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                           What Is Shamanism? 
 Since the term "shamanism" has been used in a number of ways during the
 discussions here I thought it might be helpful to present some basic
 information on shamanism as the inter-disicplinary subject that it has
 become since Mircea Eliade wrote _Shamanism_.
 The following is from the Foreward, which explains the approach that
 Eliade took to study Shamanism as a magico-religious phenomena, and
 which has been the foundation that shamanism as a spiritual tradition,
 as well as explaining how other academic disciplines approach the
 Mircea Eliade
 _Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy_
 Princeton University, Bollingen Series LXXVI 1964
 Originally published in French as _Le Chamanisme et les techniques
 archaiques de l'extase_, Librairie Payot, Paris, 1951.  Revised and
 enlarged for the Bollinger edition.
 ISBN 0-691-01779-4 pbk   0-691-09827-1 hdbk
    To the best of our knowledge the present book is the first to cover
    the entire phenomenon of shamanism and at the same time to situate it
    in the general history of religions.  To say this is to imply its
    liability to imperfection and approximation and the risks that it
    takes.  Today the student has at his disposition a considerable
    quantity of documents for the various shamanisms--Siberian, North
    American, South American, Indonesian, Oceanian, and so on.  Then too,
    a number of works, important in their several ways have broken ground
    for the ethnological, sociological, and psychological study of
    shamanism (or rather, of a particular type of shamanism).  But with
    few notable exceptions--we refer especially to the studies of Altaic
    shamanism by Holmberg (Harva)--the immense shamanic bibliography has
    neglected to interpret this extremely complex phenomenon in the
    framework of the history of religion.  It is as a historian of
    religions that we, in our turn, have attempted to approach,
    understand, and present shamanism.  Far be it from us to think of
    belittling the admirable studies undertaken from the viewpoints of
    psychology, sociology, or ethnology; we consider them indispensable
    to understanding the various aspects of shamanism.  But we believe
    that there is room for another approach--that which we have sought to
    implement in the following pages.
    The writer who approaches shamanism as a psychologist will be led to
    regard it as primarily the manifestation of a psyche in crisis or
    even in retrogression; he will not fail to compare it with certain
    aberrant psychic behavior patterns or to class it among mental
    diseases of the hysteroid or epileptoid type.
    We shall explain why we consider it inacceptable to assimilate
    shamanism to any kind of mental disease.  But one point remains (and
    it is an important one), to which the psychologist will always be
    justified in drawing attention: like any other religious vocation,
    the shamanic vocation is manifested by a crisis, a temporary
    derangement of the future shaman's spiritual equilibrium. All the
    observations and analyses that have been made on this point are
    particularly valuable  They show us, in actual process as it were,
    the repercussions, within th epsyche, of what we have called the
    "dialectic of hierophanies"--the radical separation between profane
    and sacred and the resulting splitting of the world.  To say this is
    to indicate all the importance that we attribute to such studies in
    religious psychology.
    The sociologist, for his part, is concerned with the social function
    of the shaman, the priest, the magician.  He will study prestige
    originating from magical powers, its role in the structure of
    society, the relations between religious and political leaders and so
    on.  A sociological analysis of the myths of the First Shaman will
    elicit revealing indications concerning the exceptional position of
    the earliest shamans in certain archaic societies.  The sociology of
    shamnism remains to be written, and it will be among the most
    important chapters in general sociology of religion.  The historian
    of religions must take all these studies and their conclusions into
    account.  Added to the psychological conditions brought out by the
    psychologist, the social ocnditions, in the broadest sense of the
    term, reinforce the element of human and historical concreteness in
    the documents that he is called upon to handle.
    The concreteness will be accented by the studies of the ehtnologist.
