To truly understand the meaning of shamanism one must uncover the original definition. The word shaman comes from the language of the Evenk, a small Tungus-speaking group of hunters and reindeer herders from Siberia. It was first used only to designate a religious specialist from this region. Shamanism is a huge factor in most traditional religions, some of which include the Africans, Native Americans, many parts of Asia, as well as other cultures. Today people have gone as far as defining the word shaman as any human that acknowledges that he/she has had contact with spiritual entities. Well, at least the term still refers to human beings.
Shamanism is humanity’s oldest form of relationship to Spirit. As such, it is the underpinning beneath all religion. Many consult mediums who communicate with spirits while in a trance. Some may be possessed only once or twice in their lifetime, but others claim to be in regular contact with one or more ‘familiars’ that they can identify by name. However, over the years it did not receive the scholarly attention that it so requires. The age of discovery garnered a multitude of information on shamanism all over the world.
Although shamans themselves are known for their use of verbal art as an important tool of their trade, one form of narrative that is important in shamanic traditions is the relating of stories about shamans by other members of the community. The Siberian shaman’s soul is said to be able to leave the body and travel to other parts of the cosmos, particularly to an upper world in the sky and a lower world underground. A broader definition is that shamans would include any kind of person who is in control of his or her state of trance, even if this does not involve a soul journey.
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