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Russian postcard based on a photo taken in 1908 by S. I. Borisov, showing a woman shaman likely of the Turkic Khakas ethnicity.[1]

Shamanism is an anthropological term referencing a range of beliefs and practices regarding communication with the spiritual world. [2] A practitioner of shamanism is known as a shaman, pronounced /ˈʃɑːmən/, /ˈʃeɪmən/, (|ˈshämən; ˈshā-|) noun (pl. -man(s)).[3]

Shamanism encompasses the belief that shamans are intermediaries or messengers between the human world and the spirit worlds. Shamans are said to treat ailments/illness by mending the soul. Alleviating traumas affecting the soul/spirit restores the physical body of the individual to balance and wholeness. The shaman also enters supernatural realms or dimensions to obtain solutions to problems afflicting the community. Shamans may visit other worlds/dimensions to bring guidance to misguided souls, to separate evil spirits from human souls, or to ameliorate illnesses of the soul caused by foreign elements. The shaman operates primarily within the spiritual world, which in turn affects the human world. The restoration of balance results in the elimination of the ailment.[4].



The term "shaman" is a loan from the Turkic[5][6][7][8] word šamán, the term for such a practitioner, which also gained currency in the wider Turko-Mongol and Tungusic cultures in ancient Siberia. Shamanism played an important role in Altaic mythology. Tengriism which was the major belief of Xiongnu, Turkic, Hungarian and Bulgar peoples in ancient times incorporates elements of shamanism.


Shamanism in sociology applies to various empirical investigative methods and critical analysis to develop and refine a body of knowledge about shamanic social structure and activity, often with the goal of applying such knowledge to the pursuit of social welfare.


The shaman's social role may be defined by a set of connected behaviors, rights and obligations as conceptualized by actors in a social situation and the expected behavior in a given individual within their cultural social status and social position.

Shamanism is a 'calling'. Individuals who are 'called' experience an illness of some sort over a prolonged period of time. This illness will prompt the individual to seek out spiritual guidance and other shamanic healers. Such illnesses are usually not healed/curable by physicians and western medicine. The shaman heals through spiritual means that consequently affect the human world by bringing about restored health.

Cultural anthropology approaches shamanism as an integral part of the study of culture, belief, and practice. The New Age movement has appropriated shamanism.


Shamans gain knowledge and the power to heal by entering into the spiritual world or dimension. The shaman may have, or acquire many spirit guides in the spirit world, these often guide and direct the shaman in his/her travels. These spirit guides are always present within the shaman though others only encounter them when the shaman is in a trance. The spirit guide energizes the shaman, enabling him/her to enter into the spiritual dimension. The shaman heals within the spirital dimension by returning 'lost' parts of the human soul from wherever they have gone. The shaman also cleanses excess negative energies which confuse or pollute the soul.[citation needed]


Shaman act as "mediators" in their culture.[9][10] The shaman communicates with the spirits on behalf of the community, including the spirits of the deceased. The shaman communicates with both living and dead to alleviate unrest, unsettled issues, and to deliver gifts to the spirits.

Often, unsettled issues can be resolved with money. Paper money can be burnt to transfer its value to the spirits.

Among the Selkups, the sea duck is a spirit animal because ducks fly in the air, and dive in the water. Thus ducks belong to both the upper world and the world below.[11] Among other Siberian peoples these characteristics are attributed to water fowl in general.[12] Among many Native Americans, the jaguar is a spirit animal because jaguars walk on earth, swim in water, and climb in trees. Thus jaguars belong to all three worlds, Sky, Earth, Underworld.


Shamans perform a variety of functions depending upon their respective cultures:[13] healing;[14][15] leading a sacrifice;[16] preserving the tradition by storytelling and songs;[17] fortune-telling;[18] acting as a psychopomp (literal meaning, “guide of souls”).[19] In some cultures, a shaman may fulfill several functions in one person.[13]

The functions of a shaman may include either guiding to their proper abode the souls of the dead (which may be guided either one-at-a-time or in a cumulative group, depending on culture), and/or curing (healing) of ailments. The ailments may be either purely physical afflictions—such as disease, which may be cured by flattering, threatening, or wrestling the disease-spirit (sometimes trying all these, sequentially), and which may be completed by displaying some supposedly extracted token of the disease-spirit (displaying this, even if "fraudulent", is supposed to impress the disease-spirit that it has been, or is in the process of being, defeated, so that it will retreat and stay out of the patient's body) --, or else mental (including psychosomatic) afflictions—such as persistent terror (on account of some frightening experience), which may be likewise cured by similar methods. Usually in most languages a different term other than the one translated "shaman" is applied to a religious official leading sacrificial rites ("priest"), or to a raconteur ("sage") of traditional lore; there may be more of an overlap in functions (with that of a shaman), however, in the case of an interpreter of omens or of dreams.

To quote Mircea Eliade: "A first definition of this complex phenomenon, and perhaps the least hazardous, will be: shamanism = technique of ecstasy."[20]

Distinct types of shaman

In some cultures there may be additional types of shaman, who perform more specialized functions. For example, among the Nanai people, a distinct kind of shaman acts as a psychopomp.[21] Other specialized shaman may be distinguished according to the type of spirits, or realms of the spirit world, with which the shaman most commonly interacts. These roles vary among the Nenets, Enets, and Selkup shaman (paper;[22] online[23]). Among Huichol,[24] there are two categories of shaman. This demonstrates the differences among shaman within a single tribe.

Amongst the Hmong people, the shaman or the "shi yi", acts as healer. Shi Yi also performs rituals/ceremonies designed to call upon the soul from its many travels back to the physical human body. Shi Yi may use several shamanistic tools such as swords, divinity horns, a gong (drum), or finger bells/jingles. All tools serve to protect the spirits from the eyes of the unknown, thus enabling Shi Yi to deliver the souls back to its proper owner. Shi Yi may wear a white, red, or black veil to disguise the soul from its attackers in the spiritual dimension.

Soul and spirit concepts

The variety of functions described in the above section may seem to be rather distinct tasks, but the soul and spirit concepts may underlying to join them.

The soul concept can generally explain more, seemingly unassociated phenomena in shamanism:[25][26][27]
may be based closely on the soul concepts of the belief system of the people served by the shaman (online[14]). It may consist of the retrieving the lost soul of the ill person.[28] See also the soul dualism concept.
Scarcity of hunted game
can be solved by “releasing” the souls of the animals from their hidden abodes. Besides that, many taboos may prescribe the behavior of people towards game, so that the souls of the animals do not feel angry or hurt, or the pleased soul of the already killed prey can tell the other, still living animals, that they can let themselves to be caught and killed.[29][30] The ecological aspect of shamanistic practice (and the related beliefs) has already been mentioned above in the article.
Infertility of women
can be cured by obtaining the soul of the expected child to be born.
Also the beliefs related to spirits can explain many different phenomena too,[31] for example, the importance of storytelling, or acting as a singer, can be understood better if we examine the whole belief system: a person who is able to memorize long texts or songs (and play an instrument) may be regarded as having achieved this ability through contact with the spirits (for example among Khanty people).[32]

Ecological aspect

Resources for human consumption are easily depletable in tropical rainforests. In the Tucano Indian rainforest culture, a sophisticated system exists for resource management, and for avoiding the resource depletion through overhunting. This system is conceptualized in a mythological context, involving symbolism and in the belief that the breaking of hunting restrictions may cause illness. As the primary teacher of tribal symbolism, the shaman may have a leading role in this ecological management, actively restricting hunting and fishing. The shaman is able to “release” game animals (or their souls) from their hidden abodes,[33] The Desana shaman has to negotiate with a mythological being for souls of game.[34] Not only Tucanos, but the Piaroa rainforest Indians have ecological concerns related to their shamanism.[35] Besides Tukanos and Piaroa, also many Eskimo groups think that the shaman is able to fetch souls of game from remote places;[36][37] or undertake a soul travel in order to promote hunting luck, e.g. by asking for game from mythological beings (Sea Woman).[38]


The way shamans get sustenance and take part in everyday life varies among cultures. In many Eskimo groups, they provide services for the community and get a “due payment” (some cultures believe the payment is given to the helping spirits[39]), but these goods are only “welcome addenda.” They are not enough to enable shamanizing as a full-time activity. Shamans live like any other member of the group, as hunter or housewife.[39][40]


There are many variations of shamanism throughout the world; and several common beliefs are shared by all forms of shamanism. Common beliefs identified by Eliade (1964)[4] are the following:

  • Spirits exist and they play important roles both in individual lives and in human society.
  • The shaman can communicate with the spirit world.
  • Spirits can be good or evil.
  • The shaman can treat sickness caused by evil spirits.
  • The shaman can employ trance inducing techniques to incite visionary ecstasy and go on "vision quests."
  • The shaman's spirit can leave the body to enter the supernatural world to search for answers.
  • The shaman evokes animal images as spirit guides, omens, and message-bearers.
  • The shaman can tell the future, scry, throw bones/runes, and perform other varied forms of divination

Shamanism is based on the premise that the visible world is pervaded by invisible forces or spirits which affect the lives of the living.[41] Shamanism requires individualized knowledge and special abilities and operates outside established religions. Many shamans operate alone, although some take on an apprentice. Shamans can gather into associations, as Indian tantric practitioners have done.[citation needed]

While the causes of disease are considered by many shamans to lie in the spiritual realm, being effected by malicious spirits or witchcraft, both spiritual and physical methods are used to heal. Commonly, a shaman will "enter the body" of the patient to confront the spirit making the patient sick, and heal the patient by banishing the infectious spirit. Many shamans have expert knowledge of the plant life in their area, and an herbal regimen is often prescribed as treatment. In many places shamans claim to learn directly from the plants, and to be capable of harnessing their effects and healing properties only after obtaining permission from its abiding or patron spirit. In South America, individual spirits are summoned by the singing of songs called icaros; before a spirit can be summoned the spirit must teach the shaman its song.[41] The use of totem items such as rocks is common; these items are believed to have special powers and an animating spirit. Such practices are presumably very ancient; in about 368 BCE, Plato wrote in the Phaedrus that the "first prophecies were the words of an oak", and that everyone who lived at that time found it rewarding enough to "listen to an oak or a stone, so long as it was telling the truth".

The belief in witchcraft and sorcery, known as brujeria in South America, is prevalent in many societies. Some societies distinguish shamans who cure from sorcerers who harm; others believe that all shamans have the power to both cure and kill; that is, shamans are in some societies also thought of as being capable of harm. The shaman usually enjoys great power and prestige in the community,[citation needed] and is renowned for their powers and knowledge; but they may also be suspected of harming others and thus feared.

By engaging in this work, the shaman is exposed to significant personal risk: risks from the spirit world, from enemy shamans, as well as from the means employed to alter the shaman's state of consciousness. Some of the plant materials used can be toxic or fatal, and the failure to return from an out-of-body journey can lead to physical death. Spells are commonly used to protect against these dangers, and the use of more dangerous plants is usually very highly ritualized.


The border between the shaman and the lay person is not always sharp:

Among the Barasana [of Brazil], there is no absolute difference between those men recognized as shamans and those who are not. At the lowest level, most adult men have some abilities as shamans and will carry out some of the same functions as those men who have a widespread reputation for their powers and knowledge.

