

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    Re: Shamanism - your perspectives

    Well, traditional shamanism occurs amongst hunter-gatherer societies, of which today are incredibly few. Some of the last occur in scattered islands of Indonesia, and a few shamans still exist among the Native Americans.
    Interestingly, in the past few years there has been a resurgence of shamanism among people of industrialized societies - we sometimes class this the "Neo-Pagan" movement.
    Let's look at the traditional view of what comprises shamanism.
    1) belief that a wide corpus of "spirits" exist - mostly in the form of animism. (spirits in the forms of animals) The shaman is supposed to be able to commune with these "spirits" in order to gain knowledge of healing, divination, weather control or self-empowerment.
    2) There is a component of trance, often accompanied by ecstatic dancing. In this state, the shaman's "spirit" is said to transcend our realm and enter the "supernatural" realm. Often this state is initiated by the use of psychotropic drugs.

    Can you think of any modern religious groups that fit this bill?

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    Re: Shamanism - your perspectives

    If you take out the animism, there are a large variety of organizations that promote these basics. An even larger number of "unorganized" people that practice this at nightclubs.

    Do you know your spirit animal? Mine is a white owl. I discovered this while driving home from work one night. It was a foggy night, like my car was driving on a cloud and I could see only four feet in front of me. When I emerged from the fog, on the other side of a bridge, the fog slowly cleared. I saw something from the corner of my eye and turned to look. A white owl flew beside my car. When I looked over at it, it's head swiveled to look back. Time slowed as I drove with the owl keeping time beside me, just staring into me. Then it turned and flew away as I took my exit.

    I am sure this is my spirit animal when I think about it, but now that I think about it, I have never looked it up. Do you know what this represents?

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    Re: Shamanism - your perspectives

    posted by fyrehawke
    Let's look at the traditional view of what comprises shamanism.
    1) belief that a wide corpus of "spirits" exist - mostly in the form of animism. (spirits in the forms of animals) The shaman is supposed to be able to commune with these "spirits" in order to gain knowledge of healing, divination, weather control or self-empowerment.
    The connotation of "Evil" dates back to the pre-Enlightenment church attitudes towards Shamanism. For example, in several areas, the church held miniature "Inquisitions" where those who claimed to be shamans were put to trial (See Ginzburg's The Night Shamans).
    Why are you calling your article from "devil worship to universal religon a diachronic perspective on intellectual thought towards shamanism".

    The concept of devil worship as you point out relates back to pre enlightenment attitides towards shamanism so why start out with the assumption it was devil worship when quite clearly it was not. The idea of devil worship was invented by the christian church to scare people away from the old pagan religons and give them an excuse to attack those that refused to conform to their beliefs. medieval christianity was anything but a religon of tolerance. In one sense Christ to many pagans was the selfish god who wanted to have everything to himself.

    The title of your paper suggests you believe in the devil and that is what you think shamanism is.

    I suggest you have a look at shinto as well. People are the same the world over, you propitiate the gods because offending them can lead to your destruction, if you live in an earthquake prone environment you can see where that comes from but it strikes rich and poor equally.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/shinto/beliefs/

    http://www.compsoc.net/~gemini/simon...eb/shinto.html

    Both Islam and judaism and its offshoot christianity are desert religons, harsh environments which is perhaps why the gods of the old testament are fickle and arbitrary, just like the environment. Strict control is necessary for survival in close communities and in a tough environment you need strong leadership to survive, which is perhaps why judaism lay so much emphasis on the law, disobey and god ounishes you.

    Animist religons lay more emphasis on the relationship with the individual and their interaction in harmony with the world around them. Many in europe rejected the strict control of the church and kept to the old beliefs or didn't want to give everything up and the early church had to scare them in to obedience with tales of devil worship and unsavoury sexual practices.

    If you want to underatand modern day attitudes to witches and shamanism you can't get away from looking at puritanism and it effects on not just ours but american society as well and the world view people have there are echoes right down to the present day.

    http://www.channel4.com/history/micr...footwitch.html

    I'm actually pretty knowledgeable about this topic (65 sources will do that for you), and I feel that I can answer questions and moderate this topic.
    So, people, go to it!
    Hey you've made a start, congratulations, the more you study the more you appreciate how much more you need and how unlikely you are to find a simple definitive answer. I suggest you keep as eclectic an approach as you can, nothing happens in isolation from what surrounds it. You can't study something like this and ignore what else was happening at the time, religon and politics are closely intertwined. I suggest rather than looking for an answer in what other people say you start with, Why do I think that? Where does that belief come from? Inevitably you start out with existing preconceptions that colour your approach and the type of sources you look at.

