6 Reasons To Stop Using the Word “Shaman”

6 Reasons To Stop Using the Word “Shaman” March 11, 2019

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people use the word shaman out of context. I see it as a huge problem within the pagan, witchcraft, and New Age communities, as well as, within academia for many reasons.* Here is a list of six general problems that I have with how it’s used and why.

*Note: I realize that there are many indigenous people who self-identify with the term shaman and I would never presume to judge their use of it. I am specifically referencing its use amongst nonindigenous communities and academics.

Check out my follow up post here

#1-Its origins

Do you live in Tunguska on the Siberian Plateau?  Do you herd reindeer? Were your ancestors the victims of a horrific genocide carried out by the Cossacks? If not, then you definitely aren’t a shaman. Shaman is a Tungusic Siberian word used by said people to describe their spiritual leaders, it stems from the rootwhich means to know. It was first recorded historically by 17th-century Dutch explorers and has since taken on a meaning of its own. Anthropologists, New-Age healers, archaeologists, neopagans, religious leaders, indigenous groups, and art historians, just to name a few, all use the word shaman.

An illustration of a shaman in Tunguska, produced by the Dutch explorer Nicolaes Witsen in the late 17th century. It is the earliest known pictorial depiction of a Tungus shaman to have appeared in Europe, where Witsen’s account first popularised the term shaman. Wikimedia Commons.

 

#2- It subtly reinforces Western religious ‘superiority’ 

Shamanism has become a metonym for all religious leaders within indigenous cultures. The word shaman signifies a non-Western indigenous religious practitioner whereas a priest is a Western religious practitioner operating within a socially stratified ‘advanced’ civilization. Have you ever wondered why we don’t just call shamans priests? Don’t they act in much the same role? As mediators between humankind and the divine? How do you think Catholic priests would feel if we started calling them Imams and vice versa? This unconscious manifestation of early evolutionary theory and Western racism represents “a willful denial of the complexity of “primitive” religions and the reduction of their diversity to a simplistic unity that can be effectively contrasted with more favored constructs like “Christianity.”

#3 -It’s linguistic imperialism

Did you know that it was standard policy for settler colonial nations (United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand, etc) to ban the use of indigenous languages? Kids are still beaten in school for using their native tongue to this day throughout the colonial world. The broad use of the word shaman can be directly linked to these practices and the immense loss of language worldwide. The language of the colonizers (English, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish,  French, etc) is seen as superior and thus the word chosen by them to define something (i.e. shaman for spiritual leader) becomes the status quo.

Inés M. Talamante, a Mescalero Apache professor of religious studies say this: “They raped us by taking away our language. Now they are stealing our religion by calling our medicine men shamans… Our language does not know shamans, and that name is used only by neo-shamans; not our changers.”

I made this chart to illustrate how many words I could find in 15 minutes from different languages that are re-labeled under the aegis of shaman.

#4- It’s racially charged

The typification of non-Western faith and religious practices stems from 19th century anthropological theories about the origins of humankind and its development. Theorists such as Herbert Spencer and Lewis Henry Morgan believed that human society evolved like organisms in a set and structured way. It was the result of the natural ‘evolution’ of cultures from lower to higher forms- three stages were identified (savagery, barbarism, and civilization). Guess what? Shamanism was associated with the most ‘primitive’ stage. As anthropologist Roland Dixon so eloquently put it (note sarcasm), shamans were “that motley class of persons, found in every savage community, who are supposed to have closer relations with the supernatural than other men.”

A Huichol Marakame. Not a shaman. Via Flickr.

#5- It’s lazy

News flash: there are over 7000 languages spoken in the world today! Just 23 of these account for more than half the world’s population. That means a huge percentage of these are ‘indigenous’ languages. I guarantee they each have their own unique word for the people who act as spiritual leaders, guides, and mediators. Using the word ‘shaman’ to describe any of them (unless from the above named Tungus region) is just plain lazy. With modern access to the internet, it doesn’t even take that much work. Do your research!

Inyanga Baba Sylvester of Johannesburg, South Africa. Not a shaman. Via Wikimedia.

#6- It’s a reductionist umbrella term

Shamanism has become a stand-in term for any and all indigenous spiritual practices. In some instances, it has even morphed into a larger category, Shamanism as a ‘religion.’ The obvious problem with categorizing all indigenous spirituality practices under the same term is that in doing so they are being stripped of their individual identity.

L.K. Pharo states that “the paradigmatic post-colonial reduction of many indigenous religious systems to “shamanism” has created an impoverished view of religions that are no less complex and sophisticated than the so-called “Great Traditions.”

Heȟáka Sápa (Black Elk) was a famous Oglala Lakota wičháša wakȟáŋ (spiritual leader). Not a shaman.

For further reading and more information check out:

White Shaman, Plastic Medicine Man

Eliade, M. Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. Princeton University Press. (1964). 4-5.

Dixon, Roland B. “Some Aspects of the American Shaman.” The Journal of American Folklore 21, no. 80 (1908): 1-12.

DuBois, T.A. “Trends on Contemporary Research on Shamanism.” Numen: International Review for the History of Religions. vol.58, no.1 (2011): 100-128.

Hernández-Ávila, Inés. “Mediations of the Spirit: Native American Religious Traditions and the Ethics of Representation.” American Indian Quarterly 20, no. 3/4 (1996): 329-52.

Keightley, D. “Royal Shamanism in the Shang: Archaic Vestige or Central Reality?” 1983.

Klein, C; Guzma’n, E; Mandell, E; Stanfield-Mazzi, M.”The Role of Shamanism in Mesoamerican Art: A Reassessment.” Current Anthropology 43, no. 3 (2002): 383-419.

Laufer, B. “Origin of the Word Shaman.” American Anthropologist, New Series, 19, no. 3 (1917): 361-71.

Pentikainen, J. Shamanism and Culture. Helsinki: Etnika. 1998:44.

Pharo, L.K. “A Methodology for a Deconstruction and Reconstruction of the Concepts ‘Shaman’ and ‘Shamanism.’” Numen: International Review for the History of Religions. vol 58, no. 1 (2011): 6–70.

Plate, S.B.”The Museumification of Religion: Human Evolution and the Display of the Ritual” in Religion in Museums:Global and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, edited by Gretchen Buggeln, Crispin Paine, and S.Brent Plate. Bloomsbury Academic. 2017: 41-47.

Sidky, H. “Ethnographic Perspectives on Differentiating Shamans from other Ritual Intercessors.” Asian Ethnology, 69(2). (2010):213-240.

Stuchtey, B. “Colonialism and Imperialism, 1450–1950, in: European History Online” (EGO), published by the Institute of European History (IEG), Mainz 2011-01-24.

 

About Julia Penelope
Julia Penelope is a blogger, traveler, occultist, and aspiring archaeologist. She has been a practicing witch for the past ten years and a devotional polytheist for the latter three. She is the founder and organizer of a women’s circle in southern Maine, the Witches of Downeast. You can read more about the author here.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Fed up with psychopaths.

    you idiot!