The difference is that the shaman knows more myths and understands their meaning better, but the majority of adult men know many myths, too.[42]

Similar can be observed among Eskimo peoples. Many laic people have felt experiences that are usually attributed to the shamans of those Eskimo groups: experiencing daydreaming, reverie, trance is not restricted to shamans.[43] It is the control over helping spirits that is characteristic mainly to shamans, the laic people use amulets, spells, formulas, songs.[43][44] In Greenland among the Inuit, there are laic people who may have the capability to have closer relationships with beings of the belief system than others. These people are apprentice shamans who failed to accomplish their learning process.[40]

The assistant of an Oroqen shaman (called jardalanin, or "second spirit") knows many things about the associated beliefs; he or she accompanies the rituals and interprets the behavior of the shaman.[45] In spite of this, the jardalanin is not a shaman. For his or her interpretative, accompanying role, it would be even unwelcome to fall into trance.[46]

Initiation and learning

Shamanic powers may be inherited, whereas in other societies shamans are "called" by dreams or signs and require lengthy training.

Shamanic illness

Turner and colleagues[47] mention a phenomenon called shamanistic initiatory crisis. A rite of passage for shamans-to-be, commonly involving physical illness and/or psychological crisis. The significant role of initiatory illnesses in the calling of a shaman can be found in the detailed case history of Chuonnasuan, the last master shaman among the Tungus peoples in Northeast China.[48] In Sudan, the sanjak (shaman) experiences the shamanic call in "the form of affliction. The person selected by the spirit becomes severely ill for a prolonged period of time.... The affliction and cure are seen as the sign of his election. The phenomenon thus follows the lines of shamanism, where the initial affliction of the shaman serves as proof of his election."[49]

Cognitive, semiotic, hermeneutic approaches

As mentioned, a (debated) approach explains the etymology of word “shaman” as meaning “one who knows”.[50][51] Really, the shaman is a person who is an expert in keeping together the multiple codes through which this complex belief system appears, and has a comprehensive view on it in their mind with certainty of knowledge.[52] The shaman uses (and the audience understands) multiple codes. Shaman express meanings in many ways: verbally, musically, artistically, and in dance. Meanings may be manifested in objects, such as amulets.[51]

The shaman knows the culture of his or her community well,[53][54][55] and acts accordingly. Thus, their audience knows the used symbols and meanings—that is why shamanism can be efficient: people in the audience trust it.[55] Such belief system can appear to its members with certainty of knowledge—this explains the above described etymology for the word “shaman”.[56]

Sami shaman with his drum

There are semiotic theoretical approaches to shamanism,[57][58][59] (“ethnosemiotics”). The symbols on the shaman's costume and drum can refer to Power animals, or to the rank of the shaman.

There are also examples of “mutually opposing symbols”, distinguishing a “white” shaman who contacts sky spirits for good aims by day, from a “black” shaman who contacts evil spirits for bad aims by night.[60] (Series of such opposing symbols referred to a world-view behind them. Analogously to the way grammar arranges words to express meanings and convey a world, also this formed a cognitive map?).[52][61] Shaman's lore is rooted in the folklore of the community, which provides a “mythological mental map”.[62][63] Juha Pentikäinen uses the concept “grammar of mind”.[63][64] Linking to a Sami example, Kathleen Osgood Dana writes:[65]

Juha Pentikäinen, in his introduction to Shamanism and Northern Ecology, explains how the Sámi drum embodies Sámi worldviews. He considers shamanism to be a ‘grammar of mind’ (10), because shaman need to be experts in the folklore of their cultures (11)


Armin Geertz coined and introduced the hermeneutics,[66] “ethnohermeneutics”,[61] approaches to the practice of interpretation. Hoppál extended the term to include not only the interpretation of oral or written texts, but also that of “visual texts as well (including motions, gestures and more complex ritual, and ceremonies performed for instance by shamans)”.[67] It can not only reveal the animistic views hiding behind shamanism, but also convey their relevance for the recent world, where ecological problems made paradigms about balance and protection valid.[63]

Ecological approaches, systems theory

Other fieldworks use systems theory concepts and ecological considerations to understand the shaman's lore. Desana and Tucano Indians have developed a sophisticated symbolism and concepts of “energy” flowing between people and animals in cyclic paths. Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff relates these concepts to the changes how modern science (systems theory, ecology, some new approaches in anthropology and archeology) treats causality in a less linear way.[33] He suggests also a cooperation of modern science and indigenous lore (online[68])


Generally, the shaman traverses the axis mundi and enters the spirit world by effecting a transition of consciousness, entering into an ecstatic trance, either autohypnotically or through the use of entheogens. The methods employed are diverse, and are often used together. Some of the methods for effecting such trances:

Plants (often psychoactive) Other

Shamans will often observe dietary or customary restrictions particular to their tradition. Sometimes these restrictions are more than just cultural. For example, the diet followed by shamans and apprentices prior to participating in an Ayahuasca ceremony includes foods rich in tryptophan (a biosynthetic precursor to serotonin) as well as avoiding foods rich in tyramine, which could induce hypertensive crisis if ingested with MAOIs such as are found in Ayahuasca brews.[41]

Music, songs

Just like shamanism itself,[69] music and songs related to it in various cultures are diverse, far from being alike. In some cultures and several instances, some songs related to shamanism intend to imitate also natural sounds, sometimes via onomatopoiea.[70]

Of course, in several cultures, imitation of natural sounds may serve other functions, not necessarily related to shamanism: practical goals as luring game in the hunt;[71] or entertainment (katajjaqs of Inuit).[71][72]


Goldes shaman priest in his regalia

Shamans may have various kinds of paraphernalia in different cultures.

Shaman's drum

Drum - The Drum is used by shamans of several peoples in Siberia; the same holds for many Eskimo groups,[73] although its usage for shamanistic seances may be lacking among the Inuit of Canada.[74]

The beating of the drum allows the shaman to achieve an altered state of consciousness or to travel on a journey. The drum is for example referred to as, “‘horse’ or ‘rainbow-bridge’ between the physical and spiritual worlds”.[75] The journey mentioned is one in which the shaman establishes a connection with one or two of the spirit worlds. With the beating of the drum come neurophysiological effects. Much fascination surround the role that the acoustics of the drum play to the shaman. Siberian shamans' drums are generally constructed of an animal-skin stretched over a bent wooden hoop, with a handle across the hoop.

There are two different worlds, the upper and the lower. In the upper world, images such as “climbing a mountain, tree, cliff, rainbow, or ladder; ascending into the sky on smoke; flying on an animal, carpet, or broom and meeting a teacher or guide”,[75] are typically seen. The lower world consists of images including, “entering into the earth through a cave, hollow tree stump, a water hole, a tunnel, or a tube”.[75] By being able to interact with a different world at an altered and aware state, the Shaman can then exchange information between the world in which he lives and that to which he has traveled.

Feathers - In numerous cultures, birds are seen as messengers of the spirits. Feathers are often used in ceremonies.

Rattle - Found mostly among South American[76] and African peoples. Also used in ceremonies among the Navajo and in traditional ways in their blessings and ceremonies.

Gong - Often found through South East Asia, Far Eastern peoples.

Didgeridoo and clap stick - Found mainly among the various aboriginal peoples of Australia.

Pipe Pipe used for smoking various psychoactive herbs (e.g. tobacco in South America, cannabis in India).

Sword - In the Hmong culture, a holly sword will always be used in the practice to protect the shaman from wondering "evil" spirits as he travel to the spirit world.

Shake - Found mostly in the Hmong culture, the shaman begins his practice by rattling, which turns into a shake. It is the process of communicating with his shamanistic spirits to guide him to the spirit world.

Long Table - A flexible wooden table approximately at a size of 9X2. Found in the Hmong Culture, the long table transforms into a "flying horse and boat" in the spirit world.

Rooster - A rooster is often used in the Hmong culture. A shaman uses a rooster when he journey his way to the unknown. It is said that the rooster shields the shaman from wondering "evil" spirits by making him invisible, thus the evil spirits only see a worthless rooster's spirit.


Hypotheses on origins

Shamanistic practices are claimed to predate all organized religions, dating back to the Paleolithic,[77][78] and certainly to the Neolithic period.[78]

Archaeological evidence exists for Mesolithic shamanism. In November 2008, researchers announced the discovery of a 12,000-year-old site in Israel that they regard as one of the earliest known shaman burials. The elderly woman had been arranged on her side, with her legs apart and folded inward at the knee. Ten large stones were placed on the head, pelvis and arms. Among her unusual grave goods were 50 complete tortoise shells, a human foot, and certain body parts from animals such as a cow tail and eagle wings. Other animal remains came from a boar, leopard, and two martens. "It seems that the woman … was perceived as being in a close relationship with these animal spirits," researchers noted. The grave was one of at least 28 at the site, located in a cave in lower Galilee and belonging to the Natufian culture, but is said to be unlike any other among the Natufians or in the Paleolithic period.[79]

Historical times

Aspects of shamanism are encountered in later, organized religions, generally in their mystic and symbolic practices. Greek paganism was influenced by shamanism,[citation needed] as reflected in the stories of Tantalus, Prometheus, Medea, and Calypso among others,[citation needed] as well as in the Eleusinian Mysteries, and other mysteries. Some of the shamanic practices of the Greek religion later merged into the Roman religion.[citation needed]

During the early centuries AD the shamanic practices of many subject cultures were marginalized with the spread of Abrahamic religion throughout the Roman Empire and its northern neighbors.

Around 400 CE, institutional Christianity was instrumental in the collapse of the Greek and Roman religions. Temples were systematically destroyed and key ceremonies were outlawed or appropriated.

The Early Modern Period saw witch trials which eliminated lingering remnants of European shamanism (if "shamanism" can be properly used to describe the beliefs and practices of those cultures).

Spanish repression of shamanism forced Roman Catholicism upon the peoples of the Western Hemisphere as an integral part of Spanish colonization. In Latin America, Catholic priests dedicated to the destruction of non-Abrahamic traditions followed the Conquistadors, denouncing practitioners as "devil worshippers" and having them executed Diego de Landa.

In North America, the English Puritans conducted periodic campaigns against individuals perceived as witches. As recently as the nineteen seventies, historic petroglyphs were being defaced by missionaries in the Amazon. A similarly destructive story can be told of the encounter between Buddhists and shamans, e.g., in Mongolia (See Caroline Humphrey with Urgunge Onon, 1996).

Decline and revitalization / tradition-preserving movements

A recent photograph: shaman doctor of Kyzyl, 2005. (Details missing). Attempts are being made to preserve and revitalize Tuvan shamanism:[80] some former authentic shamans have begun to practice again, and young apprentices are being educated in an organized way.[81]

In many areas, former shamans ceased to fill the functions in the community they used to, as they felt mocked by their own community,[82] or regarded their own past as a deprecated thing, sometimes even unwilling to talk about it to an ethnographer.[83]

Moreover, besides personal communications of former shamans, even some folklore texts narrate directly about a deterioration process. For example, a Buryat epic text details the wonderful deeds of the ancient “first shaman” Kara-Gürgän:[84] he could even compete with God, create life, steal back the soul of the sick from God without his consent. A subsequent text laments that shamans of older times were stronger, possessing capabilities like omnividence,[85] fortune-telling even for decades in the future, moving as fast as bullet; the texts contrast them to the recent heartless, unknowing, greedy shamans.[86]

In most affected areas, shamanistic practices ceased to exist, with authentic shamans died and their personal experiences following. The loss of memories is not always lessened by the fact the shaman is not always the only person in a community who knows the beliefs and motifs related to the local shamanhood (laics know myths as well, among Barasana, even though less;[42] there are former shaman apprentices unable to complete the learning among some Greenlandic Inuit peoples,[40] moreover, even laics can have trance-like experiences among Eskimos;[43] the assistant of a shaman can be extremely knowledgeable among Oroqen[45][46]). Although the shaman is often believed and trusted exactly because he/she "accommodates" to the "grammar" of the beliefs of the community,[55] but several parts of the knowledge related to the local shamanhood consist of personal experiences of the shaman (illness), or root in his/her family life (the interpretation of the symbolics of his/her drum),[87] thus, these are lost with his/her death. Besides of this, in many cultures, the entire traditional belief system has become endangered (often together with a partial or total language shift), the other people of the community remembering the associated beliefs and practices (or the language at all) became old or died, many folklore memories (songs, texts) went forgotten—this may threaten even such peoples which could preserve their isolation until the middle of the 20th century, like the Nganasan.[88]

Some areas could enjoy a prolonged resistance due to their remoteness.