    It will be the task of ethnological monographs to situate the shaman
    in his cultural milieu.  There is danger of misunderstanding the true
    personality of a Chukchee shaman, for example, if one reads of his
    exploits without knowing anything about the life and traditions of
    the Chukchee.  Again, it will be for the ehtnologist to make
    exhaustive studies of the shaman's costume and drum, to describe the
    seances, to record texts and melodies, and so on.  By undertaking to
    establish the "history" of one or another constituent element of
    shamanism (the drum, for example, or the use of narcotics during
    seances), the ethnologist--joined when circumstances demand it, by a
    comparatist and historian--will suceed in showing the circulation of
    the particular motif in time and space; so far as possible, he will
    define its center of expansion and the stages and the chronology of
    its dissemination.  In short, the ethnolgist will also become a
    "historian," whether or not he adopts the Graebner-Schmidt-Koppers
    method of cultural cycles.  In any case, in addition to an admirable
    purely descriptive ethnographical literature, there are now available
    numerous works of historical ethnology: in the overwelming "gray
    mass" of cultural data stemming from the so-called "ahistorical"
    peoples, we now begin to see certain lines of force appearing; we
    begin to distinguish "history" where we were in the habit of finding
    only "Naturvolker," "primitives," or "savages."
    It is unnecessary to dwell here on the great services that historical
    ethnology has already rendered to the histroy of religions.  But we
    do not believe that it can take the place of the history of
    religions.  The latter's mission is to integrate the results of
    ethnology, psychology, and sociology.  Yet in doing so, it will not
    renounce its own method of investigation or the viewpoint that
    specifically defines it.  Cultural ethnology may have demonstrated
    the relation of shamanism to certain cultural cycles, for example, or
    the dissemination of one or another shamanic complex; yet its object
    is not to reveal the deeper meaning of all these religious phenomena,
    to illuminate their symbolism, and to place them in the general
    history of religions.  In the last analysis, it is for the historian
    of religions to synthesize all the studies of particular aspects of
    shamanism and to present a comprehensive view which shall be at once
    a morphology and a history of this complex religious phenomena.
                                             pg. xi-xiii
     Chapter One, General considerations.  REcruiting Methods.  Shamanism
     and Mystical Vocation.
     Since the beginning of the century, ehtnologists have fallen into
     the habit of using the terms, "shaman,"  "medicine man," "sorcer,"
     and "magician" interchangeably to designate certain individuals
     possessing magico-religious powers and found in all "primitive"
     societies.  By extension, the smae terminology has been applied in
     studying the religious history of "civilized" peoples, and there
     have been discussions, for example, of an Indian, an Iranian, a
     Germanic, a Chinese, and even a Babylonian "shamanism" with
     reference to the "primitive" elements attested in the corresponding
     religions.  For many reasons this confusion can only militate
     against any understanding of the shamanic phenomenon.  If the word
     "shaman" is taken to mean any magician, sorcerer, medicine man, or
     ecstatic found throughout the history of religions and religious
     ethnology, we arrive at a notion at once extremely complex and
     extremely vague; it seems, furthermore, to serve no purpose, for we
     already have the terms "magician" or "sorcerer" to express notions
     as unlike and as ill-defined as "primitive magic" or "primitive
     We consider it advantageous to restrict the use of the words
     "shaman" and "shamanism" precisely to avoid misunderstandings and  
     cast a clearer light on the history of "magic" and "sorcery."  For
     of course, the shaman is also a magician and medicine man; he is
     believed to cure, like all doctors, and to perform miracles of the
     fakir type, like all magicians, whether primitive or modern.  But
     beyond this, he is a psychopmp, and he may also be preist, mystic
     and powet.  In the dim, "confusionistic" mass of the religious life
     of archaic socieites considered as a whole, shamanism--taken in its
     strict and exact sense--already shows a structure of its own and
     implies a "history" that there is every reason to clarify.