  • Lydia

    A very interesting read. Thank you for sharing.

  • kenofken

    If the use of the word shaman ranks as a “huge problem” in the Pagan community, you’re coming from a much more sheltered corner of that community than I. Climate change is a huge problem. Sexual assault is a huge problem (and a Pagan one). The rising tide of fascism is a huge problem. The use of “shaman”, well, that’s the sort of problem that merits attention after we have solved all the aforementioned problems, conquered mortality and had a few hundred years of leisure in our newfound Rivendell-like paradise.

    I use “shaman” where I see it fits and will continue to do so. Far more often than not, that means indigenous spirit workers or those welcomed into such traditions and trained under them. Today’s Pagan world is awash in fools who fancy themselves shamans because they dress up in faux Native American gear and collect skulls and animal pelts. Most of them would soil themselves and spend a month catatonic if they ever went a real shamanic journey or ordeal. It become apparent pretty quickly who is the real deal when you work with them or get to know them. If they walk the walk, and if they wish to own the title, I’ll call them a shaman. It’s not some sort of 19th Century condescension, it’s a title of respect. Shaman is not some sort of “more primitive” conception of priesthood, and the roles are not interchangeable nor even roughly equivalent in all cases.

    This smells like another manufactured controversy by Social Justice Warriors in the same vein as Witchdoctor Utu’s expulsion from Pantheacon and the insistence that any use of sage by non-Native Americans constitutes cultural genocide. As in 99.9% of these cases, the grievance is not really coming organically from indigenous people or people of color. It’s coming from privileged white people who have decided that they’re More Woke than You and are going to prove that by policing everyone else and demonstrating Maximum Outrage “on behalf of” minorities. Their views, which are usually highly varied and nuanced, do not matter because everyone has an assigned role in SJW narrative, which only recognizes an Oppressor Class (aka white people), the Holy Oppressed and the vanguard of self-appointed and enlightened warriors who are going to overcome the stain of oppressor ancestry by putting everything right. The White Savior complex betrays as much of the colonial mindset as anything they purport to fight.

  • Shawn Herles

    As someone who has studied religion at an academic level I’m not aware of anyone using the term shamanic as a term for all indigenous peoples. Arabs are indigenous to the Arabian peninsula, but nobody says that the Islam practised by Arabian peoples there is therefore a shamanic religion. I think the term “indigenous” is far more problematic myself. Historically speaking nobody is indigenous to any land. Everybody came from somewhere else. If it means people who have been in a specific land for a very long time, then English people are indigenous people. I have only seen “shamanism” used to describe religious practices that combine animism and spirit travel (visiting the Spirit world to speak with spirits), which is reasonable. It’s also therefore reasonable for anyone, including Westerners, who practice animism+spirit travel to call what they do shamanic, although I think it’s silly for such people to call themselves shamans.

  • Matthew Baugh

    I was glad to see this. The lumping of such a large and diverse group of religious traditions under the title shamanism has bothered me for a long time. I agree that it is both more respectful, and more accurate, to learn and use each culture’s own terms. Using a term like shaman indiscriminately seems racist, and I am baffled that some commenters seem to be defending it.

  • We can care about more than one thing at a time…changing our language use is also easier to change than the economic infrastructure of climate change- corporations & governments have been happy to encourage the individual responsibility for consumer choices model. I do agree that when it comes to charges of cultural appropriation, it is better to focus on one’s own local communities, indigenous cultures & ecologies. I don’t care much about what happens at Pantheacon- it’s California Paganism, as far as I’m concerned which is its own bubble, and I’m in the Midwest. I find some of the arrogance of SJW culture annoying too, but the backlash & assumptions that these efforts are always insincere & self-serving is also arrogant. We need to find common ground & have less charged conversations. One norm I’ve gotten very sick of is the “intent doesn’t matter” concept. While I get that good intent is often misused as an excuse, as a bunch of magical/spiritual folks we all know how much a difference intent can actually make!

  • Moderator? By the username & comment I’m wondering if this person is just spamming…

  • Kathy

    Racism is a huge, pressing problem in Pagan communities.

  • Rick

    Come on down to Ecuador, Ms. Penelope, and do your best to convince the locals to stop calling themselves “shamanes.” Yes, they call themselves “taitas” too, but they’re pretty well indiffirent to this Marxist micro-management of language that you are pushing for the sake of your virtuous ego.

  • This was exactly the reason I put a note at the top of the article…. I wouldn’t presume to moderate an indigenous persons use of the word.

  • You can believe and say whatever you want. I know that I’ll sleep easy tonight being on the correct side of history.
    There are plenty of other pressing issues obviously. However, this symptom of the settler colonial framework is a pretty easy thing to rectify.

  • I. H. Hagar

    I just wonder what put this bee in your bonnet, Missy? Are you an “indigenous” person? Do you know an “indigenous” person who complained to you about this and asked you to write this article. So you have been a practicing witch for the last ten years. I’ve been a practicing witch for the last forty-five or more years. I have been studying shamanic work for the last five years. To me it means working with spirits, animal and otherwise. And before you start railing, I am of the Yaqui and Raramuri people. There are certain prerequisites to be a shaman. One is that you have had a near death experience or an illness that brought you very close to death. I have had three such experiences. Another is that you are “called” by the spirits to undertake this work. Even in Native People, not all people who are spiritual leaders or healers work with the Spirits or travel between the worlds. Those who do spirit work have either studied with someone or just receive their instruction directly from the spirits. By your reasoning only Jews should be Christians and only Arabs should be Moslums, and only Celts can be Druids or worship the Celtic Gods, etc. If you went around saying you were this or that just to make money off of gullible people or to gain fame and attention that would definitely be wrong. But if you are sincerely studying and learning some form of religious practice, what’s the problem? I think you should not make judgements or give orders (as in the title of your little write up) until you do some more studying and maturing. But, hey, I’m just an old uneducated hag.

  • 02Dave12345

    The problem with the word ‘shaman’ is that there is a worldwide interest in reviving animist, earth based practices. This is both a positive and a negative. I think there is an authentic ‘waking up’ of people but there is also a trendy, capitalist element to ‘shamanism’, it’s appearing on labels for incense, rattles, etc..

    On the positive side, tribal or indigenous traditions that have survived colonialism are rightfully looked to as models for inspiration. If we’re invited and we approach it with deep respect, there is nothing at all wrong with pursuing this path. It’s deep in our DNA, experiencing our world through an animist lens is every human’s birthright. That should never be questioned, opinions over the inappropriate use of a few words should not necessarily discredit anyone’s path or sincerity.

