Neoshamanism is Masturbation

by Jason Godesky

The shaman is an ambiguous figure in any tribe. He is touched by the numinous “Other.” The power to heal is also the power to kill, and the benevolent shaman is also the malevolent sorcerer. He wields a power that is frightening. In a tribal society where everyone belongs, it is the shaman’s burden to be the only one that is marginal–the only one that is shunned, alienated, and forever on the outside. The shamanic journey is very often described as a terrifying experience. The Ju/’Hoansi describe n!um as a burning liquid at the base of the spine; the trance dance allows it to boil up the spine, until it explodes out of the head. It is described as searing hot, as burning the spine; the explosion is described as immensely painful. Ayahuasca is the “Little Death,” and many experiences recounted with that particular brew are more vivid than my most terrible nightmares. This is the ordeal that the shaman undertakes for his community. Why would anyone choose such a life? They don’t; they are chosen. The shamanic sickness leaves them with a stark choice: become a shaman, or die.

How, then, do we explain this?

I share these stories to point out that it is a tricky endeavor to travel to a third world country and ask a total stranger for a spiritual experience. While many shamans undoubtedly come to their profession to help others, be aware that ayahuasca tourism is a thriving business in Peru, and that you will likely be treated as just that - a tourist.

The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge reintroduced shamanism to the West, and began the trend of “neoshamanism.” Carlos Castenada’s ethneogenic tutelage to the Yaqui sorcerer, Don Juan, provided a mythic framework for the drug culture of the 1960s. The Teachings of Don Juan became an enormous success; and Castenada became a celebrity. In the popular mind, this association has continued–the shaman has been denigrated to some kind of sacred addict. In fact, even in Castenada’s own corpus, this error is corrected–though few pursue his work all the way to the last volume, Journey to Ixtlan, where he reflects:

My insistence on holding on to my standard version of reality, rendered me almost deaf and blind to don Juan’s aims. Therefore, it was simply my lack of sensitivity which had fostered [the use of the power plants].

The role of ethnogens was relegated to its proper perspective by the work of Michael Harner, an anthropologist who sat on Castenada’s disseration committee–where he recieved a Ph.D. for Journey to Ixtlan under the title of “Sorcery: A Description of the World.”–before “going native” with the Conibo in Peru, and becoming a “white shaman.” It is with Harner’s accounts of his experiences with ayahuasca that the current trend of tourists has its roots. Harner’s The Way of the Shaman was a “how-to” guide for Westerners to achieve the shamanic state of consciousness, or SSC. With the publication of Harner’s first such guide (many more would follow), and the founding of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, “neoshamanism” began.

Daniel Noel’s The Soul of Shamanism: Western Fantasies, Imaginal Realities charts the history of neoshamanism, beginning with Mircea Eliade’s Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. He discusses how Eliade unconsciously skewed that evidence away from the infernal and towards the celestial by putting together the biases revealed in his novels. He discusses in detail how Carlos Castenada made up the whole experience with “Don Juan”, and how that was revealed. He shows conclusively that “neoshamanism” is a fabrication of Western fantasies–the work of “shamanovelists” like Mircea Eliade and Carlos Castenada, and “shamanthropologists” like Joan Halifax and Michael Harner.

Today, “neoshamans” sell their services to strangers as “alternative medicine practitioners”–for a fee. They often operate alone. Shamans heal, but they never seek payment for it. They refuse to accept any gifts if the healing is not successful. And most importantly, shamans never work with strangers–they heal the members of their community. The community is essential: without a tribe, there is no shaman.

The Foundation for Shamanic Studies sells books and seminars to help their customers become shamans themselves. Shamans learn, first and foremost, from the spirits themselves. Neoshamans learn from audio tapes paid with shipping and handling.

Shamans undertake a perilous ordeal on behalf of their communities. Neoshamans commit the most cardinal sin of shamanism: to abuse the spirit world for a spiritual joyride, or worse still–for nothing more than their personal enlightenment.

A real shaman never journeys for himself; he journeys for others. “Neoshamans” become nothing more than ecstatic tourists, and the ancient traditions of shamanism become, in their hands, nothing more than the latest spiritual fad, another bullet point in “neopaganism” or “the New Age.”

Shamanism is profound. It is the original religion; it is hard-wired into the human brain. “Neoshamanism,” though, is nothing more than spiritual masturbation–it puts on the pretense of profundity, but in the end, it is nothing but a nest of hucksters and charlatans pretending to titles they have never earned.

Native peoples are often deeply insulted by “neoshamanism,” and with good reason. Castenada couldn’t even be bothered to make sure his fictive account of “a Yaqui way of knowledge” mesh with Yaqui beliefs. Neoshamans strike native peoples as hucksters, charlatans and frauds who, having stolen all their material possessions, are now set to rob their culture, as well. Neoshamans desecrate the last thing they have left–their beliefs.

We, trapped inside civilization, have lost something vital. The shamanic sickness strikes as many of us as it ever has; only its cure is gone from us. The specific traditions of specific cultures are specifically adapted to their situations. We have no right to simply steal them. But we can learn from them.

First, we must build our communities. Without a tribe, there can be no shaman. Once there is a tribe, the shaman’s quest can begin.

Michael Harner was on the right track with his idea of “core shamanism,” though. We cannot simply steal from other cultures, but we can learn from them. A study of all of them and what they all share in common can create a base for us to work from. That base should prove sufficient for Second Shaman to learn the rest–from the spirits themselves.

There was probably only one First Shaman; but each of our tribes will have their own Second Shaman. It will be that individual in each tribe who works from a solid anthropological base, and from that foundation, reaches out into the realm of the spirit to help his community form their own, unique tradition.

In revealing the fictive, often deceptive origins of “neoshamanism,” Noel’s Soul of Shamanism is not being entirely negative. In these fictions, “shamanovelists” and “shamanthropologists” are engaging in the same kind of “imaginal realities” as shamans themselves. The important element is to be conscious of that. As he explained in an interview.

Neoshamanism is built on a cross-cultural fantasy that we can borrow eclectically and then homogenize the borrowings into an option Westerners can practice safely, quickly, and simply. Of course, the kind of neoshamanism I want to see develop is one that is less acquisitive toward “alien” cultures and more focused on possible Western resources, drawn on deliberately from an imaginal perspective growing out of Jung’s Western psychology.

We cannot simply take what we want from various cultures, trying to pick and choose the elements we prefer as at some kind of buffet. The intersection of those beliefs, though, echoes back to a common heritage of all mankind–a heritage we lost, and must desperately regain. We need to lay down the academic foundations, but it must be an honest academic foundation–something that assiduously avoids the exaggerations and deceptions of “shamanovelists” and “shamanthropologists.”

Once that base is established, our own shamans can begin the great, ongoing work that awaits them: that of learning the rest from the spirits themselves, and learning how the visions of each tribe and each individual can coexist absolutely within their imaginal realities.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] The history of neoshamanism is bound up with the history of psychedelic drugs in the 1960s. Carlos Castenada’s hoax was accepted uncritically because it provided something that people were looking for: a mythic framework for tripping, a worldview that gave their experience a context and meaning. Government propaganda against psychotropic drugs was countered by raising the point of shamanic use of those same drugs. Unfortunately, the myths of “progress” and “the Enlightenment” combined those ideas seamlessly. Yes, shamans used psychotropic drugs; that underscores the uselessness of religion, and the basic foundation of religious expression in delusion. Shamans became denigrated as some kind of sacred addict. […]

    Pingback by Sacred Addicts » The Anthropik Network — 18 October 2005 @ 5:59 PM

  2. […] There is a certain group of characters often encountered in shamanic trances—and these are universally encountered, from traditional shamans in South America to Western New Age wannabes—that, though they have many names, are usually called something along the lines of the Lords of the Outer Darkness. They come from outer space (or something similar) and are described as cold, reptillian, gray, slug-like, snake-like, alien, and evil. They tell shamanic journeyers that they created all life in the universe, and should therefore be worshipped. But shamans will tell you that they are lying. Michael Harner described his experience in Way of the Shaman. I went to his [the shaman’s] hut, taking my notebook with me, and described my visions to him segment by segment. At first I told him only the highlights; thus, when I came to the dragon-like creatures, I skipped their arrival from space and only said, “There were these giant black animals, something like great bats, longer than the length of this house, who said they were the true masters of the world.” There is no word for dragon in Conibo, so “giant bat” was the closest I could come to describe what I had seen. […]

    Pingback by Of Animism and Animorphs (The Anthropik Network) — 13 September 2006 @ 5:01 PM


Comments

  1. Two great, relevant pieces from Tim Boucher: “The Shamanic Sickness,” and “How to Spot a Fake Shaman.”

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 17 October 2005 @ 8:51 PM

  2. Tony Z. will not be pleased

    Comment by Nutzzack — 18 October 2005 @ 10:13 AM

  3. I’ve masturbated for decades - and I’m not even neoshamanistic.

    Comment by JCamasto — 18 October 2005 @ 12:01 PM

  4. As I told a friend of mine last night who’d read this–all neoshamanism is masturbation, but not all masturbation is neoshamanism.

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 18 October 2005 @ 12:05 PM

  5. TonyZ is most definetely not displeased.

    I am pretty annoyed with a lot of the Casteneda-types, although the neoshamanism that is real threat to the credibility of the ability of humans showing other humsn the doors to perception are the Northern Native American types that really misuse, misappropriate, and string together a falsely coherent message.

    Oh and they charge, too.

    Personally, myself, as someone who is heavily involved in the Amanita Culture, I actually consider my use of the word shaman a direct derivitive of the word in it’s actual sense.

    If i say let’s have a shaminic ritual, you better believe you’ll be drinking your our urine…

    just like many of the other rituals I have partaken in. they keep their cultural and spiritual meanings intact so that the original spirit of the ritual is not lost, the history isn’t trampled on, and our human brother/elders are not forgotten.

    Love,
    TonyZ

    Comment by Tonyz — 19 October 2005 @ 11:52 PM

  6. i agree, neo-shamanism is nothing more than new age dogma. i’ve been to authentic shamans who gave me experiences. although i did not seek them out with the intention of getting an experience, so i could later talk about with friends, or brag as some people do. these experiences helped me at a certain level. shamanism is a wonderful tool for a certain level of existence. it was a wonderful oral tradition, past down over the ages. the art was spoken in stories mostly, so true wisdom could be understood by the masses. unfortunately, the essence of the art was lost and the story teller began to believe the story and forget the origin and meaning of the story. eventually the story was altered again and again by those who tried to understand the meaning, but could not. one by one, they intentionally changed the story to fit with what made sense to them at the time. wars, conquest and obliteration of culture left a lot of this wonderful oral history to the ramparts of time. unfortunately this lost knowledge cannot be found through collaboration. there is hope however. it’s just not in the place where you have been looking. when you stop looking, you will find it. when no path will lead you, when no structure can contain you, when no belief system will appease your questioning mind, when you’ve given up on spiritual teachers and deities, you can begin Life for the first time.

    Comment by 42 — 23 October 2005 @ 10:08 PM

  7. I’m going to put my dick on the line here and probably get it smacked. :(

    I’m second shaman for my little group out here and it’s a hell of a frightening thing to be. And exhilirating. Did I mention frightening?

    It’s frightening because there are no solid tools to deal with shamanism in my culture, because I’m still caught in a civilization which -really- pisses off the forces around me, and because, in the end, it’s only the spirits themselves which assure me of the position I’m in.

    Crap. I hate stating this stuff on-line because it will always come out strange.

    Listen, to whoever going to try at being second shaman for your tribe (or whatever other tribe is reading this), one of the key things for us to study is how the tribal practices changed when people came here, to the Americas.

    At the time, they were entering a new land - I hesitate to use the word ‘hostile (too loaded a word) but perhaps relatively unfriendly would be good term to use on an alpha predator invading a new biome.

    We need to see what they did to make that transition from their home environments to here. That will aid in the transition from our civilization to what’s next.

    Enough ranting for the moment. I do have to say one thing… when you do become this thing, someone who talks and listens to the world, the feeling are amazing. Everything is so beautifully, magnificently alive…

    Comment by Bill Maxwell — 24 October 2005 @ 3:20 AM

  8. It’s funny. I chose to put the preceding article under neo-shamanism. As it is, it’s a great invite to try and file me under that heading as well. “The Great White Wanna-be”

    So, a quick poke at neo-shamans. I ran into this woman as a festival out in SoCal. She claims to be a “Shamanic Practioner” (has a book -and- a course) thanks to her ‘deep Cherokee heritage’ and her ‘intimate’ connection to the Earth.

    I have rarely seen people so thoroughly slaughter their beliefs so grandly. From drawing cards out of the “Animal Totems” deck to giving the instructions in meditation to “find your animal guides in the underworld, where all animals are”, she was a true piece of work.

    I have Choctaw blood in me. Do I practice their religion? Um… no! I’m not of their tribe!

    I’ve got Celtic blood in me. Hey! Maybe I should be a druid! Hm. Nope. Not a lot of practicing druids in my past.

    I study the ways of the local people (Tongva, Tataviam, Chumash) to understand what forces they ran into when they came to this place. However, I don’t simply adopt and practice their beliefs. To do so, -especially- without permission from the tribe, would be disrespectful.

    So, I simply follow the spirits and learn from elder brother and hope for the best.

    Comment by Bill Maxwell — 24 October 2005 @ 3:28 AM

  9. Crap. I hate stating this stuff on-line because it will always come out strange.

    Tell me about it. I’ve noticed that those of us genuinely in this boat (;-) yes, I said it) tend not to discuss these things publicly very easily. As it should be, I think. It’s a matter between us and our tribes, not for the intarwebs to know and judge.

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 24 October 2005 @ 10:09 AM

  10. Case in point.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, my head is about to explode….

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 24 October 2005 @ 12:34 PM

  11. re: corporate shaman

    Dear gods… I think my teeth rattled at that one.

    One note of amusement though. Anyone who claims animals are always “compassionate and healing guides” has never watched a cat ‘play’ with a rat.

    I just love the idea of a ‘corporate shaman’ suddenly possessed by an insect spirit and looking for a bite to eat. (sorry… read too many horror novels recently)

    Comment by Bill Maxwell — 24 October 2005 @ 12:43 PM

  12. “All rights reserved” but available for the right price…

    Comment by JCamasto — 24 October 2005 @ 1:00 PM

  13. I think I’m going to be sick….

    Comment by Benjamin Shender — 24 October 2005 @ 2:34 PM

  14. Just because someone is from a third world country, and lives in a grass hut doesn’t make them the only ones who have a right to explore spirituality with ethnogens. Considering that most of these people have IQ’s barely higher than a monkey’s, I’d think that folks from more advanced civilizations would have a better chance at understanding what is experienced.

