The magician or ‘‘medicine man’’ of primitive tribes, with
powers of healing, prophecy, or paranormal phenomena. The
term is thought to derive from Tungus shaman and Sanskrit sramana
(ascetic). As distinct from priests, shamans have no ritualistic
knowledge, but operate rather as occult adepts. Their primary
ability, at least in their Siberian setting, was the power of
astral travel. The gift of shamanism is often a hereditary function,
and its nature is communicated orally from one shaman
to another.
Shamanism has been studied among the Eskimos and in
Scandinavia, Tibet, China, Japan, Korea, Siberia, Manchuria,
Mexico, Yutacan, Guatemala, and the North Pacific coast. A
shamanistic performance often includes dancing, a mediumistic
trance, and spirit possession. The role of the shaman (and
shamaness) became the subject of a new movement in the West
that began in the 1980s primarily through the work of Michael
Harder and a number of popular teachers (many with Matove
American backgrounds) who have developed a neo-Shamanism
that draws on many themes emphasized in the New Age movement.
Neo-Shamanist leaders have varied some, such as SunBear,
have attempted to translate traditional Native American
themes into useful practice for those outside of the Native
American community. Other have developed new systems
claiming Native American esoteric traditions as a base (Lynn
Andrews) and still others have simply taken traditional occult
teachings upon which they have placed a Native American
Andrews, Lynn V. Star Woman. New York Warner Books,
Eliade, Mircea. Shamanism Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy.
Princeton, N.J. Princeton University Press, 1964.
Harder, Michael. Way of the Shaman A Guide to Power and
Healing. New York Bantam Books, 1982.
Sun Bear. Path of Power. Spokane, Wash. Bear Tribe Publishing,