    I’m not excusing misappropriation of another culture’s tradition, but using a drum or rattle, some object from nature that calls to a person, communing with the many spirits of nature including animal guides, is not necessarily misappropriation. A white person dressing up as a Native American and charging $1200 for a weekend retreat in Sedona is something entirely different and should be condemned. There are grey areas though.

    The biggest problem I have with policing the word ‘shaman’ is that it’s irresponsible imo, to engage in work that can result in what is known as a shamanic healing or experience and not acknowledge what is going on. This doesn’t require that we claim the title ‘shaman’, but the word ‘shamanism’ is nearly impossible to avoid if someone needs a reference, a good book to educate oneself for example. A framework for understanding.

    There is certain language that has developed over the last 20 or 30 years before there was any concern about using ‘shaman’, it was a non-controversial term a short time ago and it grew out of anthropology. All of a sudden, the last 5 to10 years perhaps, we’re accusing people of racism for using it while not providing an alternative. The arguments for doing this are solid and valid, or worth debating, but we need to transition to something that isn’t ‘racist.’ Until then, the term ‘shamanism’ to refer to a spirituality that is developing in a legitimate and universal way, is going nowhere. Do we accuse every Facebook group with the word ‘shamanism’ in it as racist? I think that would be a mistake if we have no alternative. Some of these groups are rich with knowledge, linking people from all over the world.

    The origins of the word in anthropology may have had a demeaning, colonial perspective (‘savage’), but I think it’s quite the opposite today. We are holding up ‘shamans’ as highly evolved mystical, magical people. Of course that can have a downside but it’s not used to demean anymore. It’s become a status symbol and people are misappropriating it in this way. An unearned privilege, but there are no standards for measure and we shouldn’t develop an authority imo, so there will always be problems. Some groups have decided that using the term ‘shamanic practitioner’ is a good compromise. I’m not advocating for that necessarily, but it should be mentioned.

    There’s much writing that bridges an animist/tribal understanding of visionary and other spiritual experiences and a Western or more industrial understanding of healing trauma, addiction, etc. Industrial cultures are so far removed from this ancient way that we don’t even have the language to communicate. This bridge is necessary for an evolution of animism to continue imo, a very positive thing overall. I believe that ‘shamanism’ is distinct from more general terms like ‘pagan’ or a path with its own terminology and methods like ‘Wicca.’

    Work is going on right now at NYU and elsewhere, using entheogens to heal PTSD and the results are very encouraging. I believe we should include ancient, tribal knowledge of working with plant medicines along with Western psychology to move forward with this work. No alternative to ‘shamanism’ as a universal term has been offered, it’s a real problem. There are universal concepts around shamanism that have developed. Healing PTSD is often understood with the concept of ‘soul retrieval.’ Interpreting visionary experiences, interacting with archetypes during a journey, can also be explained through some tribal traditions. There is a worldwide, common language that has developed around shamanism. This isn’t necessarily a negative thing and it’s not necessarily a threat to indigenous cultures.

    There is a huge body of literature that’s growing exponentially, all under the title ‘shamanism.’ Writings that should be respected. Indigenous and non-indigenous people who have developed expertise are reaching out, writing books, offering ritual and teachings to this growing interest. Retreats to indigenous lands done with integrity, the money used to help indigenous people. This positive side needs to be debated.

    Personally, I think we need to abandon the word ‘shaman’ and start using ‘animism’ more. However, over-policing people who have a legitimate calling for this kind of work, who have very high integrity doing the work, can be oppressive imo. It’s shaming people, harming reputations. For everyone who offers harsh criticism, we can find people with different POV. Indigenous people are not all on the same page.

  • EmJay Cee

    No, shamans are not priests, at least according to Eliade. A group of people may have priests who sacrifice as well as shamans who journey heal and retrieve souls.

  • Elhoim Leafar

    This article is totally awful, disgusting, disrespectful and very very racist! Is literally the worst shit I read in a lot of time, this is not an article of opinion, is just racist shit.

    So I have to put a bone in my nose and a plume of feathers to say I’m a shaman? What else do you expect? A DNA test and my passport?, Well, I have two, one Turkish and one Venezuelan, my grandfather proudly leads the shamanic order of the Amazon for more than 40 years, and I never saw him use a bone in his nose, in fact only I saw a plume of feathers on the head on one occasion, we need more real items and less garbage to attract the public like this.

    Now every person who has read a couple of books of shamanism or religion is going to tell you how to preach and practice your own family beliefs?, What is next? Will he appear at my door with a magazine to tell me that I am worshiping the devil?

    So, if my grandparents were not victims of a genocide caused by the Spanish settlers, I must then give my religion a different name, the religion of my nieces, my sisters and my parents, I must give it a name entirely different from the religion of my parents. grandparents and their predecessors because another ex-christian girl thinks she knows more about my religion than me and my whole family?

    What about the shamans of the native peoples of the Amazon who have not been colonized, killed or who do not wear a crown and a necklace of bones? We must go and tell them to name their religion because they do not comply with these modern “high standards” of the pre-Columbian shamanism?.

    THIS IS JUST SHIT! This kind of garbage should pass it through a filter and through the hands of a real publisher before publishing it.

  • Elhoim Leafar

    This is as racist as it is eloquent, it is as absurd as those people who never miss a coven and say to male practitioners “oh no baby, you’re not a warlock, you’re a sorcerer”, “oh no, you’re not you are a sorcerer, you are a sorcerer “,” oh no baby, you are not a sorcerer, you are a magician “, this is as lacking in logic and sense as the newly initiated modern Wiccans who tell you” all witches are Wiccans “, and of course, the” Wicca is the oldest religion of humanity “, but no, this is not as absurd as that, this is literally worse, it is worse than that, and it is also entirely racist and offensive.

  • Elhoim Leafar

    And I’m very sorry if I offend anyone, but believe me, they will not be more offended than me at this time, until today I felt a faithful follower of this blog, but this article is entirely disappointing for me.

    Well, maybe I should not feel disappointed or offended, because as I am a shaman maybe I should not know how to read, because here they describe us as vulgar monkeys in escapes from a forest.

  • Patricia Cowan

    For the most part I agree with you. I cringe when I meet someone who claims to be a shaman but doesn’t know what one truly is. I really do have a problem is with white bleach blonde individuals claiming to be shamans, when they have no affiliation with reality. I do however have friends to who lean more toward shamanism. They don’t claim by any stretch of the imagination to be one.

  • julia

    Hi Elhoim,
    I am deeply sorry for the offense I have caused you. I was specifically referencing the use of the word within the larger pagan/witchcraft/new age community and I would never judge or question its use by an indigenous person who identifies as such. I feel you misunderstood what I was trying to say and I do take responsibility for my part in that. My argument is that indigenous spiritual practitioners (whether or not they identify as shaman or not) are often viewed in a reductionist manner. By clumping them all together under this umbrella term, it seems to me that they are stripped of their complexity. I absolutely am not saying that shamans are ‘vulgar monkeys,’ that what’s 19th century anthropology implies and suggests, hence one of my problems with the use of the word. Rather, I’m saying that these spiritual practices are just as nuanced as the more understood Western religions such as Christianity.
    Again, I apologize for any offense.