    Comment by I don't need no stinking shaman — 17 November 2005 @ 2:32 PM

  15. 1.) IQ is the same across the world, in every population. Claims have been made otherwise, but only by idiots, and never with any evidence. There is, on the other hand, a great deal of evidence that IQ’s are the same across every population.

    2.) Has nothing to do with “living in a grass hut.” It has to do with the motivation. Shamanic ecstasy should always be undertaken for others–not simply as a spiritual pasttime, a psychedelic joy ride, a way to “party,” or simply for you own spiritual enlightenment.

    3.) “Folks from advanced civlizations” live in ways utterly maladapted to human nature. While they have IQ’s no less than anywhere else, their experiences are generally so cripplingly myopic (a product of specializaton), to say nothing of personally traumatic, that their spiritual experiences are usually “dark nights of the soul,” where they stop hiding from the horrible trauma they’ve endured, simply from spending their entire lives utterly disconnected from the most basic emotional and psychological needs of human existence. Profound, yes, but also deeply disturbing. This is why so much of our spirituality suffers on sin, suffering, sacrifice and the need for redemption. This limits their experience, spiritually, in a significant manner. I would say they are far less likely to understand what is experienced, because their experience is so limitied, and so monopolized by suffering.

    4.) Your tone is disgustingly racist. I almost deleted it, but kept it only because, beneath your supremacist rhetoric, you raise a valid point, that shamanic experience is not exclusive to primitive societies. Of course, neither did I ever say it was. That said, your implied categorizations based on “race” are utterly fallacious, since “race” does not exist. A “race” is a subspecies, and subspecies breed true. If we had “races,” then the child of a white and a black would be either white or black; the one thing it would never be is a mixture of both parents’ traits. Which is precisely what we see in all cases, isn’t it? Nor do they even exist as useful–or even valid–statistical groups, because there’s greater variety within the groups than between them. So your implied divisions of humanity based on “race” could not possibly have less grounding in fact. Their basis is solely in nationalistic mythology and propaganda.

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 17 November 2005 @ 2:49 PM

  16. All men are not created equal. I can see proof of this looking no further than next door, as my neighbor spends most of his days in a drunken stupor beating his girlfriend. When I speak to him he understands hardly anything I talk about.

    What have these primitive cultures done to better the world? All they have done is merely survived without evolving. I understand in may ways how messed up modern society is, and my earliest of shamanic type experiences were indeed “dark nights of the soul”. But, if I’m having a heart attack I would feel much safer in a hospital than having a person who has no idea what’s really going on holding a bunch of burning weeds over me and chanting.

    Please excuse me if I sound racist that’s not my intention. “The shamanic experience is not exclusive to primitive societies” was my only point, if I were better at communicating that’s how I would have put it. I don’t consider myself part of any race and will help anyone I can.

    I take the use of these substances very seriously and get pissed off when I see them in the hands of thrill seekers. But, using them for my own enlightenment is my only choice. The most any shaman can do for me is point me in the direction where they are growing. Just as he had no choice in being a shaman, I too have no choice in having an unquentable thirst for understanding the nature of our existance.

    Comment by I don't need no stinking shaman — 17 November 2005 @ 4:54 PM

  17. No, all men are not created equal. That would have been a very stupid statement for me to make, had I made it. Good thing I didn’t. What I said was that IQ is evenly distributed. Every group has idiots and geniuses; no culture can claim a monopoly on either one. Average IQ in every population is roughly the same.

    What have these primitive cultures done to better the world? Who says the world needs “bettering”? They, like me, tend to see the world as a pretty good place. What kind of hubris does it take to posit oneself as some kind of god whose place it is to remake creation in our own image? Our civilization has not made the world a better place–it took a near paradisal, primitive state of existence and turned it into endless war and strife. It introduced disease and want into a world where such things were virtually unknown. It gave us genocides and suicides and all manner of psychoses never before known. It’s kicked off the single worst mass extinction in the planet’s history.

    The ways in which primitive societies have “made the world a better place” are the same ways we have. Art like the cave paintings of Lasceux, using depth and three dimensions in brilliant ways that make the European masters look like scrawling infants. The Pygmies sang songs for millennia with the kind of polytonal complexity that our “advanced civilizaton” took seven thousand years to match. In the Mesolithic, they were successfully performing brain surgery.

    But, if I’m having a heart attack I would feel much safer in a hospital than having a person who has no idea what’s really going on holding a bunch of burning weeds over me and chanting.

    I would rather have someone who knows how to help me–regardless of what he understands about my condition. For that, shamans do as well as our doctors.

    I suspect that on one level, biomedicine is entirely correct. I suspect on another level, shamanism is. Consider psychology. Drugs or therapy will both cure you equally well. Why? Because the problem cuts across several levels of existence, and thus, can be addressed at any of those levels.

    As westerners, we think our ethnomedical practitoners know what’s really going on and everyone else is just spouting superstition. They think the same thing as us. Who’s right? Does it matter, so long as the patient makes it through? And when it comes to efficacy, doctors and shamans are neck-and-neck.

    I take the use of these substances very seriously and get pissed off when I see them in the hands of thrill seekers. But, using them for my own enlightenment is my only choice. The most any shaman can do for me is point me in the direction where they are growing. Just as he had no choice in being a shaman, I too have no choice in having an unquentable thirst for understanding the nature of our existance.

    Then you’re not doing it for anything more than your personal edification. That makes it pointless masturbaton. Without a community, it’s just selfish navel-gazing. Without a point or purpose, don’t be too surprised if it’s all just meaningless, self-obsessed delusion.

    At least you make no claim to shamanism, though. It’s the addicts with delusions of grandeur that really get me going. You’re just in it for your own selfish reasons, but at least you’re honest about it.

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 17 November 2005 @ 5:11 PM

  18. I wonder how one would construct an IQ test which eliminates civilization bias.
    As far as I know, all IQ tests have an inbuilt civilization bias, which will guarantee a lower IQ for uncivilized people taking it.
    If human races have no meaning, and you know it, maybe you should reconsider using the word racist.
    I know, that it is very conveniently describing xenophobia and tribal superiority writ large, and everybody understands you when you say it, but its unfortunate ethymology keeps propagating the concept of human races as real things even though you know they are not.

    Comment by _Gi — 18 November 2005 @ 3:24 PM

  19. True enough.

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 18 November 2005 @ 5:32 PM

  20. Is Tamarack Song a neo shamanic masturbator?

    http://astheteachingdrumturns.blogspot.com

    Anyone got experience with him here?

    Comment by gunnix — 30 January 2006 @ 10:04 AM

  21. Never met him, but the answer to that question is the inverse of the question, “Does he have a tribe?” If he’s doing it for his tribe, no. If he’s doing it for his own aggrandizement and wealth, without the context of a community, then yes.

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 30 January 2006 @ 10:10 AM

  22. That is really weird. I am on his email list. Why would anyone have a blog devoted to making fun of a wilderness survival school. Weird.

    Comment by planetwarming — 30 January 2006 @ 12:57 PM

  23. Yes, Tamarack Song is a “Twinkie” - the word American Indians at New Age Frauds and Plastic Shamans have coined to describe white people whose spirituality is the junk-food equivalent of a Twinkie.

    I am one of a team who runs the blog “As The Teaching Drum Turns” set up to expose this fraud for engaging in theft of Native American spiritual practices.

    Please check out our site when you have the time.

    Comment by Dragonessa — 30 January 2006 @ 2:36 PM

  24. Excellent and highly-recommended guidelines from NAFPS on how to spot a New Age fraud who steals aspects of Native spiritual practices for her/his own gain:

    http://users.pandora.be/gohiyuhi/nafps/

    Planet Warming, if this is the first you have heard of our blog outing Tamarack Song as a fraud, it is because Tamarack banned all of us from the list you are on.

    Just like a cult leader to do such a thing don’t cha think?

    Comment by Dragonessa — 30 January 2006 @ 2:46 PM

  25. I’ve long had misgivings about Tamarack, but they’ve never been the equal to my concerns over cries of “cultural appropriation.” Take, for example, this one, from your link:

    Native traditionalists believe the ONLY acceptable way to transmit traditional teachings is orally and face-to-face. Any allegedly traditional teachings in books or on websites are NOT authentic.

    Granted, but I’ve heard similar complaints about the Qu’ran in translation. I can listen to a traditional teacher tell me something, and then write it down. It’s called ethnography, and granted it’s no substitute for the real thing, but since we’re pasty white people cut off from our own traditions by a few thousand years of civilization, that’s as close as we’re ever likely to get–pasting together the common elements from many different ethnographic accounts and trying to figure out our own way. I’m not Cherokee, or Hopi, or Ojibway. I can’t just do what they’re doing. The way of my people was killed off so long ago we have no name for it. I can only ever rediscover a fraction of that, and my best way of doing that is by learning from ethnographical accounts, and filling in the gaps with my own journeys.

    Overall, there are plenty of New Age hucksters out there,and I can understand everything that goes into the cries of “cultural appropriation,” but there’s a world of difference between a phoney “shaman” and someone in our generation, cut-off from our best hope for survival, forced down the same road as First Shaman, to rediscover all of it for the first time. All too often, we get lumped in the same category. I’m not pretending this is authentically this tribe or that; I’m trying to discover the tradition of my own tribe, something that’s been lost for thousands of years. My best hints for that are to look around at those traditions that have survived.

    I don’t know what to think about Tamarack Song, but I know that all too often, “cultural appropriation” has been invoked to try to keep me and others like me from ever finding our own tradition. Shamanism is the common birthright of all mankind, and no “race” can claim a monopoly over it.

    Planet Warming, if this is the first you have heard of our blog outing Tamarack Song as a fraud, it is because Tamarack banned all of us from the list you are on.

    Just like a cult leader to do such a thing don’t cha think?

    Not if you were trolling his message lists. Then it sounds more like a good moderator. But I wan’t there, so I can’t really say–it’s just your protest rings like a grade schooler complaining that the teacher doesn’t like him. Maybe that’s so, but that’s not nearly as common as the excuse is invoked.

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 30 January 2006 @ 3:06 PM

  26. The first line of defense of Twinkie entitlement is “this heritage is all our heritage.”

    No you were not there, but you can join the list and review the entire episode for yourself.

    Neither can you have possibly grasped the nature of the protest in one quick review of the Drum blog or the NAFPS forum. Spend a few days at the least. Get yourself educated on the issues and then come back with a better critique of the “protest”.

    Otherwise, you just look like another intellectually lazy Twink who wants it quick.

    We pasty whites are not cut off from our traditions by thousands of years. At best most euro-immigrants are cut off by a few hundred and many of these traditions are in the process of being recovered. However, it is a long and arduous process. Most Twinks want it quick and wuss out of the complexity of the process by calling their heritage “too corrupted” by agriculture or some bullshit like that.

    In any event, it is not American Indians’ problem to solve our dilemma of deculturation. They are busy defending their own cultures from white male entitlement. And believe us, they know the difference between whites with their hands stuck out for a gimme-gimme and those who are genuinely concerned with standing in alliance with them to stop Twink appropriation.

    Comment by Dragonessa — 30 January 2006 @ 4:40 PM

  27. The first line of defense of Twinkie entitlement is “this heritage is all our heritage.”

    I don’t really care if you consider me a “Twinkie” or not. I’m much more concerned with developing a sustainable vision and way of life for my tribe. I don’t think Native Americans can realistically claim ownership of a cultural trend that’s carved in cave walls in Europe, practiced by !Kung in the Kalahari, Bushmen in the Austrlian Outback, and tribes in Siberia. My ancestors practiced some kind of shamanism once upon a time, too, it’s just been far too long for any of us to remember what that was.

    Neither can you have possibly grasped the nature of the protest in one quick review of the Drum blog or the NAFPS forum. Spend a few days at the least. Get yourself educated on the issues and then come back with a better critique of the “protest”.

    I have a degree in anthropology. I’ve been reading about these issues for years. You didn’t introduce me to NAFPS–I first found it, literally, years ago. This is not the first I’ve dealt with the problem of cultural appropriation.

    However, it is a long and arduous process. Most Twinks want it quick and wuss out of the complexity of the process by calling their heritage “too corrupted” by agriculture or some bullshit like that.

    Druids are just another farmers’ religion. To find the last time there was a “white” shaman in a real tribe was over 10,000 years ago–right before the Indo-Europeans killed them. All we have are archaeological sites and cave paintings to go by. David Lewis-Williams’ Mind in the Cave illustrates how we need to compare notes with the !Kung and the Shoshoni just to understand what the paintings were for, much less what they meant to their painters.

    I agree, it’s a long and arduous process, and I’m not looking for, or expecting, any kind of shortcut. But if I’m not allowed to “compare notes,” so to speak, with those few shamans we haven’t killed off, then it’s no longer “long and arduous”–it’s simply impossible.

    Going around pretending you’re Ojibwe isn’t acceptable … but I don’t see anything wrong with learning Ojibwe traditions, and !Kung traditons, and Australian Aborigine traditions, in trying to find the commonalities, and piece together a minimalist “core” to start our own traditions with.

    In any event, it is not American Indians’ problem to solve our dilemma of deculturation.

    Didn’t say it was, and never expected them to do so. I’m doing this for my own tribe, and I don’t expect anyone but my own tribe to help me. I’ll ask them what they do, as clues to see what piece of the puzzle each of them might hold, but if they want to withhold that, that’s their decision. In the end, we’re the ones who have to put the puzzle together. Even after all the genocide and slaughter, there’s still a culture there. Our genocide and slaughter happened long, long ago, and nothing has survived. What do we have left? We have to puzzle out where we’re going to start, and begin something wholly new.

    But if I learn how to dance n/om from the San, and I use it to heal a sick member of my tribe, what damage have I done to the n/om? Or should I simply let my tribe suffer, because otherwise I would be a “Twinkie”?

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 30 January 2006 @ 5:06 PM

  28. From NAFPS on “Shame-On ism” - which you may have seen years ago, but you have not learned a thing.

    Your tribe? Oh, Twink I’m really laughing now. And no, my euro-immigrant ancestors traditions have not disappeared. But thanks for trying to kill it off and make yourself the oh-so-all-knowing expert. I will consult my own heritage, thank you very much, not some white anthro who wants his own bloody “tribe”. Sounds like another Twink cult to me. You and Tamarack would get along just fine.