  • Variants of shamanism among Eskimo peoples were once a widespread (and very diverse) phenomenon, but today are rarely practiced, and they were already in the decline among many groups even in the times when the first major ethnological researches were done,[89] e.g. among Polar Eskimos, in the end of 19th century, Sagloq died, the last shaman who was believed to be able to travel to the sky and under the sea—and many other former shamanic capacities were lost in that time as well, like ventriloquism and sleight-of-hand.[90]
  • The isolated location of Nganasan people allowed shamanism to be a living phenomenon among them even in the beginning of 20th century,[91] the last notable Nganasan shaman's séances could be recorded on film in the 1970s.[92]

After exemplifying the general decline even in the most remote areas, let us mention that there are some revitalization or tradition-preserving efforts as a response. Besides collecting the memories,[93] there are also some tradition-preserving[94] and even revitalization efforts,[95] sometimes led by authentic former shamans (for example among Sakha people[96] and Tuvans[81]). However, according to Richard L. Allen, Research & Policy Analyst for the Cherokee Nation, they are overwhelmed with fraudulent Shaman. "One may assume that anyone claiming to be a Cherokee "shaman, spiritual healer, or pipe-carrier," is equivalent to a modern day medicine show and snake-oil vendor."[97] In fact, there is no Cherokee word for Shaman or Medicine Man. The Cherokee word for "medicine" is Nvowti which means "power".

Besides tradition-preserving efforts, there are also neoshamansistic movements, these may differ from many tradtitional shamanistic practice and beliefs in several points.[98] Admittedly, several traditional beliefs systems indeed have ecological considerations (for example, many Eskimo peoples), and among Tukano people, the shaman indeed has directly resource-protecting roles, see details in section Ecological aspect.

Today, shamanism survives primarily among indigenous peoples. Shamanic practices continue today in the tundras, jungles, deserts, and other rural areas, and even in cities, towns, suburbs, and shantytowns all over the world. This is especially true for Africa and South America, where "mestizo shamanism" is widespread.

Regional variations

Gender and sexuality

While male shamans are predominant in many cultures, native Korean and some African Nguni cultures have had a preference for females. Recent archaeological evidence suggests that the earliest known shamans—dating to the Upper Paleolithic era in what is now the Czech Republic—were women.[99]

Shamans may exhibit a two-spirit identity, assuming the dress, attributes, role or function of the opposite sex, gender fluidity and/or same-sex sexual orientation. This practice is common, and found among the Chukchi, Sea Dayak, Patagonians, Araucanians, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Navajo, Pawnee, Lakota, and Ute, as well as many other Native American tribes. Indeed, these two-spirited shamans were so widespread as to suggest a very ancient origin of the practice. See, for example, Joseph Campbell's map in his The Historical Atlas of World Mythology [Vol I: The Way of the Animal Powers: Part 2: p. 174] Such two-spirit shamans are thought to be especially powerful, and Shamanism so important to ancestral populations that it may have contributed to the maintenance of genes for transgendered individuals in breeding populations over evolutionary time through the mechanism of "kin selection." [see final chapter of E.O. Wilson's "Sociobiology: The New Synthesis] They are highly respected and sought out in their tribes, as they will bring high status to their mates.

Duality and bisexuality are also found in the shamans of the Dagara people of Burkina Faso (Africa). References to this can be found in several works of Malidoma Somé, a writer who was born and initiated there.


Ainu bear sacrifice. Japanese scroll painting, circa 1870.

Among the Siberian Chukchis peoples, a shaman is interpreted as someone who is possessed by a spirit who demands that someone assume the shamanic role for their people. Among the Buryat, there is a ritual known as "shanar" whereby a candidate is consecrated as shaman by another, already-established shaman.

Siberia is regarded as the locus classicus of shamanism.[100] It is inhabited by many different ethnic groups. Many of its Uralic, Altaic, and Paleosiberian peoples observe shamanistic practices even in modern times. Many classical ethnographic sources of “shamanism” were recorded among Siberian peoples.

Among several Samoyedic peoples shamanism was a living tradition also in modern times, especially at groups living in isolation until recent times (Nganasans).[101] The last notable Nganasan shaman's seances could be recorded on film in the 1970s.[101][102]

When the People's Republic of China was formed in 1949 and the border with Russian Siberia was formally sealed, many nomadic Tungus groups that practiced shamanism were confined in Manchuria and Inner Mongolia. These include the Ewenki and the Oroqen. The last shaman of the Oroqen, Chuonnasuan (Meng Jin Fu), died in October 2000.

In many other cases, shamanism was in decline even at the beginning of 20th century (Selkups).[103]


Sami shamanic drum in the Arctikum museum, in Rovaniemi, Finland

While shamanism had a strong tradition in Europe before the rise of monotheism, shamanism remains as a traditional, organized religion in Uralic, Altaic people and Huns; and also in Mari-El and Udmurtia, two semi-autonomous provinces of Russia with large Finno-Ugric minority populations. Shamanism in Scandinavia may be represented in rock art dating to the Neolithic era[104] and was practiced throughout the Iron Age by the various Teutonic tribes and the Baltic-Finnic peoples.[105] Some peoples, which used to live in Siberia, have wandered to their present locations since then. For example, many Uralic peoples live now outside Siberia, however the original location of the Proto-Uralic peoples (and its extent) is debated. Combined phytogeographical and linguistic considerations (distribution of various tree species and the presence of their names in various Uralic languages) suggest that this area was north of Central Ural Mountains and on lower and middle parts of Ob River.[106] The ancestors of Hungarian people or Magyars have wandered from their ancestral proto-Uralic area to the Pannonian Basin. Shamanism played an important role in Altaic mythology. Tengriism, the major belief among Xiongnu, Turkic peoples, Magyars and Bulgars in ancient times incorporates elements of shamanism.

There are currently no known historically verifiable accounts that compare the practices of the Druids of Britain to Shamanistic practices though some research has been undertaken regarding the bog bodies [107] in regard to the bodies being shamans and also to Norse seiðr[108] . Shamanism is no more a living practice among Hungarians, but some remnants have been reserved as fragments of folklore, in folktales, customs.[109]



Chinese shamanism has the longest recorded history in the world. The word wu "shaman; spirit medium; healer" first appeared on oracle bones from the late Shang Dynasty (ca. 1600-1046 BCE). Chinese classics from the Zhou Dynasty (1045-256 BCE) provide details about male and female shamans serving as exorcists, healers, rainmakers, oneiromancers, soothsayers, and officials. Ever since Emperor Wu of Han (r. 141-87 BCE) established Confucianism as the "state religion", the male-dominated Confucian ruling class has marginalized shamanism, especially female shamans. Shamanic practices continue in present day Chinese culture.


Shamanism is still practiced in South Korea, where the role of a shaman is most frequently taken by women known as mudangs, while male shamans (rare) are called baksoo mudangs. Korean shamans are considered to be from a low class.

A person can become a shaman through hereditary title or through natural ability. Shamans are consulted in contemporary society for financial and marital decisions.


The Japanese call Shamansim "Shinto," the distinction is that Shinto is Shamanism for agricultural society. Today Shinto has morphed with Buddhism and other Japanese folk culture. The book "Occult Japan: Shinto, Shamanism and the Way of the Gods" by Percival Lowell delves further into researching Japanese Shamanism or Shintoism.[110] Shinto currently has about 119 million known adherents in Japan,[111] although a person who practices any manner of Shinto rituals may be so counted. It is generally accepted that the vast majority of Japanese people take part in Shinto rituals. In the book "Japan Through the Looking Glass: Shaman to Shinto" uncovers the extraordinary aspects of Japanese beliefs[112][113]


The modern-day folk dances of the Middle Eastern island of Cyprus have been argued to originate from ancient shamanist ceremonies and "early religious and incantational worship".[114] The country was one of the last centres of ancient female-lead shamanistic Goddess rites in the Mediterranean, where the so-called Double Goddesses were worshiped.[115] Ancient Cypriot healers used special rituals, charms and incantations in their practices, as well as herbs and spices including frankincense, myrrh, olive oil. Medicine was also linked to the Phoenician gods Astarte and Baal. Healers and magi still exist in Cyprus today,[116][117] and a study by Harvard University suggests that, during Biblical times, "the island of Cyprus was in fact reputed for magia", a variant which was relatively "more recent" than the Persian (Zoroastrian) and Jewish traditions which would have influenced the island.[118] Additionally, Gypsies, who first arrived in Cyprus between 1322 and 1400 from the Levantine mainland, are known for fortune telling by palm reading.[119]

Other Asian traditions

There is a strong shamanistic influence in the Bön religion of some Central Asians, and in Tibetan Buddhism. Buddhism became popular with shamanic peoples such as the Tibetans, Mongols, and Manchu beginning in the eighth century. Forms of shamanistic ritual combined with Tibetan Buddhism became institutionalized as a major religion under the Mongolian Yuan dynasty and the Manchurian Qing dynasty. However, in the shamanic cultures still practiced by various ethnic groups in areas such as Nepal and northern India, shamans are not necessarily considered enlightened, and often are even feared for their ability to use their power to carry out malicious intent.[citation needed]

Kipchak stone statues of Pontic steppes. The nomadic Kipchak Turks followed a Shamanist religion.

In Tibet, the Nyingma schools in particular, had a Tantric tradition that had married "priests" known as Ngakpas or Ngakmas/mos (fem.). The Ngakpas were often employed or commissioned to rid the villages of demons or disease, creations of protective amulets, the carrying out of religious rites etc. The Ngakpas should however, been grounded in Buddhist philosophy and not simply another form of shaman, but sadly, this was most often not the case. There have always been, however, highly realised and accomplished ngakpas. They were in their own right great lamas who were of equal status as lamas with monastic backgrounds. The monasteries, as in many conventional religious institutions, wished to preserve their own traditions, sometimes at the expense of others. The monasteries depended upon the excesses of patrons for support. This situation often led to a clash between the more grassroots and shamanic character of the travelling Chödpa and Ngakpa culture and the more conservative religious monastic system.[120]

Shamanism is still widely practiced in the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa), where shamans are known as 'Noro' (all women) and 'Yuta'. 'Noro' generally administer public or communal ceremonies while 'Yuta' focus on civil and private matters. Shamanism is also practiced in a few rural areas in Japan proper. It is commonly believed that the Shinto religion is the result of the transformation of a shamanistic tradition into a religion. Forms of practice vary somewhat in the several Ryukyu islands, so that there is, e.g., a distinct Miyako shamanism.

