This unique collection of essays on shamanism in Central Asia and the Indian Americas provides sound and engaging scholarship that reflects the great diversity in this fascinating field. First published in 1994, Ancient Traditions has become a vital, frequently cited reference in the ongoing study of ancient religions.
Over the centuries, shamanism has endured as an abiding topic of interest not only because of a human concern with the past but also because of a common yearning to acknowledge life lived in closer symbolic relationship to the earth. For readers interested in indigenous cultures and religions, this collection of essays clarifies much of the New Age speculation on universals in shamanism, offering solid research on specific ethnic and historical expressions.
In Ancient Traditions, prominent scholars in ethnography, anthropology, and the study of world religions bring to bear their diverse perspectives on this singularly fascinating topic. Contributors include Vladimir N. Basilov, Robert S. Carlsen, James A. Clifton, Jane S. Day, Vladimir Diachenko, Vera P. Diakonova, Peter T. Furst, Larisa R. Pavlinskaya, Martin Prechtel, Gary Seaman, Omer C. Stewart, Lawrence E. Sullivan, Robert J. Theodoratus, and Johannes Wilbert. Co-published with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
On the little-known and darker side of shamanism there exists an ancient form of sorcery called kanaimà, a practice still observed among the Amerindians of the highlands of Guyana, Venezuela, and Brazil that involves the ritual stalking, mutilation, lingering death, and consumption of human victims. At once a memoir of cultural encounter and an ethnographic and historical investigation, this book offers a sustained, intimate look at kanaimà, its practitioners, their victims, and the reasons they give for their actions.
Neil L. Whitehead tells of his own involvement with kanaimà—including an attempt to kill him with poison—and relates the personal testimonies of kanaimà shamans, their potential victims, and the victims’ families. He then goes on to discuss the historical emergence of kanaimà, describing how, in the face of successive modern colonizing forces—missionaries, rubber gatherers, miners, and development agencies—the practice has become an assertion of native autonomy. His analysis explores the ways in which kanaimà mediates both national and international impacts on native peoples in the region and considers the significance of kanaimà for current accounts of shamanism and religious belief and for theories of war and violence.
Kanaimà appears here as part of the wider lexicon of rebellious terror and exotic horror—alongside the cannibal, vampire, and zombie—that haunts the western imagination. Dark Shamans broadens discussions of violence and of the representation of primitive savagery by recasting both in the light of current debates on modernity and globalization.
This volume offers the first theoretical and experiential translation of Napo Runa mythology in English. Michael A. Uzendoski and Edith Felicia Calapucha-Tapuy present and analyze lowland Quichua speakers in the Napo province of Ecuador through narratives, songs, curing chants, and other oral performances, so readers may come to understand and appreciate Quichua aesthetic expression. Guiding readers into Quichua ways of thinking and being--in which language itself is only a part of a communicative world that includes plants, animals, and the landscape--Uzendoski and Calapucha-Tapuy weave exacting translations into an interpretive argument with theoretical implications for understanding oral traditions, literacy, new technologies, and language. A companion websiteoffers photos, audio files, and videos of original performances illustrates the beauty and complexity of Amazonian Quichua poetic expressions.
The Falling Sky
Davi Kopenawa Harvard University Press, 2013 Library of Congress F2520.1.Y3.K66+ | Dewey Decimal 305.89892
Anthropologist Bruce Albert captures the poetic voice of Davi Kopenawa, shaman and spokesman for the Yanomami of the Brazilian Amazon, in this unique reading experience--a coming-of-age story, historical account, and shamanic philosophy, but most of all an impassioned plea to respect native rights and preserve the Amazon rainforest.
In the mountain valleys of Nepal, Tibetan communities have long been established through migrations from the North. Because of these migrations over the last few centuries, Tibetan lamaism, as one of the world’s great ritual traditions, can be studied in the Himalayas as a process that emerges through dialogue with the more ancient shamanic tradition which it confronts and criticizes.
Here for the first time is a thorough anthropological study of Tibetan lamaism combining textual analysis with richly contextualized ethnographic data. The rites studied are of the Nyingma Tibetan Buddhist tradition. In contrast to the textual analyses that have viewed the culture as a finished entity, here we see an unbounded ritual process with unfinished interpretations.