    From NAFPS:

    “Shamanism” as a term used by anthropologists means any tribal or earth-based religion, or any that are not part of the world’s “major” religions. But shamanism as used by the New Age is a troubling mix of marketing angles, cultural biases, and outright fraud. That’s why anyone calling himself a “shaman” is commonly referred to as a Shame-on by American Indians.

    The modern movement of would-be “shamans” got their start in 1980 when Michael Harner published The Way of a Shaman. Harner was seeking to avoid many of the pitfalls the New Age movement had fallen into such as exploitative leaders, unclear and unrealistic goals, incoherent, contradictory, or nonsensical beliefs that were widely mocked by most of the public, blatant abuse and exploitation of tribal peoples and beliefs, and a complete lack of credibility with either academia or the public. In all of these goals, Harner and the rest of the “shamanism” movement have utterly failed. Many of the most disreputable New Age leaders such as Lynn Andrews and Ed McGaa sensed the marketing potential and simply adopted the “shaman” pose. Harner’s methods were little different from the New Age in his assumptions that one could easily learn methods that take decades to master among tribal traditionalists in a short time. Even his “advanced” seminars only last three days and he is clearly engaged in a highly profitable enterprise as much as an attempt to form a new spirituality, exactly the same as the New Age.

    Harner and the other would-be “shamans” also make the same mistakes of the New Age in trying to homogenize tribal traditions worldwide and deny their diversity and important differences by lumping several thousand belief systems together. Harner pretends one can master elements that are supposedly common or universal (”core” shamanism in his lingo) to all. The supposed commonalities of “shamanism” are largely superficial or even self-delusion. For example, many would-be “shamans” falsely claim the sweat lodges used by some American Indian groups are allegedly a “core universal shamanic” practice. They allege the Romans and Celts also used sweat lodges. In fact, both those groups used saunas with no spiritual aim or practice involved. Not even all American Indian groups use the sweat lodge.

    Finally, Harner and the rest of the would-be “shamans” are no different in exploiting both tribal peoples and western seekers of spiritual truths. To the former, shame-ons deceptively misrepresent their traditional beliefs and try to subjugate native community-oriented beliefs to western egoistic individual needs. The latter group, shame-on leaders use for cash, to boost their own egos, and in some cases sex. Anyone seeking to understand the beliefs of tribal peoples would be far better off reading the writings of respected native authors such as Vine Deloria, Jr. and Wilma Mankiller rather than opportunists.

    For Further Reading

    Oyate: Books to Avoid

    Cubbins, Elaine: Native Web Site Evaluation

    Smith, Andy: Readings on Cultural Respect

    Lisa Aldred: Plastic Shamans and Astroturf Sun Dances: New Age Commercialization of Native American Spirituality

    Comment by dragonessa — 30 January 2006 @ 5:31 PM

  29. Your tribe? Oh, Twink I’m really laughing now.

    Yes, the Tribe of Anthropik. Originally picked up in the Quinnian sense, but more recently moved towards more of a primitivist group.

    And no, my euro-immigrant ancestors traditions have not disappeared.

    There are traditions, sure. They’re the traditions of murdering, civilized psychopaths, but traditions, nonetheless.

    That’s not something I want to perpetuate. We used to be as harmless as a lion or a wolf or a shark, but then we picked up those traditions, and went around the world killing everything that stood in our way. And now, our society is imploding for it. Those who remain true to those traditions will die with it. Those who find other traditions to live by will survive.

    So, there’s the challenge before us: to create a community, a set of traditions, a tribe. That’s what the Tribe of Anthropik is trying to do. An important part of that is being honest with ourselves about where we come from, but more important than that is being willing to do it at all, and not being suckered into some warped kind of cultural monopoly based on some myth of “race.”

    “Shamanism” as a term used by anthropologists means any tribal or earth-based religion, or any that are not part of the world’s “major” religions.

    That’s the one I’m referring to. It’s a useful category, much like “Big Man,” not because it’s the term used by all cultures in all languages, but because it describes a wide-spread cultural phenomenon.

    You’ll note that the article you’re commenting on has a long, detailed history of Neoshamanism, including a much more accurate treatment of Castenada, Harner and Eliade than you’ve provided.

    Usually, those decrying “cultural appropriation” are shrill fools conned into an idea of “race” and some bizarre concept that sharing ideas somehow diminishes them. Your reactions have certainly done nothing to shake this trend in my mind. But I have read one good book on the subject, but I notice it is lacking in your list. I’ve read all of your books, though none of them impressed me much, but I would recommend you read Daniel Noel’s he Soul of Shamanism: Western Fantasies, Imaginal Realities. Noel summed up my attitude in the passage I quoted in the original article:

    Neoshamanism is built on a cross-cultural fantasy that we can borrow eclectically and then homogenize the borrowings into an option Westerners can practice safely, quickly, and simply. Of course, the kind of neoshamanism I want to see develop is one that is less acquisitive toward “alien” cultures and more focused on possible Western resources, drawn on deliberately from an imaginal perspective growing out of Jung’s Western psychology.

    I have no problem learning from others, and I’m still not clear what the objection is. So long as we’re honest with ourselves about where we stand, I fail to see the problem, or how the Ojibwe are diminished if I study their culture and learn what they believe–even if I use that knowledge to help my own tribe–so long as I do not represent myself as one of them.

    Knowledge is not diminished by the sharing; it is only in sharing that knowledge has any value at all.

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 30 January 2006 @ 5:49 PM

  30. Did I miss something? I was under the impression that “Twinkie” was a derogatory term for Asians who were “yellow on the outside, white on the inside.” Kind of in the same vein as banana or Oreo or coconut or apple. I suppose it would be more accurate to call neoshamans apples, but they’re not actual Indians, so they’re not even red on the outside. Hmmm… What’s a food that’s white all the way through? Maybe vanilla ice cream? And then a neoshaman could be, like, vanilla ice cream with raspberry syrup on top?

    Damn, I’m hungry.

    Comment by Giulianna Lamanna — 30 January 2006 @ 6:00 PM

  31. Nice to see my question turned up these replies.
    I do get your point Dragonessa. It seems indeed wrong to teach the native american lifeway if you don’t have the approval of the very native americans you try to immitate.

    But suppose if the teacher just doesn’t call it “the native american lifeway” then it’s fine for you?

    After all there can’t be much wrong with immitating these lifestyles or taking out the the parts you like to put them in your own life. I don’t believe in these so called races and cultures which are staticly defined and it would be impossible to mix them… That’s just the same point nazis make. Or extreme fundamentalists. (I’m not accusing you of this!)

    Learning to live in balance with nature can be difficult if you don’t have any examples to go by. Native indians are one of those examples.

    Also I want to make clear that I always see it when someone does neglect the obvious massacre of the native americans and I try to make others aware of that as well (at the right time ofcourse).

    I did ask Teaching Drum why there were no native americans teaching there, and how there relations were with them. The answer was they had good relations with some and bad relations with others. And that Tamarack Song had learned the native lifeway from native americans. But that I should ask the natives themselves to get a good answer.

    To me it seems right that people can become “native americans” by living with them and learning their ways. Just as I think foreigners can become Belgian (whatever that means! -In the end we’re all just people) without a problem. What do you think of that?

    PS: the NAFPS website is on a belgian server. Are you belgian?

    Comment by gunnix — 30 January 2006 @ 7:07 PM

  32. Dragonessa, I was on that list when you were.

    People repeatedly attempted to engage you in conversation about your feelings on genocide and cultural appropriation, but all we received back were lengthy diatribes full of self-righteous judgment. You were banned from the list not because you wished to speak of your feelings on the subjects of genocide and cultural appropriation, but because you could not engage in conversation without being respectful and understanding of where other people were coming from. I personally felt abused by your posts, and that is something that does not occur very often. You will recall the email I sent out in response to the group, I’m sure, since I think it was one of the only replies that you made an attempt to sound respectful in responding to.

    I have read your blog, or attempted to — I am not one to censor anyone, and the sheer amount of passion you had in what you were saying made me think that you might actually have something constructive to say in a different environment. However, the first post was an incredibly lengthy rant about Tamarack Song, where there were very few salient points I could discern from all the vitriol. You claimed that you did not have a vendetta against Tamarack Song, however the evidence points clearly in the opposite direction.

    If you are here to further your crusade against cultural appropriation, rather than engage in compassionate dialogue, you are wasting your time. I too would like to explore these issues of genocide and cultural appropriation — in fact just the other day I got angry when I felt like my attempt to explore these issues was undermined (read this comment and the next few after it) — but if you are not capable of expressing yourself without resorting to personal attacs and abuse then I do not wish to explore these issues with you. For example, calling Jason a Twinkie and laughing at him is not my idea of respectful dialogue.

    Now, if you have something to say that is not laden with contempt and self-righteous judgment, I would be more than glad to hear it.

    - Devin

    Comment by Devin — 30 January 2006 @ 7:46 PM

  33. Anthro-Twinkie:

    You claim to be an anthropologist. Can I find your work in the INDEX of CITATIONS? How many peer-reviewed journals have you appeared in?

    Naturally, you want to eliminate the concept of race so you don’t have to look at your white male privilege and how it is predicated on the oppression of people of color. No races, no racism. Bloody hands washed clean. You try to set yourself up as a victim of genocide to hide your own complicity in it. Wah, wah, wah my ancestors were victims, too. Sniffle, sniffle, pout. Oh my god, a BLOG is your tribe? Gee dude, that’s like sad.

    Devin: Tamarack told you not to have anything further to do with anyone associated with the anti-Drum blog. You had your chance to debate already and bailed. You wussed big time. You could not take being called-out on your white male privilege, so don’t pretend like you are ready for another round. You are way too-thinned skin for the debate and sat silent while Tamarack banned counter-voices from his little online cult. You are just too lazy to do the reading necessary to engage in thoughtful debate. You always take the whiney out, “You called me a name - wah, wah, wah - pout - so now I am not going to engage with you. You are a lying sack a crap Devin.

    The shoe fits. You got something else to say to me? Go say it on the anti-Drum blog.

    Anthro-Twinkie, if you really are academically trained, then dude, you know you gotta cite your sources for your assertions.

    You know so much about primitivism, then let’s see if you can answer the one question no primitivist I know has ever been able to answer: WHY 10,000 years ago in the Tigris-Euphrates River Valley did agriculture begin? Huh?

    Comment by Dragonessa — 30 January 2006 @ 9:15 PM

  34. You claim to be an anthropologist. Can I find your work in the INDEX of CITATIONS? How many peer-reviewed journals have you appeared in?

    No, my claim was:

    I have a degree in anthropology.

    Not that I make a living with it. I wish I could, but the market isn’t exactly great these days. But I did graduate from the University of Pittsburgh in 2003 with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Anthropology, cum laude. Straight A’s in the anthro courses, but some of those comp. sci. classes were killer, hence no magna like my brother.

    As such, I haven’t submitted any of my articles for peer review. Nonetheless, my Thirty Theses (which I’m now turning into a book) has made its rounds, including as a citation in Dr. Bednarz’s “Public health in a post-petroleum world,” presented at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association.

    I’m somewhat taken aback at your ability to combine an utter ignorance of my well-publicized activites on the one hand, and your quickness to condemn me on the other. One would expect a reasonable person to occasionally commit one or the other, but both together seems a particularly potent combination. For instance, you threw in this little snark:

    Oh my god, a BLOG is your tribe? Gee dude, that’s like sad.

    Suggesting that you never even took the time to read our “about” page before passing judgment on us, where we clearly differentiate between the blog (something that is created by our tribe), and the tribe itself (which is a close-knit group here in Pittsburgh, where we’re working to free ourselves of our dependence on civilization, for all the reasons detailed in the Thirty Theses, linked above, which you apparently also did not read). To confuse the Tribe of Anthropik with this blog is the same as for me to conclude that you are, in fact, a small corner of Blogger.com. You are not your writings; neither are we.

    You’re not your fucking khakis.

    Now, your statements on race are especially disappointing, particularly in light of the fact that I provided a link for you to read up on what science has to say about race. There is greater diversity within races than between them; statistically, they are nonsensical categorizations. Biologically, a “race” is a sub-species. Races breed true, like the yellow-rumped warbler. Individuals of two races can still breed, but their children will either possess all the traits of the first race or the second. The one thing they will never do is mix traits from the two. Yet, in humans, that is all we ever see. We have clines, and we have geographical correlations, but the last time that there were races of Homo sapiens was 40,000 years ago–and then, only if you accept the categorization of Homo sapiens neanderthalensis (I don’t–they were an obviously superior species in many ways, but the morphological evidence–to say nothing of the DNA evidence–suggests that interbreeding was probably impossible).

    I never said a word about racism, though. Racism exists, because people still believe that “race” exists as anything other than a construction in their own head. Race exists only as a social construct, and that only because we believe that it exists. It has utterly no biological basis. The cure for racism is to repeat this evidence, over and over again, at every opportunity, until everyone understands that we are not dealing with anything related in any way to biology.

    My ancestors did terrible, terrible things. And the whims of history have given me great advantages because of those crimes. They are unforgiveable. They are also already done. The world as it is now is all I have to live by. I don’t see why I should live my life in guilt, or apologize to you or anyone else for crimes I had no part in and no opportunity to oppose. In my own life (as if any other life mattered in a fair judgement of me), I have campaigned against drilling in ANWR, and for the environmental concerns that are pushing the Inuit into the ocean. I contribute annually to Cultural Survival, as much as I can afford.

    And my all-consuming goal at the moment is to separate myself from our current civilization, so that I will no longer be party to its crimes.

    I am not a native to this place I live. Europeans are not native to any place–not even Europe. To be native to a place, if it means anything, must mean to be a part of that place, to be part of its ecology. Otherwise, what makes the Europeans so special? Only that they invaded most recently? Didn’t the Clovis do the same, only 10,000 years before? If we are to survive, we must become native–we must learn to stop being invaders, and instead become part of the ecologies we inhabit. Native Americans are my template for how that can be done: they, too, came here as invaders, and they, too, became native.

    We don’t have much time. We must become native now. That doesn’t mean dressing up and pretending you’re an Indian. You’re not. And you should never forget the tragic, horrific tale of how it all came to be. But if that is not the next step, then it will be the last step.

    If that offends you, I can offer little in the way of apology. My sensitivity does not go so far as to roll over and die for the sake of politeness.

