Ancient Traditions: Shamanism in Central Asia and the by Gary Seaman, Jane S. Day

By Gary Seaman, Jane S. Day

Shamanism is the world's oldest faith. The rituals and ideology of this historical culture have been carried from Asia and Siberia into the recent international by means of nomadic searching bands starting 12,000 years in the past. This specified selection of essays on shamanism in important Asia and the Indian Americas presents sound and fascinating scholarship that displays the good variety during this interesting box. First released in 1994, "Ancient Traditions" has develop into a necessary, usually stated reference within the ongoing examine of old religions. Over the centuries, shamanism has persevered as an abiding subject of curiosity not just due to a human problem with the previous but in addition due to a typical craving to recognize existence lived in nearer symbolic courting to the earth. For readers attracted to indigenous cultures and religions, this selection of essays clarifies a lot of the recent Age hypothesis on universals in shamanism, providing stable study on particular ethnic and ancient expressions.

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D. 600700 from the Late Classic Maya cemetery on the island of Jaina, Campeche, appears to represent precisely the same initiatory trauma: a giant, semianthropomorphized jaguar is shown in the act of disemboweling a young man seated on his lap. There is no sign of terror or resistance; on the contrary, the youth's hand is raised in a gentle touch to the jaguar's face. With respect to the erroneous but persistent equation between shamans and the mentally ill and epileptics in some of the older literature, Eliade also points out that shamans have an astonishing capacity to control even ecstatic movement, and they usually not only have more mental and physical energy and endurance than other members of their social group butas guardians of the rich traditions and esoteric knowledge, and as performers of a vast corpus of sacred and magical songs and invocationsoften also command a vastly larger vocabulary than their compatriots.

The program is well underway among the Tirió of Surinam, Plotkin reports in his recent book, Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice (1993), as well as among the Bribri of southern Costa Rica, where four shamans have selected four apprentices for a four-year training program (Plotkin 1993:287). That is a drop in the bucket, but it is a start. There is, finally, the long-overdue question of compensating the native specialists for sharing their precious knowledge. "It's a question of intellectual property," anthropologist Jason Gray of Survival International Page 16 Page 16 told the New York Times (June 11, 1991).

Shamanistic ecstasy signifies the soul's flight to Heaven, its wanderings about the earth, or its descent to the subterranean world, among the dead" (Eliade 1987:205). The shaman never undergoes these profound experiences lightly or for frivolous reasons but always on behalf of an individual client or the community as a whole. Eliade lists four principal reasons: first, to encounter the spirits and the gods face-to-face and bring them offerings from the community to gain a favor or to give thanks for favors bestowed; second, to find and recover the soul of a patient that is thought to have strayed from its body or been abducted by demons; third, to guide the soul of a dead person to its new abode; and fourth, to gain new knowledge through encounters with the higher, nonhuman realm.

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