Some practices also seem to have been preserved in the Catholic religious traditions of aborigines in Taiwan[121] and some Kazakhs.

In Vietnam, shamans conduct rituals in many of the religious traditions that co-mingle in the majority and minority populations. In their rituals, music, dance, special garments and offerings are part of the performance that surround the spirit journey.[122]

Inuit and Eskimo cultures

Yup'ik shaman exorcising evil spirits from a sick boy, Nushagak, Alaska, 1890s.[123] Nushagak, located on Nushagak Bay of the Bering Sea in southwest Alaska, is part of the territory of the Yup'ik, speakers of the Central Alaskan Yup'ik language

Eskimo groups comprise a huge area stretching from Eastern Siberia through Alaska and Northern Canada (including Labrador Peninsula) to Greenland. Shamanistic practice and beliefs have been recorded at several parts of this vast area crosscutting continental borders.[30][43][124]

As for terminology used in the article: the term Eskimo has fallen out of favour in Canada and Greenland, where it is considered pejorative and the term Inuit has become more common. However, Eskimo is still considered acceptable among Alaska Natives of Yupik and Inupiaq (Inuit) heritage, and is preferred over Inuit as a collective reference. To date, no replacement term for Eskimo inclusive of all Inuit and Yupik people has achieved acceptance across the geographical area inhabited by the Inuit and Yupik peoples. The Inuit and Yupik languages together constitute one branch within the Eskimo-Aleut language family alongside the Aleut branch. (The Sireniki Eskimo language is sometimes proposed to form a third branch of the Eskimo,[125][126][127] but sometimes it is regarded as belonging to the Yupik languages.[128]) The languages of the Eskimo branch have certain common characteristics (compared to Aleut) which justifies "splitting off" the Eskimo branch inside the Eskimo-Aleut family.

Shamanistic features

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When speaking of “shamanism” in various Eskimo groups, we must remember that (as mentioned above) the term “shamanism” can cover certain characteristics of various different cultures.[52] Mediation is regarded often as an important aspect of shamanism in general.[129] Also in most Eskimo groups, the role of mediator is known well:[130] the person filling it in is actually believed to be able to contact the beings who populate the belief system. Term “shaman” is used in several English-language publications also in relation to Eskimos.[43][124][131][132] Also the /aˈliɣnalʁi/ of the Asian Eskimos is translated as “shaman” in the Russian[133] and English[130] literature.

The belief system assumes specific links between the living people, the souls of hunted animals, and those of dead people.[134] The soul concepts of several groups are specific examples of soul dualism (showing variability in details in the various cultures).

Like most cultures labelled as “shamanistic”, the Eskimo groups have several special features, or at least ones that are not present in all shamanistic cultures. Unlike in many Siberian cultures, the careers of most Eskimo shamans lack the motivation of force: becoming a shaman is usually a result of deliberate consideration, not a necessity forced by the spirits.[40]

Diversity, with some similarities

Another possible concern: do the belief systems of various Eskimo groups have such common features at all, that would justify any mentioning them together? There was no political structure above the groups, their languages were relative, but differed more or less, often forming language continuums (online[127]).

There are some similarities in the cultures of the Eskimo groups[135][136][137][138][139] together with diversity, far from homogeneity.[140]

The Russian linguist Меновщиков, an expert of Siberian Yupik and Sireniki Eskimo languages (while admitting that he is not a specialist in ethnology[141]) mentions, that the shamanistic seances of those Siberian Yupik and Sireniki groups he has seen have many similarities to those of Greenland Inuit groups described by Fridtjof Nansen,[142] although a large distance separates Siberia and Greenland. There may be certain similarities also in Asiatic groups with some North American ones.[143] Also the usage of a specific shaman's language is documented among several Eskimo groups, used mostly for talking to spirits.[144][145] Also the Ungazighmiit (belonging to Siberian Yupiks) had a special allegoric usage of some expressions.[146]

The local cultures showed great diversity. The myths concerning the role of shaman had several variants, and also the name of their protagonists varied from culture to culture. For example, a mythological figure, usually referred to in the literature by the collective term Sea Woman, has factually many local names: Nerrivik “meat dish” among Polar Inuit, Nuliayuk “lubricous” among Netsilingmiut, Sedna “the nether one” among Baffin Land Inuit.[147] Also the soul conceptions, e.g. the details of the soul dualism showed great variability, ranging from guardianship to a kind of reincarnation. Conceptions of spirits or other beings had also many variants (see e.g. the tupilaq concept).[148]


Some forms of African traditional religion are sometimes also subsumed under "shamanism".[citation needed] In central Mali, Dogon sorcerers (both male and female) claim to have communication with a head deity named Ama, who advises them on healing and divination practices.

In the early 19th century traditional healers in parts of Africa were often referred to in a derogatory manner as "witch doctors" practicing Juju by early European settlers and explorers.The San or Bushmen ancestors who were primarily scattered in Southern Africa before the 19th century, are reported to have practiced a practice similar to shamanism. In areas in Eastern Free State and Lesotho, where they co-existed with the early Sotho tribes, local folklore describes them to have lived in caves where they drew pictures on cave walls during a trance and were also reputed to be good rain makers.

  • The classical meaning of "shaman" as a person who, after recovering from a mental "illness" (of "insanity") takes up the professional calling of socially-recognized religious practitioner, is exemplified among the Sisala (of northern Gold Coast) : "the fairies “seized” him and made him insane for several months. Eventually, though, he learned to control their power, which he now uses to divine."[149]
  • The term "sangoma", as employed in Zulu and congeneric languages, is effectively equivalent to 'shaman'.
  • The term "nganga" is equivalent to 'shaman' as used by the Karanga, among whom remedies for ailments are discovered by the nganga being informed in a dream, by a deity, of the herb able to effect the cure and also of where that herb is to be found.
  • Shamanism is known among the Nuba of Kordofan in Sudan.[150][151]


North America

Native American "conjuror" in a 1590 engraving
Hamatsa ritualist, 1914

Native American and First Nations cultures have diverse religious beliefs. There was never one universal Native American religion or spiritual system. Though many Native American cultures have traditional healers, ritualists, singers, mystics, lore-keepers and "Medicine People", none of them ever used, or use, the term "shaman" to describe these religious leaders. Rather, like other indigenous cultures the world over, their spiritual functionaries are described by words in their own languages, and in many cases are not taught to outsiders.

Many of these indigenous religions have been grossly misrepresented by outside observers and anthropologists, even to the extent of superficial or seriously mistaken anthropological accounts being taken as more authentic than the accounts of actual members of the cultures and religions in question. Often these accounts suffer from "Noble Savage"-type romanticism and racism. Some contribute to the fallacy that Native American cultures and religions are something that only existed in the past, and which can be mined for data despite the opinions of Native communities.[152]

Not all Indigenous communities have roles for specific individuals who mediate with the spirit world on behalf of the community. Among those that do have this sort of religious structure, spiritual methods and beliefs may have some commonalities, though many of these commonalities are due to some nations being closely-related, from the same region, or through post-Colonial governmental policies leading to the combining of formerly-independent nations on reservations. This can sometimes lead to the impression that there is more unity among belief systems than there was in antiquity.

Navajo medicine men, known as "Hatałii", use several methods to diagnose the patient's ailments. These may include using special tools such as crystal rocks, and abilities such as hand-trembling and trances, sometimes accompanied by chanting. The Hatałii will select a specific healing chant for that type of ailment. Navajo healers must be able to correctly perform a healing ceremony from beginning to end. If they do not, the ceremony will not work. Training a Hatałii to perform ceremonies is extensive, arduous, and takes many years, and is not unlike priesthood. The apprentice learns everything by watching his teacher, and memorizes the words to all the chants. Many times, a medicine man cannot learn all sixty of the traditional ceremonies, so he will opt to specialize in a select few.

Extirpation of Shamanism in North America

With the arrival of foreign European settlers and colonial administration, the practice of shamanism was discouraged.

During the late 19th Century a shamanic mass movement, the Ghost Dance, swept through many tribes of Native Americans, First Nations. The belief was that through practicing the shamanic dance a great flood would come and all the invading foreigners would die. This form of shamanism was brutally suppressed by the United States Government's military. In the massacre of Wounded Knee, a whole band of Lakota Sioux under Chief Big Foot were gunned down with automatic Hotchkiss guns and left to die in a snow storm.

During the last hundred years, thousands of surviving Native Americans, First Nations youngsters from many cultures were sent into Indian boarding schools to destroy any tribal, shamanic or totemic faith.

South America

Panama: Shamanic healing is found among indigenous the Kuna people of Panama, who rely on sacred talismans. As such, they enjoy a popular position among local peoples.

Peru: The Urarina of the Peruvian Amazonia have an elaborate cosmological system predicated on the ritual consumption of ayahuasca. Urarina ayahuasca shamanism is a key feature of this poorly documented society.[153]

Brazil: Among the Brazilian Tapirape shamans are called to serve in their dreams.

Ecuador: The Shuar, seeking the power to defend their family against enemies, would apprentice themselves to become a shaman.

Santo Daime and União do Vegetal ( abbreviated to UDV) are syncretic religions with elements of shamanism. They use an entheogen called Ayahuasca to connect with the spirit realm and receive divine guidance.[41]

Meso-American shamanism

Maya priest performing a healing ritual at Tikal.

The Maya people of Guatemala, Belize, and Southern Mexico practice a highly sophisticated form of shamanism based upon astrology and a form of divination known as "the blood speaking", in which the shaman is guided in divination and healing by pulses in the veins of his arms and legs.

In contemporary Nahuatl, shamanism is known as cualli ohtli ('the good path') leading (during dreaming by 'friends of the night') to Tlalocán.

Alaska, northern Canada, and Greenland

Shamanic practices are also present in tribes in northern Canada, such the animism and shamanism of the Chipewyan and of the Cree.


Shaman from an equatorial Amazonian forest, June 2006

In the Peruvian Amazon Basin and north coastal regions of the country, the healer shamans are known as curanderos. Ayahuasqueros are Peruvian shamans, such as among the Urarina, who specialize in the use of ayahuasca, a psychedelic herbal potion used for physical and psychological healing, divine revelation, and for the very reproduction of society itself.[153] Ayahuasqueros have become popular among Western spiritual seekers, who claim that the shamans and their ayahuasca brews have cured them of everything from depression to addiction to cancer.[41]

In addition to Peruvian shaman’s (curanderos) use of rattles, and their ritualized ingestion of mescaline-bearing San Pedro cactuses (Trichocereus pachanoi) for the divinization and diagnosis of sorcery, north-coastal shamans are famous throughout the region for their intricately complex and symbolically dense healing altars called mesas (tables). Sharon (1993) has argued that the mesas symbolize the dualistic ideology underpinning the practice and experience of north-coastal shamanism.[154] For Sharon, the mesas are the, "physical embodiment of the supernatural opposition between benevolent and malevolent energies” (Dean 1998:61).[155]

In the Amazon Rainforest, at several Indian groups the shaman acts also as a manager of scarce ecological resources (paper;[33][35] online[68]). The rich symbolism behind Tukano shamanism has been documented in some in-depth field works[33][156][157] even in the last decades of the 20th century. For variations in shamanism among the several Tukano tribes, see : "Shamans, Prophets, Priests, and Pastors." For individual tribes of the Tukano, separate reports have been published, such as "Desana Shamanism".