    WHY 10,000 years ago in the Tigris-Euphrates River Valley did agriculture begin? Huh?

    Marvin Harris was the first to tackle this in a really convincing way, I think. Jared Diamond does a nice summary of the prevailing view of co-evolution in Guns, Germs & Steel, but those answer the question how. The question of why has always fascinated me, leading me to write no less than half a dozen different, long essays on the subject over the past five years. It’s really what this site is best known for, so your question strikes me with all the absurdity of walking into a McDonald’s and shouting, “Yeah, but can you do FAST FOOD?”

    My most recent address of that question came in thesis #9 and thesis #10.

    You got something else to say to me? Go say it on the anti-Drum blog.

    I really can’t say that I do–the hate you’ve already spewed here is more than sufficient, thank you. Further conversation with you would be redundant. But I would hate for the casual lurker to get the wrong impression and mistake your ramblings above as having resembled some kind of point.

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 30 January 2006 @ 9:54 PM

  35. As far as the tribe’s thoughts on cultural appropriation, this whole incident has led me to conclude a full-blown article is in order. We have some articles on the subject already published, particularly the article under discussion, and Giuli’s “Fabrication of Little Tree.”

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 30 January 2006 @ 10:36 PM

  36. Jason:

    I never accused you of having personally committed the genocide that your ancestors did. My point is that you benefit from it. I agree that race is a construct. What I wish to emphasize is that race as it is constructed in AmeriKKKa has genocidal consequences for those in the violently oppressed, white-male-assigned lower castes. You cannot escape “civilization” as it is organized now without confronting and breaking down that apartheid reality.

    How can you “compare notes” with extant native cultures if the notes of your ancestors were disappeared long ago when all the “white shamans” were killed off? You have no cultural records (written or oral) of your own with which to even do a comparative genocide study, let alone anything that might help us all achieve common ground. Native American heritages apparently are useful to you as cribbed notes, but would not, say for example, Irish heritage also be useful? Or is that that heritage is verbotten in your quest for primitive purity because the Irish, like, committed farming and had Druids?

    If your answer is yes, then in one fell swoop you cut yourself off from the wisdom of a people who have endured in that place for millenia, deftly allowing you to go on cribbing off the notes of the cultures of darker-skinned peoples without doing the arduous work of sifting thru the wreckage of your own heritage for the ancient wisdom that does remain.

    Again, since your anarcho-philosophy kills off all your ancestors you have no notes with which to do a comparative study.

    You have set up “10,000 years ago” as The Fall and agriculture as Original Sin. Naturally, you are going to be hard pressed to find any face-to-face examples of a pure enough people NEARBY for your comparative shamanism study, so you can hang out with other “whites” and play mental primitive.

    Sure there may be some pure-enough, hunter-gatherer tribe 10,000 miles away by internet connection, but you ain’t stepping up to put an end to the ongoing genocide of Native Americans in this land, nearby, which is the bedrock upon which rests the current civilizational prison you find yourself locked into today.

    Clever way to preserve privilege (and feel good about it) but still Twink as hell.

    And my ultimate point for engaging with you still remains: Tamarack Song is a fraud.

    Comment by dragonessa — 31 January 2006 @ 2:00 AM

  37. On the subject of religions, both new and old, I stumbled across this article written by a 17 year old Australian.

    I found she had an interesting point in that indigenous traditions (whether syncretized like Voodoo or ‘local’) all possess a strong tie to the land around them whereas eclectic pagans just picked from the religious spectrum without regard to their circumstances.

    You know I use some of the First Nations Coyote stories. I also make up my own. I do both to honor Coyote in the past and Coyote in the present because he’s -really important- right here. Not over the hill and through the dale. Not over in Arizona or Pittsburgh. Here. Where I am. There’s a bunch of stuff my friends and I do to link ourselves to this land. And that, I think makes a difference.

    Best

    Bill Maxwell

    Comment by Bill Maxwell — 31 January 2006 @ 2:00 AM

  38. Devin: Tamarack told you not to have anything further to do with anyone associated with the anti-Drum blog. You had your chance to debate already and bailed. You wussed big time. You could not take being called-out on your white male privilege, so don’t pretend like you are ready for another round. You are way too-thinned skin for the debate and sat silent while Tamarack banned counter-voices from his little online cult. You are just too lazy to do the reading necessary to engage in thoughtful debate. You always take the whiney out, “You called me a name - wah, wah, wah - pout - so now I am not going to engage with you. You are a lying sack a crap Devin.

    Look. I’ve made an attempt to be nice to you so far, when by all appearances you’re just another self-righteous, dissociated, and narcissistic liberal trying to justify your existence by telling everyone else how horrible they are. I know what that’s like because I’ve been that person. I made an attempt on the egroup to open myself up to you, to tell you my story, to give you a place to say what you needed to — but instead you trampled all over the place, in effect screaming at everyone there ‘I HATE MYSELF AND I THINK YOU ALL SHOULD HATE YOURSELVES TOO.’

    I don’t know what Tamarack Song did to you, but it cannot possibly be as bad as what you’ve done to yourself. Maybe some day when you stop defining your own life in terms of your hatred for another person, you’ll learn how to have compassion for both yourself and for others. In the meantime, you’re certainly not doing anything to help sitting here on the internet all the time, living your white privileged life yelling at everyone else to change so you can feel better about yourself.

    - Devin

    Comment by Devin — 31 January 2006 @ 3:43 AM

  39. I never accused you of having personally committed the genocide that your ancestors did. My point is that you benefit from it. I agree that race is a construct. What I wish to emphasize is that race as it is constructed in AmeriKKKa has genocidal consequences for those in the violently oppressed, white-male-assigned lower castes. You cannot escape “civilization” as it is organized now without confronting and breaking down that apartheid reality.

    You think we’re unaware that we benefit from genocide, oppression, and racism? First I’ll point you to an article that I wrote months ago on that exact subject. Then I’ll ask you, why exactly do you think we want to form a functional hunter-gatherer tribe? It’s certainly not because we don’t acknowledge the fact that we benefit from horrible things. On the contrary, we feel so strongly that this culture is destructive and unsustainable that we’re willing to completely change our way of life in order to separate ourselves from it. When we’re living in the woods, we will neither benefit from nor contribute to any of the atrocities of our culture.

    How can you “compare notes” with extant native cultures if the notes of your ancestors were disappeared long ago when all the “white shamans” were killed off?

    Exactly. We have very little. Just cave paintings and archaeological findings. We have (pitifully) much to learn from people who still remember how to live sustainably.

    Native American heritages apparently are useful to you as cribbed notes, but would not, say for example, Irish heritage also be useful? Or is that that heritage is verbotten in your quest for primitive purity because the Irish, like, committed farming and had Druids?

    If your answer is yes, then in one fell swoop you cut yourself off from the wisdom of a people who have endured in that place for millenia, deftly allowing you to go on cribbing off the notes of the cultures of darker-skinned peoples without doing the arduous work of sifting thru the wreckage of your own heritage for the ancient wisdom that does remain.

    The myth that the Celts were somehow more magickal (with a ‘k’) and earth-friendly than other Europeans is just that - a myth. Seeing as how it would certainly suit our needs - as it suits the needs of various neo-pagans who generally use the words “Celtic” and “perfect” interchangably - to believe that they were more of a model society than they actually were, I’m not entirely sure why you’d think that we’d intentionally bypass them in order to skip right to the “darker-skinned peoples.” We aren’t modeling ourselves on the Celts because we took the time to actually read up on them, rather than believe the widespread New Age myths about them.

    In truth, as soon as a society takes up farming, they leave behind all of their wisdom and knowledge about living with the land. That’s because their lifestyle requires them to make war on the land day after day. It’s something Daniel Quinn referred to as “The Great Forgetting.” Here are a few related snippets of conversation from the Sanctity of Marriage comments:

    GIULI: First of all, civilized society hasn’t developed in the same way as primitive societies. You could argue that primitive societies work because they’re shaped over thousands - if not millions - of years. Civilization isn’t the same way. It’s been around for a microscopic speck of human existence, and the only reason it’s changed at all is because it started out from such a horrific place that eventually, through thousands of years of oppression, a small group of people every once in a while got too pissed off to take it anymore.

    MIKE: You act as though civilization just suddenly popped into existence 10,000 years ago. That’s not how it works. Civilization didn’t appear out of a vacuum. The first civilized societies were merely modifications of the cultures that came before them. So while civilization itself may only date back a few millennia, its cultural heritage goes back millions of years.

    JASON: As far as civilization and cultural change, civilization made an enormous, abrupt change with the Agricultural Revolution 10,000 years ago, and with that came an enormous, abrupt break from all its previous development. Had to, just to make such a radical change work. Civilization is radical; we’re the ultimate conservatives.

    MIKE: So does that mean the first people to farm had no culture whatsoever prior to farming? Civilization was founded by a group of pod people?

    JASON: Might as well have been–they jettisoned nearly all of their previous culture within a few generations. Almost nothing survived.

    Again, since your anarcho-philosophy kills off all your ancestors you have no notes with which to do a comparative study.

    Actually, we have quite a few. The !Kung in the Kalahari… the Inuit in the Arctic… the Blackfeet here in the U.S…. wherever you’ll find forager cultures, there’s where you’ll find a group we’re trying to learn from. We just choose not to whitewash the violence and oppression of our ancestors in order to learn the lessons we want to learn - lessons that they simply can’t teach us.

    You have set up “10,000 years ago” as The Fall and agriculture as Original Sin. Naturally, you are going to be hard pressed to find any face-to-face examples of a pure enough people NEARBY for your comparative shamanism study, so you can hang out with other “whites” and play mental primitive.

    You speak as if we, personally, arbitrarily decided to differentiate between agricultural societies and foraging societies for the sole purpose of excluding others. Any archaeologist worth her weight in beans knows that there’s a HUGE difference between an agricultural society and a forager society, particularly in the way they view their environments.

    Foraging - and maybe some horticulture - is the last level of sustainable technology a society can reach, as well as being the lifestyle to which humans are best adapted. If our insistence on foraging limits the number of societies we can learn from, it’s primarily because civilization has killed off so many of the foraging cultures that once thrived.

    Sure there may be some pure-enough, hunter-gatherer tribe 10,000 miles away by internet connection, but you ain’t stepping up to put an end to the ongoing genocide of Native Americans in this land, nearby, which is the bedrock upon which rests the current civilizational prison you find yourself locked into today.

    First of all, Jason already said this:

    In my own life (as if any other life mattered in a fair judgement of me), I have campaigned against drilling in ANWR, and for the environmental concerns that are pushing the Inuit into the ocean. I contribute annually to Cultural Survival, as much as I can afford.

    And my all-consuming goal at the moment is to separate myself from our current civilization, so that I will no longer be party to its crimes.

    So yes, he is “stepping up to put an end to the ongoing genocide of Native Americans in this land.” As am I, having participated in many of the same causes he participated in. As a matter of fact, when we get married at the end of this year, our wedding registry will include donations in our names to Cultural Survival and Survival International. That’s what we’re doing while still supporting and being part of civilization. We’ll be doing far more to help once we’re no longer part of the problem.

    Clever way to preserve privilege (and feel good about it) but still Twink as hell.

    Once again, who exactly is trying to “preserve” her privilege? Like we’ve said repeatedly, we want to live primitively largely to get rid of the privilege that comes on the backs of slaves. I’m not sure exactly what kind of privilege you think we’ll have, hunting and gathering in a forest. The right to a happy, free life isn’t exactly a privilege that civilization affords… well, anyone.

    And my ultimate point for engaging with you still remains: Tamarack Song is a fraud.

    None of us care. We don’t know the guy. His life doesn’t affect ours in any way.

    Comment by Giulianna Lamanna — 31 January 2006 @ 5:17 AM

  40. Right, it seems like you, Dragonessa, aren’t ready for a normal conversation. You don’t even answer to my questions but just go on picking out some quotations from others to start yelling at them. I think you won’t find anyone here who’ll only spend his time to declare hate to all non native americans like you do.

    And if you think it’s possible to keep our whole society but just remove the racist oppression to your people, then you’re mistaken. We need to change the whole system of oppression and hierarchy.

    I’m willing to hear why you think Tamarack Song is a fraud. I did read your blog and I did read that NAFPS website. But you seem to be just talking and talking and talking with no real clear statements. If he really is a fraud, then make it clear so others will at least understand you and not go to his courses. But if you only start talking some general non specific bullshit for pages long, well then I don’t think many will believe you.

    Don’t let the hate eat yourself up.

    Comment by gunnix — 31 January 2006 @ 5:39 AM

  41. Since Giuli already made most of my points before me, let me just add one thing. Am I to understand that your primary grievance is that we’re “abandoning the fight” and neglecting our “obligation” to struggle against the system established by our ancestors that has benefitted us?

    Struggle and resistance is part of that system. You might replace the system, but only by becoming it. Maybe it wouldn’t be Indians next time, but it would be someone else. There always has to be someone else. In the meantime, rebellion implies that the thing you’re rebelling against is the legitimate order.

    Resistance feels good. It’s gratifying, it feels like you’re doing something. It’s a pressure valve in the system, that allows dissidents to feel like they’re “opposing” the system when, in fact, they’re an essential part of it.

    I could never join your struggle, because I can see how you’re helping everything you’re supposedly fighting. It cannot be effectively resisted. The only way to destroy it is to abandon it.

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 31 January 2006 @ 8:29 AM

  42. “Struggle and resistance is part of that system. You might replace the system, but only by becoming it. Maybe it wouldn’t be Indians next time, but it would be someone else. There always has to be someone else. In the meantime, rebellion implies that the thing you’re rebelling against is the legitimate order.”

    Sure. Resisting rape only validates the rapist. To fight back against rape by say, knifing your attacker in the balls, only says to that rapist, “Hey what you are doing to me is legit. I like being raped so let me resist rape by disabling your ability to rape me or any other woman, man, or child you might desire to violate.”

    Any woman who resists rape will automatically grow a penis and start raping everything in site, becoming the very monster she beheld. There is much evidence for this phenomenon. Many men who are rapists now were once women without penises. But these women fought back and became rapist men.

    So according to your feel-good, do-nothing philosophy, anarcho-twinkie, the only way for women to destroy rape is to abandon being rapists, i.e. men with penises who rape.

    OK, silly. One last point. You take from Indians, like all New Age nutters, without feeling any responsibility for reciprocity or mutuality that would militate against their destruction by a genocidal, white male apartheid system. Since resistance (as you, the white male define it) is futile, you are free to feel good about not joining it and continuing on with the privileges brought to you by that apartheid system. Kinda clever that. But common as dirt, too.

