Author Topic: "Core shamanism"  (Read 114552 times)

Offline educatedindian

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"Core shamanism"
« on: May 13, 2005, 03:59:49 pm »
I realize we have some new people here who believe in this, so I've started this thread. Here's the letter that was passed along to them. I might try to write up a warning based on it:

Pass this email along to them.

Here's a specific link you could send them.

You could also direct their attention to number 9 on this list.

My personal message to them would be that I hope they come to see three main points:

1) It is not only wildly inaccurate, it is also disrespectful to try to lump together literally tens of thousands of different tribal beliefs together under "shamanism". Not even most Siberian peoples use the term.

2) It is frankly wishful thinking to try and pretend:
a. a haphazard bunch of practices stolen from tribal traditions...
b. by an unrelated collection of lost people...
c. usually led by those who often got their "advanced" training at a weekend seminar...

have any similarity whatsoever to tribal traditions that are:
a. built up over many generations with great care b. by people with common lineage and culture
c. led by tribal elders who are trained for DECADES, not over a weekend.

To me the "shamanism movement" is more accurately termed the would-be shaman movement, or in the case of many of its more exploitative leaders like Michael Harner, the pseudo-shamanism bunch.

3) In the end, "core shamanism" is wishful thinking, a way of justifying theft of tribal traditions and practices by falsely claiming they are "universal". Outside of incredibly broad things like belief in a deity or afterlife, that just isn't ever true.  

And incidentally, they should realize that Michael Harner is a pariah to both his former profession, anthropology, and to Native people.

I also welcome any questions they care to send me, or any discussion on the forum.
Dr. Al Carroll
History Department
St. Phillip's College
Co-founder, NAFPS


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Re: "Core shamanism"
« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2005, 10:27:07 am »
I have posted this under a separate topic on 'Simon Buxton', but it bears repeating here as he and his group, 'The Sacred Trust' is the UK Faculty for culture plunderer Michael Harner and he is also an associate of Brooke Medicine Eagle (well known to NAFPS) and promotes her work in the UK.

Firstly, Buxton's book (The Shamanic Way of the Bee) would nt even be ednorsed by his 'mentor' Michael Harner, it's THAT bad. It concerns Buxton's self-important Don Juan fantasies (it's about his alleged special apprenticeship to a bee magician! In the end, Buxton himself becomes the master - of course!), and was rightly torn to pieces by Shaman's Drum in issue 67, which devoted 10 pages to it, calling it a dangerous fairytale of 'fantasy shamans' and exorting readers not to go near it.

The reader reviews at Amazon agree:

"The Path of Pollen"?? Is that some kind of joke? Did anyone REALLY take this seriously?... Mmmhmm. I guess I should have known, since Brooke Medicine Eagle, the plastic medicine woman who has been conning people out of money for years wrote a small recommendation blurb on the back cover. Silly me."

"I consider it either a misguided set of sex fiction or a really weird sex cult."

As regards his workshops, there is a review of one at, which "concerns the poetics of operating outside of time and space, moving from one secret garden to another, encountering the power of the fire serpent, the
tunnels of nether-worlds, the gods of nature and the nature of the gods."

Yeah right! If you have the money to waste and go for this flowery new age nonsense (and the guarantees that Buxton - and he alone! - can introduce you to god!) it might be perfect for you! What you'll get is an unknown quantity however. As the author of Daily Ablution adds "Would-be nether-world-tunnelers wanting more information concerning the advanced course will be disappointed, as [according to Buxton] "little may be said of the work for it is largely ineffable." One certainty is that it requires "working with the petroglyphic self, beyond the rational mind".

Since Mr Buxton is the UK Faculty for 'core shamanism' what he contributes to this trend in his own work should also be seen as reflecting on the core shamanism movement. Its credibility is eroded further via his efforts. It is one thing, I suspect, for basic shamanic technqiues to be taught in a weekend for amusement or whatever, but for Buxton to be claiming to introduce people to god during the same time frame is a tiny bit rich.

Robin Whitlock

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Re: "Core shamanism"
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2005, 02:18:17 pm »
The Isle of Avalon Foundation in Glastonbury have been running a Shamanism training course for decades. I've never investigated it because I knew instantly what it was, which is basically like the rest of the IoAF courses, a load of made-up rubbish put together to attract well-off tourists who are spiritually lacking (sorry, but my impression is that the worst of these are New Age Americans who are under the impression that Glastonbury is this great cosmic centre of the universe when all it is is this Somerset market town with a particularly impressive hill that was venerated in pre-Roman times).

The trouble is though that Glastonbury is a magnet for gullible people.

Robin the Druid, UK

Offline Barnaby_McEwan

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Re: "Core shamanism"
« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2005, 05:40:38 pm »
The Isle of Avalon Foundation in Glastonbury have been running a Shamanism training course for decades.

