“The social function of the Shaman was oracle, healer and spiritual guide all in one. Their job it was to maintain a connection with the spirit world.
The modern concept of a shaman is based on early stereotypes and Victorian values. Shaman were able to communicate through the Earth-spirit. They were often associated to an animal, or familiar.
The word shaman originated among the Siberian Tungus (Evenks) and literally means ‘he (or she) who knows’. The concept of a shaman was almost lost in the 20th century, but it is making a slow revival in ‘new-age’ cultures. It is often spoke of as one of the first ‘religions’ practiced by people.
Generally, the shaman enters the spirit world by effecting a transition of consciousness, entering into an dream state, ecstatic trance, either auto-hypnotically or through the use of intoxicants. The methods employed were diverse, and are often used together. Some of the methods for effecting such trances are as follows: Fasting, drumming, dancing, and psychedelic drugs.”
– The Shamanistic Belief System –
“Even though there have been many forms of shamanism throughout the world, Eliade (1972) identified some shared beliefs that are common to all of them:
– Spirits exist and strongly influence individual lives as well human society at large
– Spirits can be benevolent or malevolent
– While in trance, the shaman’s spirit can leave his body to enter the supernatural world
– Within spirit world, the shaman can interact and communicate with the spirits therein
– Answers to earthly problems can be found in spirit world
– The shaman can treat sickness caused by malevolent spirits
– The shaman can perform acts of divination
– The shaman can evoke animal images as spirit guides and message-bearers
All of these basic beliefs paint a picture that is radically different from the worldview of Western science. In the view of shamanistic cultures the physical world is much more complex than we think. According to the shamans, there is an other world interpenetrating physical existence that is inhabited by intelligent spirits. Even though these spirits are normally intangible as well as invisible to us, the shamans say that all humans constantly interact with them; be it actively or passively.”
It is believed that a large percentage of prehistoric rock art is of shamanic origin.