    How surprised am I to hear that a white guy using a loan (stolen) word like “shaman” won’t be joining the struggle to resist the genocide of people of color, especially American Indians? Not very.

    Comment by Anonymous — 31 January 2006 @ 11:50 AM

  43. Reasoning by analogy is, as you would put it, intellectual laziness. Rape has many things in common with colonization, genocide and exploitation, but they are not the same thing. Rape, as a physical act, can be resisted physically. Genocide is only the first wave of conquest, and one that has long since passed, in the same way that Jim Crow and slavery were related, but not the same thing. The exploitation Native Americans suffer now is not physical genocide, but a system of economic and ideological domination and exploitation. Direct confrontation is something easily dealt with. You’ve been co-opted, my friend.

    Your form of “resistance” boils down to helping Native Americans become part of the system that dominates them, to wipe their culture from living memory to be remembered only in a museum case, while they’re able to get white-collar jobs and meld into the indissoluble whole. I fail to see how helping to build a casino is helping Native Americans to preserve their culture. Many Native Americans desire just that, but if that’s their goal–to become the oppressor themselves–then they’ll have no help from me. I’m more interested in shedding that role for myself–perhaps in so doing, I’ll open up a space for them to take. My goal is to eliminate the role of oppressor. It’s been held in turn by many, only most recently by white Europeans–the Mexica and the Inka were here, trying to do the same thing, when the Europeans slaughtered them. I don’t care what color the oppressor’s skin is; my problem is with oppression, not the bloodlines of the oppressors.

    Regardless, it is an ultimately self-destructive system, and even the oppressors end up drained by it. It’s not good for anyone–certainly not for the conquered, but not even for the conquerors. It cannot be reformed. Neither can we make war on it, for war is its own invention, and defined in terms of itself.

    But it can be abandoned, and once abandoned, it cannot last. That is its one vulnerability, and all resistance must be geared towards that. It is a system; it has nothing to do with blood or fantasies of “race.” It is a system that must be destroyed, but it can only be destroyed by people abandoning it. That can be done by supply or demand–reduce the demand for the system (encourage people to leave), or reduce the supply it requires (catastrophes that deny civilization its necessary resources). Either way, the result is the same, whether it comes from people realizing civilization isn’t worth it, or the cost of civilization rises too much: people abandon it. That is called collapse.

    No revolution can succeed against a system for which revolution is a subroutine. Direct resistance is part of that system. It cannot be fought–it can only be abandoned. But, in abandonment, its fate is sealed. It has no defense against it, but it is infinitely vulnerable. It is the Achilles’ heel.

    The most good your form of “resistance” can ever be is as a distraction, but frankly, even that is unnecessary. Rhizome is invisible to hierarchy.

    As for reciprocity, I’m not exactly sure what you’d like me to give in return. Our broken culture on the verge of self-destruction? Well, they already have that, don’t they? My vast, personal wealth? It’s barely enough to pay my grocery bills. But understand this: I don’t feel good about continuing on with the privelages brought to me by this system. That’s why I’m trying to leave this system; it’s the only way to abdicate those blood-soaked goods. That is my all-consuming purpose. Every moment is motivated by that. Everything I do serves that goal. But if in return for all I’ve learned from them and all the other foragers that remain, any Native American would like anything from me that it’s in my power to give, I know where my debts lie. I just have no idea what they could possibly want from me; I have nothing to give.

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 31 January 2006 @ 12:17 PM

  44. Hey –

    Well, now that I have read the latest installment of this bizarre confrontation, I can only guess that our ‘dragonessa’ is male… no woman would make such a hateful argument, particular in such an irrelevant way.

    The history of the US (and I am sure, of the world iself) is the history of activism co-opted by the system to pacify those who are most harmed by that system. To compare this to an individual protecting themselves against another individual is not only abhorrant, but obviously designed to create an environment of emotional captivity.

    Oh, and by the way, I do find it amusing that you rail for the rights of Native American ‘Shamans’ and thier exclusive right to ‘Shamanistic’ practices, and even the word ‘Shaman’ — yet the word itself is of Asian origin… the Reindeer Herders of Mongolia, to be precise.

    Janene

    Comment by Janene — 31 January 2006 @ 12:30 PM

  45. Well, the Tungus in Siberia, but the political boundaries are all pretty arbitrary there, and there are several closely-related cultures in Siberia and Mongolia, including the Tungus and several others.

    But I wouldn’t presume Dragonessa’s gender just on that–I’ve met just as many hateful women as men, and as many slimy Native Americans as Europeans. And just as many wonderful people from all of the above. No gender, much less any “race,” has any kind of monopoly on those things.

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 31 January 2006 @ 12:34 PM

  46. But it can be abandoned, and once abandoned, it cannot last.

    Prisoner’s Dilemma, Jason.
    The system has to be abandoned en-masse. Otherwise, nothing happens. But the system makes for a great prison. Escape is difficult and scary and usually useless.

    Comment by _Gi — 31 January 2006 @ 12:48 PM

  47. Women being raped is a product of the system of our society which is based on greed, hierarchy, …
    Just like the genocide of your people is a product of this very dangerous society.

    Struggle against genocide can take many forms. It’s not because someone doesn’t talk all the time about this very struggle or doesn’t go protesting that (s)he doesn’t struggle to change this world to a better place where it can’t happen anymore.

    Many of the people here see it a better solution to live more in tune with their environment in small groups. To possibly become an example for others and that way change themselves and others around them. They want to create a form of society where genocide and rape is non existant.

    To leave this failed society behind them, or to disconnect with it as much as possible.

    I do not disagree with your way of taking action against the unequality you face. It might be a right way. But there are other ways and you should show respect to those as well.

    You’re saying looks very much like that of some anarchists who think the only good thing to do is attack the system with violence and protesting. But in the end it seems like they often play in the cards of the police and mass media with their hate behaviour. After all, who’s ever going to be interested in following a group of black clothed “haters”. I know not all of the anarchists who do attacks on banks, etc are only full of hate, but many of them are and I can tell you they’re not very pleasant to be with.

    Things are much more shady and grey then you think they are, it ain’t black OR white. You seem to have some words you look for in a text to trigger “Twinky!” in your head. That’s a quick but very inaccurate way to get a view about another person. You threat us all like a bunch of stereotypes just like your own people have been or are being threated. That’s not very wise of you is it?

    Comment by gunnix — 31 January 2006 @ 12:52 PM

  48. The system has to be abandoned en-masse.

    Yes, but that’s ultimately what collapse is–a cascading process of mass abandonment. I didn’t want to get into all of that here–we’ve covered that in-depth everywhere else on the site.

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 31 January 2006 @ 1:12 PM

  49. Dragonessa, whether male or female, certainly reminds us all of the most extreme example of a well-known phenomenon.

    The last time I ever interacted with someone with her tone was when I was debating the extreme opposite end of the political spectrum: a fundamentalist Christian and literal 6-day Creationist. She and Dragonessa shared a number of debate styles, although Dragonessa has not so far been shown to rely quite as heavily on the caps lock key as the Creationist. Anyway, there was the same hysterical tone, the same bizarre implication that I and people like me - “evolutionists” - were single-handedly responsible for everything bad in the world, and the same refusal to acknowledge any responses I’d made to previous attacks, resulting in a repetition of the same insults over and over and over again.

    It ended when she accused me of wanting to brainwash schoolchildren by not letting ID be taught in schools. I responded with a “rolling eyes” emoticon and said, “Uh-huh. Of course. I’m ‘brainwashing’ them into thinking for themselves.” Unable to comprehend sarcasm, she turned to caps lock, her old standby, and replied with something like: “I KNEW IT!!! I KNEW IT!!! YOU’RE A CULT!! YOU’RE TRYING TO DESTROY CHRISTIANITY!! I’M BLOCKING YOU FROM EVER E-MAILING ME AGAIN, YOU EVIL SATANIST!!!!” I think she was mentally ill in some way, but I’ll never know for sure.

    Comment by Giulianna Lamanna — 31 January 2006 @ 1:34 PM

  50. To summarize:
    The system will not be destroyed by conscious actions of people determined to destroy the system. You are not doing your part to destroy the system, because you are not in control of the system’s destiny. You are in control of your destiny and you are doing what you can to ensure your own survival once the civilization ends. While it is here, you might as well party on. Moreover, you believe that as the system is being abandoned, 99% or more of the people will not think like you.

    Comment by _Gi — 31 January 2006 @ 1:48 PM

  51. Not quite. This system has an infrastructure that it is dependent on. That infrastructure requires investment to keep it running. As we enter ever diminishing marginal returns on those investments, the investors become less likely to make those investments, as they figure out it’s a losing proposition. Without those investments, the infrastructure crumbles, and with it, the entire social system built on it.

    We’re talking about at least two different kinds of abandonment here. The one that seals the deal is abandonment of investment. That doesn’t require thinking in any new way–in fact, it requires thinking the old way, and being one of the robber-barons who rule this system. The other type of abandonment–the type we’re up to, the type that only 1% (if that many) of us will ever attempt–is the total abandonment of the system.

    Trick is–one builds on the other. Our growth as a fringe would also mean a proportional growth in the much larger segment of society that’s vaguely discontented with the current level of complexity, but not willing to make like a hunter-gatherer just yet. The bigger threat of collapse comes not from Peak Oil or environmental issues, but from our increasing awareness of them.

    And tonight, the leader of the free world is going to be spending the most important speech of the year talking about … energy?

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 31 January 2006 @ 2:43 PM

  52. Okay, I think I may have a handle. Neoshamans are all too plentiful with their catchpenny personal schemes. Neoshamans are preposterous frauds and charlatans manipulating the hard wired “core shamanism.” - just selfishly playing with the spirits. Real and truly shamans have been touched by the numinous “Other.”

    Really and truly shamans “learn from the spirits themselves” not some bullshit How to be a Shaman booklet or tape by some sniveling selfish pseudoshaman. The real article shaman suffers the shamanic sickness ( black timeless night and then some) ending up “chosen” and real special. It is axiomatic (by assertion) that the real shamans are “chosen.” Who does the chosing is unoperationalized at this time - more numinous touchings and spirits maybe?

    The metaphysical spirits, although very powerful, are not powerful enough to circumvent the bullshit designs of the fraudulent shamans. Similar to the old conundrum about an omnipotent God allowing warts and evils of all kinds. Although the phoney bastard shamans continue to fake the piss out of it, they will get their comeuppence in the new age to come when they can’t forage or eat their acorns worth a shid

    If this be science, I be the king of France.

    Comment by gerald spezio — 22 February 2006 @ 4:04 PM

  53. Who does the chosing is unoperationalized at this time - more numinous touchings and spirits maybe?

    Yes, that’s what I said.

    The metaphysical spirits, although very powerful, are not powerful enough to circumvent the bullshit designs of the fraudulent shamans.

    No, they just don’t care. The spirit world posited here is populated with all kinds of different spirits with their own motivations, only some of which have any consideration for humans at all–even less who care whether or not we’re following about fools like Castenada. You’re injecting (1) a monolithic idea of “spirits” acting as a single force, and (2) an idea that they’re somehow concerned with our well-being. Both assumptions are uncalled for.

    they will get their comeuppence in the new age to come when they can’t forage or eat their acorns worth a shid

    No, not necessarily. I didn’t say one thing about punishment, just that they’re assholes.

    If this be science, I be the king of France.

    Who said it was science? I specifically said it wasn’t.

    In other words, congratulations, you’ve managed to mock some bizarre amalgamation of Christian beliefs with names that invoke shamanism, but has pretty much nothing to do with shamanism. For your next trick, perhaps you could go back, actually read the article, and say something about that, rather than the egregious strawman born of whatever problems you have with Christianity?

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 22 February 2006 @ 4:28 PM

  54. If you are not doing science, what are you doing? No small question. You are surely trying to communicate, and you are asking people to listen to you. You surely try as hard as anybody.

    I mistakenly concluded from your writing throughout the site that you openly labeled yourself a scientist/materialist. Mea culpa.

    Nevertheless, if you cavalierly posit “all kinds of different spirits” as the foundational basis of your intellectual work; is it unreasonable for a skeptic to ask, “What are these spirits?” Your blatent claim that the mythopoeic and core shamanism are hardwired has not been substantiated.

    Again, re-read what you stated above; “We need to lay down the academic foundations, but it must be an honest academic foundation.” Yessir, “academic” is a can of ambiguity. How about a falsifiable and testable foundation, as in science. I cannot find never mind falsify your posited “spirits.”

    Are you pinning your hope for the future on spirits, angels, unicorns and/or devils?

    So goes Castenada, Harner, Fred Allen Wolf, and plenty of others.

    Along the same sad line is the new age film, “What the bleep do we know?” J. Z. Knight talks with all kinds of spirits. Shidman, Amit Goswami has a doctorate in physics and tenure at U. of Oregon.

    Comment by gerald spezio — 22 February 2006 @ 5:51 PM

  55. If you are not doing science, what are you doing?

    As I explained in thesis #23, science is neither the only, nor necessarily the best, way of gaining knowledge. Here, I’m taking a break from my usual academic discourse to try to convey a different vision of the world. The reductionist, scientific mindset carries with it a mechanistic vision of the world that complements our unsustainable and ultimately suicidal lifestyle. The vision I’m trying to communicate here involves a very different way of knowing, one that is integrative rather than reductionistic, one that is at utter odds with any kind of society as exploitative as our own, but may be a fundamental building block of any sustainable society that integrates a community with its ecology, the members of a community with each other, and the broken fragments of each individual’s own tortured psyche.

    I mistakenly concluded from your writing throughout the site that you openly labeled yourself a scientist/materialist. Mea culpa.

    “Scientist”? Well, I have degrees in anthropology and computer science, but I’m not sure that counts me as a “scientist,” strictly speaking. “Materialist,” yes, I am, but materialism does not discount the reality of visions and dreams, nor their material effects. We merely believe that the parameters of such ideas are shaped by material reality, as I explained in thesis #8.

    But these are hats I wear. No one is a “scientist” or a “materialist” at all times and places. They are people; sometimes they are “scientists” and sometimes they are “materialists” and sometimes they are “children” and sometimes they are “parents” and sometimes they are “friends.” Not all scientists are atheists.

    Nevertheless, if you cavalierly posit “all kinds of different spirits” as the foundational basis of your intellectual work; is it unreasonable for a skeptic to ask, “What are these spirits?”