Is that the one offering courses in shamanism by someone known only as 'Kestrel'? I'm curious to know his real name - and whether he spends much time hovering over highway verges looking for voles!

The trouble is though that Glastonbury is a magnet for gullible people.

You're not kidding, but it was great to see so many people eager to hear the truth at Al's lecture.

Offline Sarangerel

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Re: "Core shamanism"
« Reply #4 on: October 29, 2005, 08:48:28 am »
I am really glad to see someone write about this topic.
In more recent years Harner has tried to legitimize himself by bringing over Siberian shamans (only a couple actually) to do workshops but it is very clear that while the native shamans do some ceremony and talk a little about their beliefs there is no connection between them and what his followers believe.  Harnerites think that "we are all one big happy shamanic family."  Bah!  In Siberia I have discouraged native shamans who have been contacted by the Harner organization because they have been told that he is this great American shaman who would like them to come over and do ceremony with him.  I told them he is not what they have been told.
I have butted heads with Harner students but also have also helped some of them move on to a more wholesome sort of spiritual development.  From what I have seen there are two types of Harner followers:
1.  The complete devotee.  They have taken every workshop and bought every book and tape.  They see Harner in the role of a guru and can see no wrong in him.  They will tolerate no criticism of him even from native people like myself when he uses parts of our ceremonies out of context.
2.  The seeker.  In many bookstores Harner's book is the only book about shamanism, maybe there might be some Castaneda and Lynn Andrews too (isn't that a shame since they are all fake?).  At this point the particulars of why people are attracted to the shamanic path is too complex to digress to, but for many people in Western countries Harner is the main source of information unless they go to an academic library.  As soon as an alternative is available these people break away from the Harner school, sometimes getting sidetracked into some fake Native American teacher, sometimes they are attracted to people who are more forthright.  It is because of this latter group of people that I do not reject all Harner students out of hand because they had no other choice at the time.
The Harner organization has become an arrogant bureaucracy within which Harner himself is almost unapproachable unless he decides himself he wants to contact somebody.
For example, when the Golomt Center of  Mongolian shamans organized in Ulaanbaatar in  1997 we contacted Harner's Foundation for Shamanic Studies and all we got from them was a package with application forms for membership in his organization and a workshop schedule.  What ignorance!  Like indigenous shamans need to take his workshops?  How ridiculous!
Yet when Harner students have contacted me from time to time to learn more about Buryat traditions I have been willing to show them things but within the parameters of our own traditions.  Some years ago one woman came to Ulan-Ude and I showed her around and a few times she did things that violated custom, and she was put out by my forbidding her to do those things.  One day I told her to go back to the hotel because I had some healing work to do, and she strongly insisted that she join me to assist.  I said no, that these were regular clients with their own expectations, and furthermore she did not know Buryat.  In typical New Age fashion she assumed that she could heal them without knowing the language or understanding their problems or case histories!
Later that day she decided she was leaving Buryatia and declared that she already was an advanced shaman through Harner's teachings, and I scoffed, "you are scarcely out of kindergarten!"
The two things that bother me about core shamanism is first the mass appropriation of elements of "shamanic" practices from cultures from all over the world including mine.  For one thing the assumption that all these cultures practiced shamanism as Buryats understand shamanism to be (and this is our word) is erroneous as all of you Native Americans know since it has been inflicted on you for years now, largely because of Michael Harner's writings.  The second thing is that these practices have been ripped out of their ceremonial contexts, without the offerings to the spirits, without the food offerings, performed by people who probably could not even locate the place of origin of the ceremony on a world map!  If Harner students perform a Buryat ceremony and there is no burning of juniper and offering of vodka, dairy, and meat products, and the ancestors are not invoked it is nothing but a theatrical performance or a mass delusion.
What is more troubling to me, though, is that, whether it was intended or not, the Harner movement has taken on some of the characteristics of a cult.  I don't know if Harner intended it himself, but many of his disciples whom I have met attribute to him an almost prophet-like status so that his teachings supersede and are more true than those of indigenous peoples.  That is dangerous.  He started out as an anthropologist, which is a profession which is supposed to help document the knowledge of indigenous peoples.  When his credentials as an anthropologist are used to justify discrediting certain indigenous teachings and validating others he violates the principles of his profession and becomes a destructive force to the preservation of ancient knowledge which has had a difficult enough time surviving into the present time.  It is like the final step of colonialism in pretty New Age clothing.  I should probably stop now before I get a real rant going.



Offline educatedindian

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Re: "Core shamanism"
« Reply #5 on: October 29, 2005, 10:22:07 pm »
This is pretty valuable to know, and exactly what I suspected and expected they'd do. Would you mind us putting this post up on our site as a warning too?

And in case you'e wondering, any of the warnings and articles we have up at our site at can be reposted or quoted from by anyone. For this forum, I don't mind anyone quoting or reposting my worfs, but for anyone else's, ask them.

