Shamanism

(Photo of an unidentified Shaman stolen from here – a poetry blog?)

I’ve been reading Shamanism by Nevill Drury:

“The Goldi and Dolgan…believe that prior to being born, the souls of little children sit like birds on the branches of the World Tree, and that shamans go there to find them.”

“We can define a shaman as a person who is able to perceive this world of souls, spirits and gods, and who, in a state of ecstatic trance, is able to travel among them, gaining special knowledge of that supernatural realm. He or she is ever alert to the intrinsic perils of human existence, of the magical forces which lie waiting to trap the unwary, or which give rise to disease, famine or misfortune. ”

“…the practitioner is able to travel in soul-body to other realms of existence: harnessing familiar spirits, disease, meeting with ancestor or creator gods”

“The Chukchee believe that spirits may be contacted in dreams and that shamans can utilize them to recover the lost souls of sick patients. The shaman is said to ‘open’ the patient’s skull and replace the soul, which has been captured in the form of a fly or bee.

Siberia – Journey into the Sky:

“The Altaian shaman sacrifices a horse, addresses the master of fire, fumigates the ritual drum, invokes a multitude of spirits, and then calls to the Markus, the birds of heaven.

After a complex ceremony of purification, the shaman beats the drum violently, indicating a ‘mounting’ into the sky, accompanied by the spirit of the dead horse. After ascending through several heavens in visionary consciousness, the shaman converses with the creator god Yayutsi and also bows before the Moon and Sun in turn. Finally, at the celestial abode of Bai Ulgan, the shaman learns details of future weather patterns and the outcome of the harvest. The shaman then collapses in a state of ecstatic release.

Bai Ulgan seems to be a god of the ‘atmosphere’, and it is not uncommon for Indo-European shamans to sacrifice horses to a god of the sky or storms.”

Australia – Initiation:

“…the initiation of medicine men. Among the Arunta and Aranda, the candidate goes to the mouth of a particular cave where he is ‘noticed’ by the spirits of the dreamtime. They throw an invisible lance at him, which pierces his neck and tongue, and another which passes through his head from eat to ear. Dropping down ‘dead’, he is carried by the spirits into the cave and his internal organs replaced with new ones, together with a supply of magical quartz crystals upon which his ‘power’ will later depend.”

“…Baiame, the all-father or great sky god…Baiame may bestow shamanic abilities on Aborigines through their dreams. He causes a sacred waterfall of liquid quartz to pour over the dreamer’s body, absorbing him totally. He grows wings, replacing his arms, and learns to fly. Baiame sinks a piece of magical quartz into the dreamer’s forehead, bestowing the ability to see inside physical objects. An inner flame and an invisible cord of flame are also incorporated into the body of this new shaman. This provides a link with Baiame and enables the shaman to travel up into the sky.”

“The usual method is as follows. The master assumes the form of a skeleton and equips himself with a small bag, in which he puts the candidate, whom his magic has reduced to the size of an infant. Then seating himself astride the rainbow-serpent, he begins to pull himself up by his arms, as if climbing a rope. When near the top, he throws the candidate into the sky, ‘killing’ him. Once they are in the sky, the master inserts into the candidate’s body small rainbow-serpents, brimures [small freshwater snakes], and quartz crystals (which have the same name as the mythical rainbow-serpent). After this operation the candidate is brought back to Earth, still on the rainbow-serpent’s back. The master again introduces magical objects into his body, this time through the navel, and wakens him by touching him with a magical stone. The candidate returns to normal size.”

Indonesia and Malaysia:

“The Sumatran Kubu believe that sickness arises when a person’s soul is captured by a ghost.”

Netsilik Shamans:

“The famous shaman Iksivalitaq, whom anthropologist Asen Balikci calls ‘the last Netsilik shaman of importance’, and who was still alive in the 1940s, had seven tunraqs. These included the spirit of Big Mountain, the ghosts of three dead men, one of them his grandfather, and the spirits of a sea scorpian, a killer whale and a black dog without ears.

Vision quests:

“Another way of attracting the spirits is to don an animal mask, for example that of a buffalo, bear or eagle. By doing this, one feels a strong surge of spiritual energy, a profound sense of transformation: ‘You literally become that entity, that power … The spirit comes into you completely, to the extent that you are no longer there, and you are able to communicate what the spirit is feeling. That is what the ceremonies are about at the deepest depth.’ ”

“Soyots call their drums khamu-at, meaning ‘shaman horse’ ”

“Recent research among the Salish Indians undertaken by Wolfgang G. Jilek, found that rhythmic shamanic drumming produces a drumbeat frequency in the theta wave EEG frequency (4 – 7 cycles/second): the brainwave range associated with dreams, hypnotic imagery and trance.”

From Shamanic Wisdomkeepers: Shamanism in the modern world by Timothy Freke:

“Shamanism is more than beliefs and rituals. It is an experiential investigation of the invisible spirit world which gives rise to the tangible world of the senses.”

2 Comments

  • Wednesday, 30th April, 2008 - 12:11 am | Permalink

    Just found your site and really enjoyed it. It’s fascinating isn’t it, the way widely separated seemingly disparate spiritual practices are repeated and repeated around the world with only minor, cultural changes. I am reading ‘The Mind In The Cave’ at present and find the correlations between my own shamanic experience and that of the most ancient peoples astonishing and humbling. I work and teach in Creative Thinking here in London (lived in Leeds for a while!) and am increasingly fascinated by the relationship between the contemporary (Core) Shamanism that I practice and teach, which has it’s roots in anthropology, and creativity.
    My own blog is very recent and has only two posts so far, but do take a look when you can, I’d be interested in your thoughts http://www.shaman.uk.net

  • Thursday, 15th May, 2008 - 9:03 pm | Permalink

    Lucy, Thanks for your mention on del.icio.us.
    If you haven’t read them, do take a look at ‘The Mind In The Cave’ or Inside The Neolithic Mind’ if you have time. The more I read the more interested and the crosser I become! The books, which are scholarly, argue that shamanic journeying is hardwired into human cognitive functioning, hence it’s universality. I waited for the big leap – for the author to ask ‘why?’ But all shamanic practice is dismissed rather abruptly as a process that begins and ends inside the head!

    Zoe

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