Russian postcard based on a photo taken in 1908 by S. I. Borisov, showing a female shaman, of probable Khakas ethnicity.[1]

Shamanism is an anthropological term referencing a range of beliefs and practices regarding communication with the spiritual world.[2] To quote Eliade: "A first definition of this complex phenomenon, and perhaps the least hazardous, will be: shamanism = technique of ecstasy."[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 and to ameliorate illnesses of the human 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]

In areas where indigenous shamanism still thrives, there is a clear divide between "lay" people (who participate in and practice shamanic belief and tradition) and the professionals or specialists themselves. A lay practitioner of shamanism is not awarded any special title, as this is the norm within traditional societies. A shamanic professional, who is a highly-trained and very often spiritually selected individual, is sometimes known as a shaman[not in citation given](play /ˈʃɑːmən/ shah-mən or /ˈʃmən/ shay-mən).[5]



The term "shaman" is a loan from the Turkic word šamán, the term for such a practitioner, which also gained currency in the wider Turko-Mongol and Tungusic cultures in ancient Siberia.[6] Shamans were known as "priests" in the region of where Uralic languages, Turko-Tarter, or Mongolic languages are spoken.[7]


Nez Perce medicine man, performing his mysteries over a dying man, 1832 by George Catlin, Smithsonian American Art Museum.


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' typically 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.[citation needed]

Cultural anthropology approaches shamanism as an integral part of the study of culture, belief, and practice.


South Moluccan Shaman exorcising evil spirits occupying children, Buru. 1920.

Shamans gain knowledge and the power to heal by entering into the spiritual world or dimension. Most shamans have dreams or visions that tell them certain things. The shaman may have or acquire many spirit guides in the spirit world, who 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 the spiritual dimension. The shaman heals within the spiritual 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].

The wounded healer is archetype for a shamanizing journey. This process is important to the young shaman. S/he undergoes a type of sickness that pushes her or him to the brink of death. This happens for two reasons:

  1. The shaman crosses over to the under world. This happens so the shaman can venture to its depths to bring back vital information for the sick, and the tribe.
  2. The shaman must become sick to understand sickness. When the shaman overcomes her or his own sickness s/he will hold the cure to heal all that suffer. This is the uncanny mark of the wounded healer.[8]


Shamans 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.

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, and 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 single shaman may fulfill several of these functions.[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 gifting, 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.

Distinct types of shaman

In some cultures there may be additional types of shaman, who perform more specialized functions. For example, among the Nani people, a distinct kind of shaman acts as a psychopomp.[20] Other specialized shamans 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;[21] online[22]). Among the Huichol,[23] there are two categories of shaman. This demonstrates the differences among shamans within a single tribe.

Amongst the Hmong people, the shaman or the "Ntxiv Neej" (Tee-Neng), acts as healer. The Ntxiv Neej also performs rituals/ceremonies designed to call the soul back from its many travels to the physical human body. A Ntxiv Neej 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 the Ntxiv Neej to deliver souls back to their proper owner. The Ntxiv Neej 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 above may seem like distinct tasks, but they may be united by underlying soul and spirit concepts.

This concept can generally explain more, seemingly unassociated phenomena in shamanism:[24][25][26]
This concept 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 retrieving the lost soul of the ill person.[27] See also the soul dualism concept.
Scarcity of hunted game
This problem 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 allow themselves to be caught and killed.[28][29] For the ecological aspects of shamanistic practice, and related beliefs, see below.
Infertility of women
This problem can be cured by obtaining the soul of the expected child.
Beliefs related to spirits can explain many different phenomena.[30] 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 can memorize long texts or songs, and play an instrument, may be regarded as the beneficiary of contact with the spirits (eg. Khanty people).[31]

Ecological aspect

Resources for human consumption are easily depletable in tropical rainforests. Among Tucano, a sophisticated system exists for resource management, and for avoiding resource depletion through overhunting. This system is conceptualized mythologically and symbolically by the belief that breaking 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,[32] The Desana shaman negotiates with mythological beings for the souls of game.[33] Not only Tucanos, but the Piaroa have ecological concerns related to shamanism.[34] Among the Eskimo, shamans fetch the souls of game from remote places,[35][36] or soul travel to ask for game from mythological beings like the Sea Woman.[37]


The way shamans get sustenance and take part in everyday life varies among cultures. In many Inuit groups, they provide services for the community and get a "due payment" (some cultures believe the payment is given to the helping spirits[38]), 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.[38][39]


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.[40] Shamans require individualized knowledge and special abilities. Many shamans operate alone, although some take on an apprentice. Shamans can gather into associations, as Indian tantric practitioners have done.[citation needed]

Although the causes of disease lie in the spiritual realm, inspired by malicious spirits or witchcraft, both spiritual and physical methods are used to heal. Commonly, a shaman "enters the body" of the patient to confront the spiritual infirmity and heals by banishing the infectious spirit. Many shamans have expert knowledge of medicinal plants native to their area, and an herbal treatment is often prescribed. In many places shamans learn directly from the plants, harnessing their effects and healing properties, after obtaining permission from the indwelling or patron spirits. In the Peruvian Amazon Basin, shamans and curanderos use medicine songs called icaros to evoke spirits. Before a spirit can be summoned it must teach the shaman its song.[40] The use of totemic items such as rocks with special powers and an animating spirit is common. Such practices are presumably very ancient. Plato wrote in his Phaedrus that the "first prophecies were the words of an oak", and that those 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".