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    Re: Shamanism - your perspectives

    The concept of devil worship as you point out relates back to pre enlightenment attitides towards shamanism so why start out with the assumption it was devil worship when quite clearly it was not.
    Yes, I know the concept of devil worship dates back to pre-enlightenment attitudes. That's the whole point. This paper is a survey of intellectual thought regarding shamanism. As such, the title indicates the gamut of thought presented in my paper, not any personal thoughts or feelings regarding the topic.
    500 years ago, those who were literate were also most likely clergy; therefore, their writings took on a decidedly religous bent. This led these early analysts to decry shamanism as a form of devil-worship, in that the shamans "commnuned" with invisible spirits to gain forbidden knowledge (interestingly, however, these priests didn't see the irony when they prayed to their own "invisible spirit"). Later, with the Enlightenment, attitudes would change. The influence of the church was less all-encompassing, and other modes of thinking.
    I use "Universal Religion" in the context of the writings of Margaret Murray and her followers, where they posit that shamanism is the universal cross-cultural religion among hunter-gatherer societies.
    Hey you've made a start, congratulations, the more you study the more you appreciate how much more you need and how unlikely you are to find a simple definitive answer.
    This paper is NOT intended to examine shamanism itself or its pervasiveness, ONLY how shamanism has been viewed by anthropological and other investigators. The emphasis is NOT on what shamanism is, but how its been viewed.

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    Re: Shamanism - your perspectives

    I can think of two areas which would come under attack by organized religion.

    The ability of people practicing Shamanism to commune directly with the Spirit, or Spirits. As organized religion likes to try and keep people from thinking they can reach "God" except through the church, if people discover they don't need the church it would threaten their power.

    The use of psychtropics to obtain trance states. As most mind altering drugs are such because they are poisonous, it could be seen as "evil" to employ an "evil" substance. Kind of like cheating or trying to trick your way into God's lap.


    Does the Shamanistic viewpoint relate their Spirit in any way to the concept of God?

    Again, do you know your spirit animal?

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    Re: Shamanism - your perspectives

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    posted by fyrehawke
    Yes, I know the concept of devil worship dates back to pre-enlightenment attitudes. That's the whole point. This paper is a survey of intellectual thought regarding shamanism. As such, the title indicates the gamut of thought presented in my paper, not any personal thoughts or feelings regarding the topic.
    500 years ago, those who were literate were also most likely clergy; therefore, their writings took on a decidedly religous bent. This led these early analysts to decry shamanism as a form of devil-worship, in that the shamans "commnuned" with invisible spirits to gain forbidden knowledge (interestingly, however, these priests didn't see the irony when they prayed to their own "invisible spirit"). Later, with the Enlightenment, attitudes would change. The influence of the church was less all-encompassing, and other modes of thinking.
    When i wrote the post I hadn't looked at your introduction in another post so hadn't quite appreciated you meant you were doing an academic paper.

    If you are concerned to write a paper on intellectual thought regarding shamanism I think it is a moot point whether the intellectual thought was intellectual in the sense that we would use it. Maybe you should look at it from the demonisation of shamanism. I still think you have it back to front, maybe it should be "from universal religon to devil worship".

    500 years ago What they were out to do was not analyse but counter the attraction of the "old religons" the touching wood, festivals at the turn of the year and spring that mean so much to promitive festivals, in the end they couldn't stop people so the christian church hijacked them and made them part of the christian calendar, so now we have easter instead of beltane and the old fertility rites of early spring. Christmas at the turn of the year instead of the pagan festivals celebrating the sun returning. (Maybe you have to live in a Northern clime to appreciate hogmanay). It was one of the reasons that early protestants and more especially the puritans objected to the catholic church as they thought some of the forms of worship and jollity were verging on the pagan, worshipping idols (spirit gods) the veneration of the saints the role of the priest as the interpretor of the god(s) all smacked of what might be called shamanism. They wanted a pure religon without the pagan elements.

    You can still hear presbytarian ministers ranting on about idolatory in the catholic church.

    I use "Universal Religion" in the context of the writings of Margaret Murray and her followers, where they posit that shamanism is the universal cross-cultural religion among hunter-gatherer societies.
    Medeival europe was not a simple hunter gatherer society and hadn't been for some considerable time. The dark ages were a breakdown in civilisation where much knowledge was lost but the towns were still there and the settlements were still there. The middle ages were even less of a hunter gatherer society so to study simple hunter gatherer societies and transpose on to medeival europe fails to recognise the actual complexity of society. If you consider what was happening in medeival times as shamanism was being demonised you are talking about, famine, plage with millions dying, witches and practioners of the old religon became a convenient scapegoat. Nor would paganism have been transnational religon practiced in the same way throughout europe. In a very real sense shamanism goes out the door as soon as you live in a town.

    This paper is NOT intended to examine shamanism itself or its pervasiveness, ONLY how shamanism has been viewed by anthropological and other investigators. The emphasis is NOT on what shamanism is, but how its been viewed.
    Basically I would say the early "analysts" of 500 years ago in medieval times viewed shamanism as a threat that had to be destroyed and quite literally demonised it as means of doing so. Latter day anthropologists have a tendency to forget that primitive peoples both now and in the past were i reality every bit as complex as we are now in their relationships and how they viewed the world. To transpose studies of modern day hunter gatherer societies on to medieval times and do so without taking in to account what else was going on is simplistic.

    http://www.vaccines.plus.com/Murray%...Professor.html

    http://www.macha.f9.co.uk/7day-extra...et-Murray.html

    I am rambling I should not do this late at night.

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