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Shamans, Animal, Plants, and the Spirit World
A shaman is a religious or mystical expert who, in traditional tribal peoples societies, functions as a healer, prophet and custodian of cultural tradition. Throughout human history and perhaps even before Homo Sapiens evolved, there has been an innate desire to experience a direct connection with god or gods, ancestors, and other inhabitants of the spirit world. When examining some of the most ancient cultures across Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Americas and up through time to the preindustrial age we observe many clans, sects, and tribes partaking of psychoactive and other plants for spiritual and/or medicinal uses. The uses and curative effect of these plants were strongly interconnected with ritual. For many tribal cultures, the plants in and of themselves were sacred. Supernatural powers resided in their tissues as a divine gift to humans on earth. Despite the fact they are almost always considered healers, this is not the complete extent of their duties and abilities and detaches them from their role as a mediator between normal humans and the world of spirits, animals, plants, and souls for the traditional tribal peoples.
Soul dualism is a range of beliefs that a person has two or more kinds of souls. In many cases, one of the souls is associated with body functions and the other one can leave the body wandering soul. Sometimes the plethora of soul types can be even more complex. Sometimes, a shaman’s wandering soul may be held to be able to undertake a spirit journey.
The wandering soul is said to leave the body and journey to the spirit world during trance-like states, sleep, delirium, death, and insanity. The duality is also seen in the healing traditions of shamans, where illnesses are regarded as a wandering soul and thus to heal the sick, one must return the wandering soul, which may have been stolen by an evil spirit or got lost in the spirit world, into the body. If the wandering soul can not be returned, the afflicted person dies or goes permanently insane.
Role of the Shaman
Shamans are the most notable of the multiple religious figures present in traditional Tribal religion. They function as healers, prophets, diviners and custodians of religious mythology. They are also often the coordinators of religious and cultural ceremonies. There are many variations of shaman throughout the world, but several common beliefs are shared by all forms of shaman.
- Spirits exist and they play important roles both in individual lives and in human society.
- The shaman can communicate with the spirit world.
- Spirits can be benevolent or malevolent.
- The shaman can treat sickness caused by malevolent spirits.
- The shaman can employ trances inducing techniques to incite visionary ecstasy and go on vision quests.
- The shaman’s spirit can leave the body to enter the supernatural world to search for answers.
- The shaman evokes animal images as spirit guides, omens, and message-bearers.
- The shaman can perform other varied forms of divination, scry, throw bones or runes, and sometimes foretell of future events.
Soul And Spirit Concepts
- Scarcity Of Hunted Game
- Infertility of women
Spirits are invisible entities that only shamans can see. They are seen as persons that can assume a human or animal body. Some animals in their physical forms are also seen as spirits such as the case of the eagle, snake, jaguar, and rat. Beliefs related to spirits can explain many different phenomena. The importance of storytelling, or acting as a singer, can be understood better if the whole belief system is examined. A person who can memorize long texts or songs, and play an instrument, may be regarded as the beneficiary of contact with the spirits.
Shamans were associated with powers generally thought to be beneficial to the community, but were believed in some cases to use their powers for sorcery. Shaman-prophets and diviners were concerned with predicting the outcome of the hunt, relocating lost objects, and determining the root causes of communal discontent and ill will. Shamans in these societies were custodians of the sacred medicine bundles containing objects and materials endowed with great mystery and power. Shamans were often consulted at any time of sickness or communal misfortune. Natural causes were recognized for many diseases, especially physically curable ones; others were commonly believed to be the result of intrusion into the body of objects placed there by sorcerers. The shaman-healer’s treatment of such diseases was dictated by his guardian spirit, but usually consisted of the shaman ritually sucking the disease agent out of the body, brushing it off with a bird’s wing or drawing it out with dramatic gestures. Illness could also result from wandering soul. The shaman-healer’s action was then directed to recovering the patient’s spirit, either the soul or guardian spirit power. and reintroducing it to the body.
Banning Shamanistic Rituals
Many shaman-led healing ceremonies are still performed, including smudging, sharing circles and healing circles. Most modern shamans see themselves as facilitators for healing rather than healers themselves. Shamans offer healing techniques for those suffering from emotional, mental and physical pain. Often, such techniques include connecting with spirit guides, negative energy extraction, holistic remedies, engaging with nature and spiritual cleanses. Similar to their ancestors, modern shamans also perform rites of passage ceremonies, including births, marriages and deaths.
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