Belief in witchcraft and sorcery, known as brujería in Latin America, exists in many societies. Some societies distinguish shamans who cure from sorcerers who harm. Other societies assert all shamans have the power to both cure and kill. Shamanic knowledge usually enjoys great power and prestige in the community,[citation needed] but it may also be regarded suspiciously or fearfully as potentially harmful to others.

By engaging in their work, a shaman is exposed to significant personal risk. Risks may emerge from the spirit world, from enemy shamans, or from the means employed to alter the shaman's state of consciousness. Some of the plant materials used by shamans are toxic or fatal if misused. Failure to return from an out-of-body journey can lead to death. Spells are commonly used to protect against these dangers, and the use of more dangerous plants is often very highly ritualized.


Boundaries between the shaman and laity are not always clearly defined. 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 Barasana shaman knows more myths and understands their meaning better, nonetheless the majority of adult men also know many myths.[41]

Among Eskimo peoples the laity have experiences which are commonly attributed to the shamans of those Eskimo groups. Daydream, reverie, and trance are not restricted to shamans.[42] Control over helping spirits is the primary characteristic attributed to shamans. The laity usually employ amulets, spells, formulas, songs.[42][43] Among the Greenland Inuit, some of the laity have greater capacity to relate with spiritual beings. These people are often apprentice shamans who failed to complete their initiations.[39]

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.[44] Despite these functions, the jardalanin is not a shaman. For this interpretative assistant, it would be unwelcome to fall into trance.[45]

Initiation and learning

Shamans are normally "called" by dreams or signs which require lengthy training, however, in some societies, shamanic powers are inherited.

Shamanic illness

Turner and colleagues[46] 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.[47]

Cognitive, semiotic, hermeneutic approaches

As mentioned, a (debated) approach explains the etymology of word "shaman" as meaning "one who knows".[48][49] 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.[50] The shaman uses (and the audience understands) multiple codes. Shamans express meanings in many ways: verbally, musically, artistically, and in dance. Meanings may be manifested in objects such as amulets.[49]

The shaman knows the culture of his or her community well,[10][51][52] 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.[52] Such drumming can appear to its members with certainty of knowledge—this explains the above described etymology for the word "shaman".[53]

Sami shaman with his drum

There are semiotic theoretical approaches to shamanism,[54][55][56] ("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.[57] (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?).[50][58] Shaman's lore is rooted in the folklore of the community, which provides a "mythological mental map".[59][60] Juha Pentikäinen uses the concept "grammar of mind".[60][61] Linking to a Sami example, Kathleen Osgood Dana writes:

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 shamans need to be experts in the folklore of their cultures (11).[62]

Armin Geertz coined and introduced the hermeneutics,[63] "ethnohermeneutics",[58] approaches to the practice of interpretation. Hoppál extended the term to include not only the interpretation of oral and written texts, but that of "visual texts as well (including motions, gestures and more complex ritual, and ceremonies performed for instance by shamans)".[64] It not only reveals the animistic views hiding behind shamanism, but also conveys their relevance for the contemporary world, where ecological problems have validated paradigms about balance and protection.[60]

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 developments in the ways that modern science (systems theory, ecology, some new approaches in anthropology and archeology) treats causality in a less linear fashion.[32] He also suggests a cooperation of modern science and indigenous lore (online[65]).


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.[40]

Shamanic rituals pharmacy

Some of the shamanic practices present the use of elements extracted from natural sources, that lead the user to a trance. All these products have the presence of alkaloids. They are psychoactive or entheogenic elements. Alkaloids normally produce since deaden sensation up to what they call totally visionary state, once the user can see with closed eyelids. Below, a table containing the vegetal and fungical sources that are used by shamanic practiitioners during their rituals, as well as their biological classification and the alkaloids present in them:

Usual name Biological classification Kingdom Divisão Class Order Family Genus Original region Chemical agent Alkaloid composition
Salvia divinorum Salvia divinorum Plantae Magnoliophyta Magnoliopsida Lamiales Lamiaceae Salvia Oaxaca, Mexico Salvinorin-A C23H28O8
Cannabis Cannabis sativa Plantae Magnoliophyta Magnoliopsida Rosales Cannabaceae Cannabis Several areas in the World tetrahydrocannabinol C21H30O2
Tobacco Nicotiana obtusifolia Plantae Magnoliophyta Magnoliopsida Solanales Solanaceae Nicotiana America nicotina C10H14N2
Ayahuasca or Cipó-mariri (Brazil) Banisteriopsis caapi Plantae Magnoliophyta Magnoliopsida Malpighiales Malpighiaceae Banisteriopsis Amazonia harmina / Tetrahydroharmina C13H12N2O / C13H16N2O
Datura Datura stramonium Plantae Magnoliophyta Magnoliopsida Solanales Solanaceae Datura South Africa Scopolamina / Hyoscyamina C17H21NO4 / C17H23NO3
Morning Glory Ipomoea tricolor Plantae Magnoliophyta Magnoliopsida Solanales Convolvulaceae Ipomoea Americas Ergine C16H17N3O
Iboga Tabernanthe iboga Plantae Eudicots Asterids Gentianales Apocynaceae Tabernanthe Western Africa Ibogaina C20H26N2O
Argyreia nervosa Argyreia speciosa Plantae Eudicots Asterids Solanales Convolvulaceae Argyreia Hawaii, Africa, and Caribbean Ergine C16H17N3O
San Pedro cactus Lophophora williamsii Plantae Eudicots Core eudicots Caryophyllales Cactaceae Echinopsis Americas Mescaline C11H17NO3
Peyote Echinopsis pachanoi Plantae Magnoliophyta Magnoliopsida Caryophyllales Cactaceae Lophophora Americas Mescaline C11H17NO3
Cedar Thuja plicata Plantae Pinophyta Pinopsida Pinales Cupressaceae Thuja North America Thujone C10H16O
Psilocybe Psilocybe semilanceata Fungi Basidiomycota Homobasidiomycetes Agaricales Strophariaceae Psilocybe Mexico, Asia and North America Psilocybin / Baeocystin / Phenylethylamin C12H17N2O4P / C11H15N2O4P / C8H11N
Amanita muscaria Amanita Muscaria Fungi Basidiomycota Homobasidiomycetes Agaricales Amanitaceae Amanita Northern Hemisphere Muscimol / Ibotenic Acid C4H6N2O2 / C5H6N2O4

Music, songs

Just like shamanism itself,[50] 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 onomatopoeia.[66]

Sound mimesis in various cultures may serve other functions not necessarily related to shamanism: practical goals as luring game in the hunt;[67] or entertainment (Inuit throat singing).[67][68]


Shamans may have various kinds of paraphernalia in different cultures.

Goldes shaman priest in his regalia
Artist's depiction of a Shaman's drum with a three-world cosmology.[69] The vertical arrow symbolizes the World Tree, which stands in the center of the world.[70] It unites the underworld, the earthly world, and heaven.[71] This presentation can be found on shaman drums of the Turks, Mongols and Tungusic peoples in Central Asia and Siberia.

Drum – The drum is used by shamans of several peoples in Siberia, the Inuit, and many other cultures all over the world,[72] although its usage for shamanistic seances may be lacking among the Inuit of Canada.[73]

The beating of the drum allows the shaman to achieve an altered state of consciousness or to travel on a journey between the physical and spiritual worlds.[74] Much fascination surrounds the role that the acoustics of the drum play to the shaman. Shaman drums are generally constructed of an animal-skin stretched over a bent wooden hoop, with a handle across the hoop.

Feathers – In numerous North and South American cultures, as well as in Europe and Asia, birds are seen as messengers of the spirits. Feathers are often used in ceremonies and in individual healing rituals.

Rattle – Found mostly among South American[75] 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.

Pipe – Used for smoking various tobaccos and psychoactive herbs (e.g. tobacco in North and South America, cannabis in India).

Sword – In the Hmong culture, a holy sword will always be used in the practice to protect the shaman from wandering "evil" spirits as he travels 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 nine by two feet, is used in the Hmong culture; the table transforms into a "flying horse" in the spirit world.

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


Hypotheses on origins

Shamanic practices may originate as early as the Paleolithic, predating all organized religions,[76][77] and certainly as early as the Neolithic period.[77]

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.[78]

Decline and revitalization / tradition-preserving movements

Shamanism is believed to be declining around the world. Some of this is due to other religious influences, like Christianity, that want people who practice shamanism to convert to their own religion. Another reason is western views of shamanism as primitive and superstitious. Whalers who frequently interact with Inuit tribes are one source of this decline in that region.[79]

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 dying 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 shaman-hood (laics know myths as well, among Barasana, even though less;[41] there are former shaman apprentices unable to complete the learning among some Greenlandic Inuit peoples,[39] moreover, even laics can have trance-like experiences among Eskimos;[42] the assistant of a shaman can be extremely knowledgeable among Dagara[44][45]). Although the shaman is often believed and trusted exactly because he/she "accommodates" to the "grammar" of the beliefs of the community,[52] 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 neoshamanistic 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 Oroqen[verification needed] 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 Burkina Faso (Africa). References to this can be found in several works of Malidoma Somé, a writer who was born and initiated there.


Sami shamanic drum in the Arktikum Science Museum, in Rovaniemi, Finland

While shamanism had a strong tradition in Europe before the rise of monotheism, shamanism remains a traditional, organized religion in northern Eurasia, including Mari-El and Udmurtia, two semi-autonomous provinces of Russia with large minority populations. Shamanism in Scandinavia may be represented in rock art dating to the Neolithic era[100] and was practiced throughout the Iron Age by the various Teutonic tribes and the Baltic-Finnic peoples.[101] 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.[102] 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 Turko-Mongol mythology. Tengriism, the major belief among Xiongnu or Mongol and Turkic peoples, Magyars and Bulgars in ancient times incorporates elements of shamanism. Shamanism is no more a living practice among Hungarians, but some remnants have been reserved as fragments of folklore, in folktales, customs.[103]

