Shamanism (/ˈʃɑːmən/ shah-mən or /ˈʃeɪmən/ shay-mən) is a practice that involves a practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to encounter and interact with the spirit world and channel these transcendental energies into this world.[2] A shaman is a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of benevolent and malevolent spirits, who typically enters into a trance state during a ritual, and practices divination and healing.[3]

The term "shamanism" was first applied to the ancient religion of the Turks and Mongols, as well as those of the neighboring Tungusic and Samoyedic-speaking peoples. The word "shaman" originates from the Tungusic Evenki language of North Asia and was introduced to the west after Russian forces conquered the shamanistic Khanate of Kazan in 1552. Upon learning more about religious traditions across the world, western scholars also described similar magico-religious practices found within the ethnic religions of other parts of Asia, Africa, Australasia and the Americas as shamanism. Various historians have argued that shamanism also played a role in many of the pre-Christian religions of Europe, and that shamanic elements may have survived in popular culture right through to the Early modern period. Various archaeologists and historians of religion have also suggested that shamanism may have been a dominant pre-religious practice for humanity during the Paleolithic.

Mircea Eliade writes, "A first definition of this complex phenomenon, and perhaps the least hazardous, will be: shamanism = 'technique of religious ecstasy'."[4] Shamanism encompasses the premise 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]

Shamanic beliefs and practices have attracted the interest of scholars from a wide variety of disciplines, including anthropologists, archaeologists, historians, religious studies scholars and psychologists. Hundreds of books and academic papers on the subject have been produced, with a peer-reviewed academic journal being devoted to the study of shamanisms. In the 20th century, many westerners involved in the counter-cultural movement adopted magico-religious practices influenced by indigenous shamanisms from across the world, creating the Neoshamanic movement.


I've always been intrigued by shamans, ever since I read Rudolfo Anaya's novel 'Alburquerque' - (one of my favorite books). I have always wanted to understand it all better. The closest I've ever come is encountering many superstitious and seemingly foolish practices among people of New Mexico and Latin America. I see traces of Shamanism throughout the literature, culture, and even the food!!! (Don't ask).

I found it interesting that shamanism according to this article is given credit for having some effect on religious precursors, and influence even into practices that we may not have ever linked to shamanism.

What do you think of shamanism? Do you all have any personal experiences to share?

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Hi there, it is a very interesting subject to discuss about. These people don't know if it is true or not, as there are no contact with the void etc The Atheist know that all that stuff is rubbish including all their religion.

Hi guys, back again for more. Well many of these cults tried to copy the early witches practices which were very useful to the organising the primitive tribes growing of crops & clearing the land for seasonal crops. That may have been the start of conflict between tribes, they didn't have the knowledge to do this & relied on the witches to teach them. When the early religion got organised from thunder noise etc. it clashed with people they called witches & hated & killed them, tried to wipe them out. As the religions were ignorant in the knowledge of crops etc. So the battle for power over the tribes started & carried on till the present day re religious wars . They built up stories of sky gods, demons etc to frighten the population or tame them.So that's the sad mess we are in now.

Once I saw a line cook throw chicken bones on the table in the way too busy break room. He chased the very superstitious Haitian kitchen helpers right on out of there. Still gives me a chuckle when I picture it. Vodou Baby !!!

Bear in mind:

You cannot just kill an animal then use the bones for divination or collect some bones then use them. There are steps that have to be taken to get the bones ready.

What do I think?  It's woo-woo.  It's snake oil.  It's a scam.  It's another way for some individuals to claim knowledge of something they have no evidence for and to use that "knowledge" for control or to gain reverence/standing in the community.

I think it has been studied by anthropologists, historians, psychologists, etc. in an attempt to track human belief patterns, study the internal mechanisms that make people believe such rubbish, and maybe even to study some kind of healing placebo effect.  That does not mean there is any scientific evidence to support the magic being real.

What I've noticed is that most people, theists and atheists alike, usually have no experiences with shamanic practices seem to discredit this endeavor as "woo-woo" right off the bat.

If these things didn't possess some kind of "power," for lack of a better word. Perhaps the power to drastically alter one's consciousness, then you wouldn't have cases where atheists themselves have made transitions to the points of view of Buddhism. Richard Alpert, Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg are just a few examples of atheists who've had these type of experiences who afterwards converted to Buddhism.

Jeffrey Mishlove - Thinking Allowed

Erock68la mentioned a "healing placebo effect." I don't think that's the case. These plants are able to launch you into confrontations with the areas of your psychology that you've been trying to sweep under the carpet, aspects of your psyche that you've been deliberately or perhaps unconsciously ignoring or suppressing. I'll leave a beautiful example of that.

Chris Kilham - Ayahuasca healing

They've had enormous potential in a therapeutic setting, their results outweigh and are more effective than that of the outpour of pharmaceuticals that seem to be designed to not cure or heal you of any psychological issue, but only dull your mind to make you "tolerable" so you could return to work and make your place amongst the other cogs in the machine.


Admittedly I am not completely familiar with all the ins and outs of shamanic practice; I was mostly going by the information contained in the discussion post. 

Encountering and interacting with the spirit world, influencing spirits, channeling transcendental energies into this world, etc.: all woo-woo. 

