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Shamanism For exploration of the techniques and insights of various forms of shamanism

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Old 04-07-13   #1
petrus4
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Default Shamanism among the non-indigenous

So, Fera recently suggested that a discussion of this topic be moved out of the thread on Indigos, and into its' own. MonSno expressed that he didn't know what to call it, so I decided to take the initiative.

This is a topic that badly needs extensive discussion. Michael Harner, among other people, has described a paradigm which he referred to as "Core Shamanism," being applicable for whites, and he has apparently become villified by indigenous groups for this and other reasons.

The central question seems to be; do non-indigenous people have a fundamental right to self-identify as shamans, or is the more...structured and "Western," hermeticism the only thing that is appropriate for those of us with such inclinations to persue? If white shamanism genuinely is possible, then what does that mean? Given that the cultural context is different, we would have to assume that the form it will manifest in would be different as well.
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Old 04-07-13   #2
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Default Re: Shamanism among the non-indigenous

While I think this is great, petrus it's not *quite* what I'm thinking of in the other thread...which is more like, syncretism of two cultural perspectives - for a new world and a new way...sort of thing.

I always smile when someone says "I have a friend who is studying shamanism and she has NATIVE BLOOD"...as if that makes it somehow more valid. For me, there is shamanism aplenty amongst the Celtic traditions - wouldn't occur to me that any race has dibs on walking between the worlds.
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Old 04-07-13   #3
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Default Re: Shamanism among the non-indigenous

Shamanism can be culture and region specfiic yet, shamanic practices and understanding has no skin colour.

A lot of people in the west are quick to call themselves Shamans, but i suppose the definition is subjective from person to person and region to region. I'll follow the shamanic path in life, but i'm fairly sure i'll never refer to myself as a shaman for a long long long time out of respect for the true shamans and out of humility in knowing that you never really stop learning.

Shamanism has never been about the colour of your skin. Self identification has, but shamanism, in and of it's self doesn't need to concern it's self with such arguments in my opinion.
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Old 04-07-13   #4
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Default Re: Shamanism among the non-indigenous

I'm pretty certain that the concept of travelling between the worlds (and other things pertaining to shamanic pathwalk) is not solely NA in origin and that many different cultures around the world have recognised this at one point in their spiritual/religious evolvement. I think it takes a very many different forms depending on the environment it finds itself in. I think that the NA-way of shamanism is exclusively theirs, just as the Siberians (I think it was them?) have their own shamanistic pathwalk and so on and so forth.

There's no real reason, to me, why someone couldn't follow a shamanic path in life.. but I think it would have to stay very true to one's own roots. If I were thusly inclined, I would traditionally sooner use the world tree Yggdrasil for shamanic travel than I would use any NA-way to do so. As it stands, though, I have grown rather fond of C.S. Lewis's Wood Between The Worlds for my own travels. I grew up with the Narnian novels as a child and imagined many an adventure there, so upon my first astral adventure the 'path' between the worlds took the form of that woodland space described in The Magician's Nephew. I think it is, perhaps, a new form of a shamanic pathwalk.. to incorporate the more recent stories of our popular culture in our spiritual lives somehow.. I'm sure that the shamans of old used their own roots/environment and the stories they grew up with as tools with which to better navigate their path, too..
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Old 04-07-13   #5
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Default Re: Shamanism among the non-indigenous

I tend to think the biggest issue here is that the majority of so called shamanic practitioners utilize Native (North / Central / South) American practices as the core of their practices. Even down to utilizing the names most often associated / exploited from the Lakota (Sioux) and Tsalagi (Cherokee) nations to describe most of those practices.

One seldom hears someone claim to utilize a shamanic practice as identified with Odin, for instance hanging upon the tree to gain wisdom is a very shamanic type exercise. One seldom hears people claim a title of hedge-walker or hedge-rider which are more European in practice, origin and structure. Even fewer who identify against a more Celtic type usage that involves sky, earth and water as the realms of the tree.

It is that blatant associating the term "Shaman" and "Shamanism" against those NA culture's that I find causes all the hate and discontent. To include the notion that a pagan / new age practitioner is better qualified to say what is or is not. One prime example of that is the Sweet Lodge ceremony and vision quest. Things with a very structured time line and sequence of who does what, the honor given to each position and how long it shall take. To some degree even the notion of "Medicine _____" is a source of irritation as the concept as utilized in most pagan / new age practices is very much defined against NA beliefs and cultural usages. Let's face it one does not hear Medicine _____ used in relation to any African, Asian or European derived practice as a descriptor word.

Basically it's not the content or structure as much as the words used to define it. World travel is pretty common to many peoples. Travelling those dimensional plains or worlds is also common though the naming and layout may differ quite a bit. In many ways the accessing of those plains varies in what method the practitioner utilizes whether it be psychotropic drugs, ritual dance or ceremony, exposure and fasting, etc.
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Old 04-07-13   #6
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Default Re: Shamanism among the non-indigenous

MonSno, does it bother you when anyone uses the term Medicine Woman, or only non-NAs?