There are currently not many historically verifiable accounts that connect the practices of the Celtic druids to shamanic practices, though some research has been undertaken regarding the bog bodies[104] in regard to the bodies being shamans. However, there are many connections with druids and shamans in terms of their similar approaches towards Nature, aspects of spirituality, and overall role within their respective communities. Similarly the Norse seiðr is loosely connected to shamanism.[105]


The modern-day folk dances of the Mediterranean island of Cyprus have been argued to originate from ancient shamanist ceremonies and "early religious and incantational worship".[106] 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.[107] 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 rattles gods Astarte and Baal. Healers and magi still exist in Cyprus today,[108][109] 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.[110] Additionally, Oroqen, who first arrived in Cyprus between 1322 and 1400 from the Levantine mainland, are known for fortune telling by palm reading.[111]



Mongolian shamanism has the longest recorded history in the world. (This use of the phrase "recorded history", of course, acknowledges that the prehistoric shamanism existing prior to written language, upwards from the dawn of humanity, is the longest running spirituality in human evolutionary history). The word Böö "shaman; spirit medium; healer" first appeared on oracle bones from the late Shang Dynasty (ca. 1600–1046 BCE). Mongolian classics from the Hunnu Dynasty (1045-256 BCE) provide details about male and female shamans serving as exorcists, healers, rainmakers, oneiromancers, soothsayers, and officials. Shamanic practices continue in present day Mongolia culture.[112][113][114][115]

Hmong Shamanism in Asia & the West

The Hmong people,[116] as an ancient people of China with a 5000 years of history, continue to maintain and practice its form of shamanism known as "Ua Neeb" in mainland Asia. At the end of the Vietnam War, some 300000 Hmong have been settled across the globe. They have continue to practice Ua Neeb in various countries in the North and South America, Europe and Australia. In the USA, Ua Neeb (the Hmong shaman practitioner is known as "Txiv Neeb", Txiv Neeb has been license by many hospitals in California as being part of the medical health team to treat patients in hospital. This revival of Ua Neeb in the West has been brought great success and has been hailed in the media as "Doctor for the disease, shaman for the soul".

Animal sacrifice has been part of the Hmong shamanic practice for the past 5000 years. Contrary to the belief of many Westerners, the Hmong practice of using animal in shamanic practice has been done with great respect. After the Vietnam War, over 200,000 Hmong were resettled in the USA and samanism is still part of the Hmong culture. But due the colluding of culture and the law, as Professor Alison Dundes Renteln, a political science professor at the University of Southern California and author of The Cultural Defense, a book that examines the influence of such cases on U.S. courts, once said, "We say that as a society we welcome diversity, and in fact that we embrace it...In practice, it's not that easy.".[117]

According to a news article from USA Today, "In Fresno in 1995, Thai Chia Moua, a Hmong shaman originally from Laos, ordered a German shepherd puppy beaten to death on his front porch while he chanted over its body. Moua later explained that he wanted the puppy's soul to hunt down an evil spirit that was tormenting his wife. He pleaded guilty to animal cruelty. He was sentenced to probation and community service."[118]

The Hmong believe that all things on Earth has a soul(s) and those souls are treated as equal and can be considered interchangeable. When a person is sick due to his soul being loss or captured by wild spirit, it is necessary to ask and get permission of that animal, whether it is a chicken, pig, dog, goat or any other animals is required, to use its soul for an exchange with that person's soul for period of 12 months. At the end of that 12 months period, during the Hmong New Year, the shaman performed a special ritual to release the soul of that animal and send it off to the world beyond. As part of his service to mankind, the animal soul is sent off to be re-incarnated into a higher form of animal or even to become a member of a god's family (ua Fuab Tais Ntuj tus tub, tus ntxhais) to live a life of luxury, free of the suffering as an animal. Hence, being asked to perform this duty (what Westerner called "animal sacrifice) is one of the a greatest honor for that animal to be able to serve mankind.


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.


Shamanism is part of the native Japanese religion of 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.[119] It is generally accepted that the vast majority of Japanese people take part in Shinto rituals. The book Japan Through the Looking Glass: Shaman to Shinto uncovers the extraordinary aspects of Japanese beliefs.[120][121]


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"[122] whereby a candidate is consecrated as shaman by another, already-established shaman.

Siberia is regarded as the locus classicus of shamanism.[123] It is inhabited by many different ethnic groups. Many of its 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).[124] The last notable Nganasan shaman's seances could be recorded on film in the 1970s.[92][124]

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 Evenki. 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 (Gypsies).[11]

Central Asia

Geographic influences on Central Asian shamanism

Geographical factors heavily influence the character and development of the religion, myths, rituals and epics of Central Asia. While in other parts of the world, religious rituals are primarily used to promote agricultural prosperity, here they were used to ensure success in hunting and breeding livestock. Animals are one of the most important elements of indigenous religion in Central Asia because of the role they play in the survival of the nomadic civilizations of the steeps as well as sedentary populations living on land not conducive to agriculture. Shamans wore animal skins and feathers and underwent transformations into animals during spiritual journeys. In addition, animals served as humans' guides, rescuers, ancestors, totems and sacrificial victims.[125] As a religion of nature, shamanism throughout Central Asia held particular reverence for the relations between sky, earth and water and believed in the mystical importance of trees and mountains. Shamanism in Central Asia also places a strong emphasis on the opposition between summer and winter, corresponding to the huge differences in temperature common in the region. The harsh conditions and poverty caused by the extreme temperatures drove Central Asian nomads throughout history to pursue militaristic goals against their sedentary neighbors. This military background can be seen in the reverence for horses and warriors within many indigenous religions.[126]