    It’s been months at least since I’ve seen a misrepresentation so blatant. My beliefs about the spirit world are utterly peripheral to my intellectual work. The articles I’ve written here on shamanism stand on their own. They are by no means “the foundational basis of [my] intellectual work.” Diminishing returns, complexity, and basic anthropological understanding of world cultures are my foundations.

    Shamanism is found in all forager societies. It may be the element that makes forager societies work. Perhaps it’s all explainable in mundane, material terms. Or perhaps not. Regardless, whether the spirits are real or not, it would appear that one’s belief in them may be a significant factor in one’s chances of survival.

    Not the only factor, perhaps not even a major factor. Perhaps not a factor at all, I don’t know. I do know that all the existing foragers are shamanistic, so rather than try to reinvent the wheel on such short notice, it seems like a good idea to just roll with it, don’t you think?

    But this isn’t by any stretch the foundational basis of my intellectual work, any more than Judaism provided the foundational basis of Einstein’s intellectual work. If he can write about his beliefs from time to time, take off his “scientist” hat and act like a human being, then so can I.

    Can you act like a human being, Gerald?

    Your blatent claim that the mythopoeic and core shamanism are hardwired has not been substantiated.

    Winkelman’s work was cited in my previous article, “The Shaman’s Vision.” I didn’t realize I’d need to repeat it in every article I ever write, over and over again, for your benefit.

    Again, re-read what you stated above; “We need to lay down the academic foundations, but it must be an honest academic foundation.” Yessir, “academic” is a can of ambiguity. How about a falsifiable and testable foundation, as in science. I cannot find never mind falsify your posited “spirits.”

    Could you point to one argument I’ve made that requires the existence of any kind of spirit as a premise? Just one, before you go on completely misrepresenting everything I’ve said.

    Are you pinning your hope for the future on spirits, angels, unicorns and/or devils?

    No, my hope for the future is pinned on the ideas that I’ve explained, at length, in the Thirty Theses–which, by the way, never talk about any spirits, thank you very much.

    Your ending there trying to equate me with the very people I spent this particular article denouncing is a nice touch. Once again, you’ve done an admirable job of dismantling that straw man. Of course, anyone who’s read even the article above will know that your comments do not address a single thing I’ve ever said, so who is it you’re talking to?

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 22 February 2006 @ 6:14 PM

  56. All the trolling and flames on this page make me very leery to share what I’ve been writing in reaction to this article. But, I suppose it in necessary none the less.
    “This is the ordeal that the shaman undertakes for his community. Why would anyone choose such a life? They don’t; they are chosen. The shamanic sickness leaves them with a stark choice: become a shaman, or die.” This made me cry - hard. THIS is my problem. I cannot escape this reality no matter how much I’ve tried. It is the driving force in my life… The really painful part for me is that it means that even when I establish my tribe, I will still never truly belong. I’m used to it but that doesn’t mean I like it.
    “A real shaman never journeys for himself; he journeys for others.” and this explains why I’ve never really journeyed like I know I can. And never really pursued those means of learning that I’ve seen touted. “the great, ongoing work that awaits them: that of learning the rest from the spirits themselves,” That is how I’m waiting to learn rather from study. I’ve made it an avocation since the onset of puberty to study as many religions and mythologies as possible. Never the rigorous academic study Jason advocates, but I suppose it serves the same purpose to give the the grounding from which I can work once my band is established.
    Oh and I want to point our that for all hir ranting, Dragonessa has admitted that se has “euro-immigrant ancestors” and thus is imposing hir own beliefs as to what the American First Nations peoples ought to be and how they ought to be treated on them. Just as se accuses others of doing.
    I have not done enough reading on shamanism. Jason or someone else who knows, could you explain to me the difference between First Shaman and Second Shaman?

    Comment by ChandraShakti — 26 February 2006 @ 3:15 PM

  57. The really painful part for me is that it means that even when I establish my tribe, I will still never truly belong. I’m used to it but that doesn’t mean I like it.

    Maybe you’re not really called, then, and what you feel is just the isolation and lack of community endemic to our civilization?

    Jason or someone else who knows, could you explain to me the difference between First Shaman and Second Shaman?

    I’m the only one who knows, because I made it up. :)

    First Shaman is found in many shamanic cultures. He was, predictably enough, the first shaman. He discovered the spirit world purely on his own power, with no teachers or cultural precedent to guide him. Shamans today sometimes encounter him. This may well have been a depiction of him in the Upper Paleolithic, “the Sorcerer of Les Trois Freres”:

    The Sorcerer of Les Trois Freres

    We face a new situation, where the line from First Shaman is quite effectively cut off. I think to survive, each tribe will need a Second Shaman–a shaman who must retrace the path of First Shaman, duplicate his feat, and rediscover the spirit world purely on their own power, with no teachers or cultural precedent to guide them. Each tribe will likely have its own Second Shaman, but if the work of previous shamans are any guide, they won’t need to corroborate to come to the same conclusions and see the same visions.

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 27 February 2006 @ 10:21 AM

  58. “First Shaman is found in many shamanic cultures. He was, predictably enough, the first shaman. He discovered the spirit world purely on his own power, with no teachers or cultural precedent to guide him.”

    Fascinating! I had never made the connection of self-initiation to primitive cultures; I figured that their history stretched so far back that they’d forgotten all of their “firsts”, but didn’t see the possibility of a mythical self-initator.

    Which is funny, because the myth of the self-initiator as a spiritual powerhouse is deeply encoded in our own culture; Buddha reaching spontaneous enlightment, Muhammad recieving a direct revelation from Allah (or Gabriel, at least), Christ’s ‘virgin birth’ - hell, the Kid from The Matrix waking up on his own. (He’s the real One, Neo’s a poser working for the machines.)

    It’s incredible how some of those encoded myths manage to persist to this very day, showing the cultural bridge into our distant past. We can try to tear down all our connections with nature, but our connection to the past persists.

    - Chuck

    Comment by Chuck — 27 February 2006 @ 1:28 PM

  59. In my studies and expeirneces with shamanism and neoshamanism I’ve seen there are two reasons to “journey”.

    There is light dosing(to heal) which you do in healing ceremonies, then there is heaving dosing (to know) which is done normally in celestial cycle intervals etc. . .

    So for you to say that neoshamans are just “masturbating” is not true. It is true that in many cases it is done more for self actualisation that it is for healing ceremonies but that is because neoshamanism isn’t about any one ideology, and not all of us believe that it is up to a person to heal another person. In very profound ways we can and do heal eachother, but there are something that can only be achieved on your own.

    I can tell you that if entheogenic exploring was as consistantly plesuralbe as masturbation there would be MANY MANY more neoshamans around hahaha. Self/Universal exploration isn’t always fun, in fact rarely is it “enjoyable” in the western sense of the word.

    Most of us get into this because long before we knew of the psychedelic expeirnece, we were compelled to questions and explore the world around us and within us. Much like the buddhist, it’s a desire to self actualise and to truely mature into our consciousness. The entheogenic expeirnece just add malubility in the vistas of perspective within us, which can be very helpfull on this journey… weather we are masturbating or not. Those that wish to continue on this journey after one “bad trip” are worthy of my respect! :)

    Embrace uncertainty, the mother of potential the bearer of light. “takes herbs from medicine bag, shakes rattle, and sings a little ooga booga song, oh man this loin cloth is ridding up my butt”.. lol just kidding

    Comment by Psyche — 31 March 2006 @ 1:36 PM

  60. btw…

    I would agree that those that wish to add fancy titles to themselves, and make all this drama around neo-shamanism are hucksters. IMO, such a practice is very hubeling and in a very profound way, reminds you of your humanity, that you are nothing “extra special”. There is a certain amount of ego, and arrogance encompassing the song and dance of new agey shamanism that I can’t help but find,…. silly.

    Nothing a few sessions of ayahuasca, or another potent tryptamine can’t fix though. Boundy Disollution is where it’s at!

    Comment by Psyche — 31 March 2006 @ 1:45 PM

  61. Knowledge is something that real shamans journey for, as well. I wasn’t saying that all shamanic ecstasy must be for healing; I said it must all be for the community. Healing is an auxiliary function for a real shaman. His primary role is that of ambassador to the spirit world.

    Neoshamans are not ambassadors, because they don’t have a community; they’re not representing anyone but themselves. Shamans endure shamanic ecstasy for their communities; neoshamans play “shaman” for their own sense of spiritual fulfillment. The former is perhaps the most profoud experience humans have ever had; the latter is mere masturbation.

    Without a tribe, there is no shaman. If you call yourself such, and “spiritual enlightenment” appears on your list of priorities, you’re a fake. “Self-actualization” has nothing to do with shamanism; it’s the rallying cry of frauds and fakes. Such “neoshamans” are not shamans at all.

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 3 April 2006 @ 1:21 PM

  62. You sound like someone that has either never been down the rabit hole or has only brushed the surface. The hostile attachment to word/definition is silly. There are hundereds (most likely thousands) of historical forms of “shamanism”, from tribal shamans to the hermit. Personally I don’t find that any “Ism” is wise to wrap around your ego in an effort to stagnate “who you are”. A person can use this or that term to try to communicate a part of their lives to another but to try to put on a mask (any mask) and say “this IS who I am” is … well SILLY. I’d suspect anyone that is familiar with the entheogenic experience and/or the Zen moment would know better, you can’t go down in these spaces within yourself with those masks on without feeling like a total fraud. That’s something that is made clear on the first ride… or atleast that seems to be a universal expeirnece.

    Comment by Psychenaut — 3 April 2006 @ 3:09 PM

  63. PS. Of course it’s for the community. Very few can remain within selfish endevers after they are familliarized with the knowledge of “light”, knowing seperation is but an illusion.

    If you refuse to like mind and heart rejoin these experinece are nothing more than torture haha.

    Sorry for the above assertion (at the beginning), really I do understand what you are saying. People that attach themselves to these masks are afraid, and beating them is not going to help them to let go of these idealistic “ism” they adorn themselves with. Only love, and the trust there of, will aid them in releasing that craziness.

    Comment by Psychenaut — 3 April 2006 @ 3:21 PM

  64. I keep my religious experiences to myself as a general rule, with a clear division between my public and my private face. My Science is assiduously kept seperate from my Myth, and I’m able to switch easily between the two modes–even mix them (or not) as the situation requires. I think this is a far better mode than those who can think only in terms of Science, and are cut off from Myth–every bit as much as those who know only Myth, and lack all Science.

    My public face is rigorous and academic–yet you’ll find the universal response among those who knew me first by correspondence, and only later in person, is utter shock that someone who’s so painfully academic in writing, can be so … otherwise … in person.

    In other words–I have experiences of my own to draw from, but I keep them where they belong, with me and my tribe. I do not consider my visions and experiences to be things suited for public consumption, so if you cannot see the evidence of it here, it is not because they are lacking, but because this is not the place for them.

    That said, I have also known far too many fakers and frauds who condescend with smiles and meaningless koans, spewing out a verbal ink blot test that makes people think they’re wise, because when you ponder them long enough, you begin to see what you want to see–what you brought to it, to begin with. New Age charlatans and plastic medicine men who do not know what it is they’re toying with, who approach shamanism not as a calling, but as a spiritual vacation.

    They have only my contempt, but I do not write of them for their sake–I doubt there is anything I can do for that. I write this to distance myself from them, to not be confused with them, and hopefully, to warn some of those they might exploit.

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 3 April 2006 @ 3:59 PM

  65. I am in college right now and actually, am doing a research paper on shamanism. To be soo in touch with nature and mother Earth is beautiful. Shamans are chosen or called upon, not interested in the topic and says “Hey I’ll quit my job and do drugs.” Shamans also suffer through helping as the article above states. The fact that idiots are trying to make money from spirituality is pathetic and true demon worship. This selling of religious rituals has occured in Catholicism as well. In the Renaissance, Catholic priests would sell indulgences, also known as buying your salvation. Hell is truely on Earth and only those who are chosen can save us. I respect shamans, medicine men/women, Kam, Peaiman, Lhapa, paje because the suffering they go through and reaching the brink of death but coming back to help those who also suffer. They really are the masters of this world.

    Comment by Samantha — 28 April 2006 @ 8:13 PM

  66. The fact that idiots are trying to make money from spirituality is pathetic and true demon worship.

    Pathetic? Perhaps. Demon worship? That might be going a little overboard.

    Comment by Mike Godesky — 28 April 2006 @ 9:06 PM

  67. please be aware the term you are using is entheogen, not ethnogen. It means “generate divinity within” or similar, nothing to do with ethno as in people. Ethnobotany and so on does involve entheogens, so the overlap makes it blurry, but it would be appreciated if you were to correct this mistake in this otherwise excellent writeup.

    Comment by Anonymous — 25 August 2006 @ 7:11 PM

  68. Thanks for the correction. I was actually aware of that, and the origin of the word, and its irrelevance to the Greek ethnos … what you’re looking at is a plain ol’, run of the mill spelling error. :)

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 25 August 2006 @ 7:37 PM

  69. This touches on something I’ve wanted to post about for a bit, so apologies in advance if this is a bit off-topic. I was into the New Age thing for a while, particularly in the form of the NA “Bible” known as A Course In Miracles. This is a salvationist fundamentalist theology that teaches, among other things, that the ego is that from which we need to be saved and that you are 100% responsible on a metaphysical level for 100% of the reality you experience 100% of the time. The appeal it had for me was that it gave me some certainty in a scary time in my life and I thought becoming a believer would abrogate the consequences of the poor life-choices I had made in the past.

    I still think having a more Spirit (or “God”, if you’d rather) -focused mindset did keep those consequences from being as bad as they might have been. But the airy-faerie-woo-woo magic wand, needless to say, didn’t make everything all nifty.

    It was when I learned about Peak Oil and realized that a major die-off was on the way that I outgrew NA teachings. After all, would the NA crowd have us believe that those who perish in the “die-off” will have only themselves to blame for their failure to “create their reality” properly? It also didn’t help that I was increasingly realizing how totally full of hypocritical self-righteousness, whacko-weirdo kookery, and outright fraud and hoodwinkery the NA movement was and always has been. (And don’t even get me started on so-called “professional psychics”! Professional sociopaths is more like it, I’d say.)

    Comment by Thomas Rondy — 9 September 2006 @ 12:10 PM

  70. The correct term for a shamanic sacrament such as ayahuasca or teonanacatl is entheogen, not “ethnogen”. Your confusion detracts from your credibility as an authority on these matters.

