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    "Core Shamanism" or Culture-Specific?

    Recently I've started to explore various shamanic techniques, both using sources on "Core Shamanism" and looking into how shamanism or similar trance/journey work is done in culture-specific settings.

    I was wondering if others do this kind of work. If you've experimented with culture-specific or culture-nonspecific types of shamanism, what have your experiences been with either, or both?

    I know there's some controversy even about the use of the word "shamanism," since it's rooted in Siberian culture and some argue that it's a misuse of the word to apply it to other cultural contexts. Yet it seems there are many similarities among various cultural traditions that could fairly all be grouped together under a single label, too.

    What are your thoughts on this debate? Do you think there's a place for shamanic work in modern Paganism? What kind of cultural context does shamanic work have for modern Pagans, and what kind of context can or should it have?



    --Ali

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    Re: "Core Shamanism" or Culture-Specific?

    Quote Originally Posted by AlisonLeighLilly View Post
    What are your thoughts on this debate? Do you think there's a place for shamanic work in modern Paganism? What kind of cultural context does shamanic work have for modern Pagans, and what kind of context can or should it have?
    I think shamanistic/numinous work is present in most religions, though whether or not it's considered essential or the marginal practice of those weirdos over there will depend a lot on the religion, the cultural milieu, and so on. (I would guess without any basis that this sort of thing will be more common in religions with closer ties to animistic forms of thought.)

    Unfortunately, much of the model most people in the West have for shamanistic work is problematic in a cultural-appropriation sense: visions of witch doctors and medicine men, totem animals, and so on. "Plastic shamans" is one of the terms that comes up for this, and it's one of the reasons that I don't like using shaman (or even "shamanistic") for some of my trance and spirit communication stuff, because I basically don't want to use language that would suggest that I'm doing stuff like the people who are making shit up and passing it off as the stuff indigenous people do.

    I think it's important to keep in mind that a shaman in a traditional context is doing their work for a community. It's not just personal quest stuff (which is where I think core shamanism can fail), but a service role performed for a broader selection of people who do not have the skillset, personality type, or, in many cases, the crippling damage to cross the borders between the seen and unseen worlds easily. (Shaman sickness: Not Friendly.)

    I am short on useful words at the moment, but I wanted to comment.

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    Re: "Core Shamanism" or Culture-Specific?

    Quote Originally Posted by Darkhawk View Post
    it's one of the reasons that I don't like using shaman (or even "shamanistic") for some of my trance and spirit communication stuff, because I basically don't want to use language that would suggest that I'm doing stuff like the people who are making shit up and passing it off as the stuff indigenous people do.
    I agree. I actually think it's unfortunate that New Age writers & the like use the word shaman at all (or neo-shaman, or core shaman, or whatever) instead of just calling it something else entirely. Not to be offensive, but some college student beating a drum and imagining himself meeting his "totem animals" alone in his dorm room is not a shaman (but this doesn't mean his spiritual practice isn't valid).

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    Re: "Core Shamanism" or Culture-Specific?

    Quote Originally Posted by benvarry View Post
    I agree. I actually think it's unfortunate that New Age writers & the like use the word shaman at all (or neo-shaman, or core shaman, or whatever) instead of just calling it something else entirely. Not to be offensive, but some college student beating a drum and imagining himself meeting his "totem animals" alone in his dorm room is not a shaman (but this doesn't mean his spiritual practice isn't valid).

    I've always used it to describe various degrees of trance induced ritual possession, particularily as shaman 'something', eg; shaman healing or shaman communication. Therefore the term 'shaman' itself on its own didnt imply its application. Being a solitary though means Im describing it to myself LOL. I guess it seems like a good fit because it is similar to the word human so it sounds like a variation much like possession could be considered a variation of the human undertaking it. If used to describe too broad a scope of spiritual practise it will be more and more open to dilution of whatever original meaning it might have had. I think it originally meant trance induced spirit communication and hence my personal intepretation. The only cultural practise I've done was early on when I was younger doing Tibetan mantra's 20 years ago and didnt get any actual possession I was aware of.
    Just a Goddess worshipping Warlock!!

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    Re: "Core Shamanism" or Culture-Specific?

    Quote Originally Posted by AlisonLeighLilly View Post
    .. I was wondering if others do this kind of work. --Ali
    I find that I use Hedgerider as a descriptor for myself now more than Shaman or Shamanic Practioner. Shaman / Shamanic Practioner / Medicine Person are all terms that carry to much baggage for me. All are greatly exploited beneath the plastic shaman umbrella that has taken shape within the pagan community.

    While I do not use mind altering drugs anymore for trance & journey work I have used them in the past. Today I find I use more sensory deprivation type things or more hypnotic type stimulis to induce trance, journey and vision work. Where I probably differ from many is I do not buy into the weekend drum circle or similar to do trance, journey or vision work but follow more along Native American practices with ritual purifications, fasting and preparations.

    I do think many modern pagan practices can utilize so called shamanic practices but I tend to think most is done through exploitation vice spiritual usage. I also think that many are so focused upon the self and self gratification that the shamanic usage of the self for the benefit of the greater people they support is lost.

    Its like I may act as the Hollow Bone or talking stick through which Spirit speaks yet it is never for my benefit. I may be aware of who I am to speak to yet other times I am but the voice upon the wind that is used to start the first step upon the pathway.

    I also tend to think many have watered down the calling to make it available for everyone. Yet in all societies it never works that way and the choosen or touched one suffers greatly. For me it was physical death at an early age followed by a life of being alone even in a room full of people. To be part of the community but never part of it but to stand on the fringes. I see to many that think any illness they suffered was a Shamanic illness yet they have never been to the viel or barrier.

    The other facet is that I know of no one that is a medicine person, shaman, shamanic practioner, etc who elected to be such. All of them had no choice in the matter and the more they tried to ignore it the more painful thier lives became. In some ways its like Stigmata for Christians, you don't claim it it claims you and until accepted it is painful. Yet even in acceptance the pain does not go away for you forever stand astride two or more worlds and never fully belong to any of them.

    There-in is where totems, guides, and such come into play. For they show us how to survive and walk between the realms and not go crazy or surrender to the madness we encounter. So much more than being some animal we call upon or reflect upon its medicine to guide us. Definatley not something one simply meditates upon for a few hours to discover much less be tested by and dismembered many times.

    and what kind of context can or should it have?
    That is difficult to answer. How do you place something in context when you pray that it does not come to pass? When you would give anything to have facets of it stop but you know it won't for that is not Spirit's plan for you. How do you put it into perspective when to accept it means pain, to try and ignore it means a pain unlike anything you can imagine until it occurs.

    I truly hate the word but find I am constantly being refered to as such. I did not ask for it nor did I desire it but it was placed upon me at birth. The harder I tried to ignore it the more I was faced with it. It's not a sexy or neat thing like so many books try to make it out to be. It sure is not something you go looking for or try to lay claim to if you know what it entials.

    I had a voudon woman tell me I can not change what is and that I am a world walker. Had a Cherokee medicine man (not his true title) tell me I was choosen and it was futile to try and resist. If I could have I'd have passed on dying, passed on the many near death encounters, the pain and frustration and the never being part of the society into which I was born in a heart beat. But as I have been told over and over I don't have that choice, all I can do is accept it and do for those I am called upon to help or suffer until I do accept it.

    Hopefully this answered your question if not please feel free to ask away and I shall do my best to answer.

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