  • kenofken

    Yes, racism is indeed a huge problem in Pagan communities, as it is the wider culture we hail from. But the use of the word “shaman” represents, at the very high end, two or three billionths of one percent of that problem.

  • kenofken

    What if the white bleach blond person claiming to be a shaman is the real deal? Many are not, but there is more than a tinge of racism in assuming none can be. A few years ago I underwent an ayahuasca ceremony conducted by a woman who, as far as I know, is of plain, white, European-American stock. She didn’t appropriate someone’s culture. She immersed herself in it, spending time training in the Amazon under indigenous members of that tradition. I know of another such woman who regularly conducts Native American sweat lodge and other ceremonies. Neither of these women are in fact “bleach blonde” but might as well be for the purposes of this discussion. They are both respected and accepted by many members of the indigenous cultures they work within. Who are we then to second guess that?

    That’s the core of the problem I have with this piece and many of the related discussions around race and appropriations in the Pagan community these days. They’re not discussions initiated or led by minority members. It’s white people policing the boundaries of cultures that are not their own based on what they assume members of those cultures must feel, or worse, what they think they should feel about it. These self-deputized white border guards of other’s cultures seem to think that this usurpation is ok so long as they mean well and are on the “right side” of civil rights issues.

  • Patricia Cowan

    I have met people that I consider shamans or shaman like,if that’s a term. What I am getting at are the ones who have never studied or apprenticed with any one, who have only read books that I consider in the whoo whoo category. If that offends I’m sorry, but I am tired of mis-apropriation from white dudes and dudets. By the way I’m white.

  • Kathy

    First, you assume that “we” all fail from one culture, which is not the case by a long shot. Second, this issue is raised by multitudes of Native folks often. Sometimes white skin doesn’t and shouldn’t mean that the generic “you” get to set the benchmark for what is worthy of discussion. If you don’t want to discuss it, then understand that the shorthanded use of a fallback term perpetuates racist thinking and listen when others *are* willing to have the conversation. Black, Brown, and Indigenous folks deserve the respect of having traditional practices, beliefs, and stations honored, and that starts with using the titles requested. If any individual wants to avoid making a mistake of this magnitude when dealing with any Native community member, then asking what the proper term is would be the right action.

  • jgreen6522

    I agree with Elhoim and support his statements. Julia, before making statements on behalf of other people, especially minorities, perhaps you should just stop and *not* make statements on behalf of other people. Speak for yourself and let Native folk speak for ourselves.

  • Elhoim Leafar

    Oh yes bro! I know that! Thanks for use the correct words.

  • Falkenna

    Very well put, thank you. As an Animist who does little shamanic-like work, however, I don’t think “Animist” is the substitute word you’re looking for. An Animist can be on a spectrum that starts with passive experiencing, while shamanic practices are active and particular. (An Animist may not be shamanic, but shamans will have a tendency to be animistic.) These activities have, as you say, been agreed in academic and other writings, often by careful delineation of what qualifies, and with respectful acknowledgement of the word’s original and ethnically particular use.

    Newsflash, words change meanings. It doesn’t mean they’re then always used correctly, but this one has repeatedly been carefully defined and adapted for a specific that Abrahamic tradition simply doesn’t have a word for. It is properly used in that context as a generic term; it is a bit lazy to use it for an individual tribal practitioner who doesn’t use it, except for clarification or comparison.

  • spiritssparks

    If your particularities can be rooted, go ahead and disavow the word “Shaman”. Though I understand the respect necessary to be precise when engaging with this type of work, what I dislike about this article is that it assumes that decolonization is as easy circumnavigating through semantics, it goes much deeper than that. It is not respectful to disavow a word that allows for a “postmodern” connection for Indo-European, “tribe-less” children of Babylon, to intentionally engage with the sacred. Although I am sure that the intentions of the writer of this article do not align with the buzz-feed-list click-bait style spiritual snobbery that it evokes, it nonetheless, mirrors the endless samsara-driven, political-rational, ‘academic’ colonial encroachments of spirituality that it seeks to root out in its predecessors.

  • Shawn Herles

    Is it really? I have no doubt there are genuine racists in the Pagan community, but is it really a huge, pressing problem? That claim raises the question of what evidence there is for it, what definition of racism is being used, and what specific things are being defined as racism. As far as the online mainstream Pagan community goes, I don’t see a lot of real racism, if any.

    If there is a huge pressing problem in Pagan communities it’s the increasingly totalitarian policing of anyone who speaks or acts or practices their Paganism in any way that offends woke Progressives.

    And sadly, because of the way these debates tend to go, I have to point out that I’m not white. The fact that I have to do so might point to where the real racism is coming from.

  • 02Dave12345

    Well said. Would you care to expand on your thoughts on ‘animism?’ I’ve thought of it as a concept or word that might replace ‘shamanism’, a non-controversial word. I have no attachment to it, but people keep condemning the use of the word ‘shaman’ while offering no alternative.

    Animism is perhaps much more broad but the term ‘shamanism’ is getting watered down also, I think it’s destined to become a bit like ‘New Age’, a term that had meaning and legitimacy in the 70s and 80s to a large degree, and is now used to demean and mock a shallow spirituality. Alan Watts could be found in the New Age section of the bookstore for example, and many other respectable writers and teachers. Bridging Eastern and Western philosophy and spirituality.

    I wouldn’t apply ‘animism’ to an unbroken tribal tradition necessarily. Relatively unbroken, like Native American rituals and beliefs. I see it as a concept for others to use who are trying to revive traditions, or create new earth based practices, working with ancestors, nature spirits, etc. I believe there is a universal ‘shamanism’ that is developing, or a common language we can use to pursue and advance knowledge. If this word does become so politically incorrect that we can no longer use it, and that tends to happen quickly these days, at least in the US, then we need language to replace it imo. I’m content to call myself an ‘energy worker’ or even ‘body worker’, I could care less about a title, but I find it impossible to not talk about ‘shamanism’ on some level, to describe the work I do, and even that is under scrutiny from what I’ve seen. There’s a website devoted to discrediting people who use this language to promote themselves. Claiming that only indigenous people can use it, even though it’s been appropriated from a Siberian culture. Countless articles like this one, virtue signaling.

  • 02Dave12345

    I think you’re misinterpreting the article. The insulting sounding language in the article is referring to the colonial view, the study of tribal or indigenous cultures by mostly European anthropologists a century or more ago. It is critical of this language, the article is not promoting it. The word ‘shaman’ developed out of this research, coming from one particular community in Siberia and projected onto similar rituals and practices around the world. A colonial view of cultures thought of as inferior, a flawed belief.