The yaskomo of the Waiwai is believed to be able to perform a soul flight. The soul flight can serve several functions:

  • healing
  • flying to the sky to consult cosmological beings (the moon or the brother of the moon) to get a name for a new-born baby
  • flying to the cave of peccaries' mountains to ask the father of peccaries for abundance of game
  • flying deep down in a river, to achieve the help of other beings.

Thus, a yaskomo is believed to be able to reach sky, earth, water, in short, every element.[158]

Shamanism among the Yąnomamö (of the Venezolano Amazonas and the Brazilian Roraima) is described in Tales of the Yanomami by Jacques Lizot.

There is Asuriní shamanism of Pará, Brazil.

Harakmbut shamanism (of Peru) involves curing by dream-interpretion.

Among other literature on South American tropical forest shamanism are:-


Among the Mapuche people of South America, the community "shaman", usually a woman, is known as the Machi, and serves the community by performing ceremonies to cure diseases, ward off evil, influence the weather and harvest, and by practicing other forms of healing such as herbalism.


This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Although Fuegians (the indigenous peoples of Tierra del Fuego) were all hunter-gatherers,[159] they did not share a common culture. The material culture was not homogenous, either: the big island and the archipelago made two different adaptations possible. Some of the cultures were coast-dwelling, others were land-oriented.[160][161]

Both Selk'nam and Yámana had persons filling in shaman-like roles. The Selk'nams believed their /xon/s to have supernatural capabilities, e.g. to control weather.[162][163] The figure of /xon/ appeared in myths, too.[164] The Yámana /jekamuʃ/[165] corresponds to the Selknam /xon/.[166]


On the island of Papua New Guinea, indigenous tribes believe that illness and calamity are caused by dark spirits, or masalai, which cling to a person's body and "poison" them. Shamans, such as the one pictured to the right, are summoned in order to "purge" the unwholesome spirits from a person.[167][168] Shamans also perform rain-making ceremonies and can allegedly improve a hunter's ability to catch animals.[169]

In Australia various aboriginal groups refer to their "shamans" as "clever men" and "clever women" also as kadji. These Aboriginal shamans use maban or mabain, the material that is believed to give them their purported magical powers. Besides healing, contact with spiritual beings, involvement in initiation and other secret ceremonies, they are also enforcers of tribal laws, keepers of special knowledge and may "hex" to death one who breaks a social taboo by singing a song only known to the "clever men".

See for example, Umbarra (King Merriman).

Criticism of the term “shaman” or “shamanism”

Certain anthropologists, most notably Alice Kehoe in her book Shamans and Religion: An Anthropological Exploration in Critical Thinking, are highly critical of the term. Part of this criticism involves the notion of cultural appropriation.[citation needed] This includes criticism of New Age and modern Western forms of Shamanism, which may not only misrepresent or 'dilute' genuine indigenous practices but do so in a way that, according to Kehoe, reinforces racist ideas such as the Noble Savage.

A tableau presenting figures of various cultures filling in mediator-like roles, often being termed as "shaman" in the literature. The tableau presents the diversity of this concept.

Kehoe is highly critical of Mircea Eliade's work. Eliade, being a philosopher and historian of religions rather than an anthropologist, had never done any field work or made any direct contact with 'shamans' or cultures practicing 'shamanism', though he did spend four years studying at the University of Calcutta in India where he received his doctorate based on his Yoga thesis and was acquainted with Mahatma Gandhi. According to Kehoe, Eliade's 'shamanism' is an invention synthesized from various sources unsupported by more direct research. To Kehoe, what some scholars of shamanism treat as being definitive of shamanism, most notably drumming, trance, chanting, entheogens and hallucinogenics, spirit communication and healing, are practices that

  • exist outside of what is defined as shamanism and play similar roles even in non-shamanic cultures (such as the role of chanting in Judeo-Christian rituals)
  • in their expression are unique to each culture that uses them and cannot be generalized easily, accurately or usefully into a global ‘religion’ such as shamanism.

Because of this, Kehoe is also highly critical of the notion that shamanism is an ancient, unchanged, and surviving religion from the Paleolithic period.

Mihály Hoppál also discusses whether the term “shamanism” is appropriate. He recommends using the term “shamanhood”[170] or “shamanship”[171] for stressing the diversity and the specific features of the discussed cultures. This is a term used in old Russian and German ethnographic reports at the beginning of the 20th century. He believes that this term is less general and places more stress on the local variations,[69] and it emphasizes also that shamanism is not a religion of sacred dogmas, but linked to the everyday life in a practical way.[172] Following similar thoughts, he also conjectures a contemporary paradigm shift.[170] Also Piers Vitebsky mentions, that despite really astonishing similarities, there is no unity in shamanism. The various, fragmented shamanistic practices and beliefs coexist with other beliefs everywhere. There is no record of pure shamanistic societies (although, as for the past, their existence is not impossible).[173]

See books and small online materials on this topic.[174]

Shamanism and New Age movement

The New Age movement has appropriated some ideas from shamanism as well as beliefs and practices from Eastern religions and Native American cultures. As with other such appropriations, the original practitioners of these traditions frequently condemn New Age use as misunderstood, sensationalized, or superficially understood and/or applied.[175] Some Nanai shamans experienced performances on the stage as dangerous: inappropriate (untimely, superfluous) invocation of the helping spirits can raise their anger.[176]

There is an endeavor in some occult and esoteric circles to reinvent shamanism in a modern form, drawing from core shamanism—a set of beliefs and practices synthesized by the controversial Michael Harner—often revolving around the use of ritual drumming and dance, and Harner's interpretations of various indigenous religions. Harner has faced much criticism for implying that pieces of diverse religions can be taken out of context to form some sort of "universal" shamanic tradition. Some of these neoshamans also focus on the ritual use of entheogens, as well as chaos magic whilst others have created their own forms of shamanism such as Jan Fries[177].

European-based Neoshamanic traditions are focused upon the researched or imagined traditions of ancient Europe, where many mystical practices and belief systems were suppressed by the Christian church. Some of these practitioners express a desire to practice a system that is based upon their own ancestral traditions. Some anthropologists and practitioners have discussed the impact of such "neoshamanism" as 'giving extra pay' (Harvey, 1997 and elsewhere) to indigenous American traditions, particularly as many Pagan- or Heathen-'shamanic practitioners' of legitimate cultural traditions do not call themselves shamans, but instead use specific names derived from the older European traditions - the völva or seidkona (seid-woman) of the sagas being an example (see Blain 2002, Wallis 2003).

Many New Age spiritual seekers travel to Peru to work with ayahuasqueros, shamans who engage in the ritual use of ayahuasca, a psychedelic tea which has been documented to cure everything from depression to addiction. When taking ayahuasca, participants frequently report meeting spirits and receiving divine revelations.[41] Shamanism has also been used in New Age therapies which use enactment and association with other realities as an intervention[178][179] (see also Plastic shaman)

