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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 05:11 pm (UTC)

Re: Shamanism...

Generally, they refer back to Eliade

Not true at all (or actually, only partially true). Take a look at Jenny Blain's Nine Worlds of Seid-Magic. She has a chapter on this issue that deals with this in great detail.

FYI: Blain is an Elder in the Troth, a practitioner of Seid, and an Anthropologist. Her book is an excellent overview of Germanic Shamanistic practices, as practiced both in history and today.
[User Picture]
Date:April 3rd, 2006 05:28 pm (UTC)

Re: Shamanism...

Interesting. She didn't use Eliade's work for the book at all? I'm admittedly astounded at that, as it's an invaluable work.

I'll have to find that book and try and read up on it.

Eliade's work is a sort of culmination on scholarship that began early in the 20th century applying the label "shamanism" to these practices, no matter where they're found. Thing is, I haven't ever seen a work on Shamanism that doesn't cite his work, so I'm really interested to see what she cites, now.
[User Picture]
Date:April 3rd, 2006 05:34 pm (UTC)

Re: Shamanism...

She didn't use Eliade's work for the book at all?

No, she did - but that's not all she used. Remember that Eliade's work was published in 1964 - if you think that the scholarship hasn't changed significantly since then, I've got some seafront property in Idaho I'd like to sell you.

Sounds like you're suffering from "Out of Date Academicitis" ;-) I understand...it happens :-)

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