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Shamanism is a very general (sometimes even de...

Shamanism is a very general (sometimes even debated) concept, comprising mediator-role figures of several different cultures, with great diversity. That is why this image is a tableau. It is created to be a lead image of Wikipedia’s Shamanism article. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Shaman—”Walker Between Worlds and Prayer of Great Prayers”

Throughout world history there have been people who profess special power and insight to communicate with the spiritual realm and in doing so, alter the human condition. Called by many names in numerous world cultures, we have come to know them in contemporary times collectively as Shaman. Anthropologists and linguists have struggled over the origin and meaning of the term—largely suggesting an ancient Indian genesis, which journeyed through Persia, Serbia and Lappland, to Europe and other parts of the world.[1] We have a fundamental sense and association of the term shaman as an enlightened individual who possesses the ability to bond with nature and animals, undergo superhuman initiation, perform ritualistic activity and communicate with the preternatural world, usually in service to the community of people. Historically, the idea of shamanism was dismissed as a vestige of prehistoric society’s need to understand and organize their superstitious beliefs. Western scholarship has tended to dismissively refer to all such magic men and women, not of classical Greco-Roman origin, as primitive folkloric sorcerers, witches, witch-doctors, magicians and wizards. Their distinct cultural character and common legacy today debunks this wholesale conceptualization and reveals that Shamans were sacred intermediaries who—through various natural, temporal, material and physical means—sought to heal sickness and disease, create success and prosperity, keep the world in balance, and more often than not, predict the future. Shamans existed among the world’s early nomadic peoples, serving as medical healers, counselors, and diviners; and they regularly appear in simple or highly constructed societies. Shamanism predates the world’s major religions and formal clergy. Historically speaking, they are the world’s first heroes—the walkers between worlds and prayers of great prayers.—History is a State of Mind (c) 2013.

[1]Berthold Laufer, “Origin of the Word Shaman, American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 19, No. 3 (Jul. – Sep., 1917), pp. 361-371.


The African Origin of Greek Philosophy: An Exercise in Afrocentrism, by Innocent C. Onyewuenyi.

Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman, by Malidoma Patrice Some (Penguin, 1995).

African American Folk Healing, by Stephanie Mitchem (NYU Press, 2007).