Common shamanic practices and beliefs shared among Central Asians

Central Asian shamans served as sacred intermediaries between the human and spirit world. In this role they took on tasks such as healing, divination, appealing to ancestors, manipulating the elements, leading lost souls and officiating public religious rituals. The shamanic séance served as a public display of the shaman's journey to the spirit world and usually involved intense trances, drumming, dancing, chanting, elaborate costumes, miraculous displays of physical strength, and audience involvement. The goal of these séances ranged from recovering the lost soul of a sick patient and divining the future to controlling the weather and finding a lost person or thing. The use of sleight-of-hand tricks, ventriloquism, and hypnosis were common in these rituals but did not explain some of the more impressive feats and actual cures accomplished by shamans.[127] Shamans perform in a "state of ecstasy" deliberately induced by an effort of will. Reaching this altered state of consciousness required great mental exertion, concentration and strict self-discipline. Mental and physical preparation included long periods of silent meditation, fasting, and smoking. In this state, skilled shamans employ capabilities that the human organism cannot accomplish in the ordinary state. Shamans in ecstasy displayed unusual physical strength, the ability to withstand extreme temperatures, the bearing of stabbing and cutting without pain, and the heightened receptivity of the sense organs. Some shamans made use of intoxicating substances and hallucinogens, especially mukhomor mushrooms and alcohol, as a means of hastening the attainment of ecstasy.[128] The use of purification by fire is an important element of the shamanic tradition dating back as early as the 6th century. People and things connected with the dead had to be purified by passing between fires. Some of these purifications were complex exorcisms while others simply involved the act of literally walking between two fires while being blessed by the Shaman. Shamans in literature and practice were also responsible for using special stones to manipulate weather. Rituals are performed with these stones to attract rain or repel snow, cold or wind. This "rain-stone" was used for many occasions including bringing an end to drought as well as producing hailstorms as a means of warfare.[129] Despite distinctions between various types of shamans and specific traditions, there is a uniformity throughout the region manifested in the personal beliefs, objectives, rituals, symbols and the appearance of shamans.

Shamanic rituals as artistic performance

The shamanic séance is both a religious ceremony and an artistic performance. The fundamental purpose of the dramatic displays seen during shamanic ceremonies is not to draw attention or to create a spectacle for the audience as many Westerners have interpreted, but to lead the tribe in a solemn religious function. In general, all performances consist of four elements: dance, music, poetry and dramatic or mimetic action. The use of these elements serves the purpose of outwardly expressing his mystical communion with nature and the spirits for the rest of the tribe. The true shaman can make the journey to the spirit world at any time and any place, but shamanic ceremonies provide a way for the rest of the tribe to share in this religious experience. The shaman changes his voice mimetically to represent different persons, gods, and animals while his music and dance change to show his progress in the spirit world and his different spiritual interactions. Many shamans practice ventriloquism and make use of their ability to accurately imitate the sounds of animals, nature, humans and other noises in order to provide the audience with the ambiance of the journey. Elaborate dances and recitations of songs and poetry are used to make the shamans spiritual adventures into a matter of living reality to his audience.[130]

Costume and accessories

The shaman's costume varies throughout the region but his chief accessories are his coat, cap, and tambourine or drum. The transformation into an animal is an important aspect of the journey into the spirit world undertaken during shamanic ceremonies so the coat is often decorated with birds feathers and representations of animals, colored handkerchiefs, bells and metal ornaments. The cap is usually made from the skin of a bird with the feathers and sometimes head, still attached. The drum or tambourine is the essential means of communicating with spirits and transporting the shaman on supernatural journeys. The drum, representing the universe in epitome, is often divided into equal halves to represent the earth and lower regions. Symbols and natural objects are added to the drum representing natural forces and heavenly bodies.[131]

Shamanism in Tsarist and Soviet Russia

In Soviet Central Asia, the Soviet government persecuted and denounced shamans as practitioners of fraudulent medicine and perpetuators of outdated religious beliefs in the new age of science and logic. The radical transformations occurring after the October Socialist Revolution led to a sharp decrease in the activity of shamans. Shamans represented an important component in the traditional culture of Central Asians and because of their important role in society, Soviet organizations and campaigns targeted shamans in their attempt to eradicate traditional influences in the lives of the indigenous peoples. Along with persecution under the tsarist and Soviet regimes, the spread of Christianity and Islam had a role in the disintegration of native faith throughout central Asia. Poverty, political instability and foreign influence are also detrimental to a religion that requires publicity and patronage to flourish. By the 1980s most shamans were discredited in the eyes of their people by Soviet officials and physicians.[132]

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 Kipchaks 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, have been grounded in Buddhist philosophy and not simply another form of shaman, but sadly,[citation needed] 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.[133][not in citation given]

"Jhakri" is the common name used for shamans in Sikkim, India. They exist in the Limbu, Sunuwar, Rai, Sherpa, Kami, Tamang, Gurung and Lepcha communities.[134] They are inflluenced by Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism, Mun and Bön rites.[135]

Shamanism is still widely practiced in the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa, Japan), 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.[136]

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.[137]

Inuit and Yupik cultures

Yup'ik shaman exorcising evil spirits from a sick boy, Nushagak, Alaska, 1890s.[138] 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.[29][42][139]

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.[50] Mediation is regarded often as an important aspect of shamanism in general.[140] Also in most Eskimo groups, the role of mediator is known well:[141] 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.[42][139][142][143] Also the [aˈliɣnalʁi] of the Asian Eskimos is translated as "shaman" in the Russian[144] and English[141] literature.

