Big Rowan Ackison (greensh) wrote,
Big Rowan Ackison

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Beginning Thoughts on the Shaman Title

In a public community an insightful LJ member said:
And further irony ensues from this entire thread about "shamanism", considering that there are those who consider that using the term "shamanism" outside of its culture of origin (Siberia & Mongolia) is cultural appropriation. So applying "shaman" to Native American medicine practices is not only cultural misappropriation of the term "shaman", it is also ignoring the cultural uniqueness of the Native American medicine wo/man.
This is an important topic for me. The member's question evoked some thoughts that will become a larger article. For now, I will post my immediate response to these excellent observations:

These are good points, and anybody seriously interesting in pursing the shamanic path should consider them.

Agreed on the Native American angle! I'll be the last to call a NA medicine wo/man a 'shaman' when I am aware of the proper title. It would be like calling an anesthesiologist a 'doctor'. The term does not respect the cultural training and focus.

To continue with the doctor analogy, if I see a person wearing a white lab coat I'd probably call them doctor until I know their specialty. Indigenous groups have their own names for the shaman-type. Non-indigenous people who practice shamanic ways find themselves with a lack of an indigenous name. Rightly so. It is not appropriate to take on another group's title because there are many requirements – emotional, physical and spiritual – before the title is bestowed. So, we stand wearing some version the lab coat, wondering what to call ourselves. Hence the general name of 'shaman' or 'shamanist' is used. IME, the wide spread use of the word was first promoted by the anthropologists before adoption by Neopagan shamanics. We stand on the shoulders of the scientific community when it comes to this general descriptive title

All of this makes the use of the word 'shaman' outside of Siberia and Mongolia a murky matter. Let's assume the person using the title of shaman or shamanist is not claiming heritage or connection to the Siberian traditions. We humans tend to want to use word boxes to label thing. The non-indigenous use of the word 'shaman' or derivations of such (shamanist, shamanic path) seem to have few alternatives for those who stand outside of indigenous systems.

Comments? Where do your own thoughts go on this topic?
Tags: shaman, shamanic, title

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