What is a shaman?

  1. Shamans can mediate between this world and the next, between humans and animals, living and dead (control of animal movement / water / sun – important for hunting and growing crops)

  2. Shamans can communicate with the dead, accompany the dead (take messages from living to the dead and vice-versa – ‘dialogues with the dead’)

  3. Shamans have ambiguity of sex and role-play (they have been viewed as ‘tricksters’ – people can’t tell if they are telling the truth or not – this is integral to their performances)

  4. Performance of controlled trance, seeking knowledge through ecstasy

  5. Use of altered states (see table below) – accessing the spiritual world, transcending reality through metaphor

  6. The shaman’s power may be devised from spirits but can reside in objects, songs, or actions, such as beating a drum or shaking a rattle

  7. Shamans act as healers of disease or can been dark shamans sending evil energy to competing groups / tribes or individuals (such as murderers)

  8. Shamans can steal goods whilst under trance

  9. Shamans live in a tiered world – a three tiered world is similar to our own with heaven / middle earth / hell. Shamans from around the world have more than three, e.g. some south American shamans have up to 9 or 11 levels. These are climbed through initiation and altered states.

Table 1: Techniques for Entering an Altered State of Consciousness (ASC) 

1.

Auditory driving such as drumming and singing

2.

Hallucinogens

3.

Fasting and nutritional deficits

4.

Physical or sensory deprivation including ‘hostage situations’

5.

Increased mental activity

6.

Meditation

7.

Strong flickering light

8.

Excessive movement or dance

9.

Austerities such as wounds and feats of endurance

10.

Intensive temperature conditions

11.

Sleep and dream states

12.

Staring into a mirror

13.

Sexual restrictions

14.

Alcohol

15.

Migraine and other pathological symptoms

16.

Posture

17.

Pilgrimages to specific locations

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