Religion of the Nature: Shamanism

''Everything that exists is alive.''

Chukchi Shaman


Ever since the human being became conscious of himself, he has always been in a search to explain his existence. Believing suppressed human suffering, and adopting a purpose of existence made life's journey easier. Since the most primitive times, man has always felt the need to believe in facts and events that are higher than himself or at least explain the reason for his existence, and therefore he has developed various belief systems throughout history. It would not be wrong to say that shamanism is a belief system whose name is familiar but whose details and limits are not well known; maybe that is why it still retains its mysticism. This article invites you to a spiritual journey by addressing one of the ancient beliefs in history, Shamanism.


Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images. https://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2018/jun/29/mongolias-shamanic-rituals-in-pictures?page=with:img-17


Shamanism, which can be considered the ancestor of many ancient religions, is a set of rituals thought to have existed since the beginning of human history. Shamanism is the perception of the universe, community, and human existence as a sacred whole. At the heart of shamanism, there is the idea of unity and harmony between man and nature. Shamanism has a dual structure such as good and evil spirit, light, and dark world. It is a form of belief that communicates with the spirit of nature and expresses living in harmony with nature, therefore it is a kind of philosophy of life today. In shamanism, the main issue is not religion, shamanism is a matter of life and culture. It deals not with the existence of man, but with the existence of the soul. According to this belief system, man is only a small part of nature in which he exists, and the soul is not found only in man; it is believed that everything that exists in the world has a soul. For example, the mountain, water, stone, and earth also have souls, and all souls are sacred. Some researchers claimed that shamanism emerged as a result of a type of epilepsy. The reason for this is that shamans liken the ecstasy (trance) method used during their ceremonies to the crisis experienced by epilepsy patients. However, according to today's researchers, shamanism cannot be described as simple epilepsy. The simplest symptom and distinction of this is the shaman's ability to go into a trance at will.


In that case, who are the Shamans? It is stated in the sources that the word shaman originally means ''one who knows''. The shaman is an intermediary that builds a bridge between people and good and evil spirits. The shaman was born with special abilities and on top of that, he received training from his ancestors or other shamans. The shaman guides the spirits, recognizes them, calms down evil spirits, communicates with the living and the dead, and heals people; in short, he can act both as a human and as a god. Since shamanism saw the whole nature under the influence of good and bad spirits, they sought ways to establish a relationship with spirits to be protected against evil forces with the existence of humans.


Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images. https://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2018/jun/29/mongolias-shamanic-rituals-in-pictures?page=with:img-17


Shamans are usually chosen by the spirits or privileged in some aspects, as they are the people who can communicate with both humans and spirits and mediate between these two groups. According to ethnologists, it is possible to say that the selection of a shaman occurs in three ways:

Shamanism can first continue with blood ties. A person whose father or mother is a shaman can be a shaman by blood. Secondly, someone who does not have a shaman in their family can be chosen as a shaman by spirits. Finally, a person can choose the path of becoming a shaman and can become a shaman as a result of training and long efforts.

Of course, just getting a certain training does not make one a shaman. Shamanism is an innate and inevitable trait. It states that shamans are chosen by spirits and that the shaman's choice does not depend on personal will. This choice is sometimes made according to some symptoms defined in the person. Thus, it is believed that the person who will become a shaman shows his extraordinary powers in advance and allows the public to accept that person as a shaman. It is believed that a person who avoids being a shaman will eventually either go mad or die young, and those who quit shamanism will begin to have epilepsy as a disease. Shamans are often described as intelligent, dreamy, and poetic. During the ritual, he passes out in ecstasy and tells about interesting events and strange beings related to the sky and the underworld. After sobering up, the shaman does not remember anything.


Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images. https://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2018/jun/29/mongolias-shamanic-rituals-in-pictures?page=with:img-17


As a result, shamanism is considered one of the oldest forms of faith and religion in the world. Shamanism has been widely manifested in Central Asia and Siberia, and its influence continues today. Today, it is possible to see Neo-shamanism, the new interpretation of shamanism, independent of the local Shamanic communities, especially in Western societies. Shamanism has influenced cultures in all geographies in which it has spread, as well as influenced by them, themselves. It is therefore possible to find traces of shamanism in many religions. For a person who tries to understand the unlimited universe and limited nature in which he lives, shamanism still retains its mystical energy of the first day.






References:


  • Drury, Nevill. The Elements Of Shamanism. Element Books, 1989.

  • İzgi, Mustafa Cumhur. “Şamanizm ve Şamanlara Genel Bakış.” Lokman Hekim Journal, vol. 2, 2012. DergiPark,dergipark.org.tr/tr/download/article-file/643357.

  • Krippner, Stanley C. “Conflicting Perspectives on Shamans and Shamanism: Points and Counterpoints.” American Psychologist, vol. 57, no. 11, 2002, pp. 962–77. Crossref, doi:10.1037/0003-066x.57.11.962.

  • “Shamanism.” Wikipedia, 3 Aug. 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shamanism.

  • Yazar, Konuk. “Şamanın İzinde: Şamanizm nedir?” Gaia Dergi, 3 July 2015,gaiadergi.com/samanin-izinde-samanizm-nedir.


Author Photo

Umut Açıkgöz

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