Mumford’s focus is on the “dialogue” taking place between the lamaist and the shamanic regimes, as a historic development occurring between different cultural layers. The study powerfully demonstrates that interrelationships between subsystems within a given cultural matrix over time are critical to an understanding of religion as a cultural process.
Just one generation ago, the Sora tribe in India lived in a world populated by the spirits of their dead, who spoke to them through shamans in trance. Every day, they negotiated their wellbeing in heated arguments or in quiet reflections on their feelings of love, anger, and guilt.
Today, young Sora are rejecting the worldview of their ancestors and switching their allegiance to warring sects of fundamentalist Christianity or Hinduism. Communion with ancestors is banned as sacred sites are demolished, female shamans are replaced by male priests, and debate with the dead gives way to prayer to gods. For some, this shift means liberation from jungle spirits through literacy, employment, and democratic politics; others despair for fear of being forgotten after death.
How can a society abandon one understanding of reality so suddenly and see the world in a totally different way? Over forty years, anthropologist Piers Vitebsky has shared the lives of shamans, pastors, ancestors, gods, policemen, missionaries, and alphabet worshippers, seeking explanations from social theory, psychoanalysis, and theology. Living without the Dead lays bare today’s crisis of indigenous religions and shows how historical reform can bring new fulfillments—but also new torments and uncertainties.
Vitebsky explores the loss of the Sora tradition as one for greater humanity: just as we have been losing our wildernesses, so we have been losing a diverse range of cultural and spiritual possibilities, tribe by tribe. From the award-winning author of The Reindeer People, this is a heartbreaking story of cultural change and the extinction of an irreplaceable world, even while new religious forms come into being to take its place.
The Oven: An Anti-Lecture
Ilan Stavans University of Massachusetts Press, 2018 Library of Congress PS3619.T385O94 2018 | Dewey Decimal 812.6
After a chance meeting with a shaman in Colombia, Ilan Stavans, the highly regarded literary scholar, found himself in the Amazon rainforest. He had reluctantly agreed to participate in a religious ceremony that involved taking the hallucinogen ayahuasca. Even though he considered himself a skeptic and a rational intellectual, as someone whose worldview was defined by his education and his heritage as a Mexican Jew, Stavans found that the ritual pushed him to reconsider many of his basic understandings, including his perceptions of indigenous cultures in Latin America, as well as his career as teacher, thinker, and artist. This one-act play is delivered in the form of a lecture that mimics the author’s startling spiritual journey. The book includes twenty-five bold images, in color and black and white, which capture the author’s performance of the play.
It is impossible to discuss what shamans are and what they do, contends Gregory G. Maskarinec, without knowing what shamans say. When Maskarinec took an interest in shaman rituals on his first visit to Nepal, he was told by many Nepalis and Westerners that the shamans he had encountered in the Himalayan foothills of western Nepal engaged in "meaningless mumblings." But in the course of several years of fieldwork he learned from the shamans that both their long, publicly chanted rituals and their whispered, secretive incantations are oral texts meticulously memorized through years of training. In The Rulings of the Night, he shows how the shamans, during their dramatic night-long performances, create the worlds of words in which shamans exist.
Maskarinec analyzes several complete repertoires of the texts that the shamans use to diagnose and treat afflictions that trouble their clients. Through these texts, they intervene to manipulate and change the world, replacing its unbalanced, inexpressible chaos with orderly, balanced, grammatical, and eloquently expressible states. They negotiate the relations between language, action, and social realities, providing a well-constructed and thoroughly consistent intentional universe—and only in that universe can all shaman actions and beliefs be fully comprehended.
Bringing to light a hidden chapter in the history of modern Judaism, Shamanic Trance in Modern Kabbalah explores the shamanic dimensions of Jewish mysticism. Jonathan Garb integrates methods and models from the social sciences, comparative religion, and Jewish studies to offer a fresh view of the early modern kabbalists and their social and psychological contexts.
Through close readings of numerous texts—some translated here for the first time—Garb draws a more complete picture of the kabbalists than previous depictions, revealing them to be as concerned with deeper states of consciousness as they were with study and ritual. Garb discovers that they developed physical and mental methods to induce trance states, visions of heavenly mountains, and transformations into animals or bodies of light. To gain a deeper understanding of the kabbalists’ shamanic practices, Garb compares their experiences with those of mystics from other traditions as well as with those recorded by psychologists such as Milton Erickson and Carl Jung. Finally, Garb examines the kabbalists’ relations with the wider Jewish community, uncovering the role of kabbalistic shamanism in the renewal of Jewish tradition as it contended with modernity.