The placebo effect I meant was the feeling of well-being that washes over someone when a "holy man" says the magic words over them.  And I didn't mean to imply that that placebo effect is insignificant.  There have been cases of surgeries performed under placebo anesthetic.  But it's a psychological phenomenon, not magic.

You mentioned plants.  I assume you are talking about plants with psychoactive chemical properties.  That's not woo-woo.  There are measurable and repeatable psychotropic effects from certain plants and fungi that produce a mind-altering experience (not that I admit to trying any such plant products myself in the past).  In fact, much of modern pharmacology is based on the chemicals found in plants.  I am curious about specifically which plants (with enormous potential) you mean and specifically what type of therapeutic setting they have been used in.

I work in mental health, and I agree that prescribed medications are overused in this country.  I think that many people, thanks to advertising, have developed some sort of aversion to actually feeling their feelings.  That being said, I see a lot of people who are simply not able to function (i. e. maintain jobs, maintain relationships, care for themselves, maintain their grip on reality, etc.) without meds.  Your comments about meds lead me to wonder if you had a bad experience with mental health treatment.

I don't believe that shamanism has anything to do with a "placebo effect." The plants and fungi I speak about in specific are the constituents in ayahuasca and the psilocybin-containing fungi. There's archaeological evidence of the use of ayahuasca dating back over 4,000 years.

I'm not a person with bad experience with "mental health treatment." Rather, I'm a person who's had experience with the shamanic route and has realized how ineffectual pharmaceuticals are in comparison. I'm not sure if you had taken a look at that video I left on my last post. I believe it's a perfect example of its ineffectiveness.

What you've called "woo-woo" are actually universal motifs in the experience. These are things that no matter who you are, you're going to experience this phenomena. Is it the "collective unconscious" that Jung spoke about, is it the "peak experience" that Abraham Maslow referred to? It's not quite clear, but to reject as "woo-woo" and discount these experiences from a stand-point of having no experience is mere prejudice.

I missed a real opportunity on this.

I was a missionary in Africa for a while, as some of you know. There was a “jambakus”, a witchdoctor, living in the middle of our village, right next to where we were staying in fact. They told us he was in communication with a female demon; when the demon took him over he would wear women’s clothes -and use a woman’s name.

And my missionary training led me to avoid this person. I should have been curious. For example, gays are mostly persecuted in that part of Africa, and I heard discussion about beating/killing homosexuals. Was this guy transgender, and this was his way of acting out what he couldn’t normally live? Or maybe transgender doesn’t work that way. Still, something interesting was going on there. Was cross-dressing a normal part of Bilanta animist practice, or was this something he came up with on his own?

But we were told it was a real demon. We were also told he was harmless, and wouldn’t try to hurt us, but I didn’t quite believe it. Even as the long-term missionary told us otherwise, I still had this mindset that a practitioner of another religion must be an enemy of Christ, so he must not want us to be there. And even though we were taught demons couldn’t harm us, because we have the power of Christ, I was still worried that a real, actual demon might try  to hurt us.

So I stayed away from Louis the Jambakus. I don’t even remember now what he looked like.

He was a religious leader in a false religion; and we were there to win converts; so we didn’t even bother to learn about him.

Missionary training really gave me a disturbing way of relating to people.

If we didn’t believe the demon was real, we could ask him what powers he had. How he got those powers. What he believed. We could have tried to learn about the myths and legends of a little-know tribe in a poor backwater corner of a rarely-understood continent. But we wrote him off as un-saveable, and stayed away from him because he might be spiritually dangerous.

Hi guys, I'm still here! Just haven't posted for a long time.

Hi Belle :) .

I think I'd ask basically what I said before... What does he believe? Where did he get this power, and how did he learn it? What are some of the rituals he does to make it work?

To tell you the truth, in my mind I don't think I believe in gods and deamons anymore, but's still hard to think that I could talk to somebody like that--who is so convinced of his own spiritual power--and still not be afraid of the 'deamon'.

I heard a lot about spiritual powers over there. One of my Christian friends was teaching me some of the things the demons can do. He said if you meet the right demon, and make the right sacrifices, they can get you papers to get to America. Once you're working in America or for some other big company, you can do spells that make them lose their records so you get paid twice. There's also some sort of idol that acts like a guard for a house. Once a robber comes in, he gets confused and can't find the door. He also said the Portuguese had a hard time conquering his home city, because there's such a spiritual power there it kept the guns from working.

My step mother practiced "Brujeria". This West Indies style of witch craft. It goes by other names, one being Santeria; which is suppose to be the more benevolent form. Brujeria being dark magic and Santeria being Light.

Growing up my Sunday's were composed of attending mass, by myself, going back home and being treated to the spectacle of my step mother being "taken over" by African spirits. She would then make a lame attempt to speak in tongues and devine all manner of nonsense including my heroin use and the evil that dwelled within me. I was what? Ten...

This mumbo jumbo is a carry over from African slaves in the Carribean wanting to keep their African gods and their slavers, mostly Spaniards, forcing them to worship the christian god. So they did as their slavers instructed and worshipped the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ, Saint Peter, Saint Paul, and all the other Saints; which the Catholic church proudly displayed in the form of statues. They gave these saints and gods the names of their African gods. So they replaced the name of Saint Paul with say Obatalla or Chango  or any other gods that they worshipped in Africa. This later came to be known as brujeria. Witchcraft...but it's nonsense...


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