Pub. Date:
University of Oklahoma Press


by Piers Vitebsky


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The shaman occupies a key role as a healer mediating between the world of the living and the world of spirits and is a potent figure in alternative medicine. Shamanism, a richly illustrated guide, looks at both historic and present-day manifestations, from the snowscaps of Siberia to the jungles of the Amazon.

The book discusses visions, initiation rites, shamanic chants, shamanism and mental health, the shamanic use of plants, and the political and social background to the shaman’s work. Also covered are the links between the shaman’s sense of unity in nature and the recent growth of ecological consciousness in Western societies.

* Includes more than 250 color illustrations that present a unique pictorial record of shamanism in practice and as represented in art and artifacts

* Includes a detailed region-by-region survey of shamanism with full-color maps

* Explores both spiritual and psychological aspects of the subject, as well as the relevance of shamanism to contemporary Western culture

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780806133287
Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
Publication date: 03/28/2001
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 472,381
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.82(d)

About the Author

Piers Vitebsky is an anthropologist and Head of social Science at the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, England. He is author of Dialogues with the Dead.

Table of Contents

Introduction 6
The Shamanic Worldview 8
What is a shaman? 10
Spirits and souls 12
Layers of the cosmos 15
Levels of reality 18
Concepts of power 22
Regional Traditions 26
The religion of the stone age 28
Hunters, herders, and farmers 30
Siberia and Mongolia 34
South and East Asia 38
North America 42
South and Central America 46
The rest of the world 50
Becoming a Shaman 52
Who becomes a shaman? 54
Initiation and instruction 59
Trance and Ecstasy 64
Helpers and Teachers 66
Voyages to other realms 70
Battles with hostile spirits 74
Music, dance, and words 78
Costumes and equipment 82
Shamanic botany: hallucinogens 85
Tricks of the trade 88
The shaman's multiple nature 91
Death of the shaman 94
Shamans and Clients 96
Healing the sick, rescuing lost souls 98
Divining 104
Obtaining animals 106
Protecting the community 110
Shamans and the state 116
Dramas and roles 120
A summary of shamanic procedure 125
Understanding Shamans 128
Early impressions 130
Shamanism in the history of religion 132
Communist regimes 136
Are shamans mentally ill? 138
Do shamans really heal? 142
Kinds of consciousness 146
New shamanic movements 150
The cosmos within 154
Documentary Reference 160
Directory of Peoples 169
New Shamanic Movements 170
Bibliography 171
Index 176
Photo Credits 183
Author's Acknowledgements 184

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