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SHAMANISM, SHAMANIC PRACTICE, TOOLS AND RITUAL
Shamanism, The Role of a ShamanThe term 'Shaman' has been used to describe spiritual community leaders and medicine men historically known as the intellectual and spiritual leaders in their community.
Different forms of shamanism are found around the world, and practitioners are also known as medicine men or women, and witch doctors.
Is its believed that Shamans can communicate with these spirits to diagnose and cure victims of witchcraft. Some societies distinguish shamans who cure from sorcerers who harm; others believe that all shamans have the power to both cure and kill; that is, shamans are in some societies also witches. The shaman usually enjoys great power and prestige in the community but may also be suspected of harming others and thus feared. Most shamans are men, but there are societies in which women may be shamans (in Old Norse culture, as mentioned above, only women; for men to practice shamanism was shameful).
Shamanism Two SpiritNote: For more on the subject, see: Native American Shamanism and the Medicine Man.
In some societies male shamans exhibit a "two-spirit" identity, assuming the dress and attributes of a woman from a young age, including taking on the role of a wife in an otherwise ordinary marriage; this practice is common, and found among the Chukchee, Sea Dyak, Patagonians, Aruacanians, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Navaho, Lakota, and Ute, as well as other Native American tribes. Such two-spirit shamans are thought to be especially powerful. They are highly respected and sought out by men in their tribes, as they will bring high status to their husbands.
Shamanism Practice Around The WorldNot all traditional peoples approve of the use of shaman as a generic term, given that the word comes from a specific place and people. It has replaced the older English language term witch doctor, a highly descriptive term which unites the two stereotypical functions of the shaman: knowledge of magical and other lore; and the ability to cure a person and mend a situation.
Shamanic practice continues not only in wild areas but in cities, towns, suburbs and shantytowns all over the world, not only in the tundras or the jungles or deserts.
Different forms of shamanism are found around the world, and practitioners are also known as medicine men or women, and witch doctors. It has been especially common among circumpolar peoples; in Old Norse Religion, however, shamanism was seen as un-manly and practiced mainly by women, see Volvas and Wiccas (although in Old Norse mythology, the supreme god Odin was also seen as the foremost shaman). These shamans were seen as a threat by organized religion, and condemned as "witches."
Shamanic Tools and RitualIn order for shamans to do their work they must effect firstly a change of consciousness in themselves. The shaman enters into an ecstatic trance, either autohypnotically or through the use of entheogens, during which time they are said to be in contact with the spirit world or enter a separate reality. Some of the methods for effecting this consciousness shift are:
In engaging this work the shaman exposes himself to significant personal risk, both from the spirits as well as from the means employed to alter his state of consciousness. Certain of the plant materials used can kill, and the out-of-body journey itself can lead to non-returning and physical death.
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