The belief system assumes specific links between the living people, the souls of hunted animals, and those of dead people.[145] The soul concepts of several groups are specific examples of soul dualism (showing variability in details in the various cultures).

Unlike the majority of shamanisms 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.[39]

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[146]).

There are some similarities in the cultures of the Eskimo groups[147][148][149][150][151] together with diversity, far from homogeneity.[152]

The Russian linguist Menovshikov (Меновщиков), an expert of Siberian Yupik and Sireniki Eskimo languages (while admitting that he is not a specialist in ethnology[153]) 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,[154] although a large distance separates Siberia and Greenland. There may be certain similarities also in Asiatic groups with some North American ones.[155] Also the usage of a specific shaman's language is documented among several Eskimo groups, used mostly for talking to spirits.[156][157] Also the Ungazighmiit (belonging to Siberian Yupiks) had a special allegoric usage of some expressions.[158]

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.[159] 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).[160]


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."[161]
  • The term "sangoma", as employed in Zulu and congeneric languages, is effectively equivalent to 'shaman'. Historically the sangoma role was the preserve of the black, indigenous ethnicities of Africa, but post-Apartheid white people have also trained as sangomas. John Lockley is reputedly one of the first white men in recent history to become a fully initiated sangoma is the Xhosa lineage of South Africa.
  • The term "inyanga" also employed by the Nguni cultures is equivalent to 'herbalist' as used by the Zulu people and a variation used by the Karanga, among whom remedies for ailments are discovered by the inyanga being informed in a dream, of the herb able to effect the cure and also of where that herb is to be found. The majority of the herbal knowledge base is passed down from one inyanga to the next, often within a particular family circle in any one village.
  • Shamanism is known among the Nuba of Kordofan in Sudan.[162][163]


North America

Doña Ramona, a Seri shaman from Punta Chueca, Sonora, Mexico.
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.[164]

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 and women, 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. The apprentice learns everything by watching his teacher, and memorizes the words to all the chants. Many times, a medicine man or woman cannot learn all sixty of the traditional ceremonies, so will opt to specialize in a select few.

Extirpation of shamanism in North America

With the arrival of European settlers and colonial administration, the practice of Native American traditional beliefs was discouraged and Christianity was imposed upon the indigenous people.

About 1888, a mass movement knows as the Ghost Dance started among the Paviotso (a branch of the Pah-Utes in Nevada) and swept through many tribes of Native Americans. The belief was that through practicing the Ghost Dance, a messiah would come with rituals that would make the white man disappear and bring back game and dead native Americans.[165] This spread to the Plains tribes, who were starving due to the depletion of the buffalo. Some Sioux, the Arapahos, Cheyennes and Kiowas accepted the doctrine. This form of shamanism was brutally suppressed by the United States military with the death of 128 Sioux at the massacre of Wounded Knee.[166]

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.[167]

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.[40]

Mesoamerican 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.

Circumpolar shamanism

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


Shaman from an equatorial Amazonian forest, June 2006
Urarina shaman, 1988

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.[167] 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.[40]

In addition to Peruvian shaman's (curanderos) use of Oroqen, 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.[168] For Sharon, the mesas are the, "physical embodiment of the supernatural opposition between benevolent and malevolent energies" (Dean 1998:61).[169]

In the Amazon Rainforest, at several Indian groups the shaman acts also as a manager of scarce ecological resources (paper;[32][34] online[65]). The rich symbolism behind Tukano shamanism has been documented in some in-depth field works[32][170][171] even in the last decades of the 20th century.

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.[172]

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


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.


Although Fuegians (the indigenous peoples of Tierra del Fuego) were all hunter-gatherers,[173] 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.[174][175]

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.[176][177] The figure of /xon/ appeared in myths, too.[178] The Yámana /jekamuʃ/[179] corresponds to the Selknam /xon/.[180]


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.[181][182] Shamans also perform rain-making ceremonies and can allegedly improve a hunter's ability to catch animals.[183]

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) and Tunggal panaluan.

Contemporary Western shamanism

There is an endeavor in some contemporary occult and esoteric circles to reinvent shamanism in a modern form, often drawing from core shamanism—a set of beliefs and practices synthesized by Michael Harner—centered use of ritual drumming and dance, and Harner's interpretations of various indigenous religions. Harner has faced criticism for taking pieces of diverse religions out of their cultural contexts and synthesising a set of universal shamanic techniques. Some neoshamans focus on the ritual use of entheogens, as well as embrace the philosophies of chaos magic whilst others (such as Jan Fries[184]) have created their own forms of shamanism .