In Shamanism and Vulnerability on the North and South American Great Plains Kathleen Bolling Lowrey provides an innovative and expansive study of indigenous shamanism and the ways in which it has been misinterpreted and dismissed by white settlers, NGO workers, policymakers, government administrators, and historians and anthropologists. Employing a wide range of theory on masculinity, disability, dependence, domesticity, and popular children’s literature, Lowrey examines the parallels between the cultures and societies of the South American Gran Chaco and those of the North American Great Plains and outlines the kinds of relations that invite suspicion and scrutiny in divergent contexts in the Americas: power and autonomy in the case of Amerindian societies and weakness and dependence in the case of settler societies. She also demonstrates that, where stigmatized or repressed in practice, dependence and power manifest and intersect in unexpected ways in storytelling, fantasy, and myth.
The book reveals the various ways in which anthropologists, historians, folklorists, and other writers have often misrepresented indigenous shamanism and revitalization movements by unconsciously projecting ideologies and assumptions derived from modern ‘contract societies’ onto ethnographic and historical realities. Lowrey also provides alternative ways of understanding indigenous American communities and their long histories of interethnic relations with expanding colonial and national states in the Americas. A creative historical and ethnographical reevaluation of the last few decades of scholarship on shamanism, disability, and dependence, Shamanism and Vulnerability on the North and South American Great Plains will be of interest to scholars of North and South American anthropology, indigenous history, American studies, and feminism.
Working with the image of the Indian shaman as Wild Man, Taussig reveals not the magic of the shaman but that of the politicizing fictions creating the effect of the real.
"This extraordinary book . . . will encourage ever more critical and creative explorations."—Fernando Coronil, [I]American Journal of Sociology[/I]
"Taussig has brought a formidable collection of data from arcane literary, journalistic, and biographical sources to bear on . . . questions of evil, torture, and politically institutionalized hatred and terror. His intent is laudable, and much of the book is brilliant, both in its discovery of how particular people perpetrated evil and others interpreted it."—Stehen G. Bunker, Social Science Quarterly
Shamanism, History, and the State
Nicholas Thomas and Caroline Humphrey, Editors University of Michigan Press, 1996 Library of Congress GN470.2.S53 1994 | Dewey Decimal 291.14
The literature on shamanism and related topics is extensive, but has in general been biased toward curing and trance; the political and historical significance of shamanic activities has been largely neglected. The contributors to Shamanism, History, and the State--distinguished anthropologists and historians from England, Australia, and France--show that shamanism is not static and stable, but always changing as a result of political dynamics and historical processes.
Contributors are Tamsyn Barton, Sysan Bayly, Mary Beard, Maurice Bloch, Peter Gow, Roberte N. Hamayon, Stephen Hugh-Jones, Caroline Humphrey, and Nicholas Thomas.
"The importance of this collection lies in the painstaking, many-sided ways in which it shows 'shamanism' to be a multifarious and continuously changing 'dialogue' or interaction with specific, local contexts. . . . Thus, rather than tackling the issue in principle, this collection tries to demonstrate through 'case studies' just how different 'shamanism' becomes if seen through a lens sensitive to history and the influence of institutions, such as the state, which seem far removed from it. I think the demonstrations add up to an impressive force." --Michael Taussig
"This new, ably edited volume provides . . . chapters that are rich in historic detail and that provide insights into general cultural processes and social interactions." --Historian
Nicholas Thomas is Queen Elizabeth II Research Fellow, Department of Prehistory and Anthropology, Australian National University, Canberra. He is the author of Out of Time: History and Evolution in Anthropological Discourse. Caroline Humphrey, author of Karl Marx Collective: Economy, Society and Religion in a Siberian Collective Farm, is Fellow of King's College and Lecturer in Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge.
Sudhir Kakar, a psychoanalyst and scholar, brilliantly illuminates the ancient healing traditions of India embodied in the rituals of shamans, the teachings of gurus, and the precepts of the school of medicine known as Ayurveda.