    I disagree with the author that this is relevant to the current use of the word. It’s quite the opposite, we hold up ‘shaman’ today as a high status. Many traditional healers and ritual leaders around the world have adopted it for themselves, it’s a universal way of talking to others about some common beliefs and practices. This doesn’t mean they’ve abandoned their cultures titles. As long as this use of the word continues, it’s going to be impossible to police the word, there is no authority telling us who can and cannot use it.

    I read a similar article written by a woman who grew up in Texas and is half white and half Mexican, because of some indigenous ancestry coming from her Mexican lineage, she felt that she had a right to use the word, while telling white people they do not. It’s becoming very divisive.

  • 02Dave12345

    It’s a good point. I think of animism as a more broad term to replace ‘shamanism’, but not ‘shaman.’ I just call myself an energy worker but I have to use concepts developed through the shamanism lens to explain my work. I sometimes use Carl Jung also, depending on my client, but it can be inadequate.

    I don’t think ‘animism’ is a good replacement, I just don’t know of any other. I think animism does explain a shamanic experience, at least partially. Perhaps people should fight back against this virtue signaling so we can move past it. I’m not sure. ‘Shamanism’ is well established as a path, countless books published, it’s not going away.

    I think the only opinion that really matters should come from the culture that the word ‘shaman’ was taken from. We never hear from them.

  • Raven Belote

    I have been seeing the term, “Modern American Shamanism”, used at times.
    I don’t have any problem with it. Words change over time. Look at the word
    “pagan”.
    Also, I have no problem with shamanism changing. I feel that the spirits don’t
    judge us like we judge each other.

    Any person of European descent, like myself, who takes the time to study their ancestors
    knows that they used shamanic techniques.
    I’m tired of being told that we are not allowed to use such ways.
    To me that’s a lie.

    Maybe the idea of different types of shamanism should be approached in modern
    conversation instead of just one kind.
    Also, maybe we should approach the practice of shamanism itself as having evolved, just as we humans have.
    Why does no one think of this?

    Not trying to argue with you. Just contributing some conversation.

  • 02Dave12345

    It doesn’t feel like an argument, feels like a conversation. The only reason I avoid the word in a public way is to avoid criticism, I just don’t want to deal with it. I don’t think it hurts anyone, I’ve seen no evidence of this. The word doesn’t even belong to indigenous people who have adopted it, all over the world. It’s mostly white people claiming that other white people are injuring cultures by using an anthropological, Western term that was appropriated by one Siberian culture a century ago. The only opinion that matters is that culture in Siberia imo.

    If it does become too controversial to use the term, it bothers me that there’s no discussion of an alternative, perhaps there is no alternative and people just need to get over it.

    I think it’s a bit outrageous to lecture people about their spiritual path. We’re guided by teachings of shamanism, teachings that have developed over decades, we develop an authentic, sacred practice that can take years of effort and then we’re told what we can and cannot say. To me, shamanism is searching for what’s true through ritual and journey work.

    I agree, I think we’re seeing an evolution, people going back to ancient ways, healing the earth, our ancestry and each other. It should be encouraged as much as possible.

  • Rob Coffey

    I stopped reading after :
    “It’s linguistic imperialism

    Did you know that it was standard policy for settler colonial nations (United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand, etc) to ban the use of indigenous languages?”

    What does the author think happened to the indigenous cultural and spiritual traditions and language of ireland?

    We had, and have, in Ireland an indigenous spiritual tradition that was supressed as brutally as the indigenous cultures of south, central and north america. I suggest the author read some 16th and 17th century irish history.

  • Falkenna

    .My guess is that, as you suggest above, not every Siberian shaman would agree on whether it was acceptable or not. I very much understand the importance of the cultural underpinnings of word use, but my gut instinct, tentatively expressed, if that if we start including carefully defined and respectful terms which have no real synonym in our virtue-signaling (interesting term in itself), we are going to lose rather than gain clarity and specificity. Our only other options are to create a new nonsense word (blinkpot?) or use a totally inappropriate and misleading word (soul-chaser?) – or something completely inaccurate such as “priest”.

  • 02Dave12345

    I would be very curious what Siberian shamans think. There are some cultures that seem to be in near total agreement that their traditions are to be shared for the greater good. They are actively engaged in outreach. Tibetan Buddhism, they have incorporated some of the rituals of the Bon religion of pre-Buddhist Tibet, a shamanic or animist tradition. Many have moved to the US to establish communities and integrate with the culture, while preserving their tradition which is under threat from Chinese occupation of Tibet.

    The Chod ceremony is one Tibeten ritual I’m familiar with, it’s rooted in the Bon religion. Also, the Q’ero of Peru. They actively teach their rituals, encourage outsiders to carry a bundle or mesa. Other traditions can be very protective, but not in an absolute way. Native Americans can have different opinions on outsiders carrying a pipe for example.I think there’s agreement that it should only be done with permission and a deep understanding of the tradition.

  • Falkenna

    I agree. Many Cherokee are reasonably welcoming if you act with respect and observe their boundaries. Thanks for this.

  • 02Dave12345

    Another way of looking at developing a universal understanding of ancient spirituality under an umbrella term, ‘shamanism’, and that’s exactly what has happened as evidenced through a growing body of literature written no indigenous and non-indigenous people, is that it aids in avoiding harmful misappropriation. I see no effort to strip unbroken, tribal or indigenous traditions of complexity. We can find people who cross the line to misappropriation but that’s not the general trend, there’s a lot of consciousness about this problem in shamanic circles imo. It’s far more complex than policing a few words.

    These tribal traditions that we read about, look to for inspiration are viewed with a sort of awe by people called to shamanism as a path. We’re also told to never appropriate the complexity, and I agree with that. Using one word that isn’t even a part of an Amazonian, Native American or African tradition for example, doesn’t have this power imo.

    I’ve participated in Native American rituals, by invitation. The ritual leader told us, ‘we don’t want you to go home and act like Indians.’ They’re not trying to convert us to Native American religion but they see value in sharing it. It’s about sharing the power of their unbroken tradition, so we can wake up to our own ancestry, to allow the spirit world to teach us about practices from our ancestry that have become extinct.

    Anyway, I see it as the opposite, It’s not about watering down the complexity, at least in the best scenario.

    I would embrace abandoning the word ‘shamanism’ or ‘shaman’, the problem I have with articles like yours is that you don’t acknowledge that this has been evolving for decades. There’s a well established ‘shamanism’ community, for lack of a better word, it’s become global through the internet and it’s a very positive development overall. If we condemn the use of the language that has developed, we have to offer a replacement. That’s the only reason I’m defending the language. There is no alternative at the moment.

  • Gordon Cooper

    Dear Julia et al: Waay back in 1985 I called out the use of this term in the Georgian Newsletter and again in Converging Paths in 1987, and got ignored as “too academic” or judgmental.