See also


  1. ^ Hoppál, Mihály (2005) (in Hungarian). Sámánok Eurázsiában. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó. ISBN 963-05-8295-3 2.  pp. 77, 287; Znamensky, Andrei A. (2005). "Az ősiség szépsége: altáji török sámánok a szibériai regionális gondolkodásban (1860–1920)". in Molnár, Ádám (in Hungarian). Csodaszarvas. Őstörténet, vallás és néphagyomány. Vol. I. Budapest: Molnár Kiadó. pp. 117–134. ISBN 963 218 200 6. , p. 128
  2. ^ Hoppál 1987: 76
  3. ^ Oxford Dictionary Online|
  4. ^ a b Mircea Eliade, Shamanism, Archaic Techniques of Ecstacy, Bollingen Series LXXVI, Pantheon Books, NYNY 1964, pp. 3-7.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Hoppál 2005: 45
  10. ^ Boglár 2001: 24
  11. ^ Hoppál 2005: 94
  12. ^ Vitebsky 1996: 46
  13. ^ a b Hoppál 2005: 25
  14. ^ a b Sem, Tatyana. "Shamanic Healing Rituals". Russian Museum of Ethnography. 
  15. ^ Hoppál 2005: 27–28
  16. ^ Hoppál 2005: 28–33
  17. ^ Hoppál 2005: 37
  18. ^ Hoppál 2005: 34–35
  19. ^ Hoppál 2005: 36
  20. ^ Eliade 1964: 4
  21. ^ Hoppál 2005:36164
  22. ^ Hoppál 2005:87–95
  23. ^ Czaplicka 1914
  24. ^ a b Salak, Kira. ""Lost souls of the Peyote Trail"". National Geographic Adventure. 
  25. ^ Merkur 1985: 4
  26. ^ Vitebsky 1996: 11, 12–14, 107
  27. ^ Hoppál 2005:27, 30, 36
  28. ^ Hoppál 2005: 27
  29. ^ Kleivan & Sonne 1985: 7, 19–21
  30. ^ a b Gabus, Jean: A karibu eszkimók. Gondolat Kiadó, Budapest, 1970. (Hungarian translation of the original: Vie et coutumes des Esquimaux Caribous, Libraire Payot Lausanne, 1944.) It describes the life of Caribou Eskimo groups.
  31. ^ Hoppál 2007c: 18
  32. ^ Hoppál 2005: 99
  33. ^ a b c d Reichel-Dolmatoff 1997
  34. ^ Vitebsky 1996:107
  35. ^ a b Boglár 2001:26
  36. ^ Merkur 1985: 5
  37. ^ Vitebsky 1996:108
  38. ^ Kleivan & Sonne: 27–28
  39. ^ a b Merkur 1985: 3
  40. ^ a b c d Kleivan & Sonne 1985: 24
  41. ^ a b c d e f g h Salak, Kira. ""Hell and Back"". National Geographic Adventure. 
  42. ^ a b Stephen Hugh-Jones 1980: 32
  43. ^ a b c d e Merkur 1985
  44. ^ Kleivan & Sonne 1985: 8–10
  45. ^ a b Noll & Shi 2004: 10, footnote 10 (see online)
  46. ^ a b Noll & Shi 2004: 8–9 (see online)
  47. ^ Turner et al., page 440
  48. ^ Noll & Shi 2004 (see online)
  49. ^ G. P. Makris : Changing Masters : Spirit Possession and Identity Construction among the Slave Descendants and Other Subordinates in the Sudan. Northwestern University Press, Evanston, 2000. p. 174
  50. ^ Diószegi 1962:13
  51. ^ a b Hoppál 2005:14
  52. ^ a b c Hoppál 2005:15
  53. ^ Pentikäinen 1995: 270
  54. ^ Boglár 2001:24
  55. ^ a b c Hoppál 2005:25–26,43
  56. ^ Hoppál 2004:14
  57. ^ Hoppál 2005: 13–15, 58, 197
  58. ^ Hoppál 2006a: 11
  59. ^ Hoppál 2006b: 175
  60. ^ Hoppál 2007c: 24–25
  61. ^ a b Hoppál, Mihály: Nature worship in Siberian shamanism
  62. ^ Hoppál 2007b: 12–13
  63. ^ a b c Hoppál 2007c: 25
  64. ^ Pentikäinen 1995: 270–271
  65. ^ Dana 2004: 18 (see online)
  66. ^ Merkur 1985:v
  67. ^ Hoppál 2007b: 13
  68. ^ a b Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff: A View from the Headwaters. The Ecologist, Vol. 29 No. 4, July 1999.
  69. ^ a b Hoppál 2005: 15
  70. ^ Hoppál 2006c: 143
  71. ^ a b Nattiez: 5
  72. ^ Deschênes 2002
  73. ^ Barüske 1969: 24, 50–51
  74. ^ Kleivan & Sonne 1985: 25
  75. ^ a b c Maxfield, Melinda. "The journey of the drum." ReVision 16.4 (1994): 157.
  76. ^ Vitebsky 1996: 49
  77. ^ Jean Clottes. "Shamanism in Prehistory". Bradshaw foundation. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  78. ^ a b Karl J. Narr. "Prehistoric religion". Britannica online encyclopedia 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  79. ^ "Earliest known shaman grave site found: study," reported by Reuters via Yahoo! News, November 4, 2008, archived. The researchers reported their findings for the scholarly community in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
  80. ^ Hoppál 2005: 117
  81. ^ a b Hoppál 2005: 259
  82. ^ Boglár 2001: 19–20
  83. ^ Diószegi 1960: 37–39
  84. ^ Eliade 2001: 76 (= Chpt 3 about obtaining shamanic capabilities)
  85. ^ Omnividence: A word created by Edwin A. Abbott in his book titled Flatland
  86. ^ Diószegi 1960: 88–89
  87. ^ Hoppál 2005: 224
  88. ^ Nagy 1998: 232
  89. ^ Merkur 1985:132
  90. ^ Merkur 1985:134
  91. ^ Hoppál 2005: 92
  92. ^ Hoppál 1994: 62
  93. ^ Hoppál 2005: 88
  94. ^ Hoppál 2005: 93
  95. ^ Hoppál 2005: 111, 117–119, 128, 132, 133–134, 252-263
  96. ^ Hoppál 2005: 257–258
  97. ^ "Pseudo Shamans Cherokee Statement". Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  98. ^ Vitebsky 1996: 150–153
  99. ^ Tedlock, Barbara. 2005. The Woman in the Shaman's Body: Reclaiming the Feminine in Religion and Medicine. New York: Bantam.
  100. ^ Hoppál 2005:13
  101. ^ a b Hoppál 2005:92–93
  102. ^ Hoppál 1994:62
  103. ^ Hoppál 2005:94
  104. ^ Bolin 2000: 157
  105. ^ A. Asbjorn Jon, Shamanism and the Image of the Teutonic Deity, Óðinn
  106. ^ Hajdú 1975:35
  107. ^ The Quest for the Shaman:Miranda & Stephen Aldhouse-Green ISBN 0-500-05134-8
  108. ^ Nine Worlds of Seid-Magic:Jenny Blain ISBN 0-415-25651-8
  109. ^ Diószegi 1998
  110. ^ Percival Lowell, Occult Japan: Shinto, Shamanism and the Way of the Gods, Inner Traditions International (April 1990), Rochester Vt
  111. ^ Library of Congress Country Studies
  112. ^ Alan Mcfarlane, Japan Through the Looking Glass: Shaman to Shinto, Profile Books Ltd, Aug 2007, London England
  113. ^
  114. ^ "Cyprus Culture Folk Dancing",
  115. ^ Noble, Vicki, The Double Goddess: Women Sharing Power, 2003
  116. ^ Gravenore, Kristian, "Magus In Training", Montreal Mirror, April 15, 2004
  117. ^ King, Serge Kahili, Urban Shaman, Novemebr 1990
  118. ^ South, Alison, "Elvis Found in Bronze Age Tomb", Harvard University & Cyprus American Archaelogical Research Institute, December 2000
  119. ^ Dr. Williams, G. A., "The Gypsies of Cyprus", Dom Research Center, March 2000
  120. ^ Economy of Excess. George Bataille.
  121. ^ O. Lardenois, Shamanism and Catholic Indigenous Communites in Taiwan
  122. ^ "Journeys to Other Worlds: The Rites of Shamans". American Museum of Natural History. 
  123. ^ Fienup-Riordan, Ann. 1994:206
  124. ^ a b Kleivan & Sonne 1985
  125. ^ Linguist List's description about Nikolai Vakhtin's book: The Old Sirinek Language: Texts, Lexicon, Grammatical Notes. The author's untransliterated (original) name is “Н.Б. Вахтин”.
  126. ^ Representing genealogical relations of (among others) Eskimo-Aleut languages by tree: Alaska Native Languages (found on the site of Alaska Native Language Center)
  127. ^ Ethnologue Report for Eskimo-Aleut
  128. ^ Hoppál 2005:45–50
  129. ^ a b Menovščikov 1996:442
  130. ^ Vitebsky 1996
  131. ^ Freuchen 1961: 32
  132. ^ Рубцова 1954: 203, 209
  133. ^ Both death of a person and successfully hunted game require that cutting, sewing etc. be tabooed, so that the invisible soul does not get hurt accidentally (Kleivan&Sonne, pp. 18–21). In Greenland, the transgression of death tabu could turn the soul of the dead into a tupilak, a restless ghost which scared game away (Kleivan&Sonne 1985, p. 23). Animals fleed from hunter in case of taboo breaches, e.g. birth taboo, death taboo (Kleivan&Sonne, pp. 12–13)
  134. ^ Kleivan 1985:8
  135. ^ Rasmussen 1965:366 (ch. XXIII)
  136. ^ Rasmussen 1965:166 (ch. XIII)
  137. ^ Rasmussen 1965:110 (ch. VIII)
  138. ^ Mauss 1979
  139. ^ Kleivan 1985:26
  140. ^ Menovščikov 1996 [1968]:433
  141. ^ Menovščikov 1996 [1968]:442
  142. ^ Vitebsky 1996:42 (ch. North America)
  143. ^ Merkur 1985:7
  144. ^ Kleivan & Sonne 1985:14
  145. ^ Rubcova 1954:128
  146. ^ Kleivan & Sonne 1985: 27
  147. ^ Kleivan & Sonne 1985: 30–31
  148. ^ Eugene L. Mendonsa : The Politics of Divination : a Processual View of Reactions to Illness and Deviance among the Sisala. University of California Press, Berkeley, 1982. p. 112
  149. ^ Nadel, S.F. "A Shaman Cult in the Nuba Mountains". Sudan Notes and Records 1941; 24(l): 85-112
  150. ^ Nadel, S.F. "A Study of Shamanism in the Nuba Mountains". Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 1946; 76:25-37
  151. ^ Jones, Peter N. 2008 Shamans and Shamanism: A Comprehensive Bibliography of the Terms Use in North America. Boulder, CO: Bauu Press.
  152. ^ a b Dean, Bartholomew 2009 Urarina Society, Cosmology, and History in Peruvian Amazonia, Gainesville: University Press of Florida ISBN 978-081303378 [1]
  153. ^ Joralemen, D and D Sharon 1993 Sorcery and Shamanism: Curanderos and Clients in Northern Peru. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.
  154. ^ Dean, Bartholomew 1998 “Review of Sorcery and Shamanism: Curanderos and Clients in Northern Peru” American Ethnologist. 25(1): 61-62.
  155. ^ Christine Hugh-Jones 1980
  156. ^ Stephen Hugh-Jones 1980
  157. ^ Fock 1963: 16
  158. ^ Gusinde 1966, pp. 6–7
  159. ^ Service, Elman: The Hunter. Prentice-Hall, 1966.
  160. ^ Extinct Ancient Societies Tierra del Fuegians
  161. ^ Gusinde 1966:175
  162. ^ About the Ona Indian Culture in Tierra del Fuego
  163. ^ Gusinde 1966:15
  164. ^ Gusinde 1966:156
  165. ^ Gusinde 1966:186
  166. ^ " listing for the "Four Corners: A Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea"". 
  167. ^ Salak, Kira. "Kira Salak's official webpage on "Four Corners"". 
  168. ^ Salak, Kira. "MAKING RAIN--from Four Corners"". 
  169. ^ a b ISSR, 2001 Summer, abstract online in 2nd half of 2nd paragraph)
  170. ^ Hoppál & Szathmári & Takács 2006: 14
  171. ^ Hoppál 1998:40
  172. ^ Vitebsky 1996:11
  173. ^ Books relating to “shamanhood”, some of them with online abstract:
    • (Online abstract) Pentikäinen, Juha. Shamanhood symbolism and epic. Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 2001. ISBN 963-05-7811-5.
    • Pentikäinen, Juha and Simoncsics, Péter (eds): Shamanhood. An endangered language. The Institute for Comparative Research in Human Culture, 2005. (Series B, 117). ISBN 82-7099-391-3.
    See also similar online abstracts.
  174. ^ American Indian Cultural Support
  175. ^ Shaman on the Stage (Shamanism and Northern Identity) by Tatyana Bulgakova
  176. ^ Visual Magic:A Manual of Freestyle Shamanism:Jan Fries ISBN 1869928-571
  177. ^ ULL - Universidad de La Laguna (Spanish)
  178. ^ Encyclopedia of NLP


