Shamanism {12} ~ Neo-Shamanism

“The New Age movement has appropriated some ideas of shamanism, as well as beliefs and practices of Eastern religions and different indigenous cultures. As with other appropriations, the original followers of these traditions condemn their use, considering it superficially understood and misapplied.

But certainly there is a great effort in some circles of therapists, anthropologists and researchers to rescue shamanism and offer it in more modern forms so that at least part of this great legacy of ancestral knowledge can be integrated and help in many ways people living in an industrialized society.

Michael Harner has been a pioneering anthropologist in recovering some of the shamanic practices of various indigenous cultures and adapting them to today’s world. Harner has faced much criticism for believing that parts of diverse shamanic traditions can be taken out of context to form some form of universal shamanic tradition.

Some of these neo-shamans also focus on the ritual use of psychedelics or entheogens, as well as others focus on traditional ceremonial magic. They claim to be based on traditions employed in ancient Europe, where they believe many shamanic practices and other mystical systems were suppressed by the Christian church. One example is witchcraft in the Middle Ages, which is now considered a vestige of ancient shamanic practices in Europe.

Today we can find many currents that refer to neoshamanism with names such as Essential Shamanism, Transcultural Shamanism, or Universal Shamanism.

In his book The Way of the Shaman, Harner recounts how he himself began these practices, studying and living in close contact with tribal shamans in various parts of the world.

In Core Shamanism he condensed and reduced to the essential core (core shamanism) the methods of the different shamanic traditions, making them accessible also to Westerners.

Michael Harner discovered that the common characteristic of all shamans is the spiritual journey into reality beyond the everyday world, the journey of the soul into non-ordinary reality.

In that reality, normally invisible to us, shamans come into contact with spiritual entities that they call allies and that they meet mostly in the form of animals (Guiding Animals) and spiritual Masters (ancestors, mythological figures, sages). Allies give the shaman the power and knowledge to help and heal himself, others and the world.

Each person can make the journey into non-ordinary reality. This is Michael Harner’s second great discovery. We do not need intermediaries to harness the wisdom and healing powers of the universe. Spirituality is an innate capacity of the human being. That is why complex rituals are not necessary.”

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