    There are living Sibe (Siberian) and Turkic peoples who use this term. Their rites include and mandate in the baseline culture raising a bear and then sacrificing it. No sacrifice, no spirit contact, so no eight hour rites dancing a seven or nine broken-foot dragging step with 70 plus pounds of iron and mirrors to do a kamlanaya. Other related groups sacrifice camels on the shores of Lake Baiikal. This isn’t for the squeamish, and no, you can’t substitute beets or carrots or quinoa.

    And, as one of them said, no shaman ever dies a natural death. Assassination by others or suicide are the only ways they exit this world. Nor can they treat or diagnose children. They are specialists, not generalists. They don’t do workshops on how to be a shaman. An awful lot of them die in their apprenticeship training.

    It is thought now that the word shaman has a more complex and possibly Turkic or Sibe origin, related to both “kami” in Japanese and “kam” in Jurchen. The verb for spirit-singing in Jurchen (Manchu) is “kamlanaya”.

    As a thought experiment, take the word “shaman” in a popular periodical or discussion and replace it with winkte, wicasa wakan, adje, or any other culture-specific term. The siberian term only gets appropriated because unlike the Lakota or other native folks of this hemisphere they aren’t likely to show up and protest. Appropriation is so much easier at a distance.

    Eliade wrote his book on shamanism third hand. He neither studied nor interviewed shamans, but relied entirely on translations of Russian and other summaries of field notes. He admitted to more than a few students and colleagues that he didn’t cover entheogens at all in his work, because he didn’t understand the way it fit into the cosmologies. So the entire Birch/amanita/deer complex got ignored entirely, despite its cosmological importance.

    Michael Harner took his South American drug experience and married it to Neher’s theory of acoustic driving. Neher c. 1964 discovered that a fast enough drum rhythm would induce a pseudo-epileptic state, which Harner decided was the same as the kamlanaya, and generalized this to cover all states of consciousness that he defined as shamanic.

    For what it is worth, my anthropology mentor and adviser had been Harner’s graduate adviser. When Professor David Eyde saw me carrying the paperback copy of “Way of The Shaman” he stopped me in the hallway, looked at the book and said “Is Mikey still doing the thing with bongos in the living room on the couch? It didn’t seem to work well at the time.” David had lived with Korean mu-dongs (Korean shaman ritualists) that dance on sword point in fires. The Mu-Dong and other Asian groups have some fairly rigid procedures to determine if someone qualifies or not as authentic and valid.

    Harner, for his part, accused Sibe shamans visiting Seattle in the 1990’s of not telling the truth about their own culture. For their part, their senior person, a national cultural treasure, asked Harner what the boomboomboom crap with the drums was about.

    There are a range of terms that could be used. In the past I suggested spirit-working and a host of other terms, only to be told that these words aren’t cool enough, and don’t sound powerful. So a lot of this is down to wanting to be one of the cool kids, I think.

    There are folks in the world who do this sort of work. They don’t advertise, do workshops, or publish on it. Because that isn’t the way the stuff effectively works.

  • Gordon Cooper

    The Ulchi and Nanai live on the banks of the Amur River. They were on the turf that the gulags were built around. They were hired to hunt down escapees and kill them or bring them back. Their culture was almost entirely killed by the Czars, the Han, the Soviets, the Chinese communists and the Christian churches. When I met Victor, who’d been raised much of his life by the Sibe (his parents had been gulag prisoners) the haunted look he always had reminded me of how distant his experiences would always be from mine. And his are at one remove from the Sibe and other folks.

    One Siberian village was debating c. 1990 whether or not they could continue to have any new shamans. Bear sacrifices were now illegal, and they didn’t know how to move forward. Much like the Sami and the death of their god embodiment (deer) after Chernobyl. Or the Asmat, whose elderly sat in roads because all of their life rituals had been stripped away by the missionaries and the governments.

  • Gordon Cooper

    See Lynn Andrews, and the article c. 1987 on Plastic Medicine People. It is a linked issue because the money and effort that might go elsewhere into actual causes has gone into rituals that bury crystals on archaeological sites and annoy villages. The Harmonic Convergence comes to mind as an event sold as something that would save the world. I know this because I was an invited guest on top of a Pueblo that year, and heard how unhappy those communities were.

  • Gordon Cooper

    Shawn, while at Glastonbury a decade or so ago for OBOD midsummer there was a tourist bureau selling shamanic package tours to Aztec and Toltec holy sites, so visitors could experience a real New Fire Ceremony and feel Earth Power. The New Fire Ceremony was a human sacrifice and heart-ripping. I’m by no means in favor of that, but misusing the term and then claiming it is the same things while engaging in earth destroying actions seems to be a disconnect. Or as the Taoists say, Don’t Seek the Far to Find The Near.

    At least since Lynn Andrews the term shamanic has been taken to mean primitive, non-Western, etc. largely as a marketing tool. Lynn Andrews team sure as hell made that fairly plain when my then boss managed all of her workshops.

  • julia

    Hi Gordon,

    Thank you for this thoughtful and well-written response. I really appreciated what you have have to say on the matter.
    I will certainly be doing some more research prompted by your comments.

    Thanks again.
    Julia

  • 02Dave12345

    I enjoyed reading your take on this. I’ve mentioned already in this thread that I have no attachment to the words ‘shaman’ and ‘shamanism.’ I call myself an energy worker and depending on who I’m working with, I sometimes call it spiritual healing. I like your suggestion, ‘spirit worker.’

    I’m not crazy about Michael Harner’s neoshamanism school, I’ve never trained with them, but I do appreciate his efforts at working towards a universal understanding. I recommend Sandra Ingerman’s book, Soul Retrieval, to clients who want to understand this type of healing work. I don’t relate at all to her school’s journeying techniques, but she’s a good writer and does a good job of bridging Western psychology and shamanic healing.

    I’m curious if you see value in what I see as a universal understanding of what we’re calling ‘shamanism.’ I understand the complexity and sometimes intensity of some tribal traditions. I understand issues around misappropriation as best I can. I also believe that part of this growing interest in ‘shamanism’ is an authentic waking up of people to earth based, animist practices. Ancestor, ritual work. I see great value in it. This is rarely mentioned when people give critiques.

    I’ll try to be brief but I had a personal experience while studying craniosacral therapy. I had consistent energetic/visionary experiences while trying to learn this therapy. It was difficult to make sense of but I felt that I was being called to do something with it, and my teacher was often dismissive of my questions. I had a Native American client show up for massage therapy, no intention of doing energy work but we entered what you might call a journey, he was able to explain to me exactly what was happening and that led me to the study of ‘shamanism.’ The session also led to a significant healing of a deep trauma, due to a close friend of his who had died the year before. That was a turning point for me, and I turned to literature on ‘shamanism’ after that and gave up my study of cranisosacral therapy. It’s given me much clarity on my work, my guides, etc, and after 15 years of practice, I feel like I’m helping people. But it can only be explained through this ‘shamanic’ lens. I’ve also been fortunate to participate in Native American and some Amazonian traditions, that has helped a great deal and given me an appreciation about issues around misappropriation, colonialism, etc.