"With extraordinary sympathy, open-mindedness, and insight Sudhir Kakar has drawn from both his Eastern and Western backgrounds to show how the gulf that divides native healer from Western psychiatrist can be spanned."—Rosemary Dinnage, New York Review of Books
"Each chapter describes the geographical and cultural context within which the healers work, their unique approach to healing mental illness, and . . . the philosophical and religious underpinnings of their theories compared with psychoanalytical theory."—Choice
The curanderos of northern Peru, traditional healing specialists who invoke Jesus Christ and the saints with a mescaline sacrament and a shamanic rattle, are not vestigial curiosities nor are their patients rural illiterates without access to "modern medicine." Instead, many of these shamans have thriving urban practices with clients from all levels of society.
Sorcery and Shamanism documents the lives and rituals of twelve curanderos, offering a perspective on their curing role and shared knowledge. Authors Donald Joralemon and Douglas Sharon also consider the therapeutic experiences of over one hundred patients, including case histories and follow-ups. They offer a broad view of the shamans’ work in modern Peruvian society, particularly in connection with gender-based conflicts.
The significant work goes a long way toward dispelling the stereotype of shamans as enigmatic and wise, showing them to be pragmatic curers confronting the health effects of everyday aggressions and betrayals.
Amazonian indigenous peoples have preserved many aspects of their culture and cosmology while also developing complex relationships with dominant non-indigenous society. Until now, anthropological writing on Amazonian peoples has been divided between “traditional” topics like kinship, cosmology, ritual, and myth, on the one hand, and the analysis of their struggles with the nation-state on the other. What has been lacking is work that bridges these two approaches and takes into consideration the meaning of relationships with the state from an indigenous perspective.
That long-standing dichotomy is challenged in this new ethnography by anthropologist José Kelly. Kelly places the study of culture and cosmology squarely within the context of the modern nation-state and its institutions. He explores Indian-white relations as seen through the operation of a state-run health system among the indigenous Yanomami of southern Venezuela.
With theoretical foundations in the fields of medical and Amazonian anthropology, Kelly sheds light on how Amerindian cosmology shapes concepts of the state at the community level. The result is a symmetrical anthropology that treats white and Amerindian perceptions of each other within a single theoretical framework, thus expanding our understanding of each group and its influences on the other. This book will be valuable to those studying Amazonian peoples, medical anthropology, development studies, and Latin America. Its new takes on theory and methodology make it ideal for classroom use.
The collapse of socialism at the end of the twentieth century brought devastating changes to Mongolia. Economic shock therapy—an immediate liberalization of trade and privatization of publicly owned assets—quickly led to impoverishment, especially in rural parts of the country, where Tragic Spirits takes place. Following the travels of the nomadic Buryats, Manduhai Buyandelger tells a story not only of economic devastation but also a remarkable Buryat response to it—the revival of shamanic practices after decades of socialist suppression.
Attributing their current misfortunes to returning ancestral spirits who are vengeful over being abandoned under socialism, the Buryats are now at once trying to appease their ancestors and recover the history of their people through shamanic practice. Thoroughly documenting this process, Buyandelger situates it as part of a global phenomenon, comparing the rise of shamanism in liberalized Mongolia to its similar rise in Africa and Indonesia. In doing so, she offers a sophisticated analysis of the way economics, politics, gender, and other factors influence the spirit world and the crucial workings of cultural memory.
Thirty-five years into his research among the descendants of rebel slaves living in the South American rain forest, anthropologist Richard Price encountered Tooy, a priest, philosopher, and healer living in a rough shantytown on the outskirts of Cayenne, French Guiana. Tooy is a time traveler who crosses boundaries between centuries, continents, the worlds of the living and the dead, and the visible and invisible. With an innovative blend of storytelling and scholarship, Travels with Tooy recounts the mutually enlightening and mind-expanding journeys of these two intellectuals.
Included on the itinerary for this hallucinatory expedition: forays into the eighteenth century to talk with slaves newly arrived from Africa; leaps into the midst of battles against colonial armies; close encounters with double agents and femme fatale forest spirits; and trips underwater to speak to the comely sea gods who control the world’s money supply. This enchanting book draws on Price’s long-term ethnographic and archival research, but above all on Tooy’s teachings, songs, stories, and secret languages to explore how Africans in the Americas have created marvelous new worlds of the imagination.