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The term "shaman" is a loan from the Turkic word šamán, the term for such a practitioner, which also gained currency in the wider Turko-Mongol and Tungusic cultures in ancient Siberia. Shamans were known as "priests" in the region of where Ural–Altaic languages spoken.
Criticism of the term “shaman” or “shamanism”
Certain anthropologists, most notably Alice Kehoe in her book Shamans and Religion: An Anthropological Exploration in Critical Thinking, are highly critical of the term. Part of this criticism involves the notion of cultural appropriation. This includes criticism of New Age and modern Western forms of Shamanism, which may not only misrepresent or 'dilute' genuine indigenous practices but do so in a way that, according to Kehoe, reinforces racist ideas such as the Noble Savage.
Kehoe is highly critical of Mircea Eliade's work. Eliade, being a philosopher and historian of religions rather than an anthropologist, had never done any field work or made any direct contact with 'shamans' or cultures practicing 'shamanism', though he did spend four years studying at the University of Calcutta in India where he received his doctorate based on his Yoga thesis and was acquainted with Mahatma Gandhi. According to Kehoe, Eliade's 'shamanism' is an invention synthesized from various sources unsupported by more direct research. To Kehoe, what some scholars of shamanism treat as being definitive of shamanism, most notably drumming, trance, chanting, entheogens and hallucinogenics, spirit communication and healing, are practices that
* exist outside of what is defined as shamanism and play similar roles even in non-shamanic cultures (such as the role of chanting in Judeo-Christian rituals)
* in their expression are unique to each culture that uses them and cannot be generalized easily, accurately or usefully into a global ‘religion’ such as shamanism.
Because of this, Kehoe is also highly critical of the notion that shamanism is an ancient, unchanged, and surviving religion from the Paleolithic period.
Mihály Hoppál also discusses whether the term “shamanism” is appropriate. He recommends using the term “shamanhood” or “shamanship” for stressing the diversity and the specific features of the discussed cultures. This is a term used in old Russian and German ethnographic reports at the beginning of the 20th century. He believes that this term is less general and places more stress on the local variations, and it emphasizes also that shamanism is not a religion of sacred dogmas, but linked to the everyday life in a practical way. Following similar thoughts, he also conjectures a contemporary paradigm shift. Also Piers Vitebsky mentions, that despite really astonishing similarities, there is no unity in shamanism. The various, fragmented shamanistic practices and beliefs coexist with other beliefs everywhere. There is no record of pure shamanistic societies (although, as for the past, their existence is not impossible).
SHAMANISM IS OUR oldest magical and mystical tradition. It is from shamanism that all religious arts and magical
sciences originate. The shamanic traditions are still practiced on all the southern continents — Australia, Africa, and
South America. It is primarily found in hunting societies but survives also in semi-settled village life where it takes on more of
the character of witch-doctoring. The encroachments of modern civilization have almost destroyed shamanism in North America,
Oceania, Northern Asia, and within the Arctic Circle. Some shamanic knowledge survived in European witchcraft, while in
the Middle East shamanism became swallowed up in the priestly cults of classical civilizations.
Two conclusions can be drawn from an examination of remaining shamanic cultures and from records of those now extinct.
Firstly, despite the enormous geographical separation between shamanic cultures, they share almost identical methods.
Secondly, it is shamanic knowledge and power that contemporary magicians seek to rediscover. The basic principles of magic, like
the basic principles of science, do not change, but they can become lost. Shamanism presents a very full magical technology
which resumes all occult themes. Mankind now stands in greater need of these abilities than at any time since the first aeon, if he is
to understand rather than destroy himself. Shamanism once guided all human societies and kept them in equilibrium with their
environment for thousands of years. All occultism is an attempt to win back that awesome lost wisdom. Let us look then, at what the
traditions of shamanism hold.
Shamanic power cannot be progressively accumulated like other technology. A shaman will be lucky if his own apprentices
make any advance beyond his own achievements. Shamanic powers are so difficult to master that a tradition requires a continual
influx of talent just to prevent itself from degenerating. For this reason shamans usually describe their tradition as having declined
from past glories. Only an occasional, exceptional practitioner can win back some of the more legendary powers.
Central to shamanism is the perception of an otherworld or series of otherworlds. This type of astral or aetheric dimension
containing various powers entities and forces allows real effects to be created in this world. The shaman's soul journeys through this
dimension while in ecstatic or drug-induced state of trance. The journey may be undertaken for divinatory knowledge, to cure
sickness, to deliver a blow to enemies, or to find game animals. Prospective shamans are usually selected from those with a
nervous disposition. They may either be assigned to shamanic instruction or are driven to it by a power present in the shamanic
culture. Initiation invokes a journey into the otherworld, a meeting with spirits and a death-rebirth experience. In the deathrebirth
experience, the candidate has a vision of his body being dismembered, often by fantastic beings or animal spirits, and then
reassembled from the wreckage. The new body invariably contains an extra part often described as an additional bone or an inclusion
of magical quartz stones or sometimes an animal spirit. This experience graphically symbolizes the location of the aetheric
force field within the body or the addition of various extra powers to it.
In most shamanic systems this aetheric force is exuded through the naval region for short range magics, although it can be
sent through the eyes or hands instead. It is the same as the Chi or Ki or Kundalini or aura.
The shamanic tradition exhibits a full range of magical themes. Exorcism and curing are the main skills shared with the
community, and these are usually undertaken in trance and ecstatic states during which an otherworld journey is made to seek a
cure. Magical attack and protection may be performed for clients, and shamans themselves will frequently fight each other for supremacy, often assuming their otherworld animal shapes for this purpose.
