Understanding the Meaning of Shamanism

Topics: Mesoamerica, Shamanism, Trance Pages: 4 (1722 words) Published: May 2, 2005
To truly understand the meaning of shamanism one must uncover the original definition. The word shaman comes from the language of the Evenk, a small Tungus-speaking group of hunters and reindeer herders from Siberia. It was first used only to designate a religious specialist from this region. By the beginning of the 20th century it was already being applied to a variety of North America and South American practices from the present and the past. Today people have gone as far as defining the word shaman as any human that acknowledges that he/she has had contact with spiritual entities. Well at least the term still refers to human beings. The Siberian shaman's soul is said to be able to leave the body and travel to other parts of the cosmos, particularly to an upper world in the sky and a lower world underground. How can anyone know what the people of Mesoamerica were seeing if they in fact were even in these states of trance. A broader definition is that shamans would include any kind of person who is in control of his or her state of trance, even if this does not involve a soul journey. This broader definition stills does not include a culture that no one was around to document. Does anyone really know if these ‘shamans' controlled their state of trance? Not to mention, there is no evidence of a written language of either the Olmec or West Mexican regions to date. These definitions of shamanism are very brief and really can not be upheld as a specific precise and accurate definition, however shamanism within these parameters has been widely accepted both in the early and late twentieth century, and into today. Shamanism due to its many definitions could be just about any being that can be observed practicing. Shamanism is not a single, unified religion but a cross-cultural form of religious sensibility and practice. It is a complex set of practices, beliefs, values and behaviors that enable the practitioner to elect a shift from ordinary consciousness into a...
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