For me, it's not about ethnicity but how devoted, knowledgeable, sensitive and gifted one is. I would take a Medicine Woman of any background at all who is skilled and devoted, over someone just using the term half-heartedly but has the "correct" set of genes.
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Old 04-07-13   #7
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Default Re: Shamanism among the non-indigenous

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Originally Posted by feranaja View Post
MonSno, does it bother you when anyone uses the term Medicine Woman, or only non-NAs?

For me, it's not about ethnicity but how devoted, knowledgeable, sensitive and gifted one is. I would take a Medicine Woman of any background at all who is skilled and devoted, over someone just using the term half-heartedly but has the "correct" set of genes.
That's sort of a trap question. he he he

To me that is simply another white man's word usage and lifting of a NA implied concept. Not entirely different from the Medicine Man / Medicine Woman travelling shows of the old west. It implies a NA connection by the cultural usage of the term "Medicine" and the implied notion of "Medicine" as a special energy or skill. To include the NA usage of plant allies, spirit allies, energy from "Spirit", etc based upon the combined usage of Medicine _____.

It's not the same as saying one is a Granny practitioner, Folk practitioner, White Witch, Animal mother,etc all of which employ the same usages of herbs, plants, spirits, spells, etc in performing their healing practices. None of those imply a NA influence or connection. Heck even saying one is a herbalist, mid-wifery, etc implies most of the same skill sets and abilities with out the implied NA knowledge that Medicine ______ implies.

In many ways it relies upon a cultural meaning of a word vice the medical usage of the word medicine.

So it doesn't bother me that non NA's use it though most NA's I've had the pleasure to speak to would not use it in that manner anyway. Their language has specific words for such practices or positions within a nation or tribe. It's more a matter of connecting a skill set to a word usage that implies a NA connection that is actually used to belittle their culture beliefs that is a hold over from the western expansion period.
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Old 04-07-13   #8
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Default Re: Shamanism among the non-indigenous

By the title one would think the topic concerns Shamanism among the non-indigenous, but with all these references regarding indigenous people, especially those of America, that thought shifts to something else.

Then there's the question of if a good many indigenous people have more or less stuck closer to their ancient shamanistic practices than say a lot of other non-indigenous people whose old ways were heavily infringed upon by foreign religions? Many indigenous people have long held onto what others now have to re-learn, or even attempt to borrow. Indigenous people either not corrupted by or have successfully resisted foreign religion retain their traditional animistic beliefs and in all sooth, shamanism is animism in practice. It's not like we indigenous people have sole rights to, or strive to corner the market of shamanistic-like spirituality.


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Old 04-08-13   #9
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Default Re: Shamanism among the non-indigenous

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Originally Posted by Atehequa View Post
It's not like we indigenous people have sole rights to, or strive to corner the market of shamanistic-like spirituality.
The pedant in me wants to point out that 'shaman' is of Siberian origin and therefore 'NA shamanism' is an oxymoron in anthropological terms. Okay, that's my inner pedant satisfied for the morning. But shamanistic-like spirituality and techniques are everywhere: Nepal, Iceland, pretty much all of Scandinavia, Oz, the Pacific Rim, all of the Americas...

And also Europe, including Scotland, so I can claim to be indigenous to a place that has a shamanistic-like tradition. But I guess that if these techniques were a major component of my own path, I'd use the term 'cunning man' rather than 'shaman' or 'medicine-man', since that's the local name.

Harner's system seeks to remove the cultural context. My inner folklorist, which also needs nourishing this morning, has a small problem with this, because most shamanistic-like techniques are totally bound up with the cultural context. But as a practitioner, in so far as I am, I can't see the point in criticising him for that. I just don't understand the approach.

The Crotona Fellowship material I'm working with uses some of the techniques in a 1930s England context with a dash of added faux-antique English folklore. I'm busily attempting to put it into a mediaeval French context and, as any followers of Brosceliande will realise, having problems. I do, however, think that some kind of societal context provide checks and balances in the techniques.

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Old 06-15-17   #10
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Default Re: Shamanism among the non-indigenous

Personally, I dont think it is respectable to imitate someone elses practices and call it "core". In my experience core shamanism isnt really shamanism and doesnt have much to do with traditional practices.

At the same time - the spirits call who they decide to call and dont seem to care about skin color in my experience. I think though that core shamanism isnt the only or best option for people in this situation. I personally found the spirits calling me to a specific tradition, and so went to the people who practice that tradition and asked them to teach me. If you work hard and are humble there is a decent chance they will open up to you with time and if you are truly being called by the spirits you will eventually meet the right teacher.

I know people of all races who learned and practice shamanism the traditional way. We dont need to invent some simplified and watered down imitation of shamanism - we just need to be respectful and humble and do the work needed to learn what the spirits call us to.
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