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' do not call themselves shamans, but instead use specific names derived from the European traditions -they work within such as völva or seidkona (seid-woman) of the sagas (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.[40] Shamanistic techniques have also been used in New Age therapies which use enactment and association with other realities as an intervention[185][186]

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"[187] or "shamanship"[188] 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,[50] and it emphasizes also that shamanism is not a religion of sacred dogmas, but linked to the everyday life in a practical way.[189] Following similar thoughts, he also conjectures a contemporary paradigm shift.[187] 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).[190]

See books and small online materials on this topic.[191]

Shamanism clinical trial

The Kaiser Permanente Center For Health Research in Portland, Oregon conducted a phase I study into the effectiveness of shamanic healing as a treatment for chronic face and jaw pain. Twenty-three women who were diagnosed with Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMDs) participated in the study. At the end of treatment only four were clinically diagnosed with the TMDs present at the beginning of the study.[192]

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 9632182006. , p. 128
  2. ^ Hoppál 1987: 76
  3. ^ Eliade 1964: 4
  4. ^ a b Mircea Eliade, Shamanism, Archaic Techniques of Ecstacy, Bollingen Series LXXVI, Pantheon Books, NYNY 1964, pp. 3–7.
  5. ^ Oxford Dictionary Online. US dict: shâ′·mən, shā′·mən.
  6. ^ Shamanic Worlds
  7. ^ Shamanism
  8. ^ Halfax, Joan (1982). The wounder healer Shaman. New York: The Crossroads Publishing Company. ISBN 81-67705. 
  9. ^ Hoppál 2005: 45
  10. ^ a b Boglár 2001: 24
  11. ^ a b 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. ^ Hoppál 2005:36164
  21. ^ Hoppál 2005:87–95
  22. ^ Czaplicka 1914
  23. ^ a b Salak, Kira. "Lost souls of the Peyote Trail". National Geographic Adventure. 
  24. ^ Merkur 1985: 4
  25. ^ Vitebsky 1996: 11, 12–14, 107
  26. ^ Hoppál 2005:27, 30, 36
  27. ^ Hoppál 2005: 27
  28. ^ Kleivan & Sonne 1985: 7, 19–21
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ Hoppál 2007c: 18
  31. ^ Hoppál 2005: 99
  32. ^ a b c d Reichel-Dolmatoff 1997
  33. ^ Vitebsky 1996:107
  34. ^ a b Boglár 2001:26
  35. ^ Merkur 1985: 5
  36. ^ Vitebsky 1996:108
  37. ^ Kleivan & Sonne: 27–28
  38. ^ a b Merkur 1985: 3
  39. ^ a b c d Kleivan & Sonne 1985: 24
  40. ^ a b c d e f g h Salak, Kira. "Hell and Back". National Geographic Adventure. 
  41. ^ a b Stephen Hugh-Jones 1980: 32
  42. ^ a b c d e Merkur 1985
  43. ^ Kleivan & Sonne 1985: 8–10
  44. ^ a b Noll & Shi 2004: 10, footnote 10 (see online)
  45. ^ a b Noll & Shi 2004: 8–9 (see online)
  46. ^ Turner et al., page 440
  47. ^ Noll & Shi 2004 (see online)
  48. ^ Diószegi 1962:13
  49. ^ a b Hoppál 2005:14
  50. ^ a b c d e Hoppál 2005:15
  51. ^ Pentikäinen 1995: 270
  52. ^ a b c Hoppál 2005:25–26,43
  53. ^ Hoppál 2004:14
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  55. ^ Hoppál 2006a: 11
  56. ^ Hoppál 2006b: 175
  57. ^ Hoppál 2007c: 24–25
  58. ^ a b Hoppál, Mihály: Nature worship in Siberian shamanism
  59. ^ Hoppál 2007b: 12–13
  60. ^ a b c Hoppál 2007c: 25
  61. ^ Pentikäinen 1995: 270–271
  62. ^ Dana 2004: 18 (see online)
  63. ^ Merkur 1985:v
  64. ^ Hoppál 2007b: 13
  65. ^ a b Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff: A View from the Headwaters. The Ecologist, Vol. 29 No. 4, July 1999.
  66. ^ Hoppál 2006c: 143
  67. ^ a b Nattiez: 5
  68. ^ Deschênes 2002
  69. ^ H.B. Paksoy, PhD. "In the Beginning was Tengri, Part 1". "A diagram of Tengriist metaphysics on a shaman's drum. At the center is a world-tree connecting the three dimensions of the underworld, middleworld and upperworld." 
  70. ^ Alexander Eliot (1976). Myths. New York: McGraw-Hill. p. 77. "The world tree appears again in this drawing from a Shaman drum... with its roots in the underworld it rises through the inhabited earth to penetrate the realm of the gods." 
  71. ^ Circle of Tengerism. "Mongolian Cosmology". "The other important symbol of the world center is the turge tree, which creates an axis as well as a pole for ascent and decent. Siberian and Mongolian traditions locate the tree at the center of the world, but also in the south, where the upper and middle worlds touch." 
  72. ^ Barüske 1969: 24, 50–51
  73. ^ Kleivan & Sonne 1985: 25
  74. ^ Maxfield, Melinda. "The journey of the drum." ReVision 16.4 (1994): 157.
  75. ^ Vitebsky 1996: 49
  76. ^ Jean Clottes. "Shamanism in Prehistory". Bradshaw foundation. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  77. ^ a b Karl J. Narr. "Prehistoric religion". Britannica online encyclopedia 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  78. ^ "Earliest known shaman grave site found: study", reported by Reuters via Yahoo! News, November 4, 2008, archived. see.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
  79. ^ Oosten, Jarich; Frederic Laugrand, and Cornelius Remie (2006). "Perceptions of Decline: Inuit Shamanism in the Canadian Arctic". American Society for Ethnohistory: 445–477. doi:10.1215/00141801–2006-001. 
  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
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  92. ^ a b Hoppál 1994: 62
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  105. ^ Nine Worlds of Seid-Magic Jenny Blain, ISBN 0-415-25651-8
  106. ^ "Cyprus Culture Folk Dancing",
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  125. ^ Julian Baldick, Animal and Shaman: Ancient Religions of Central Asia (New York: University Press, 2000), 3-35
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  145. ^ 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 fled from hunter in case of taboo breaches, e.g. birth taboo, death taboo (Kleivan&Sonne, pp. 12–13)
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  164. ^ History of the American Indian, page 222. Oliver Lafarge 1956
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  169. ^ Christine Hugh-Jones 1980
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  172. ^ Gusinde 1966, pp. 6–7
  173. ^ Service, Elman: The Hunter. Prentice-Hall, 1966.
  174. ^ Extinct Ancient Societies Tierra del Fuegians
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  176. ^ About the Ona Indian Culture in Tierra del Fuego
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  180. ^ " listing for the "Four Corners: A Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea"". 
  181. ^ Salak, Kira. "Kira Salak's official webpage on "Four Corners"". 
  182. ^ Salak, Kira. "MAKING RAIN--from Four Corners". 
  183. ^ Visual Magic:A Manual of Freestyle Shamanism:Jan Fries ISBN 1-869928-57-1
  184. ^ ULL – Universidad de La Laguna (Spanish)
  185. ^ Encyclopedia of NLP
  186. ^ a b ISSR, 2001 Summer, abstract online in 2nd half of 2nd paragraph)
  187. ^ Hoppál & Szathmári & Takács 2006: 14
  188. ^ Hoppál 1998:40
  189. ^ Vitebsky 1996:11
  190. ^ 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.
  191. ^ TMD Clinical study