    Comment by Tony Giles — 7 December 2006 @ 9:33 PM

  71. See comment #68: I’m not confused, I just made a spelling error—though your confusion of the sacrament with the plant used in it (the entheogen) does make such a condescending repetition particularly irksome. The entheogen is no more a shamanic sacrament than the host wafer is itself the Communion of Roman Catholic liturgy.

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 7 December 2006 @ 9:38 PM

  72. You’re being way too harsh, without knowing all the facts.

    People who are involved in the use of psychotropic substances in psychedelic psychotherapy or neoshamanic healing circles are in it mostly because they want to heal their psyches, open their hearts and yes – to find their own sense of spiritual fulfillment. Yet contrary to you, I find absolutely nothing wrong with that. It seems that you are forgetting the fact that these people do live in communities and that the changes and transformations they go through don’t benefit only themselves but also the people they interact with and the community at large.

    I think your perspective might change dramatically if you would be ready to learn more about it. Especially recommended would be

    The Adventure of Self Discovery by Stanislav Grof (Amazon.com)
    Hallucinogenic Drugs and Plants in Psychotherapy and Shamanism by Ralph Metzner (http://www.markovide.com/psychonaut/)
    The Secret Chief by Myron Stolaroff (http://www.maps.org/freebooks.html)
    Thanatos to Eros, 35 Years of Psychedelic Exploration by Myron Stolaroff (http://www.maps.org/freebooks.html)

    People who are doing this work often go through incredibly painful and heart-wrecking experiences. They dive into the core of their pain in order to bring back their lost self and heal their wounds. Calling this work a pointless masturbation, is something only an unknowledgeable person could do.

    Comment by Mark — 9 December 2006 @ 1:08 PM

  73. There’s a lot of talk here about how REAL shamans never charge, which is a lot of bunk. In many societies, healers and shamans have to make a living too, whether it be in the form of cash, cows, llamas, or a sack of potatoes. I live in Peru, have travelled widely here, and am telling you this from first hand experience. Go to Korea, which has a rich shamanic tradition, (mostly women)and you¡ll find the same thing. I know of no shaman here who does NOT charge for his services, whether he or she is working for tourists or for “the tribe” or community.

    Let’s please not romanticize the shamanism of “darker skinned peoples”, as someone put it. I’ve met some really lousy, fear- mongering and egotistical “darker-skinned” Peruvian shamans, and some excellent white “neoshamans” who do genuine healing work, and vice versa. Most of them charge money or goods for their very difficult work.

    The question to me is, is this person making the world a better place? Not who the hell their ancestors were.

    Romanticism of so-called “primitive” cultures thinking that they have the one and only shamanic key is just another form of racism, another variant on the Noble Savage theme.

    No one I know in Native American cultures, here in the South or the North, uses the word “shaman”, unless they are specifically looking for the tourist dollar.

    As someone pointed out, this word comes from Siberia, meaning “he who knows”.

    As for first shaman and second shaman..interesting concept. Though in many jungle cultures here, the “first shaman” is actually an invisible master who teaches the physical shaman…it is not true that “shamanism” is always passed by oral teachings from living shaman to living shaman.

    To criticize a person because they find themselves on the shamanic path while looking for “spiritual enlightment”…hmmm, I guess the Buddha would have been just another masturbator. He too, a man of the priveleged class of his time, tried many paths and studied from many teachers before he decided to sit under the Boddhi tree.

    Comment by Mama Killa — 16 December 2006 @ 10:20 PM

  74. Mama Killa, I’m well aware of the types of “shamans” you’re referring to, and they prove that neoshamanism is not simply an affliction of people with skin the color of unbaked cookie dough. Cultural appropriation is rarely entirely one-sided, and there’s no shortage of “shamans” willing to lead eager American tourists on their ayahuasca “rituals.” Yes, they do charge. But they’re hucksters every bit as much as the white shamans and plastic medicine men.

    Shamans are a part of a hunter-gatherer culture. They don’t charge for all the same reasons you don’t give an invoice to your own child when he’s sick and you give him some chicken noodle soup. The fact that a real shaman is always part of a gift economy makes the very question of charging, or treating strangers, moot.

    I live in Peru, have travelled widely here, and am telling you this from first hand experience. Go to Korea, which has a rich shamanic tradition, (mostly women)and you¡ll find the same thing. I know of no shaman here who does NOT charge for his services, whether he or she is working for tourists or for “the tribe” or community.

    Peru’s been agricultural since the Moche, so nearly two thousand years. Korea is similar. While their practices show very strong shamanistic influences, I don’t think they can very accurately be called by that term, anymore than the priests of pharaonic Egypt.

    No one I know in Native American cultures, here in the South or the North, uses the word “shaman”, unless they are specifically looking for the tourist dollar.

    Absolutely. It’s kind of like the term “Big Man,” from Melanesia. It’s a useful umbrella term because there is a genuine, cross-cultural phenomenon going on here, even though each culture has its own distinct word for it. And of course, 9 out of 10 people who actually call themsevles “shamans” are liars. The remaining 1 is a Tungus.

    As someone pointed out, this word comes from Siberia, meaning “he who knows”.

    Actually, it’s more along the lines of “he who sees.”

    As for first shaman and second shaman..interesting concept. Though in many jungle cultures here, the “first shaman” is actually an invisible master who teaches the physical shaman…it is not true that “shamanism” is always passed by oral teachings from living shaman to living shaman.

    Yes and no. First Shaman is one of the most potent spirit teachers a shaman has, and much of a shaman’s instruction comes from the spirits, but realistically, shamans do need the guidance of other, human shamans to teach them how to listen to the spirits in the first place, for example.

    To criticize a person because they find themselves on the shamanic path while looking for “spiritual enlightment”…hmmm, I guess the Buddha would have been just another masturbator. He too, a man of the priveleged class of his time, tried many paths and studied from many teachers before he decided to sit under the Boddhi tree.

    The first Noble Truth of Dukkha is profound enough, I suppose, for a civilized man. Buddhism has some nice things in it, but Dukkha always seemed far too wrong-headed for me to ever fully embrace. So I can’t say I disagree with your assessment. Buddha never claimed to be a shaman, of course. The role of a shaman is not to find spiritual enlightenment; it’s not even principally to heal. Someone who doesn’t understand even that much is no shaman at all.

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 2 January 2007 @ 3:18 PM

  75. [quote]Shamans are a part of a hunter-gatherer culture. They don’t charge for all the same reasons you don’t give an invoice to your own child when he’s sick and you give him some chicken noodle soup. The fact that a real shaman is always part of a gift economy makes the very question of charging, or treating strangers, moot.

    [quote]I live in Peru, have travelled widely here, and am telling you this from first hand experience. Go to Korea, which has a rich shamanic tradition, (mostly women)and you¡ll find the same thing. I know of no shaman here who does NOT charge for his services, whether he or she is working for tourists or for “the tribe” or community.
    [/quote]
    Peru’s been agricultural since the Moche, so nearly two thousand years. Korea is similar. While their practices show very strong shamanistic influences, I don’t think they can very accurately be called by that term, anymore than the priests of pharaonic Egypt.
    [/quote]

    Ah… semantics. Perhaps this is similar to the foraging/horticulture/agriculture debate. Perhaps there is a continuum at work here? This shouldn’t be too far out in left field, after all we’re working off of the premise that religion follows way of life, no?

    [quote]Yes and no. First Shaman is one of the most potent spirit teachers a shaman has, and much of a shaman’s instruction comes from the spirits, but realistically, shamans do need the guidance of other, human shamans to teach them how to listen to the spirits in the first place, for example.[/quote]

    I’m not certain of this. In fact, I [b]think[/b] that I think Mama Killa is right on this. I’m going to have to give it some thought, but my intuition disagrees with you on this Jason.

    Comment by jhereg — 2 January 2007 @ 3:34 PM

  76. Ah… semantics. Perhaps this is similar to the foraging/horticulture/agriculture debate. Perhaps there is a continuum at work here? This shouldn’t be too far out in left field, after all we’re working off of the premise that religion follows way of life, no?

    Hardly semantics. As I wrote in my most recent piece, surviving tribal artifacts are all around us. The Moche and the ancient Egyptians were both quite shamanistic, because they carried a very strong shamanic heritage. Europeans use the term “shaman” in reference to Peruvian healers only because they’re “exotic.” If you look at what they actually do, it’s as far from a shaman as an ancient Egyptian priest.

    I’m not certain of this. In fact, I think that I think Mama Killa is right on this. I’m going to have to give it some thought, but my intuition disagrees with you on this Jason.

    If no human or cultural precedent is needed for a shaman to begin learning from the spirits, why aren’t there as many shamans per capita in the modern U.S. as among hunter-gatherer societies? The Sickness is still there, to be sure; all we’ve lost is the cure. There’s the calling, but without a human line, there’s no clue as to how it can be answered.

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 2 January 2007 @ 3:40 PM

  77. I don’t have any first hand experience with any shamans/magicians/non-traditional medicine (wo)men, but what Mama Killa says makes a lot of sense to me. As unfortunate as that may be, we don’t live in a hunter-gatherer society. So if we don’t trust/can’t afford/etc. modern medical treatment, what are we left with? Well, no, we don’t have access to hunter-gatherer shamans, but can’t there be some people who would perform the same function as shamans to the extent that it is possible in a civilized society? Sure, it’s not quite the same, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t do good work. And, given that they, too, live in a civilized society, and that they, too, need food on their tables and roofs over their heads, what are they going to do other than charge people for their services? Again, it’s not as good as it would be in a hunter-gatherer society, but it’s as good as we can get under the (civilized) circumstances. And it’s better than nothing.

    Frankly, Jason, I am surprised you are taking such a sharp stance on this, especially since you just wrote the “Radder than Though? article.

    Comment by Hasha — 2 January 2007 @ 3:56 PM

  78. Healing is incidental to shamans; a fringe benefit, if you will. It is not central to a shaman’s mission. A shaman’s central purpose is to negotiate the boundaries between his own community, and the other living communities they live with. If you have no community, then there can be no shaman, and a shaman can do absolutely nothing for a stranger.

    As unfortunate as that may be, we don’t live in a hunter-gatherer society. So if we don’t trust/can’t afford/etc. modern medical treatment, what are we left with?

    Find a certified herbalist. There are apothecaries and similar healers, as well. These are not shamans, though shamans sometimes do these things as well. But a so-called “shaman” who offers to “heal” you, even though you are not part of his tribe, is not going to help you on any of these counts.

    Frankly, Jason, I am surprised you are taking such a sharp stance on this, especially since you just wrote the “Radder than Though? article.

    Because it’s not shamanism. It’s putting on the clothes, but refusing to play the part. It makes a shallow mockery of something profound. The “Radder Than Thou” article emphasized building common ground; my common ground with neoshamanism is a respect for shamanism (though even that may be shaky, since neoshamanism shows great disrespect to actual shamanism through its callous and shallow appropriation). To build on that common ground, the first step is to abandon the fantasy that what a so-called “neoshaman” is doing has anything at all to do with shamanism.

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 2 January 2007 @ 4:06 PM

  79. On further reflection, I realized the connection between neoshamanism and my subject matter in “Radder Than Thou.” In that, Mark Meritt wrote:

    For those who give lip service to the workable bits with songs and homilies about how nice it would be for every day to be like Christmas or for every person to be virtuous in whatever way while living ones life so as to simply accept and perpetuate the mishmosh, there is no subversion, only status quo. It’s not enough to point out the workable bits. One must know how to build on them, and then one must start building.

    Neoshamanism is a particularly nefarious example of this. It takes on the name and the outward appearance of shamanism (at least, appearing sufficiently like it to fool those who lack an understanding of actual shamanism), and draws in those who might otherwise be led down a legitimately shamanistic path with a bunch of hucksterism and charlatanism that ultimately supports the status quo.

    Consider; a real shaman is a “gatekeeper” for a community. He’s the one who negotiates with the living world, an ambassador, if you will. The path of a real shaman is inextricable from the notion of community, and fostering healthy relationships with other communities.

    A neoshaman is little more than a fancy doctor. Real shamans do heal, but it is tangential. It is not their primary cause. Neoshamans exist primarily for their own spiritual benefit, or at best, as a healer.

    In other words, neoshamanism tries to extinguish one of the most powerful remaining heritages we as humans have, and ultimately serves the civilized status quo. This isn’t something that’s helping, but not quite going far enough. This is a trap. It’s hurting—badly.

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 2 January 2007 @ 4:38 PM

  80. Jason, I think we’re arguing about terminology here, which I generally consider to be a waste of time. I don’t care what word you use to describe someone (as long as it’s not downright offensive, that is). All that I’m saying is that there are some civilized humans who perform some of the same functions that shamans perform in hunter-gatherer societies. If you aren’t comfortable with calling them shamans, that’s fine with me; I’m even willing to indulge you and not call them shamans either. What I’m not willing to do is to say that any civilized person calling him/herself a shaman is masturbating. (S)he may or may not fit your or anyone else’s definition of a shaman, and (s)he may or may not be masturbating. But it’s perfectly possible for a person to call him/herself a shaman, while not fitting your definition of what a shaman is, and while still doing beneficial work. That’s all I’m saying.

    Comment by Hasha — 2 January 2007 @ 4:46 PM

  81. [quote]Healing is incidental to shamans; a fringe benefit, if you will. It is not central to a shaman’s mission. A shaman’s central purpose is to negotiate the boundaries between his own community, and the other living communities they live with. If you have no community, then there can be no shaman, and a shaman can do absolutely nothing for a stranger.[/quote]

    Agreed. But who says we don’t have a community? Surely, our community is not as strong as our forebears (well, if you go back far enough), but that isn’t to say that we have [b]no[/b] community. What are our artists, then? Are there not artists who act as communicators between the spirit community and their human community?

    [quote]Because it’s not shamanism. It’s putting on the clothes, but refusing to play the part. It makes a shallow mockery of something profound. The “Radder Than Thou” article emphasized building common ground; my common ground with neoshamanism is a respect for shamanism (though even that may be shaky, since neoshamanism shows great disrespect to actual shamanism through its callous and shallow appropriation). To build on that common ground, the first step is to abandon the fantasy that what a so-called “neoshaman” is doing has anything at all to do with shamanism. [/quote]

    I agree with the content of this, and I really [b]do[/b] think that semantics is behind the apparant disparity. “Shaman” has a lot of baggage and history to it, not always a good thing. You are quite right to say that “neoshamanism” has nothing to do with shamanism, but that is [b]not[/b] to say that aspects of shamanism aren’t being practiced in the here and now by civilized people, no matter how unknowingly. I think that if you were to rip away the tint of language on this and look afresh, you might be amazed to find many people right before you who have, to limited extents, adjusted for The Sickness. This then, is why I suggested a continuum concept.