     Shamanism in the strict sense is pre-eminently a religious
     phenomenon of Siberia and Central Asia.  The word comes to us,
     through the Russian, from the Tungusic _saman_.  In the other
     languages of Centeral and North Asia the corresponding terms are
     Yakut _ojuna_ (_oyuna_), Mongolian _buga_, _boga_ (_buge_, _bu_) and
     _udagan_ (cf. also Buryat _udayan_, Yukut _udoyan_: "shamaness")_,
     Turko-Tartar _kam_ (Altaic _kam_, _gam_, Mongolian _kami_, etc.)  It
     has been sought to explain the Tungusic term by the Pali _samana_,
     and we shall return to this possible etymology (which is part of the
     great problem of Indian influences on Siberian religions) in the
     last chapter of this book.  Throughout the immense area comprising
     Central and North Asia, the magico-religious life of society centers
     on teh shaman.  This, of course, does not mean that he is the one
     and only manipulator of the sacred, nor that religious activity is
     completely usurped by him.  IN many tribes the sacrificing priest
     coexists with the shaman, not to mention the fact that every head of
     a family is also the head of the domestic cult.  Nevertheless the
     shaman remains the dominating figure; for throught the whole region
     in which the ecstatic experience is considered the religious
     experience par excellence, the shaman, and he alone, is the great
     master of ecstasy.  A first definition of this complex phenomenon,
     and perhaps the least hazardous, will be: shamanism = _technique of
                                         pgs 3-4
     Yet one observation must be made at the outset: the presence of a
     shamanistic complex in one region or another does not necessarily
     mean that the magico-religious life of the corresponding poeple is
     crystallized around shamanism.  This can ocur (as, for example, in
     certain parts of Indonesia), but it is not the most usual state of
     affairs.  Generally shamanism coexixsts with other forms of magic
     and religion.
     It is here that we see all the advantage of emplying the term
     "shamanism" in its strict and proper sense.  For, if we take the
     trouble to differentiate the shaman from other magicians and
     medicine men of primitive societies, the identification of shamanic
     complexes in one or another region immediately acquires definite
     significance.  Magic and magicians are to be foudn more or less all
     over the world, where as shamaism exhibits a particular magical
     specialty, on which we shall dwell at legth: "master over fire,"
     "magical flight," and so on.  By virtue of this fact, though the
     shaman is, among other things, a magician, not every magician can
     properly be termed a shaman.  The same distinction must be applied
     in regard to shamanic healing; ever medicine man is a healer, but
     the shaman employs a method that is his and his alone.  AS for the
     shamanic techniques of ecstasy, they do not exhaust all the
     varieties of ecstatic experience documented in the history of
     religions an dreligious ethnolgoy.  Hence any ecstatic cannot be
     considered a shaman; the shaman specializes in a trance during which
     his sould is believed to leave his body and ascend to the sky or
     descend to the underworld.
     A similar distinction is also necessary to define the shaman's
     relation to "spirits."  All through the primitive and modern worlds
     we find individuals who profess to maintain relations with
     "spirits," whether they are "possessed" by them or control them.
     SSEveral volumes would be needed for an adequate study of all the
     problems that arise in connection with the mere idea of "spirits"
     and of their possible relations with human beings; for a "spirit"
     can equally well be the sould of a dead person, a "nature spirit,"
     mythical animal, and so on.  But the study of shamanism does not
     require going into all this; we need only define the shaman's
     relation to his helping spirits.  It will easily be seen wehrein a
     shaman differs from a "possessed" person, for example; the shaman
     controls his "spirits," in the sense that he, a human being, is able
     to communicate with the dead, "demons," and "nature spirits,"
     without thereby becoming their insturment.  To be sure, shamans are
     sometimes found to be "possessed," but these are exceptional cases
     for which there is a particular explanation.
     These few preliminary observations already indicate the course that
     we propose to follow in odrder to reach an adequate understanding of
     shamanism.  In view of the fact that this magico-religious
     phenomenon has had its most complete manifestation in North and
     Central Asia, we shall take the shaman of these regions as our
     typical example.  We are not unaware, and we shall endeavor to show,
     that Central and North Asian shamanism, at least in its present
     form, is not a primordial phenomenon that has a long "history."  But
     this Central Asian and Siberian shamanism has the advantage of
     presenting a structure in which elements that exist independently
     elsewhere in the world--i.e., special relations with "spirits,"
     ecstatic capacities permitting of magical flight, ascents to the
     sky, descents to the underworld, mastery over fire, etc.--are here
     already found integrated with a particular ideology and validating
     specific techniques.
                                         pgs. 5-6

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