  • Barüske, Heinz (1969) (in German). Eskimo Märchen. Die Märchen der Weltliteratur. Düsseldorf • Köln: Eugen Diederichs Verlag.  The title means: “Eskimo tales”, the series means: “The tales of world literature”.
  • Boglár, Lajos (2001) (in Hungarian). A kultúra arcai. Mozaikok a kulturális antropológia köreiből. TÁRStudomány. Budapest: Napvilág Kiadó. ISBN 963 908294 5.  The title means “The faces of culture. Mosaics fom the area of cultural anthropology”.
  • Bolin, Hans. "Animal Magic: The mythological significance of elks, boats and humansin north Swedish rock art.". Journal of Material Culture. Vol. 5(2): 153-176.. 
  • Czaplicka, M. A. (1914). "Types of shaman". Shamanism in Siberia. Aboriginal Siberia. A study in social anthropology. preface by Marett, R. R.. Sommerville College, University of Oxford, Clarendon Press. 
  • Dana, Kathleen Osgood (2004 summer). "Áillohaš and his image drum: the native poet as shaman" (pdf). Nordlit (Faculty of Humanities, University of Tromsø) 15. 
  • Deschênes, Bruno (2002). "Inuit Throat-Singing". Musical Traditions. The Magazine for Traditional Music Throughout the World. 
  • Diószegi, Vilmos (1960) (in Hungarian). Sámánok nyomában Szibéria földjén. Egy néprajzi kutatóút története. Budapest: Magvető Könyvkiadó.  The book has been translated to English: Diószegi, Vilmos (1968). Tracing shamans in Siberia. The story of an ethnographical research expedition. Translated from Hungarian by Anita Rajkay Babó. Oosterhout: Anthropological Publications. 
  • Diószegi, Vilmos (1962) (in Hungarian). Samanizmus. Élet és Tudomány Kiskönyvtár. Budapest: Gondolat.  The title means: “Shamanism”.
  • Diószegi, Vilmos (1998) [1958] (in Hungarian). A sámánhit emlékei a magyar népi műveltségben (first reprint ed.). Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó. ISBN 963 05 7542 6.  The title means: “Remnants of shamanistic beliefs in Hungarian folklore”.
  • Eliade, Mircea (1983). Le chamanisme et les techniques archaïques de'l extase. Paris: Éditions Payot. 
  • Eliade, Mircea (2001) (in Hungarian). A samanizmus. Az extázis ősi technikái. Budapest: Osiris. ISBN 963 379 755 1.  Translated from Eliade 1983.
  • Fienup-Riordan, Ann (1994). Boundaries and Passages: Rule and Ritual in Yup'ik Eskimo Oral Tradition. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press. 
  • Fock, Niels (1963). Waiwai. Religion and society of an Amazonian tribe. Nationalmuseets skrifter, Etnografisk Række (Ethnographical series), VIII. Copenhagen: The National Museum of Denmark. 
  • Freuchen, Peter (1961). Book of the Eskimos. Cleveland • New York: The World Publishing Company. 
  • Gusinde, Martin (1966) (in German). Nordwind—Südwind. Mythen und Märchen der Feuerlandindianer.. Kassel: E. Röth.  The title means: “Northern wind, southern wind. Myths and tales of Fuegians”.
  • Hajdú, Péter (1975). "A rokonság nyelvi háttere". in Hajdú, Péter (in Hungarian). Uráli népek. Nyelvrokonaink kultúrája és hagyományai. Budapest: Corvina Kiadó. ISBN 963 13 0900 2.  The title means: “Uralic peoples. Culture and traditions of our linguistic relatives”; the chapter means “Linguistical background of the relationship”.
  • Hoppál, Mihály (1987), Shamanism: An Archaic and/or Recent System of Beliefs., Nicholson, Shirley, "Shamanism", Quest Books; 1st edition (May 25, 1987), p. 76, ISBN 0835606171 
  • Hoppál, Mihály (1994) (in Hungarian). Sámánok, lelkek és jelképek. Budapest: Helikon Kiadó. ISBN 963 208 298 2.  The title means “Shamans, souls and symbols”.
  • Hoppál, Mihály (1998). "A honfoglalók hitvilága és a magyar samanizmus" (in Hungarian). Folklór és közösség. Budapest: Széphalom Könyvműhely. pp. 40–45. ISBN 963 9028 142.  The title means “The belief system of Hungarians when they entered the Pannonian Basin, and their shamanism”.
  • Hoppál, Mihály (2005) (in Hungarian). Sámánok Eurázsiában. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó. ISBN 963-05-8295-3.  The title means “Shamans in Eurasia”, the book is published also in German, Estonian and Finnish. Site of publisher with short description on the book (in Hungarian).
  • Hoppál, Mihály (2006a). "Sámánok, kultúrák és kutatók az ezredfordulón". in Hoppál, Mihály & Szathmári, Botond & Takács, András. Sámánok és kultúrák. Budapest: Gondolat. pp. 9–25. ISBN 963 9450 286.  The chapter title means “Shamans, cultures and researchers in the millenary”, the book title means “Shamans and cultures”.
  • Hoppál, Mihály (2006b). "Sámánság a nyenyecek között". in Hoppál, Mihály & Szathmári, Botond & Takács, András. Sámánok és kultúrák. Budapest: Gondolat. pp. 170–182. ISBN 963 9450 286.  The chapter title means “Shamanhood among the Nenets”, the book title means “Shamans and cultures”.
  • Hoppál, Mihály (2006c). "Music of Shamanic Healing". in Gerhard Kilger. Macht Musik. Musik als Glück und Nutzen für das Leben. Köln: Wienand Verlag. ISBN 3879098654. 
  • Hoppál, Mihály (2007b). "Is Shamanism a Folk Religion?". Shamans and Traditions (Vol 13). Bibliotheca Shamanistica. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó. pp. 11–16. ISBN 978 963 05 8521 7. 
  • Hoppál, Mihály (2007c). "Eco-Animism of Siberian Shamanhood". Shamans and Traditions (Vol 13). Bibliotheca Shamanistica. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó. pp. 17–26. ISBN 978 963 05 8521 7. 
  • Hugh-Jones, Christine (1980). From the Milk River: Spatial and Temporal Processes in Northwest Amazonia. Cambridge Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology. Cambridge University Press. 
  • Hugh-Jones, Stephen (1980). The Palm and the Pleiades. Initiation and Cosmology in Northwest Amazonia. Cambridge Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology. Cambridge University Press. 
  • Kleivan, Inge; B. Sonne (1985). Eskimos: Greenland and Canada. Iconography of religions, section VIII, "Arctic Peoples", fascicle 2. Leiden, The Netherlands: Institute of Religious Iconography • State University Groningen. E.J. Brill. ISBN 90-04-07160-1. 
  • Lawlor, Robert (1991). Voices Of The First Day: Awakening in the Aboriginal dreamtime. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International, Ltd. ISBN 0-89281-355-5
  • Menovščikov, G. A. (= Г. А. Меновщиков) (1968). "Popular Conceptions, Religious Beliefs and Rites of the Asiatic Eskimoes". in Diószegi, Vilmos. Popular beliefs and folklore tradition in Siberia. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó. 
  • Merkur, Daniel (1985). Becoming Half Hidden: Shamanism and Initiation among the Inuit. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell. ISBN 91-22-00752-0. 
  • Nagy, Beáta Boglárka (1998). "Az északi szamojédok". in Csepregi, Márta (in Hungarian). Finnugor kalauz. Panoráma. Budapest: Medicina Könyvkiadó. pp. 221–234. ISBN 963 243 813 2.  The chapter means “Northern Samoyedic peoples”, the title means Finno-Ugric guide.
  • Nattiez, Jean Jacques, Inuit Games and Songs • Chants et Jeux des Inuit, Musiques & musiciens du monde • Musics & musicians of the world, Montreal: Research Group in Musical Semiotics, Faculty of Music, University of Montreal . The songs are online available from the ethnopoetics website curated by Jerome Rothenberg.
  • Noll, Richard; Shi, Kun, "Chuonnasuan (Meng Jin Fu), The Last Shaman of the Oroqen of Northeast China" (PDF), 韓國宗敎硏究 (Journal of Korean Religions) (Seoul KR: 西江大學校. 宗教硏究所 (Sŏgang Taehakkyo. Chonggyo Yŏnʾguso.)) 6: 135–162, 2004,, retrieved 2008-07-30 . It describes the life of Chuonnasuan, the last shaman of the Oroqen of Northeast China.
  • Pentikäinen, Juha (1995). "The Revival of Shamanism in the Contemporary North". in Tae-gon Kim & Mihály Hoppál. Shamanism in Performing Arts. Bibiotheca Shamanistica (Vol. 1). Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó. pp. 263–272. ISBN 963 05 6848 9. 
  • Reichel-Dolmatoff, Gerardo (1997). Rainforest Shamans: Essays on the Tukano Indians of the Northwest Amazon. Dartington: Themis Books. ISBN 0-9527302-4-3. 
  • Reinhard,, Johan (1976) "Shamanism and Spirit Possession: The Definition Problem." In Spirit Possession in the Nepal Himalayas, J. Hitchcock & R. Jones (eds.), New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, pp. 12–20.
  • Turner, Robert P.; Lukoff, David; Barnhouse, Ruth Tiffany & Lu, Francis G. (1995) Religious or Spiritual Problem. A Culturally Sensitive Diagnostic Category in the DSM-IV. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, Vol.183, No. 7, pp. 435–444
  • Vitebsky, Piers (1995). The Shaman (Living Wisdom). Duncan Baird. 
  • Vitebsky, Piers (1996) (in Hungarian). A sámán. Bölcsesség • hit • mítosz. Budapest: Magyar Könyvklub • Helikon Kiadó. ISBN 963 208 361 X.  Translation of Vitebsky 1995
  • Vitebsky, Piers (2001). The Shaman: Voyages of the Soul - Trance, Ecstasy and Healing from Siberia to the Amazon. Duncan Baird. ISBN 1-903296-18-8. 
  • Voigt, Vilmos (1966) (in Hungarian). A varázsdob és a látó asszonyok. Lapp népmesék. Népek meséi. Budapest: Európa Könyvkiadó.  The title means: “The magic drum and the clairvoyant women. Sami folktales”, the series means: “Tales of folks”.
  • Voigt, Miklós (2000). "Sámán — a szó és értelme" (in Hungarian). Világnak kezdetétől fogva. Történeti folklorisztikai tanulmányok. Budapest: Universitas Könyvkiadó. pp. 41–45. ISBN 963 9104 39 6.  The chapter discusses the etymology and meaning of word “shaman”.

Further reading

  • Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology. 1959; reprint, New York and London: Penguin Books, 1976. ISBN 0-14-019443-6
  • Richard de Mille, ed. The Don Juan Papers: Further Castaneda Controversies. Santa Barbara, CA: Ross-Erikson, 1980.
  • George Devereux, "Shamans as Neurotics", American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 63, No. 5, Part 1. (Oct., 1961), pp. 1088–1090.
  • Jay Courtney Fikes, Carlos Castaneda: Academic Opportunism and the Psychedelic Sixties, Millennia Press, Canada, 1993ISBN 0-9696960-0-0
  • Graham Harvey, ed. Shamanism: A Reader. New York and London: Routledge, 2003. ISBN 0-415-25330-6.
  • Åke Hultkrantz (Honorary Editor in Chief): Shaman. Journal of the International Society for Shamanistic Research
  • Philip Jenkins, Dream Catchers: How Mainstream America Discovered Native Spirituality. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-19-516115-7
  • Alice Kehoe, Shamans and Religion: An Anthropological Exploration in Critical Thinking. 2000. London: Waveland Press. ISBN 1-57766-162-1
  • Åke Ohlmarks 1939: Studien zum Problem des Schamanismus. Gleerup, Lund.
  • Jordan D. Paper, The Spirits are Drunk: Comparative Approaches to Chinese Religion, Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 1995. ISBN 0791423158
  • Malidoma Patrice Some. Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magi, and Initiaion in the Life of an African Shaman. New York: Penguin Group. 1994. ISBN 0-87477-762-3
  • Barbara Tedlock, Time and the Highland Maya,U. of New Mexico Press, 1992. ISBN 0-8263-1358-2
  • Piers Vitebsky, The Shaman: Voyages of the Soul - Trance, Ecstasy and Healing from Siberia to the Amazon, Duncan Baird, 2001. ISBN 1-903296-18-8
  • Michael Winkelman, (2000) Shamanism: The Neural Ecology of Consciousness and Healing. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey.
  • Andrei Znamenski, ed. Shamanism: Critical Concepts, 3 vols. London: Routledge, 2004. ISBN 0-415-31192-6
  • Andrei Znamenski, Shamanism in Siberia: Russian Records of Siberian Spirituality. Dordrech and Boston: Kluwer/Springer, 2003. ISBN 1-4020-1740-5
  • Andrei Znamenski, The Beauty of the Primitive: Shamanism and the Western Imagination.Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. ISBN 0195172310
  • 色音, 东北亚的萨满教:韩中日俄蒙萨满教比较研究(Northeast Asia Shamanism: Compare studies of Shamanism in Korea, China, Japan, Russia and Mongolia).中国社会科学出版社, Mar. 1998. ISBN 7500421931

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SHAMANISM, the name commonly given to the religion of the Ural-Altaic peoples. Properly speaking, however, there is nothing to distinguish Shamanism from the religions of other peoples in a similar stage of culture. On the other hand, the shaman or priest (Tungus saman, Altain Turk ka y na, cf. Russian kamlanie) performs duties which differ in some respects from those of the ordinary magician; one of his main functions is to protect individuals from hostile supernatural influence. He deals both with good and bad spirits; he also performs sacrifices and procures oracles. The drum (tungur) is an important instrument in his ceremonies; it may be assumed that in many cases the effect of the preliminary performances is to induce autohypnotic phenomena. The shaman's office is held to be hereditary and his chief assistants are ancestral spirits.

