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Home: Religion: Shamanism: Shamanism in the Modern World.


Shamanism today. Shaman practices in the modern world

Shamanic practice continues across the world and there is a growing revival of interest in Shamanism in many of the western countries.

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.

The Practice of Shamanism and the New Age Movement

The New Age movement imported some ideas from shamanism in general and core shamanism in particular. As in other such imports, original users of said ideas frequently condemn New Age use as ill-understood and superficial.

At the same time, there is an endeavor in occult and esoteric circles to re-invent shamanism in a modern form drawing from core shamanism, various indigenous forms of shamanism, and chaos magic. This is mostly focused upon in Europe, where the ancient shamanic tradition was exterminated by the Christian church and where people compelled to be shamans often find it improper to use shamanic systems rooted in other parts of the earth. Various traditional shamans express respect for this endeavor and in this, separate it sharply from "light" New Age shamanism.



Many Westerners also claim to be shamans. If a self-described shaman isn't speaking of a Tungusic-speaking ethnic group, he or she is probably a huckster preying on New Age followers. Most commonly they will claim Cherokee or Sioux ancestry, the former because Cherokee ancestors are a common story in one's genealogy, and the latter because of all the Westerns, especially Dances with Wolves. The risk for studying under such people varies from simply losing money to rape and even death in an ill-fated sweat lodge. For Indians, the danger is that their voices will be drowned out by self-styled "shamans"; in fact, Lynn Andrews has sold more books than all Indian authors put together.

Core Shamanism

Michael Harner synthesized shamanic beliefs and practices from all over the world into a system now known as core shamanism or neoshamanism. It does not hold a fixed belief system, but focuses on the practice of trance travel and may on an individual basis integrate indigenous shamanism, the teachings of Carlos Castaneda and other spiritualities. It is popular within the New Age movement and Neopagan communities.

Specific practices include the use of rapid drumming to attain the SSC or Shamanic State of Consciousness, communication with power animals, and ritual dance. Those who practice core shamanism do not usually refer to themselves as shamans, preferring "shamanic practitioner" out of respect for indigenous peoples. Core shamanic practitioners are usually very careful to avoid ethnocentrism or cultural imperialism.

Recommended Shamanism Reading and Links

  • Jan Friesis a German occultist, freestyle shaman, and author of several books. Jan Fries is credited with coining the term freestyle shamanism in reference to a style of magic that emphasizes trance and closeness to nature, but instead of roots in a shamanic tradition, draws from individual experience in a way akin to chaos magic. He notes the Zos Kia Cultus, Maat Magick and Taoism as his chief influences.
  • Serge Kahili King is another well known author of books about shamanism.


Parts of the above article licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from Wikipedia. Images courtesy FCIT

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