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UNIT 2.1
• Word "shaman" derives from Manchu-Tungus "saman"
("The Most Knowledgeable"); Shamanism still
important in the region of North-east China today
• Animistic cults of North-East Eurasia
• Shamanism is often only one part of the cultic system
of a society
• Usually hereditary (female lineage) but also vocational
(sometimes people with a psychical disease which
gets "reinterpreted" by society)
• "Asylum space" for maladapted individuels
• "Technique of ecstasy" (Mircea Eliade)
• Special mode of life, which makes possible the
bringing of the sacred symbols, images, and
elements to the profane world – way of mediating
between the sacred and profane.
• Characteristic: low availability for the
"unselected", very low degree of systemization,
absence of any serious organization (clan cult),
high degree of practicality and very sensual,
concrete nature of "the sacred" (spirits as animals
and humans). Very low ethical content, low
degree of abstraction.
• Technique of "controlled" trance
• Often keepers of tradition (recite poems,
epos, etc.)
• Revelation of the sacred in the profane world
( hierophany )
• Initiation rites ("death" [dismembering,
purification] and "rebirth"; sexual motives,
helping spirits, loss of consciousness,
dreams, visions of spirits and animals,
journey to the underworld or Heaven;
frequent topics:
- Cosmic Tree which bridges the world of the
profane and the sacred
- Cosmic Mountain)
• Shamanist elements in early layers of East Asian cults
and myths
• JAPAN: "Myth of the Cave of Heaven":
Sun-Goddess Amaterasu, offended by the behaviour of her brother Susanoo (wind deity),
withdrew into the “Cave of Heaven”, and the world lost light. The other gods, however,
succeeded in luring her out of the cave by the means of "divine entertainment" ( kami-asobi ) –
naked dances followed by laughter. This "divine entertainment" strongly resembles a
Shamanist ceremony for attracting a heavenly deity to descend upon a shaman.
• Early female rulers in Japan (2nd, 3rd cent.) are described as
female shamans in Chinese sources (kannabi-yama "deity-
inhabited mountains" as cultic centers)
• Also shamanist elements in some "new" Jap. Religions
E.g. Nakayama Miki
(1798-1887). “Foundress of Tenri-kyô. After powerful revelatory experiences, Nakayama engaged in
faith healing and rituals for safe childbirth. Later she preached the salvation of human beings, whom she
called the "children" of the "parent kami" (Oyagami). Her written works include Mikagura-uta (Songs for
the Sacred Dance) and Ofudesaki (Tip of the Divine Writing Brush).”
• In recent years new "shamanistic" movements in Japan
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