Shamanism

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Patrick Hunter
When told by a Westerner how wonderful it must be to be a Shaman and commune with nature, a Shaman's response was, "The main part of my job is killing witches and sorcerers…I am terrified every time…I perform a big ritual because I know one of us has to die." Shamanism is a life filled with difficulty, great challenges, and sometimes frightful journeys. It is a life of work that requires great resilience as well as abilities. Not everyone who has these abilities or gets this calling chooses to follow through and become a full Shaman. Sometimes in the beginning a Shaman will become very ill or have disturbing visions or dreams for a long period of time before becoming well again. Due to this and the nature of the potential danger involved with becoming a Shaman, not everyone chooses to be one. Shamans have been a part of cultures for about 40,000 years and are found in every culture around the world and across continents. Though they are far flung on earth, most Shamans have a similar belief system. They believe that other worlds exist besides our own. These worlds can be reached through a spiritual journey or trance-like state. This journey is achieved through many means: traveling up or down a World Tree that connects all worlds; flying or being carried or conveyed through smoke or another spirit. The journey to the other worlds in order to seek answers and find cures includes ceremonies that often take place in special places at special times and include chanting, singing, and music, as well as special amulets to guide or protect the Shaman and herbs, spices or roots used in drinks or smoked. The journey is often a perilous one, fraught with danger. Shamanism is not always a linearinheritance. Sometimes persons who have no Shaman ancestors will become a Shaman. Typically, a person who becomes a Shaman is someone who has shown that they have special abilities or who were called to be a Shaman. Those that do are often taught by another well known Shaman to fully learn their craft. Shamanism is very well researched and would make an excellent addition to any studies about religion, sociology, or world history. Reviewer: Patrick Hunter
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up

Although its inclusion in a series on unexplained phenomena characterizes shamanism as something other than a religious practice, this is a balanced, worldwide introduction. Place discusses the practice's probable origins in prehistory, elements of it that are common to different cultures, and how shamanism, especially the concept of the journey to the Upper, Middle, or Lower Worlds, has been adopted by Western psychologists and New Age writers. Sidebars include notes on Native Americans' antipathy toward the commercialization of their traditions and the use of sacred herbs and images. The text includes some fictionalized scenarios designed to illustrate different aspects of the ancient religion, and there are several typos. Although the author is careful to point out that practices vary, his effort to highlight commonalities and condense 40,000 years of tradition into a digestible account sometimes creates the impression that shamanic worship is the same everywhere. This title will whet some readers' appetites for more, and may be useful for reports.-Rebecca Donnelly, Loma Colorado Public Library, Rio Rancho, NM

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