Author Topic: Shamans vs. Shame-ons  (Read 4432 times)

Offline Sarangerel

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Shamans vs. Shame-ons
« on: October 29, 2005, 11:45:42 am »
This last few hours I have read through the various posts about various New Age and other frauds posing as shamans and other types of "medicine people."
Please do not use the word shame-on.  I understand your wrath at having impostors exploiting your culture using the term shaman but consider how much more of an insult it is to the Native Siberian people for whom this is a legitimate traditional word!  Using the word shame-on is also insulting, although I know the insult is not directed toward Siberian people intentionally.
Shamans are people who have a very special calling from the spirits, they often come from certain clans that have had shamans for countless generations.  What a person has to go through to become a shaman is difficult and that person can never really have a "normal" life because of the responsibilities it entails.  They serve their community and are respected and a little feared because of their difference from other people.  They are part of a larger system of spirituality which Russians labeled "shamanstvo" (shamanism) and eventually that passed into other European languages.  When natural historians studied Native Americans they thought that they had the same "religion" as Native Siberians and applied the term shamanism to it.  In modern times anthropologists and New Agers have spread the term so broadly that it really has come to mean everything and really mean nothing.
A few weeks ago I made a post to a New Age shamanism group asking, "What is Shamanism?" asking questions about what they thought shamanism was versus what Buryat people believe it to be.  It created a firestorm of controversy.  They were angry that a native person should question the use of their precious word.  
Is there any way Siberian people can ever reclaim "shaman" in its proper meaning?  If you have any advice I am eager to receive it.
In Russia today many Native Siberian scholars have taken to calling traditional spirituality "tengrianstvo", Tengerism, because it puts the emphasis on the spirits that are the focus of worship rather than on the shamans who only play certain roles in ceremony while a lot of worship and ceremony is done by individuals and elders without the involvement of shamans.  
I have seen a lot of people in Russia and the United States who have become rootless, they have no cultural context to work from and they are trying to find SOMETHING that works for them because organized religion does not satiate their spiritual hunger.  They often fall prey to false teachers like the ones being discussed here.  They often latch onto "shamanism" as a spiritual path but they really have no idea what it is.  We need to warn them off from the exploiters but we also need to consider what we can offer them rather than just pushing them all away just because they are non-native.  They are not to be blamed for who they are, only for what they do if they use our traditional ways inappropriately.

regards,

Sarangerel

Offline educatedindian

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Re: Shamans vs. Shame-ons
« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2005, 10:32:33 pm »
Shame on is a term used by Indians here to mock the pretensions of the many frauds and posers claiming to be shamans. I don't know of anyone intending any insult to Siberians.

Sometimes I've used the terms pseudo-shaman or would-be shaman.

Whether the term shaman can ever be rescued or taken back I don't know either. I've argued before that anthropologists should quit using it because a) it's become so corrupted by its use by frauds and b) it's better to use the terms indigenous people use themselves like medcine people, healers, etc.

I've seen similar things to what you describe in that online group. This is all about control for many of them. They want the power to define what indigenous people are like, and it must fit their precious fantasies.

I recognize the hunger they feel is genuine though, but I'm always telling them to seek our their own heritage and traditions instead of false versions of someone else's.