Lecture 3. The Shamanistic Traditions: Past and Present

created by:

Mark Jarzombek

from the module:

First Societies

Shamanism is a generic term that describes a broad set of ritual beliefs about the human relationship to other humans and nature. It is linked also to Animism. This lecture introduces the broad parameters of shamanism while also trying to get students to realize that shamanism is not a ‘dead religion.’ In the last few decades, it has even been revived – just think of the so-called neo-pagans who flock to Stonehenge! So what we see today in some parts of the world is a mixture of survival and revival. The lecture is structured as a general discussion of shamanism. I introduce Sweat Lodges since they played an important role in the ceremonial world of the First Societies, although in some cases everyone – not just shamans – used them. Particularly important are long winter ceremonies. I was in Cusco in June 2015 and included videos from that visit to demonstrate the survival/revival of winter ceremonial culture in the Peruvian highland region. I also discuss the enigmatic Medicine Wheels of North America. The last section is more theoretical in tone and tries to get students to see the difficulty of discussing this topic given our modern worldview.

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