Shamanism: A Concise Introduction

Overview

Shamanism is one of the earliest and farthest-reaching magical and religious traditions, vestiges of which still underlie the major religious faiths of the modern world. The function of the shaman is to show his or her people the unseen powers behind the mere appearances of nature, as experienced through intuition, in trance states, or during ecstatic mystical visions. Shamans possess healing powers, communicate with the dead and the world beyond, and influence the weather and movements of hunting animals. The ...

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Overview

Shamanism is one of the earliest and farthest-reaching magical and religious traditions, vestiges of which still underlie the major religious faiths of the modern world. The function of the shaman is to show his or her people the unseen powers behind the mere appearances of nature, as experienced through intuition, in trance states, or during ecstatic mystical visions. Shamans possess healing powers, communicate with the dead and the world beyond, and influence the weather and movements of hunting animals. The psychological exaltation of shamanism trance states is similar to the ecstasies of Yogis, Christian mystics and dervishes. Shamanism: An Introduction traces the development of shamanism in its many fascinating global manifestations. Looking at shamanic practices from Siberia to China and beyond, it provides an accessible guide to one of the world's most ancient, notorious and frequently misrepresented spiritual traditions. Placing special emphasis on the climate, geographic and cultural pressures under which shanic customs arose and continue to be observed, Margaret Stutley summarizes and clearly explains the logic of a faith whose fantastical elements hold a special place in popular imagination.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780415273183
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 11/28/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Margaret Stutley is an expert on world religions and folk tradition, and the author of several books including Hinduism (Crucible 1989), Ancient Indian Magic and Folklore (Motilal Banarsidass, 2000) and An Introduction to Magical Elements in the Bible (Weavers Press, 1991).

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction 1
1 Male and Female Shamans 6
2 Trance, Ecstasy and Possession 28
3 Shamans' Paraphernalia 39
4 Deities and Spirits 49
5 The Shaman's Costume 71
6 Divination and Healing 83
7 Soul, Ancestor Cults and Death 94
8 Images and Idols 107
9 Were-Animals 111
Notes 113
Bibliography 120
Index 127
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2006

    Confused and poorly written

    Considering that the blurb on this paperback describes Margaret Stutley as a ¿leading scholar of world religions¿, this book really fails to deliver. It is so poorly constructed that it is actually difficult to read. Throughout her text Stutley jumps all over the place with her references without providing an adequate framework to connect them. In her chapter on trance, ecstasy and possession, for example, she meanders from a description of the Greek worshippers of Dionysus through to a discussion about Old Testament beliefs about shedding blood and the symbolism of the Christian Eucharist. Shortly afterwards we are referred to Mohammed¿s vision of a ladder in a Jerusalem temple and Amon-Ra¿s ability to fly in the form of a goose over the primordial waters. How any of this is connected to Eurasian shamanism ¿ the main thrust of her book ¿ is anyone¿s guess. Stutley also has a disconcerting tendency to start her paragraphs without establishing any context for her remarks. One section titled `Vairgi spirits¿ begins: `Benevolent supernatural spirits are called ¿beings¿ (vairgit).¿ By whom, or in what circumstances, is left to us to decide. Another section, on Koryak spirits, begins `Koryaks have few supreme beings, probably because of the zeal of the Russian Communists.¿ However, the perceived relationship between the Koryaks and Communists is not spelt out. Did the Communists frighten the Koryak gods away? If they did, Stutley certainly doesn¿t let on. In another paragraph, on Mongolian spirit possession, Stutley writes: `Sometimes disease is transferred to cattle who are then sacrificed and ascend to the sky.¿ However she doesn¿t tell us how they ascend ¿ one suddenly has a vision of levitating cattle parading through the heavens like UFOs. Presumably the cattle are in spirit-form, but Stutley doesn¿t say so. There is a section on werewolves on p.65 of the book and then a separate chapter on the same subject 45 pages later ¿ with no connecting matter in between. Stutley also follows a chapter on the shaman¿s paraphernalia (Chapter Three) with a chapter on deities and spirits before returning to a discussion of the shaman¿s costume in Chapter Five. The book ends suddenly with a paragraph that includes references to Old Prussian corpses, the Celtic Wolf swallowing the sun, and the Aztec god of the dance. There is no conclusion to the book as such ¿ no summation to reassure us that our journey through this strange, discursive tome has been worthwhile. Indeed, the text reads as if part of the book is actually missing. For all these reasons, this book is impossible to recommend. Even though it is littered with fascinated pieces of disconnected information, making sense of them all is the really hard part. By the end of the book you come away more confused than ever.

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