The or even transgendered and are considered

The first
thing that comes to many minds when they hear the word shamanism is medicine
man or medicine woman. In fact, Shamanism is much more than that. Shamanism
originated from the Siberian people called the Ewenki, which came from the word
“saman” which means “to know.”  According
to Vitebsky shamanism is the world’s oldest form of religion. A shaman can
either be a man, a woman, or even transgendered and are considered medicine men
and medicine women. Shamanism is not a religion, but an aspect of one. Shamanism
is an interaction that certain individuals have with the spirit world for
healing and other ritual purposes to provide balance and peace in the community.

Shamanism is
not a single, unified religion but a cross-cultural form of religions and
practice, “Not to a single religion, but rather to a style of religious activity
and a kind of understanding of the world” (Vitebsky, p55). It is a set of
practices, beliefs, values and behaviors that enable the practitioner to elect
a shift from their ordinary consciousness into a trance state with a specific
goal in mind; healing, obtaining information, power, vision, divination,
contacting the spirit of the deceased, soul retrieval or guidance for right
action.

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A shaman is a
man or woman whose soul leaves their body in a trance and is able to travel to
other realms of the cosmos (Vitebsky, p55). The Siberian shaman’s soul is said
to be able to leave the body and travel to other parts of the cosmos,
particularly to an upper world in the sky and a lower world underground. In order
to do this the shamans, have to enter and “Altered State of Consciousness.” This
state can be entered in many different ways; drumming, chanting, fasting,
prayer, imagination and dancing. Sometimes to help them enter this state they
use chemicals that are available in special plants (Gilmore, 2017). “These effects
are usually described as ‘psychedelic’ or ‘hallucinogenic’ but some
anthropologists have coined another term ‘entheogenic'” (Gilmore, 2017).  While in these states the soul of the shaman
enters or visits the spirit world while the other spirits take possession of
the shaman’s body and voice to speak on the spirits behalf.

“The shaman’s journeys allow him or
her to perceive the true nature of essence of phenomena, to understand how this
is implicated in the causation of events in this world, and to act upon this
understanding in order to change undesirable situations and sustain desirable
ones” (Vitebsky, p58)

To become a shaman,
you must be chosen by the spirits, “a future shaman does choose his or her
profession, but is chosen by the spirits themselves to serve them. The young
candidate may be made aware of this through dreams or by other signs” (Vitebsky,
p60).  Usually the young candidates first
response would be to refuse to accept such a life but then the spirits threaten
and torments them until they agree and submit. The new candidate learns to
understand the true nature of things and is considered complete and greater
than before.

The main goal
of a shaman is to heal and undo any wrong doings that have upset the spirits. If
a spirit is upset a shaman “must go on a soul journey to visit the spirits concerned
and persuade them or coerce them to change their behavior” (Vitebsky p61). There
are some rituals that are performed regularly to keep and maintain the balance
of order. Each spirit represents a different aspect of life. For example, if the
sea spirit Takanakapsaluk was upset there would be incurable sickness, a hunter
becomes particularly unsuccessful, or an entire village would be threatened by
famine (Vitebsky, p62). A shaman’s response to these problems would be to go
into a trance and a go on a soul journey. A shaman must overcome the anger of the
spirits in the trance to restore the balance and the peace.

In
conclusion, understanding this topic more fully teaches us that magic is not
what most of us would think it is as a trick or something. Magic is seen every
day; prayer, rituals, fetishes, taboos, etc. The rituals or prayers that
shamans have are magic. Just like the rituals or prayers of any other religion.

This topic also more fully teaches us that religion can be anything. Just because
you do not believe in such things does not mean that it is not a religion. Shamanism
teaches us that the worldview of practices and religions are not the only ways.

This topic helps give us light that there are many different types of religions
and can be anything as long as its continually practiced.

 

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