The author focuses on the term 'shaman' as an analytical category. In academic usage its meaning has come to denote similar tribal beliefs all over the world, while in postmodern discourse the plural 'shamanisms' refers to a range of specific spiritual practices. The diverse movement of neo-shamanism appeared as a product of the interaction of etic and emic categories in anthropological literature, in particular as a result of the shift from the etic to an emic perspective that took place in the last forty or fifty years. The author argues that characterisations of shamans are people's representations rather than objective reality. These representations cannot serve as an explanation of a phenomenon, but themselves need explanation. Research in cognitive psychology could inform understanding of neo-shamanism: it would mean investigation of this social phenomenon as an outcome of the interaction of cognitive processes on the one hand and social inputs on the other.
Representations of the Shaman in Neo-Shamanism
Anthropology and anthropological literature have had an irreversible effect on the practice of contemporary shamanism. In this small-scale study, I look at the complex ways the literature has been recorded, initiated interest, revived and verified the shamanic practices. Over the years, anthropologists have also caused distortions in revived practices as they have left some things unrecorded. On the basis of written responses and interviews from shamanic practitioners and active drumming-group members, I demonstrate that the argument of neo-shamanism as the only form of shamanism still alive is not completely true. Attention is drawn also to the claim about the cycle of learning in contemporary shamanism. My argument is that the main part of learning in the deeper levels of shamanic practices still happens in face-to-face situations.
Soul Retrieval in Neo-shamanism
It has been generally agreed that rituals of healing work through transforming the embodied self; thus, they are especially fit to be analyzed as rituals in their own right. This chapter focuses on the ritual of soul retrieval as it is practiced by Western urban neo-shamans. It argues that apart from giving the patient new memories and new narratives of the self, this version of soul retrieval works by staging a formalized context for forgiveness, here conceptualized as reconciliation between the self and the mundane and divine others. It is argued, however, that the mechanism of this healing ritual is better understood in the light of New Age ontologies of the self, consciousness, and the divine, making ‘ritual in its own right‚’ a good first step towards re-engaging with the social.
Shamanic Sickness, Spirit Embodiment, and Fragmentary Trancescape in Contemporary Buriat Shamanism
During fieldwork on a contemporary revival of shamanism in Buriatiia in the summer of 2005, I was initially puzzled by what I had witnessed. The spirits that were embodied by the shamans were interacting with the audience. Afterward, the shamans did not remember what had occurred while they were in trance. To me, it resembled what has been described as spirit-mediumship performance. While discussing this with shamans, their initial response was that Buriat shamanism is real shamanism, insisting that authentic trance is unconscious, while at the same time dismissing other forms as fake. Later, however, some quietly admitted that Buriat shamans used to be able to remember their ecstatic journeys, and eventually they will be able to regain this ability. I argue that the post-trance amnesia among the contemporary Buriat neo-shamans is the result of the disruption caused by the Soviet anti-religious legacy, which inhibited Buriats to progress to higher degrees of initiation.
The Practice of’sharing’ in a New Age Variant of Umbanda
Language .” Annual Review of Anthropology 26 : 47 – 71 . Lindquist , Galina . 1997 . Shamanic Performances on the Urban Scene: Neo-shamanism in Contemporary Sweden . Stockholm : Almqvist & Wiksell . Lindquist , Galina . 2005 . “ Bringing the Soul