Our blogging neighbor Julia Penelope recently wrote that using the phrase “shaman” is “a large problem within the pagan, witchcraft, and New Age groups, as well as within academia for many reasons.”
I ought to disagree.
Julia (if I may also presume a first-name basis) says that a part of the problem is that “categorizing all indigenous spirituality practices under the identical period is that they’re being stripped of their man or woman identification.” But this kind of wondering eliminates our capacity to make any generalizations.
One may as nicely argue that we ought to use the English phrase “god now not” to refer to the non secular figures of different cultures — or that we shouldn’t use the phrase “indigenous” to refer to a spread of Native American international locations as well as the Maori of New Zealand, the Yazidis of Iraq, the Ainu of Japan, the Sami of Scandinavia, and the Aboriginal Australians, amongst others.
Each of these organizations has their specific subculture, history, and reviews, but there are no unusual patterns which justify a popular category. The same is actual with shamanistic religious practices.
The term “shaman” is of a Siberian starting place, out of problems of cultural politics, a few items to it getting used to describe a diverse array of spiritual traditions – especially Native American traditions. But we lack a higher period for the general spiritual idea being discussed right here. Following Joseph Campbell’s usage in his essay “The Symbol without Meaning,” we can use the phrases “shaman” and “shamanistic” with the information that they’re getting used in the broadest experience.
Julia asks, “Have you ever questioned why we don’t simply call shamans clergymen? Don’t they act in a good deal the identical function? As mediators among humankind and the divine? How do you observe what Catholic monks would experience if we started calling them Imams and vice versa?” But we do communicate of “Shinto monks” or “Buddhist priests” all of the time. Because if I said, “kanzashi,” you’d say “What’s a kanzashi?” and I’d say “A Shinto priest.” Similarly, a Google Books search indicates that “priest” was regularly used to refer to imams earlier than Islam became familiar to the English speaking internationally.
“Priest” can be a selected period relating to Catholic spiritual figures; however, it also has a general meaning. The identical is proper of “shaman” — and that general that means is pretty extraordinary from “priest.” A shaman and a clergyman do not fill equal roles.
The shaman turns into a shaman through their very own private relation to spirit, their very own electricity — their individual “mana,” to apply some other term from one tradition used to refer to a more popular phenomenon and extensively debated using students. (That how language works.) In a few instances, the shaman doesn’t even desire to be a shaman but is selected by using the spirits anyway.
Black Elk, the Lakota shaman, presents an exemplary: he was identified as being at the shaman’s direction via his tribe no longer because he went to seminary or undertook Druid-like education, however because of his near-loss of life imaginative and prescient at the age of 9.
The shaman, as Stanley Krippner notes, is an individual with a socially recognized function — no self-appointment here — which derives from their get right of entry to superb assets of records (“spirit international” states of focus), and who uses that facts for the benefit of the network.