    My skills, my authenticity, are not up for question. That’s between me and my clients. I’m not looking for validation and I don’t promote myself as a shaman, ever. However, I feel a bit passionate about this issue because I recognize a sort of movement towards a universal understanding of a spiritual path that is unique. Unique from other paganism imo. Had this body of literature not been developed when I had my awakening to it, I might still be pretty lost. I also believe it’s helping a lot of people learn the importance of ritual, teaching people how to do ritual, etc.

    I feel like it’s easy enough to point out all of the harm of colonialism, and it’s important to raise awareness around that, but it can lead to condemnation of something very positive happening in the culture. The very thing that might lead us to a better connection to the earth and to each other. My biggest problem here is that if we condemn the use of the word ‘shaman’, which gets interpreted as condemning the word ‘shamanism’, there is no replacement. The condemnation can be very oppressive, judgmental, divisive. Not speaking to this article, but it’s articles like this that people use to justify their virtual signaling, policing of others. I might get behind condemning the word ‘shamanism’, and you have a lot of insight that might convince me, but

  • Elhoim Leafar

    Is just a terrible article more focus in racist cultural appropiation than give a good information to the people.

  • Aleksei Valentín ♿

    Thank you for all of this. It seems fine and dandy to appropriate from Siberian indigenous peoples because they can’t enter into the Western stage to protest. Spirit-worker as a catch-all is what I’ve used, in both personal practice and in academic contexts, and it gets the point across without stealing a highly specialised term from a highly marginalised group.

  • Carl Gustaf Lindstrom

    I believe, in the past years, I have used the term “shamanic” to describe some of my experiences and work, but I do not ever recall calling myself a “shaman”. Much like the label “witch” (which I have tried on in many ways, adapting it to suit who and what I am – storm witch, plutonic witch…) but realizing, in my own path of “self discovery” that the term is not suitable for me for a number of reasons, I feel the same with regards to calling myself a “shaman”. I could not do it. Not because of any ties to indigenous culture and beliefs, but because I realize, and feel very deeply, that, like the “witch” label, it simply is not a part of my innate identity. There is no connection to my soul with it. I was never a shaman or a witch in any lifetime, only a sea captain. But beyond this level, as one who has “non-human soul experiences” as an oceanic water spirit, it is even on this level, that I cannot own the term. I will only “own” terms/labels that are connected to/with my soul – sea captain, human, and elemental – regardless of the type of experiences I have, be they “shamanic” or not.

  • Greybeard Wise

    While modern usage of “Shaman” comes from ethnographers and anthropologists who brought a Tungusic Siberian word into western culture that only begs the question of where the Siberians got it. There are similar words in Russian, Sanskrit, and other languages. The origin may actually be from Porto-Indo-Europeans who lived on the Russian steppes, and conquered or at least spread their language across much of Asia and Europe.

    Meanwhile, English language is notorious for incorporating words from many other languages. Every English dictionary has a space in every word definition describing the origin of each word and what language that word was taken from. “Shaman” may have originally been taken from Siberian natives, but are you also offended by those who play basketball in a “gymnasium”? I don’t use the word “Shaman” to describe my practice because too many wannabee witches assume it is synonymous with taking psychoactive drugs.

  • Just another south-american ho

    So the asian people, from where the name Shaman is supposed to come from (Chinese, sascrit whatever it came?) should demand that european shamans quit using the name lol. This article is useless and meaningless.

    Many tribes in brazil have a name Pajé for the spiritual leaders but other folks don’t have any surviving term. So the word “shaman” is used in this purpose, because idependently of it’s south america, new zealand, or china the shamanic works are pretty basic the same. If we start to fight all the terms applied by the settlers we’ll certainly lose many terms and have to invent a lot of them. If you are a shaman or a pajé you basically do the same thing so separate them through a name sounds racist for me. It’s just a name, is it really a big deal?

  • Elhoim Leafar

    Thank you very much Dave for the response, and I apologize for taking so long to respond, irresponsibly for me because you are responding to what I wrote, the truth is that as a result of this terrible article I canceled my subscription to this blog (No is that someone cares a person unless they read obviously). I got here today because someone else read your answer and sent me the link.

    Your point of view deserves a lot of respect, especially the last two texts, they define my sensation in this regard, I am totally against this kind of sensational articles published in a blog only to cause controversies and thus gain more readers. Beyond all my family and personal experience, I can assure you one thing, the least we need people of Turkish or Indian descent, especially immigrants in the USA, is another white and blond girl (no mood to judge anyone but the association is quite obvious) acting as another “heroic white savior” of the poorest people, we do not need that, waste your time writing a blog about a topic that you do not know completely, which you also do not practice, that does not help at all.

    And perhaps from the point of view of a white person it is difficult to understand, it is like all these white pampered children who have never visited Cuba, Venezuela or Nicaragua, but to vacation on the beaches, but believe that socialism is something positive for the world without realizing that the tourism in those beaches represent practically 90% of the income of some of these countries, as is the case of Venezuela, the country where I come from, and to which my family arrived from Turkey in 1917. This was just to give you a brief example, a person who has not studied properly and has not put it into practice, has no right to write about it, let alone using as arguments a series of written academic books by white paleontologists who completely ignore our indigenous practices, since visiting a country for three weeks while you write about it does not make you an absolute connoisseur of the subject, I have read a couple of books about paganism in Ireland, I read some articles about the Celtic culture, and I have read all the material that has come to my hands about the history of the druids, but I will not say that I am a druid, that does not qualify me as such, but much less come as “rescuer” that nobody has called (for the simple reason that nobody really needs it), or as another “white hero to the rescue” to write an article on “because you can not call yourself a druid”, reading a couple of books does not qualify me for it.

    First of all for practical reasons, from small we are taught at home not to waste time providing explanations about religion, especially when we know that these are not going to be understood, I do not walk down the street with a headdress of feathers on the head, drinking ayahuasca in public, much less with a necklace of bones, all that paraphernalia we leave to those who need attention, using all that religious jewelry without meaning and wearing black to look “cool”, especially now that the witchcraft to be the fashion of the season. So as not to waste spit and time explaining something that we are not asked, for lack of a better term, we have always used the word shamans, and for us santeria as well as candomble are other forms of shamanism that has evolved in the Caribbean , you could notice this if beyond the white clothes and the whole syncretism theme, you analyze in detail the rituals of the same, but you will rarely hear the santeros calling themselves “shamans”.