Some shamanists cultivate enormous physiological control with which to resist extremes of heat, cold, and pain. Firewalking Shamanism in which fierce heat is magically prevented from scorching flesh is a very common feature of this tradition and occurs worldwide. Congress with the spirit world is extensive and includes various nature spirits, animal and plant entities and servitors, the
shades of the dead, sexual entities like incubi and succubi and usually a horned god, even in lands with no horned animals.
Egress into the otherworld is made through perilous clashing gates, comparable to the modern conception of the Abyss. Dream as well
as trance is an important method of obtaining access to the otherworld. Shamanic tools are highly varied but usually include a noise
making device, such as a drum or snake bone rattle, to call spirits and induce trance, as well as various power objects, most commonly
quartz crystals. The extraordinary traditions of shamanism are the fountainhead of all occult systems, and it is to shamanism
that we must look if we wish to pick up the pieces of magic, man's oldest science, and use them again.
Copyright © 1987 Peter J. Carroll, the moral authority of the author has been asserted.
...its the plague of the ever-morphing english language...
‘Now in the Egyptian language, this sole relic of a primitive world, there are a fair number of words with two meanings, one of which is the exact opposite of the other. Let us suppose, if such an obvious piece of nonsense can be imagined, that in German the word "strong" meant both "strong" and "weak"; that in Berlin the noun "light" was used to mean both "light" and "darkness"; that one Munich citizen called beer "beer", while another used the same word to speak of water: this is what the astonishing practice amounts to which the ancient Egyptians regularly followed in their language. How could anyone be blamed for shaking his head in disbelief? . . .’ (Examples omitted.)
(Ibid., 7): ‘In view of these and many similar cases of antithetical meaning (see the Appendix) it is beyond doubt that in one language at least there was a large number of words that denoted at once a thing and its opposite. However astonishing it may be, we are faced with the fact and have to reckon with it.’
The author goes on to reject an explanation of these circumstances which suggests that two words might happen by chance to have the same sound, and is equally firm in repudiating an attempt to refer it to the low stage of mental development in Egypt:
it is beyond doubt that in one language at least there was a large number of words that denoted at once a thing and its opposite. However astonishing it may be, we are faced with the fact and have to reckon with it.’
Originally posted by hadriana
What I'd like to know is if the skinwalker actually merges with the skin, and goes forth as himself, with no shifting of consciousness but with a physical shift in his body, or if the skinwalker mentally merges with a target-species type animal and then goes forth using that animal's body with it's consciousness subjected.
My guess is on the later.
My guess is that the requirements of killing someone close to you are to assure people that this sort of powerful person is rare, and evil, and to discourage people from trying to tamper with magic this powerful.
What would it do to a psyche to murder someone you loved and cherished? It would have to mean that you would want magickal power more than ANYTHING. I suspect that is where the truth is. The talk of going to abandoned places to practice this sort of magic leads me to believe the same- that to practice this magic would be all consuming- my guess is that the person you'd really have to sacrifice is yourself, and thus the magic is both trans formative and sacrifice transforms the magic, making it very, very powerful indeed, but also, it seems like it would make the practitioner prone to prefer extreme isolation.
A Face Dancer is a type of human in Frank Herbert's science fiction Dune universe. A servant caste of the Bene Tleilax, Face Dancers are shapeshifters, and their name is derived from their ability to change their physical appearance at will.
Originally, Face Dancers were Tleilaxu trained to mimic others using acting and makeup, enhanced by plastic surgery. As time went on, the Tleilaxu began to use genetic manipulation to enhance natural ability in phenotypic plasticity, so that Face Dancers could change height, increase and decrease apparent mass, change coloring and texture, and change facial features.
In time the Face Dancers became genetic eunuchs, sterile creatures with full sentience but no sense of self and a genetically-programmed loyalty to the Tleilaxu Masters. The Tleilaxu control them like all their creations by forcing them into a hypnotic state with some predefined sound (often a specific humming or whistling noise).
Throughout most of the Dune timeline, only the Bene Gesserit-trained can detect a Face Dancer, typically by recognizing signature pheromone scents or other micro-indicators. Face Dancers are liable to give away their identities, though, since they lack the memories of the people they replace. Later in the series, the Tleilaxu give them the ability to acquire these memories as well.
At the beginning of Heretics of Dune, the Bene Tleilax feel ready to take control of the Imperium. They have achieved their long-term plan of developing Face Dancers who are perfect mimics, able to take mind prints of the people they imitate and possess all their memories. This leaves an ordinary person with no real way of detecting a replacement; the Tleilaxu believe that the Bene Gesserit cannot detect these new Face Dancers either. The Tleilaxu intend to take control of the other powers in the Imperium by replacing their leaders with Face Dancers. However, the Tleilaxu plan is ultimately ruined by its flaws. The Tleilaxu have never tested the Face Dancers over long periods independent of a master's control. It develops that, after playing their roles for too long, the new Face Dancers come to think of themselves as the people they have printed and forget their Tleilaxu origins. They effectively become the people they are mimicking, passing beyond the control of the Tleilaxu. Nor are the new Face Dancers undetectable to the Bene Gesserit.
In the last chapter of the book, Marty and Daniel themselves mention independent Face Dancers:
"[Tleilaxu Masters] have such a hard time accepting that Face Dancers can be independent of them." "I don't see why. It's a natural consequence. They gave us the power to absorb the memories and experiences of other people. Gather enough of those and..." "It's personas we take, Marty." "Whatever. The Masters should've known we would gather enough of them one day to make our own decisions about our own future."