Towards A Better Understanding Of Shamanism

1850 words - 7 pages

Shamanism in Anthropology has been an entity in a constantmetamorphosis. It has always been considered exotic and itsexistence around the globe was never contradicted. However, overthe years it did not receive the scholarly attention that it sorequires. The age of discovery garnered a multitude ofinformation on shamanism all over the world. The reportersinvested a great deal of accuracy in the gathering of theinformation, but their observational skills were mostlyunderdeveloped. Furthermore as could be expected, they saw andevaluated things solely on the basis of European religion andsocial customs (Flaherty, 1992, pp.3) without having itnecessary to view its ramifications to the people who are soimbued by it. Despite these methodologies which were grave innature, matters began to shift during the 1940's and 1950's whenthe social sciences were rapidly coming into their owndisciplines. Shamanism, was beginning to be looked upon as acomplex religious notions and modes of behaviour (Lommel, 1967,pp.8). Although shamanism was beginning to harness scholarlyattention there were still different contradicting theories beinglaid out in the scientific community. More recently since thenotion of tribalism has become more prevalent shamanism isbeginning to be recognized as holding the key puzzle in life.Furthermore, it is growing and encompassing many areas such asPsychology, Pharmacology, and even believe it or not Physics.Now before we elaborate on the historical significance ofshamaninsm in anthropology it is imperative that a generaldefinition of shamanism is established.In order to study shamanism the shaman must first beunderstood. The original word shaman came form the Uralmountains in Russia. It applied to people who acted in several'non-ordinary' capacities for their tribes. Shamans may bedefined as man or a woman who through their ability to enter atrance state in any given moment can influence the course ofevents, find lost or stolen items and identify the criminal whena crime takes place. Thus in a sense shamanism is the practisingof these mechanisms in trying to make sense of the world. As youcan see it encompasses various facets of the social life fromhealing illness to maintaining social order. This definition ofshamanism is very brief and really can not be upheld as a preciseand accurate definition, however shamanism within theseparameters has always been accepted both in the early and latetwentieth century. Nevertheless, differences did emerge thattransformed the definition of shamanism in anthropology in thatit added more to this vague definition.According to Mircea Eliade the shaman who is an inspiredpriest, in ecstatic trance ascends to the heavens on'trips'. Inthe cause of these journeys the shaman persuades or even fightswith the gods in order to secure benefits for his fellow men.Here, in the opinion of Eliade, spirit possession is not anessential characteristics and is no always present (Eliade, 1951,pp.434). He goes on by stating...

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