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  • 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. ISBN 0705430618. 
  • Vitebsky, Piers (1996) (in Hungarian). A sámán. Bölcsesség • hit • mítosz. Budapest: Magyar Könyvklub • Helikon Kiadó. ISBN 963208361X.  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 9639104396.  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, California: 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 0-7914-2315-8.
  • Smith, Frederick M. (2006). The Self Possessed: Deity and Spirit Possession in South Asian Literature. Columbia University Press, USA. ISBN 0231137486. pp. 195–202.
  • 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, Connecticut: 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 0-19-517231-0
  • 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 7-5004-2193-1

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Shamanism — • 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… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Shamanism — Sha man*ism, n. The type of religion which once prevalied among all the Ural Altaic peoples (Tungusic, Mongol, and Turkish), and which still survives in various parts of Northern Asia. The Shaman, or wizard priest, deals with good as well as with …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • shamanism — (n.) 1780, from SHAMAN (Cf. shaman) + ISM (Cf. ism) …   Etymology dictionary

  • shamanism — [shä′məniz΄əm, shähā′məniz΄əm; sham′əniz΄əm] n. the religion of certain peoples, esp. some indigenous to N Asia, based on a belief in good and evil spirits who can be influenced only by the shamans shamanist n. shamanistic adj …   English World dictionary

  • shamanism — shamanist, n., adj. shamanistic, adj. /shah meuh niz euhm, shay , sham euh /, n. 1. the animistic religion of northern Asia, embracing a belief in powerful spirits that can be influenced only by shamans. 2. any similar religion. [1770 80; SHAMAN… …   Universalium

  • Shamanism —    Until the arrival of Cossacks in Siberia and the Russian Far East, shamanism reigned as the dominant faith in the region. Even when Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity began to attract converts, most indigenous peoples of Asiatic Russia… …   Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation

  • SHAMANISM —    the indigenous RELIGION of Northern Eurasia where trance and the control of SPIRITS by exceptional individuals or SHAMEN who negotiate between this world and the spirit world is a central feature. Shamanism is found among hunting peoples and… …   Concise dictionary of Religion

  • shamanism — noun 1. any animistic religion similar to Asian shamanism (especially as practiced by certain Native American tribes) • Derivationally related forms: ↑shamanistic • Regions: ↑United States, ↑United States of America, ↑America, ↑the States, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • shamanism — [[t]ʃe͟ɪməmɪzəm[/t]] N UNCOUNT Shamanism is a religion which is based on the belief that the world is controlled by good and evil spirits, and that these spirits can be directed by people with special powers …   English dictionary

  • shamanism — shaman ► NOUN (pl. shamans) ▪ (especially among some peoples of northern Asia and North America) a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of good and evil spirits. DERIVATIVES shamanic adjective shamanism noun… …   English terms dictionary

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