Shamanism: An Encyclopedia of World Beliefs, Practices, and Culture

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Shamanism An Encyclopedia of World Beliefs, Practices, and Culture 2 Volume Set

On the other hand, strange behaviors may be interpreted by the community as a call, thereby canalizing potentially disruptive actions into behavior patterns that are perceived to be beneficial. In some societies there is no formal training program, while in others the training process may last for several years. The skills to be learned vary from society to society, but usually include diagnosis and treatment of illness, contacting spirits, supervising rituals, interpreting dreams, predicting the weather, gathering herbs, prophecy, and mastering the self-regulation of bodily functions and attentional states.

Shamans often need to contact spirits for various purposes. If they are dissatisfied they need to be propitiated. Magical performance of one sort or another is learned including sleight of hand, taking advantage of synchronous events, or the utilization of what Westerners call "parapsychological phenomena," including extrasensory perception and psychokinesis. In most shamanic societies a variety of symbols, chants, dances, songs, epic poems, and stories must be learned and used when appropriate. Some tribes arrange a special feast when the initiate passes a key phase of his or her training.

In many instances, a society recognizes several types of shamans. Early Russian explorers and ethnographers suggested that the first shamans were simple nature healers but that during a later feudal phase of social evolution they invented spirits that necessitated the inculcation of altered states of consciousness ASCs in order to contact and communicate with these spirits. She concluded that the capacity to experience ASCs was a basic psychobiological capacity of all human beings. In order to determine commonalties among various shamanic ASCs, Larry Peters and Douglass Price-Williams compared 42 societies, from four different cultural areas.

They identified three common elements: voluntary control of entrance and duration of the ASC; post-ASC memory of the experience; and the ability to communicate with others during ASC. On the other hand, mediums become possessed by spirits who use human bodies through which they are able to act. They may journey from "middle earth" to the "upper world" to visit ancestral spirits, to the "lower world" to visit power animals, and journey to the past, the future, and remote areas of the globe.

The spirits encountered in each of these realms differ from society to society, but shamanic journeying is typically linked to the ability to enter ASCs. The term often used to denote the voluntary nature of spirit embodiment is "incorporation. In "possession," however, the individual generally embodies the spirit in an involuntary or unpredictable manner and there is usually amnesia for the experience. The notion of spirit possession poses problems for psychologists because it is an implicit explanation as well as a description. Vincent Crapanzano defines it as "any altered state of consciousness indigenously interpreted in terms of the influence of an alien spirit.

He differentiates between shamanic forms of "voluntary possession," or incorporation, and the "involuntary possession" of victims of hexes or of malevolent spirits. Peters and Price-Williams found that shamans in 18 out of the 42 societies they surveyed engaged in spirit incorporation, 10 in out-of-body experiences, 11 in both, and 3 in a different form of ASC. The specific induction procedures included mind-altering substances such as alcohol, opiates, psychedelics, stimulants, and tobacco; auditory stimulation through drumming or rattling; exposure to extreme temperatures; sexual abstinence; social isolation; sleep induction or deprivation; food restrictions; induced convulsions; excessive motor behavior; and extreme relaxation.

While his analysis indicates some distinct patterns regarding incorporation and magical flight, he found cases of profound ASCs that involved neither of these features. His presentation of the unifying psycho-physiological model of ASCs is that it is "a parasympathetic dominant state characterized by the dominance of the frontal cortex by slow wave discharges emanating from the limbic system" 23 interacting with various social variables. There are additional ways in which shamans can alter their consciousness: by chanting as in the incantations of Taiwanese shamans; by jumping as in the hour kut ceremonies of Korean shamans; through mental imagery such as the visualization practices of Tamang shamans in Nepal who see their tutelary spirits prior to incorporating them.

Often, shamans use two or more procedures simultaneously to alter consciousness. Korean shamans combine drumming with jumping; Arapaho shamans smoke a ceremonial pipe and rub their bodies with sage, in addition to drumming. It has been demonstrated that drumming can produce brain activation by coinciding with the theta EEG frequency, which is about 4 to 8 cycles per second through auditory driving.

Body and mind are seen as a unity, hence there is no sharp division between physical and mental illness. Symbolic manipulation plays a major role with the drum serving as the vehicle with which the shaman "rides" into the spirit world. The blowing of smoke toward the four directions represents an appeal to the guardians of the four quarters of the universe. For shamans and their communities, since any product of the human imagination represents a form of reality, mental imagery and imagination play an important role in healing. Diagnosis determines whether the soul has been stolen or strayed away from the body.

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Treatment aims to recover the soul through "soul-catching" or a similar procedure. Each shamanic society has its own diagnostic nosology. Some causal agents that result in sickness are the breach of taboo, karma from past actions, the intrusion of a foreign object into the body, and casting of the evil eye.

In recent years, many shamans have added the germ theory of disease to their etiological schema and refer some of their clients to allopathic physicians. Rituals of transformation are the essential link in introducing a synergistic healing community. By providing experiences of transpersonal bonding, these rituals enable individuals to realize their communal responsibilities and sense their deep interconnectedness.