    [quote]If no human or cultural precedent is needed for a shaman to begin learning from the spirits, why aren’t there as many shamans per capita in the modern U.S. as among hunter-gatherer societies? The Sickness is still there, to be sure; all we’ve lost is the cure. There’s the calling, but without a human line, there’s no clue as to how it can be answered. [/quote]

    First, there’s a big difference between abstract “need” and practical “need”. Abstract “need” is what I assumed you meant, and is much more rigid. I do think that there are people who have made it through The Sickness with only the help of spirits, though I have no doubt that they are few and far between.

    Comment by jhereg — 2 January 2007 @ 4:51 PM

  82. This has nothing to do with terminology. There is a legitimate cross-cultural phenomenon; some anthropologists have chosen to call it “shamanism,” after the Tungus practitioners in Siberia. I agree with this usage. Others disagree on such a usage; that is an argument about terminology.

    On the other hand, there is also a current movement that calls itself “neoshamanism.” These people bill themselves as shamans. They are not.

    There are people in the modern world who perform similar functions to shamans. David Abram points to some of our most radical wildlife biologists, for instance. It’s an incredibly short list. Notably absent from it is anyone affiliated with “neoshamanism.”

    What I’m not willing to do is to say that any civilized person calling him/herself a shaman is masturbating.

    I didn’t say that. I said that neoshamanism is masturbation. If you:

    • Have a tribe, meaning you have a close-knit family (possibly including both real and fictive kinship) with whom you both live and work, and
    • Your tribe has a sacred bond to a specific land that they would never voluntarily move away from, and
    • You are the primary point of contact that negotiates relations between your tribe and the various other living communities your tribe shares that land with…

    Then and only then you have earned the right to fancy yourself a shaman. A civilized person could very well do this. I will probably be able to do this at some point before I die. But this is not what a neoshaman is doing. A neoshaman is just masturbating.

    But it’s perfectly possible for a person to call him/herself a shaman, while not fitting your definition of what a shaman is, and while still doing beneficial work.

    There is a great deal of beneficial work that has nothing at all to do with shamanism. It really doesn’t matter how beneficial it is; if it’s not shamanism, then it’s not shamanism, and going around calling yourself a shaman is just romantic masturbation, and it’s deeply offensive to those shamans that still are around, to say nothing of the other Native groups who refuse to tolerate such a shallow appropriation of their culture.

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 2 January 2007 @ 4:59 PM

  83. Agreed. But who says we don’t have a community? Surely, our community is not as strong as our forebears (well, if you go back far enough), but that isn’t to say that we have no community. What are our artists, then? Are there not artists who act as communicators between the spirit community and their human community?

    Sure, and it’s important to remember that art began with shamanism. There’s hints of it still there. But we’re talking about neoshamans. Some of these guys will “treat” complete strangers, as a mere service rendered. They have invoices. Where’s the community in that? I’ve written several articles about restoring the shamanic traditon, but that’s not what neoshamanism is about.

    …but that is not to say that aspects of shamanism aren’t being practiced in the here and now by civilized people, no matter how unknowingly. I think that if you were to rip away the tint of language on this and look afresh, you might be amazed to find many people right before you who have, to limited extents, adjusted for The Sickness. This then, is why I suggested a continuum concept.

    I agree with you absolutely on this, but again, the subject at hand is neoshamanism. I find very strong echoes of shamanism all through our culture, but not in neoshamanism. Neoshamans make “shamanism” nothing more than doctors with body paint, a tribal Ph.D. from a weekend seminar. This is hardly the same thing as a real shaman—or even an artist, or a wildlife biologist, or a forester, all of whom carry much more of our culture’s shamanistic heritage than neoshamanism.

    I do think that there are people who have made it through The Sickness with only the help of spirits, though I have no doubt that they are few and far between.

    I’ve been counting, and so far, I only really have two that I’d really feel comfortable identifying as such: First Shaman, and Jesus.

    Comment by Jason Godesky — 2 January 2007 @ 5:06 PM

  84. [quote]But we’re talking about neoshamans.[/quote]

    Yes, the topic did start there didn’t it? :-)

    Perhaps I’m wrong, but I doubt that everyone that Mama Killa referenced falls under that title.

    The issue of payment was explicitly cited. I don’t have any trouble seeing a community member that performs such services and still accepting money (possibly even charging money). Is it true shamanism? No. But it does overlap it, and that’s where the confusion comes in.

    I know you want to draw a hard line here, and I understand why. But I also understand why people get confused about it. There has been so much abuse to the word “shaman” that I’m not even sure it’s useful anymore.

    [quote]I’ve been counting, and so far, I only really have two that I’d really feel comfortable identifying as such: First Shaman, and Jesus.
    [/quote]

    :-)

    Well, I think that’s a bit overly pessimistic of you, but then, perhaps my standards are lower.

    Comment by jhereg — 2 January 2007 @ 5:37 PM

  85. Jason, first a comment and then a question.

    Comment. You said:

    [quote] There is a great deal of beneficial work that has nothing at all to do with shamanism. It really doesn’t matter how beneficial it is; if it’s not shamanism, then it’s not shamanism, and going around calling yourself a shaman is just romantic masturbation, and it’s deeply offensive to those shamans that still are around, to say nothing of the other Native groups who refuse to tolerate such a shallow appropriation of their culture. [/quote]

    I really don’t think that Native groups would care much if you called yourself a shaman. What they are deeply offended by is when people steal from their traditions and then use them to their own ends, completely out of context in which those traditions evolved. I have just as much of a problem with stealing from other traditions as you do. It’s just that the word ‘shaman’ is not so loaded for me and I’m not so touchy about who calls him/herself a shaman.

    Question. What exactly is your issue with what Mama Killa said? Do you simply have a problem with calling the people that she’s talking about shamans, or are you saying that those people are doing nothing more than ‘masturbating’? (Because if it’s the former, than we’re back to the question of terminology, and I’m happy to let you have it your way because I don’t really care one way or another. If it’s the latter, than we’re indeed in disagreement over more than terminology.)

    Comment by Hasha — 2 January 2007 @ 8:02 PM

  86. I’ve been giving today’s round of comments a great deal of consideration, and first off, I’d like to apologize. I didn’t realize until today just how dissatisfied I’ve become with the term “shaman”, and should have presented my case differently from the onset.

    Nonetheless, I do feel that the word has lost almost all of it’s original meaning in the [b]living[/b] language that we must communicate in. At the same time, the [b]anthropological[/b] meaning makes me feel straightjacketed.

    Jason, you yourself said:
    [quote]There’s a war on, after all. It’s a war for hearts and minds; a war of memes. [/quote]

    And part of that war [b]is[/b] the living language that we communicate in. I’m afraid that we have all but lost the battle for the word “shaman”.

    I still think that there is a disguised opportunity here though. I share your disdain for neoshamans and their shallow ilk. But what if we could reframe what it means to be shaman? What if we could show our co-workers and family and friends how they fill the roles that shamans fill? I think we could make a real step forward, it may be a baby step, but a step nonetheless.

    Comment by jhereg — 2 January 2007 @ 9:16 PM

  87. Jhereg, that would require an actual modern shaman to show us the way.

    - Chuck

    Comment by Chuck — 2 January 2007 @ 9:19 PM

  88. Chuck, I don’t think so. We have people that at least [b]partially[/b] fill those roles now. Artists, healers (physical/mental/emotional), scientists; these are fragmentary roles, but can we really not husband them together? Is it really so impossible to imagine that we can take those as a starting points?

    Comment by jhereg — 2 January 2007 @ 9:27 PM

  89. No ideology is more important than what we share with one another… overthink the point, miss the moment and we end up neglecting one another and our transcending truth.

    Comment by Psychenaut — 9 January 2007 @ 5:59 PM

  90. Wonderfully written, but your “take no prisoners” style and content toward the novelists is unfair and smacks of the posture of a fundamentalist preacher. We can afford to be inclusive and non-defensive in the cause of traveling the winding road towardg authetic shamanism in the 21st century.

    Comment by Anonymous — 19 January 2007 @ 4:21 PM

  91. 1)Small groups or “tribes”,& large groups “collective”, “humanity”.

    2)Consciousness came to be, through art making & self expression. Something…..”snapped.”

    The greatest manifestations of self -expression & works of art have never been practical.Yet, can & have been the most influential, especially in relation to cultural shifts.Everything that exists, is first born in our minds, in effect this defines time.It is up to us to be sporadic in our internal thinking or to discover many realms of continuity.

    Linear, non-linear.Peripheral & panoptic.Earthly, cosmic.Etc.

    The positive nature of destruction has rarely been used for much of history ( renewal & rebirth ).
    We , consciousness, was born out of a dawning awareness of cycles of renewal & rebirth.

    Then, we created the symbolic & systematic , economic practice of supply & demand, ascertaining spiritual, social, political, material & immaterial values.
    But this is interesting , because as we have evolved throughout history this way, so have our layers of perception & our possibilities.All that we manifest & how it profoundly effects our sense of time & place, self & other, etc.
    But as of the last few centuries, we have lost our intuitive connect as far as our relationship to the earth which supplies us with our existence, & ironically, now we must discover it.We really have never, done this before.
    Even for cultures that have & still do live at peace with nature, now we are all really in the same boat.Certainly we can learn, from those that do, the native Amazonians for instance.

    Every single individual, has intuitive ability, across the globe, all backgrounds, cultures.It is more complex to be able to, or wish to tap into our natural intuition.Make the time to fully and consistently tap deeply into ourselves and others and the world around us.
    & all forms are equal whether someone may have strong intuition or mild intuition, it really does not make a difference.The only difference is which consciously chooses to tap into their senses.We all suffer, but not all of us seek the pure reality behind our pain, how to prevent pain, understand pain , relieve pain, pain awareness. Same to be said for happiness, and everything else.
    Especially tapping into the experiences of others & what one garners out of these experiences.

    “Shamans”, to term someone a Shaman is, cultural,”Tribal.”

    In the western industrialized world, a journalist in Iraq can be a Shaman, a pianist, a surgeon, a farmer, a novelist, someone who may suffer mental illness, a homeless individual, an eco- entrepreneur, etc, this is determined by the awareness, nature & outcome, influence, uniqueness, practice, consistency & quality of such acts.

    & they do not even have to be aware.They are, very much gifted or emotionally aware, intuitive and practiced & inspired, in their own way.

    What concerns me is that the industrialized world places more emphasis on those who do not inspire & heal others, than those that do.
    So we all fall prey to repeatedly unnatural, illusory, negative and manipulative distractions.
    By tapping into a human beings fears & ego..Then we become conditioned to return to these illusions and depend on them, manage & create a life for them.
    There is a unique influential flow to each individuals life that can get lost as a result.We lose human unity.Even an intimate, mutual, fully aware, sexual act can give us knowledge & visions & inspired true motives as to where our lives are headed.Good or bad.
    But we exploit & idealize sexuality so much that we get lost & rarely tap into our intuitive & viceral feelings about intimacy & knowledge of others. Communicate our feelings.
    We maintain or lack consistency in acquiring knowledge from each other & take each other for granted & thus, our earth.
    The reality is, that an archetype does not exist until it is alive & has been practiced, conscious, created. We smother people with false archetypes that just lead to one-dimensional being.
    There are ways no not tap into a human beings fears & egos & lacks & create a thriving world, obviously we are working on this. I am optimistic, excited really.
    I think we should all focus more energy on those people in our lives, the lives of objects & things, events & natures that consistently inspire & heal us. Help us grow, acknowledge our right to these experiences for others & ourselves.
    Observe more, open ourselves, educate ourselves & apply our natures to the reality/ies instead of applying reality/ies to- our natures.There is a difference.

    Then, i think we may be able to use our “collective” intuition together more readily & positively, especially in relation to the environment. &, solve many problems.Better leaders.More to follow.

    & we are all inspired & debating about this topic, which i think is great.

    Reading about cultural/tribal shamans, is great.It is endless all that one can learn from cultures still managing/struggling to thrive around the world today & even our innaccurate history.

    Thank you, for letting me share my thoughts.

    Comment by Maq — 2 May 2007 @ 4:02 AM

  92. It took longer to read through the many (!!) comments than it did the essay itself. However I would like to offer my own feedback. (I hope you still check your comments from time to time.)

    As a working shaman in our post-tribal culture I would agree with much of what you say. However, allow me to point out a point at which I disagree.

    You write: Today, “neoshamans” sell their services to strangers as “alternative medicine practitioners”–for a fee. They often operate alone. Shamans heal, but they never seek payment for it. They refuse to accept any gifts if the healing is not successful. And most importantly, shamans never work with strangers–they heal the members of their community. The community is essential: without a tribe, there is no shaman.

    An excellent point, but you miss the fact that the traditional shaman is acting appropriately and competently within the strictures of HIr own culture. Within a traditional tribal culture, it makes perfect sense to operate without “pay”, because the members of the tribe - especially the shaman - are taken care of by the web of the tribe. The shaman doesn’t need to “charge” because SHe knows that her basic needs will be met as a member of that tribe. When a post-tribal shaman charges a reasonable rate for effective and competent services that heal and retrieve information for the client, SHe is ALSO operating in an appropriate and competent way within the strictures of our modern culture.

    When you study the behaviors of shamanic healers in different tribal cultures, you notice many similarities that arise from the cultural similarities of all tribal societies. Since we are not a tribal culture, we lack those structures and it would be absurd for us to work as if we did.

    That said, this lack of real community is one of the most pervasive wounds we carry as a people. For the most part, we have lost any real connection with our souls, our ancestors, the earth, spirit - we could go on.

    Is it any wonder that there are many people today who are stumbling along on the path of healing these wounds? If nature abhors a vacuum, it’s about time this one was filled.

    namaste,

    Kenn Day
    http://www.shamanstouch.com

    Comment by Kenn Day — 25 May 2008 @ 4:17 PM

  93. just thought i’d mention, indigenous people wear straw hats, shoes and houses because they work and work well. Its a matter of insight on their part. More and more evidence is showing up for marvelous aboriginal technologies and enegineering feats all the time. I hate that “live in grass huts spear chuckers” stuff.

    Comment by benny — 5 March 2009 @ 5:01 AM

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