Shamanism is a complicated topic, and the experts do not all agree on what it is exactly. The word itself, shaman, may come from the Tungu language and was brought back to the western world in the 17th century by a Dutch explorer, or it may not. Some scholars believe “shaman” is a word borrowed from the Manchu language.
One thing that academics seem to agree upon is that Shamanism predates all the modern religions, and there is clear evidence of a shamanic burial from the Upper Paleolithic Era or Late Stone Age, or between 10 and 50 thousand years ago.
But what is it?
In simple terms, a shaman is someone who (in theory) travels between the spirit world and the real world to do good or ill. The shaman’s role is typical to use his or her powers and knowledge to heal an individual’s body and mind and/or solve other problems facing the tribe and/or community.
So, then shamanism is the religion of all the people who accept and believe in their community’s shaman and shamanic powers and the belief in this other world inhabited by spirits. You could say it’s the mother of all religions.
Where are there shamans?
Everywhere. If we use this very broad definition, then shamans can be found among indigenous people on all the continents.
If we look at Shamanism from different indigenous groups from different countries, one thing that most of these shamanistic religions have in common is the use (by the Shaman) of different natural psychoactive and mind-altering substances to assist in the Shaman’s religious training, enlightenment, and effectiveness as a shaman.
Shamans from different parts of the world commonly use Ayahuasca (Peru, Brazil, Ecuador), peyote (Mexico), psilocybin (Spain, Algeria, Guatemala, Nicaragua), Amanita muscaria (Siberia), uncured tobacco (Central America and North America), cannabis (Central and South Asia), iboga (Gabon, Cameroon, Republic of Congo), morning glory (Mexico), Salvia divinorum (Mexico), Kava (Micronesia, Polynesia, Melanesia), and alcohol (too many to list).
This is just a short list of entheogens used by indigenous people for shamanistic practices. This list is included here to show you that there is nothing unusual or bizarre about using Ayahuasca for healing. Indigenous people all over the world have used entheogens for both religious and medical purposes for thousands of years.
This concludes Part 1.
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