Even when a client must be isolated as part of the healing process, this drastic procedure impresses the community with the gravity of the ailment. In regard to healing practices, shamans and psychological and psychiatric therapists demonstrate more similarities than differences. There are shamanic methods that closely parallel contemporary behavior therapy, hypnotherapy, family and milieu therapy, drug therapy, psychodrama, and dream interpretation. As a result of these similarities the psychological study of shamanism has something important to offer to cognitive neuroscience, social psychology, psychological therapy, and ecological psychology.

Psychologists have proposed that attention, memory, and awareness are the three major components of the consciousness construct. The field of cognitive neuroscience studies the neural processes that underlie the mechanisms, potentials, and limitations of mental operations. Researchers have used electrical stimulation to produce unitive experiences from volunteer subjects and the thalamus and temporal lobe are hypothesized to be the key structures associated with these effects. Neural networks may be instrumental in making connections between the cognitive processes of the organism and its understanding of the natural world.

This notion may provide appropriate web and network models for cognitive psychology since it relies less on artificial intelligence and digital computer metaphors for the architecture of the nervous system. These insights in turn could be applied to the cognitive neuro-scientific study of the ubiquitous nature of shamanic constructs.

Neurological research in combination with the investigation of shamanic verbal reports may yield clues as to whether the basis for these constructs is hardwired and may also contribute to a deeper understanding of both cultural and personal human evolution. The study of individual attitudes and behaviors in settings where other people are present or imagined is called social psychology. This field examines individuals within the context of social structures.

The traditional shamanic worldview defines individuals in terms of their clans and kinship systems and provides a framework that is well suited for study by social psychologists. The human being is an incredibly social animal; unlike other animals, humans are neither strong nor fast. Survival thus depends on abstract problem-solving and group formation. There is probably a genetic basis for forming groups, as it has been highly adaptive in human evolution; even so, the social world modulates gene expression.

Shamanism is a cultural adaptation to biologically based adaptive potentials, especially those that foster hypnotizability, which coincides with anomalous and spiritual experiences.

Shamanism: An Encyclopedia of World Beliefs, Practices, and Culture - ABC-CLIO

Based on these experiences, shamans developed rituals that promoted intragroup cohesion, fertility, and therapeutic outcomes. Social modeling involves clear presentations of the behaviors to be learned in a training program such as those given by magico-religious practitioners. They reported mediumship activity as well as "control of the religious-related dissociative experiences" to be associated with high scores on tests for dissociation in spite of positive scores on socialization and adaptation tests. Hardcover , 1st edition , pages. More Details Original Title.

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To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Shamanism [2 Volumes] , please sign up. Be the first to ask a question about Shamanism [2 Volumes]. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. All Languages. More filters. Sort order. Diana McDowell rated it it was amazing May 09, John rated it really liked it Oct 29, Rich Howard rated it really liked it Jul 20, Virpi Virtanen rated it it was ok Apr 10, Keith rated it really liked it Apr 10, Susan rated it it was amazing Jul 21, Gremlinchode rated it it was amazing Mar 12, C F rated it it was amazing Dec 31, David Pilgrim rated it it was amazing Oct 05, Paul Francis rated it it was amazing Jul 11, Kurosh marked it as to-read Nov 25, However, shamanism is also used more generally to describe indigenous groups in which roles such as healer , religious leader, counselor , and councillor are combined.

In this sense, shamans are particularly common among other Arctic peoples , American Indians , Australian Aborigines , and those African groups, such as the San , that retained their traditional cultures well into the 20th century. It is generally agreed that shamanism originated among hunting-and-gathering cultures , and that it persisted within some herding and farming societies after the origins of agriculture.

It is often found in conjunction with animism , a belief system in which the world is home to a plethora of spirit-beings that may help or hinder human endeavours. Opinions differ as to whether the term shamanism may be applied to all religious systems in which a central personage is believed to have direct intercourse with the transcendent world that permits him to act as healer, diviner, and the like.

Since such interaction is generally reached through an ecstatic or trance state, and because these are psychosomatic phenomena that may be brought about at any time by persons with the ability to do so, the essence of shamanism lies not in the general phenomenon but in specific notions, actions, and objects connected with trance see also hallucination. Shamanism as practiced in northern Asia is distinguished by its special clothing, accessories, and rites as well as by the specific worldview connected with them.

North Asiatic shamanism in the 19th century, which is generally taken as the classical form, was characterized by the following traits:. Some selection of these or similar traits may be found among traditional cultures everywhere in the world. Such detached traits, however, do not necessarily indicate that a culture is shamanistic, as the central personalities in such systems— sorcerers , medicine men or healers, and the like—may, unlike the shaman, have attained their position through deliberate study and the application of rational knowledge.

Although they perform ceremonies, hold positions of authority, and possess magical abilities, the structure and quality of their transcendental activities are entirely different from that of the shaman. Article Media. Info Print Print.