Offline Sarangerel

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Re: "Core shamanism"
« Reply #6 on: October 31, 2005, 02:04:09 am »
Please feel free use what I wrote if it will help people understand.  People have seen shamanism and Harnerism as being the same thing for too long.  On another forum someone wrote that Harner was the Henry Ford of shamanism while us native folks are in the horse and buggy age.  That is the height of arrogance.  One hippy trumps the knowledge of the elders of thousands of years?  I don't think so.

Offline TimberlineWarrior

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Re: "Core shamanism"
« Reply #7 on: November 04, 2005, 10:39:26 pm »
I have just looked up Isle of Avalon Foundation. OMG what a rip off crowd and as for Kestrel!
Some of the quotes about him:
restore the wholeness of the five fundamental aspects: the spiritual, the sexual, mental, emotional and physical.
Sex had to come into it of course!

Kestrel’s healing skills were self-taught
As appears all his 'knowledge'

They want £840($1400) to spend 7 weekends with this guy!
I wonder how many suckers they got?

As has been said, Glastonbury is one of the big rip off sceenes of the UK, just because it has a music festival and drew in crowds of hippies who later became 'spiritual' and jumped on the bandwagon to fellece the tourists that came to visit.
If it wasn't for that music festival then Glastonbury would just be a small Somerset market town with very little to offer.


Offline Defend the Sacred

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Re: "Core shamanism"
« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2010, 02:52:45 am »
Since some of the links in the above posts are down, I'll load them from the wayback machine:

Archived Index page from old site:

"Shamanism and Shame-ons" -

Michael Harner's listing on frauds list -

Here on the current message board, going to the main page and searching on "Core Shamanism" or "Harner" will turn up many threads on the topic, like this one:

And because some people are still trying to claim badly-done, fake Inipis are "Universal" to all cultures, and that Wiccan circles inside an Inipi structure, blended with outsider fantasies of Inipi, equal "Celtic Sweat Lodge", I'm also including some links on that. Here on NAFPS we've had discussions in these threads, among others:
* Initial comments on the Irish and Scottish taigh an fhallais, teach an allais and fulacht fiadh sites and what we do and don't know about how they were used:
* Thread on "Bronze Age" burnt mound and sweathouse sites in general:

Some quotes from other discussions about the inherent racism of the Core Shamanism courses:

Quoting Ingeborg:

"... the idea of making (white) persons shame-ons in instant courses is pretty much racist, as it carries the concept of white superiority – so superior that whites (the 'better Indian'....) only need days and hours to achieve at something which takes ndns years and decades."

I can't seem to find the full text of Lisa Aldred's "Plastic Shamans and Astroturf Sun Dances: New Age Commercialization of Native American Spirituality" online. But those with JSTOR access can get it here and an excerpt is posted here: Part One and Part Two.

ETA: Spiral Walk found it:

edited to add link to Harner thread
« Last Edit: May 25, 2019, 06:47:25 pm by Defend the Sacred »

Offline Julia

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Re: "Core shamanism"
« Reply #9 on: October 24, 2010, 08:27:16 pm »

As has been said, Glastonbury is one of the big rip off sceenes of the UK, just because it has a music festival and drew in crowds of hippies who later became 'spiritual' and jumped on the bandwagon to fellece the tourists that came to visit.
If it wasn't for that music festival then Glastonbury would just be a small Somerset market town with very little to offer.


I think your verdict on Glastonbury itself is a bit harsh.  It's well worth visiting for its history (especially Glastonbury Abbey) and many links with the Arthurian legends.  But yes, the proliferation of New Age tat is painful to see.  I last visited the place two years ago and every other shop on the main street seemed to be flogging New Age junk, much of it with a supposedly Native American flavour.  Why the hell English people can't take pleasure in their own legacy of legend, folklore etc without ripping off other cultures is a mystery to me.

Offline Juliet

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Re: "Core shamanism"
« Reply #10 on: November 06, 2010, 02:04:08 am »
Crap.  I had a nice long reply, and lost it to a finger-press in the wrong place.   >:(

If we look, we can see how Harner could have fooled himself into thinking he'd discovered the 'core' of the practices lumped under 'shamanism.'  That he decided to run with it and become a sort of guru is unfortunate.  (And that assumes he didn't just shrug his shoulders and ask, 'Why not?' before deliberately setting out to be a con artist.)

The people who fool themselves into following Harner (and his disciples) are looking for something that their culture doesn't provide.  And because, in the West, ethnicity does not indicate one's religion or form of religious practice, they find nothing odd in putting together a bit from a Siberian group, a bit from the Dineh, adding a dollop of imaginary Druidic practice, stirring well, and baking for a weekend.  (Then possibly rationalizing it after the fact with the existence of legitimate syncretistic religions, as if the founders of Voudoun sat around a table picking and choosing what to include, rather than trying to preserve what they could while comprehending this weird religion that condemned them to death and servitude.)