See Radloff, Aus Sibirien, ii.; C. de Harlez, Religion nationale des Tatares orientaux; Hiekisch, "Die Tungusen," Mitt. der anthropologischen Gesellschaft, Wien, xviii. 165 -182; Revue de l'histoire des religions, xl. 321, xlvii. 51.

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Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki



(From Shaman or Saman, a word derived by Bantzaroff from Manchu saman, i.e., an excited or raving man, by van Gennep and Keane from Saman a Tungus word; others say a later dialectic form of the Sanskrit sraman, i.e., a worker or toiler.)

A vague term used by explorers of Siberia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to designate not a specific religion but a form of savage magic or science, by which physical nature was believed to be brought under the control of man. It prevails among Turanian and Mongolian tribes and American Indians, and blends with their varied religious beliefs and customs. Thus the Turanians believe the shamans were a class created by the heaven-god Tengri to struggle for men's good against the evil spirits. The Buddhist Mongols call Shamanism shara-shadshin, i.e., the black faith, the Chinese tjao-ten, i.e., dancing before spirits. The shamans are variously designated, e.g., by Tatars kam, by Samoyeds taryib, by Ostjaks tadib, by Buriates boe, by Yakut Turks oyun, by American Indians medicine men, In the Bhagavata Purana the Jains are called shramans. In Persian-Hindu the term "shaman" means an idolater. In Tibet Shamanism represents a Buddhism degenerated into demonology. Thus the Mongols say that shamans are closely allied with Odokil, or Satan, who will not injure any tribe that obeys its wizards.


Shamanism rests for its basis on the animistic view of nature. Animism teaches that primitive and savage man views the world as pervaded by spiritual forces. Fairies, goblins, ghosts, and demons hover about him waking or sleeping: they are the cause of his mishaps, losses, pains. Mountains, woods, forests, rivers, lakes are conceived to possess. spirits, i.e., the itch-tchi of the Yakuts, and to be living, thinking, willing, passionful beings like himself. In respect to these, man is in a state of helplessness. The shaman by appropriate words and acts uses his power to shield man and envelops him in a kind of protective armour so that the evil spirits become inactive or inoffensive. His rôle is that of antagonist to the spirits and of guardian to ordinary man. The Esquimaux believe all the affairs of life are under the control of malignant spirits who are everywhere. These minor spirits are subject to the great spirit. Tung-Ak, yet must be propitiated. The shaman alone is supposed to be able to deal with Tung-Ak, though not superior to him. Tung-Ak is a name for Death, who ever seeks to harass the lives of people that their spirits may go to dwell with him. Ellis says that spirits far from friendly compassed the lives of the Polynesian islanders on every side. The gods of the Maori were demons thronging like mosquitos and ever watchful to inflict evil; their designs could be counteracted only by powerful spells and charms. In Kamchatka every corner of earth and heaven was believed to be full of spirits more dreaded than God. The Navajo, Ojibwas, and Dakotah Indians have a multiplicity of spirits, both evil and good, filling all space, which can be communicated with only after due preparation by the persons who have power to do so, i.e., medé or jossakeed.

Controlling Nature

The main principle of Shamanism is the attempt to control physical nature. Hence the term embraces the various methods by which the spirits can be brought near or driven away. The belief that the shaman practises this magic art is universal among savages. To this art nothing seems impossible; it intimately affects their conduct and is reflected in their myths. In some cases initiation is required. Thus with the Navajo and Ojibwas they who have successfully passed through the four degrees of the medéwin are called medé, and are considered competent to foresee and prophesy, to cure diseases and to prolong life, to make fetishes, and to aid others in attaining desires not to be realized in any other way. They who have received instruction in one or two degrees usually practise a specialty, e.g., making rain, finding game, curing diseases. For this women are eligible. Again the jossakeed, or jugglers, form a distinct class with no system of initiation, e.g., an individual announces himself a jossakeed and performs feats of magic in substantiation of his claim. Among the Australians the birraark were supposed to be initiated by wandering ghosts. The Dakotahs believe the medicine men to be wakanised (from wakan, i.e., godman) by mystic intercourse with supernatural beings in dreams and trances. Their business was to discern future events, lead on the war-path, raise the storm, calm the tempest, converse with thunder and lightning as with familiar friends. Father Le Jeune writes that the medicine men of the Iroquois enjoyed all the attributes of Zeus. Tiele says that the magical power is possessed by the shaman in common with the higher spirits and does not differ from theirs; in religious observances the magician priests entirely supersede the gods and assume their forms (Science of Religion, II, 108)

Most commonly the shaman is a man. Among the Yakuts, the Carib tribes, and in Northern California there are female as well as male shamans; and in some cases, e.g., the Yakuts, male shamans have to assume women's dress. Every Maori warrior is a shaman. In Samoa there is no regular caste, but in other Polynesian groups the shaman is the exclusive privilege of an hereditary class of nobles. With the Yakuts the gift of shamanism is not hereditary, but the protecting spirit of a shaman who dies is reincarnated in some member of the same family. To them the protecting spirit is an indispensable attribute of the shaman. They believe that the shaman has an ãmãgãt, i.e., a spirit-protector, and an ie-kyla i.e., image of an animal protector, e.g., totemism. Hence the shamans are graded in power according to the ie-kyla, e.g., the weakest have the ie-kyla of a dog, the most powerful that of a bull or an eagle. The ãmãgãt is a being completely different, and generally is the soul of a dead shaman. Every person has a spirit-protector, but that of the shaman is of a kind apart. With the American Indians the guardian spirit, from whom the novice derives aid, is more generally secured from the hosts of animal spirits; it can also be obtained from the local spirits or spirits of natural phenomena, from the ghosts of the dead or from the greater deities.

In the practice of his art the Shaman is regarded as:

  • A healer, hence the term "medicine man", and the secret medicine societies of the Seneca, and of other American tribes; the Alaskan Tungaks are principally healers.
  • An educator, i.e., the keeper of myth and tradition, of the arts of writing and divination; he is the repository of the tribal wisdom.
  • A civil magistrate; as seers possessing secret knowledge with power at times of assuming other shapes and of employing the souls of the dead, they are credited with ability to detect and punish crimes, e.g., the Angaput wizards among the Esquimaux. In Siberia every tribe has its chief shaman who arranges the rites and takes charge of the idols; under him are local and family wizards who regulate all that concerns birth, marriage, and death, and consecrate dwellings and food.
  • A war-chief; thus with the Dakotahs and Cheyennes the head war-chief must be a medicine man. Hence the shaman possesses great influence and in many cases is the real ruler of the tribe.

The means which the shaman uses are:

  • Symbolic magic, on the principle that association in thought must involve similar connexion in reality, e.g., the war and hunting dances of the Red Indians, placing magical fruit-shaped stones in the garden to insure a good crop, to bring about the death of a person by making an image of him and then destroying it or rubbing red paint on the heart of the figure and thrusting a sharp instrument into it.
  • Fasting with solitude and very generally bodily cleanness and incantations usually in some ancient or unmeaning language and with the Yakuts very obscene. Thus the song that salved wounds was known to the Greeks, e.g., the Odyssey, and to the Finns, e.g., the epic poem Kalewala. Among the Indo-Europeans the incantations are known as mantras, and are usually texts from the Vedas chanted over the sick. With the New Zealanders they are called karakias. In ancient Egypt, according to Maspero, the gods had to obey when called by their own name. At Eleusis not the name but the intonation of the voice of the magician produced the mysterious results. In calling on the spirits the shaman imitates the various sounds of objects in nature wherein the spirits are supposed to reside, e.g., the whispering breeze, the whistling and howling storm, the growling bear, the screeching owl.
  • Dances and contortions with use of rattle and drum and a distinctive dress decked with snakes, stripes of fur, little bells. Among the Ojibwas at the sound of the sacred drum every one rises and becomes inspired because the Great Spirit is then present in the lodge. The frenzy and contortions lead to an ecstatic state which is considered of the greatest importance. In South America drugs are used to induce stupor. The spiritual flight in search of information is characteristic of the Siberian shaman; it is rare in America. Vambéry cites a whole series of shamanistic ceremonies, e. g., tambourines and fire-dances, practised by the ancient sak-uyzur. Shaman incantations are found in the cuneiform inscriptions of the Medes at Suze. Sacrifices, gifts of beads and tobacco, and a few drops of the novice's blood form part of these rites with the American Indians.
  • Possession; thus in Korea the pan-su is supposed to have power over the spirits, because he is possessed by a more powerful demon whose strength he is able to wield. This is also the belief of the Yakuts.


Shamanism is closely akin to Fetishism, and at times it is difficult to tell whether the practices in vogue among certain peoples should be referred to the one or to the other. Both spring from Animism; both are systems of savage magic or science and have certain rites in common. Yet the differences consist in the belief that in Fetishism the magic power resides in the instrument or in particular substances and passes into or acts upon the object, whereas in Shamanism the will-effort of the magician is the efficient factor in compelling souls or spirits or gods to do his will or in preventing them from doing their own. Hence in Fetishism the emphasis is laid on the thing, although fasting and incantations may be employed in making the fetish; in Shamanism the prime factor is the will or personality of the magician, although he may employ the like means. Therefore we cannot admit the statement of Peschel who refers to Shamanism everything connected with magic and ritual.


(a) The reasons which prove Animism to be false destroy the basis on which Shamanism rests.

(b) Shamanism takes for granted the theory that fear is the origin of religion. De La Saussaye holds that the concept of God cannot arise exclusively from fear produced by certain biological phenomena. Robertson Smith teaches that from the earliest times, religion, distinct from magic and secrecy, addresses itself to kindred and friendly beings, and that it is not with a vague fear of unknown powers but with a loving reverence for known Gods that religion in the true sense of the word began (Religion of the Semites, 2nd ed., p. 54). Tiele says "worship even in its most primitive form always contains an element of veneration" and calls sorcery "a disease of religion" (Science of Religion, II, 136, 141).

(c) Shamanism is not a religion. The religious priest beseeches the favour of the gods; the shaman is believed to be able to compel and command them to do his will. Hence de La Saussaye regards Shamanism not as a name for a principal form of religion but for important phenomena and tendencies of Animism.

Portions of this entry are taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907.
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Simple English

A shaman doctor of Kyzyl, 2005.
File:Goldes shaman priest in his
Shaman priest of North America, 1897.

Shamanism is the name for a number of religious movements. Originally, it was used by Europeans to describe different religious and magical movements they could observe with certain indigenous people in Siberia, from about the 17th century. In the 20th century, the word was also used to describe other, similar movements worldwide.

Shamans play a central role in these movements, as they can be in both worlds, this one, and the world of spirits.

  • Spirits exist. They have an important role, both for single people, and for society as a whole.
  • Shamans can talk to spirits
  • There are good spirits, but there are also evil ones
  • The shaman can treat sickness, caused by evil spirits
  • Shaman can use special things and techniques to put themselves into a trance. Once in trance, they will get visions.
  • The Shaman's spirit can leave their body and enter the spirit world to search for answers
  • Shamans can use animals to help them

Shamanism is different from animism. Unlike these, it is not an organised movement.

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