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Mircea Eliade descibed shamanism as the primal religion of humanity, the 'archaic technique of ecstasy'. The books of best-selling author Carlos Castaneda made it part of popular culture. Since the 1960s shamanism has continued to attract the attention of scholars, artists, writers and the general public. The most intriguing aspect of this religion is the ability of shamans to enter into contact with spirits on behalf of their communities. The first eighteenth-century explorers of Siberia dubbed shamanism a blatant fraud. Later, academic observers stamped it as 'neurotic delusion'. In the 1960s shamans were recast as 'wounded healers', who sacrifice their lives for the spiritual well being of their communities. Many current writers and scholars treat shamanism as ancient wisdom that has much to teach us about true spirituality.
This anthology tells the story of shamanism in Eurasia, North and South America, Africa and Australia. It brings together for the first time fifty-six articles and book excerpts by anthropologists, psychologists, religious scholars and historians, illustrating the variety of views on this subject.