    If I know a man in the street, and that man says “I’m really a woman”, I respect that, if the man says “I’m gay, straight, queer”, any term with which he decides to identify himself, although many times I do not share that opinion, I respect your decision to take the term you prefer, is your life, your way, and although I may disagree with certain things, I am in the moral obligation to respect the individuality of each person, all just by placing an example. In Latin America we have many terms sorcerers, sorcerers, magicians, which can easily be translated into English, but usually all wizards and sorcerers call themselves “sorcerers”, and we respect that, because in Spanish this encompasses most of the practices, whereas since my arrival in the USA four years ago, I have met male practitioners who can identify as warlock, or others as male witch, some simply use the term witch to identify themselves, while very few use the term sorcerer, and for more I study their practices, there are few differences that I find between and another, in fact the linguistic differences that you can find in any encyclopedia are few, and that does not worry me, because we must respect the individuality of each one.

    What worries me the most about this article, about all the similar articles, and about many articles that follow it, focus on repeating the same tendency, “white men” and “white women” protesting the use of a word that is to them it is not for them, “white men” claiming the use of a word of characteristics and uses mostly indigenous, because they “resent” that others use it. But I see and I read few people from my land worrying about it, I do not see my grandparents from Turkey or Venezuela, especially my grandmother, claiming about it, you can travel to Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, the Amazon and even Peru, I had the opportunity to visit many of these places as part of the traditional annual caravans of shamans that travel through Patagonia to honor the spirit of the Pachamama and “feed the earth” of the ancestors, and in none of these places listen to any of the priests , caciques, healers, manikies, ajayus, Mapuche leaders, Yaquis, Yopos, Wichis, Carillos, Xo’on, Lailukas, Chaines or Ayahuasqueros, making no claim about the use of the term “shaman”, or falling into absurd debates about who can and who can not use it, on the contrary, in our community there are only shamans, witches and non-shamans, the terms “anthropological” and our own names we keep for ourselves, because if we have something in common the native peoples, even when we are living in large cities (perhaps more for this reason due to the longing), is that we seek to remain united, and if a word as simple as “shaman” identifies all the esoteric practitioners and religious leaders of indigenous peoples and native peoples, we leave to claim we appreciate it because it makes us realize the many that we are in the world, following the same Aboriginal native practices from different parts of the world.

    The only ones who are always concerned about putting labels on us are these “white bloggers” who do not realize (because they are not in our position) how racist this is and how offensive it is for our own traditions and families, more men whites telling us what to do, how to walk, how to dress, what gods to worship and what words to use, because they are at odds with the terms used by another white man in the past.

    What for these so “worried” people is offensive, for us it is already part of our traditions, it is a term used globally to define all of us inside, and if, to us (especially to me) it bothers us to see to these “new age” guys, who read two pages on wikipedia about shamanism, buy a set of jewelry in amazon, and fill their social networks with photos taken from Pinterest, because “being a shaman is cool”, as well as “being witch is fashionable “, but not for that reason we are going to make a claim, because we know our practices properly, it is similar to when you have been practicing some kind of astral projection, split or dream, and you really manage to do it, and then it comes Some girl with half your age to write about it because it is “the theme of fashion that everyone is looking for”, and immediately to the first two lines you realize that everything I wrote is external to real practice.

    NO, and I repeat “No” we need more of this, much less need the help of any “white hero” doing idealized activism from their keyboard because they are “very concerned” about our culture, the real activism is done in the street and looking for places to help, not blogging to feed your ego about “I’m making a difference”, we do not need that.

    This puts them in the same position as those who fill their twitter with constants “#Rt” about saving the world and helping Mother Earth, but all her humanistic work is limited to it, to act from social networks, or people from indigenous ancestry or the native peoples, much less the pagan community (and sorry if I speak for many who surely do not agree with me) we do not need more “white keyboard heroes” we need more real support in places, and less post “than words use and not use according to what an American white man read in a book written by a white paleontologist.”

    Thanks Dave for your words in the post, all my best wishes with you.

  • Elhoim Leafar

    Thanks for respond! Blessed words.

  • Your comment made me feel better after reading this article. Why are we over analyzing terms? When in reality there are people in the world who are trying to do good. What’s the point in specifying this or that (non) indigenous group. Take a step back and realize we are all spiritual beings having a human experience. Why can’t we focus on unity instead of separation. I’m a nurse, Reiki Practitioner and now a proud Shaman Apprentice studying under a Cherokee woman. I was adopted from the Philippines at 6 months into an American household. I grew looking and feeling different most of my life. I’ve always been confused about my spiritual beliefs because I knew there was something more than Western religious practices. I have nothing against it at all I just knew it wasn’t for me. Then I unexpectedly fell into this Shamanic path. I’ve almost died twice, have always been intuitive and now more than ever I have direction to make a difference because I have this deep desire to help others. As a Shaman Apprentice I feel more at peace with myself, with others, with our beautiful Mother Earth/Father Sun and the unseen world. You can use all your fancy terms and back it up with research articles but maybe you should take a step back until you personally experience this path and meet the amazing people who are trying to also make a genuine difference. I don’t look down on your practices. Matter of fact I think the divine feminine is making a strong come back but I can’t stand the females who are taking the power of divine masculine away. There needs to be a balance of both energies. I feel we should respect our various practices because we are all trying to get to the same place.

  • Kamerin StClaire

    A lot of ego, judgment and and axe grinding here in such a little article. I understand the need for acknowledgment, respect and authenticity in the use of “shamanism”, but past that I m just happy that people are evolving, rediscovering and developing the feminine side of g-d. Our world needs it desperately.

  • Thank you for channeling these facts.. many people was arguing with me on this. From now i just spread this article. You are a bless.

    By the way, in the Szekler culture “Shamans” were “Tudó” (the man who know) men and women were “Javas” (who have all the goods)

  • Mike Curnutt

    There are a lot more serious problems to worry about.

  • Andrew Powers

    I agree with you for the most part but I feel Shaman can be used to convey the type of role an indigenous priest performs.

    I think of the movie Avatar. In the movie they describe the spiritual leader of the Na’vi like this “She is the Mo’at. She’s their spiritual leader like a Shaman.”

    This is a good use of the word Shaman because they are using it convey the type of spiritual role the Mo’at performs but at the same time give the proper indigenous name.

  • Dustin Nguyen

    I have a problem with what you said because that is a bunch of B.S. We do not choose to be a Shaman, you can fight it but the universe wins in the end. I’m an INFP-T Warrior “Mirror” Empath, there’s so many names i could pick, i don’t need a title as i had to walk that path and unless youve been there you have no right to say anything. Im a Male INFP-T , that’s only 1-1.5% of the population, not even sure what the percentage of that are shamans. Knowledge is learning, wisdom are Shamans, they are the bridge between this life and the after to travel in their dreams to gather the knowledge and bring it back to heal his people. They communicate with spirit. Also a big misconception about a shaman and a priest well besides what i just said above, shamans don’t use churches, they are nature!

    I don’t argue things being Spiritual vs. Scientific , because I’ve never met anyone who knows enough about either to be convincing – including myself!