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Ár nDraíocht Féin
Three Cranes
Chaos Matrix

April 3rd, 2006

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09:51 am - Ah, Shamanism: What a fun term!
Last weekend's discussion of shamanism on ADF-Druidry (in which I was amused to find myself called a snob for stating that ADF doesn't call things "mumbo-jumbo") was fun, but today, latexpussy pointed me to a similar discussion that sort of encapsulates how it went.

I think I would like to write an article about the usage of the word "shamanism," but I'm not keen on my opinion being the only one represented (even if I do think I'm completely right, of course), and so would be interested to get someone to write a counter article, and then we can synthesize a third article from that.

It's not like Oak Leaves couldn't use the submissions, ya know? :)

For those who missed it, my basic position on the term shamanism is that it should not be used to describe beliefs outside of its cultural context, i.e. that of north central asia, particularly Siberia. Of course, scholarship says that you can use the term anywhere to apply to anything that sorta kinda looks like it's shamanic, from Native American to Peruvian to African diaspora to aspects of Christianity.

Scholarship, though, isn't perfect. I think that in this particular case, we've done a grave disservice to practitioners of shamanism by expanding it beyond Siberia. But probably the worst injustice done by the use of this term is that it has ceased to be recognized as its own unique religion and become a box into which parts are taken out of and other religions are fit into.

While on the one hand it's really nice to have a name for something, can't we grab that name from somewhere that doesn't involve stripping a culture of its religion and turning it into spare parts?

As for your "gold standards" and being proud that "shamanism" is the term applied to all these other practices, just remember how many Christians hate it when you apply the name of their religion to groups that they don't think of as Christian. . . like the Southern Baptist stance on Catholics you sometimes hear. Not everyone is happy to have their religion applied to others, especially when those others think that they're practicing the religion "correctly" and it doesn't look anything like yours.
Current Location: The Monkey Queen's Lair
Current Mood: amusedamused
Current Music: "Christmas in the Caribbean", -JB

(58 comments Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:April 3rd, 2006 02:39 pm (UTC)
I've never been able to figure out why such a thing would be a problem, honestly, nor anything similar. Why should a preposition not be allowed at the end? Is there something that's being upheld?

I cannot possibly imagine a logical reason for stating that a preposition cannot sit there.
[User Picture]
Date:April 3rd, 2006 04:37 pm (UTC)
Especially when Anglo-Saxon/Old English allowed prepositions at the end of sentences, at least in examples I've seen.

(Though the word "shaman" is tricky because we don't really have another word for the non-culturally-centered concept it is now used to describe.)
[User Picture]
Date:April 3rd, 2006 05:24 pm (UTC)
The whole "no prepositions at the end of sentences" is a 19th century grammar school rule. It's not based on English, but on Latin.

Same thing with garbage rules like "no split infinitives" (you can't split an infinitive in Latin, of course) and most of the other grammar rules you learned never to do in 8th grade. They have not been updated to deal with changing language, and they never will be.

Of course, in Latin, you wouldn't put a preposition at the end of a sentence: that's where the verb goes!

And yeah, a replacement word for "shaman" is very difficult.
Date:April 3rd, 2006 08:56 pm (UTC)
You know I get irritated or principle. It's almost sport, but with the potential for more tension headaches and acid reflux.
[User Picture]
Date:April 3rd, 2006 10:53 pm (UTC)
And yeah, a replacement word for "shaman" is very difficult.

Perhaps it shouldn't be replaced. Perhaps the notion of a common thread throughout various cultures' religious practices is a projection... maybe there aren't any shamans outside of siberian culture. I think it could be similar to the Victorian/Edwardian fascination with "totemism", seeing "it" everywhere and doing tremendous violence to the peculiarities of individual cultural significance.

I'm not saying that this is my opinion, that we should drop the entire concept of non-Tungus shamanism, but I think that the possibility needs to be kept in mind when debating the limitations of the word.
Date:April 3rd, 2006 08:52 pm (UTC)
the idea of it irritates me. I do it, though. :p BTW, I blame you For inviting Eris to 620.

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