Science topic

Shamanism - Science topic

An intermediate stage between polytheism and monotheism, which assumes a "Great Spirit", with lesser deities subordinated. With the beginnings of shamanism there was the advent of the medicine man or witch doctor, who assumed a supervisory relation to disease and its cure. Formally, shamanism is a religion of Ural-Altaic peoples of Northern Asia and Europe, characterized by the belief that the unseen world of gods, demons, ancestral spirits is responsive only to shamans. The Indians of North and South America entertain religious practices similar to the Ural-Altaic shamanism. The word shaman comes from the Tungusic (Manchuria and Siberia) saman, meaning Buddhist monk. The shaman handles disease almost entirely by psychotherapeutic means; he frightens away the demons of disease by assuming a terrifying mien. (From Garrison, An Introduction to the History of Medicine, 4th ed, p22; from Webster, 3d ed)
Questions related to Shamanism
  • asked a question related to Shamanism
Question
31 answers
What are some good sources on the connection between religion and environment?
Relevant answer
Answer
Try to read some scientific sources of Islam through reading of Quran and Prophet words you can realize about your subject.
  • asked a question related to Shamanism
Question
3 answers
Superstitious health beliefs abound in traditional societies. Many people believe in shamanism, sorcery, spirit possession, witchcraft, evil eye, magic, charms, luck, etc. and often resort to shamans for supernatural healing. Those who seek medical help from the shamanic healers are often blamed for their superstitious beliefs and practices and non-compliance and non-adherence to the medical advice. Superstitious beliefs are culturally rooted and exist throughout the world. Biomedicine is described as ‘scientific medicine,’ and biomedical practices logical and rational. Do you agree that all biomedical practices are free from superstitions and biomedical practitioners do away with superstitions?
Relevant answer
Answer
Creio que não se separa o todo de suas partes. Onde estamos, o que fazemos, nossas crenças nos acompanham, por ser um elemento fundante da nossa socialização cultural. Espero ter contribuído.
  • asked a question related to Shamanism
Question
3 answers
I want to know the clear distinction of the two.
Relevant answer
Answer
I think you need to consider the sources of these terms. I doubt that many societies describe their own health/religious specialists as "witch doctors". Shamans are, as noted above, religious specialists, but the separation between medical and religious systems in many societies is quite vague. In order to address this issue, you would also need to consider priests and faith healers. Faith healers can be grouped with shamans, certainly. There is quite a bit of ethnocentrism lurking in these terms that needs to be worked out. I would suggest that you take a look at Peter Brown's book Understanding and Applying Medical Anthropology, with a focus on the section on ethnomedicine and healing. It would be a good place to start.
  • asked a question related to Shamanism
Question
4 answers
- Are there places in the world where DID is integrated into culture (e.g. hmong shamanism) or appears in folklore?
- What are some places that are better and that are worse at recognizing DID?
- Does the whole world use the DES?
- When DID is diagnosed, what are the treatments in places other than America/Europe?
Relevant answer
Answer
"Rêve et chamanisme", ed Accarias l'Originel, Paris, 1998.
  • asked a question related to Shamanism
Question
2 answers
I wonder whether anyone may be able to share anecdotal evidence regarding the efficacy or otherwise of binaural beats stimuli on things like meditation, lucid dreaming, dreaming, creativity, sleep, shamanic journey meditation, cognition, concentration, imagination, visualization, etc?
Relevant answer
Answer
Thanks Michael, I'll try to follow that up.
  • asked a question related to Shamanism
Question
4 answers
“participants rated the vividness of colour experiences and selected specific colours in response to a set of graphemes (letters/sounds like ‘S’, ‘U’, ‘OO’) and sounds in L SD and placebo conditions. Participants also independently completed measures of absorption and visual imagery” (Terhune et al. 2016). Is that a good measure for “experience of drug-induced synaesthesia-like experiences”. LSD volunteers are not reliable because they’re in no uncertain terms behaving unpredictably. The evidence suggests they are in a disorganised, creative, and free roaming state of consciousness (Kaelenso et al. 2014) to use any type of self-assessment would be fraught with subjectivity and miscommunication through their own sensitivity to emotional states and others, this is related to atypical experiences under the effect of psychedelic drugs. I don’t think it is feasible to test highly sensitive individuals, in lucid dream-like states of mind under controlled experimental conditions without controlling for said conditions, we would ideally need a condition control group as well as a placebo control condition group, although in my opinion a placebo control isn’t necessary because we are aware the drugs are having a distinct effect and do not need confirmation that these effects are not being caused by placebo effects. What we need to account for is the set and setting, the old idiom of many experienced users of psychedelic drugs, including but not limited to culturally relevant rituals, such as you may refer to in shamanic practices. Although these rituals are highly relevant in western societies too, referring to Free-Masonry practices where ritual is highly relevant in inducing specific states of consciousness.  
Relevant answer
Answer
I would like to relate Huston Smith's observation that classic placebo-controlled studies are ineffective, I would even say irrelevant, in psychedelic research since it quickly becomes apparent to all involved, subjects and researchers alike, who got the placebo and who got the psychedelic agent (he made such a comment after having been involved with the original Good Friday experiment). Moreover, such studies stem from the ethos of reductionist-materialist scientific practices - which are of value in clearly materialistic sciences like chemistry, for instance - in which the fantasy of "objective" science can be approximated. Ultimately all data obtained from experimentation must be interpreted by human beings, who are subjects. As I say this approach has practical value within the parameters of the Newtonian scientific worldview, which has been of enormous value in consensual reality; but becomes irrelevant, even ridiculous, to one who is in a psychedelic state. Not only are their rational communicative capabilities impaired - the observation of an outside observer - but their valuation of participating in such a study becomes laughable in their alternative/expanded state of reference. The research of Claudio Naranjo or Stanislav Grof, for instance, is more relevant. Here, a highly trained scientific observer of those in psychedelic states apply a qualitative analysis, which can really only be conducted after acquiring a significant corpus of experience and acknowledging that subjects can evaluate subjects only within a tentative theoretical framework - the ideal of true science in any case, where theory must be endlessly revised to match observation. Also, as Mr. Marks observed, synaesthesia is a fairly infrequent feature of psychedelic states.  Further, experiments meant to observe particular outcomes in psychedelic states cannot be crafted by design due to the highly individualistic nature of the entheogenic experience. I should mention my bias: I am a psychologist focusing on consciousness studies, which can only be a qualitative interpretation. This does not preclude rational and scientific study, but it does preclude the reductionist gold standard of objectivity and unswervingly reproducible outcomes.
  • asked a question related to Shamanism
Question
28 answers
Several scholars have attempted to place the figure of the Animal Master or Mistress within the context of the cosmology of indigenous people.  There appears to be growing evidence of a worldwide expression is this figure in religious traditions throughout the globe.
Do you have any data to support such a position?
Are there figures in the cosmological trope from your research areas to support the identification of an Animal Master/Mistress supramundane figure?
What is the evidence, how is he/she depicted, what is his/her role, what kinds of religious ceremonies, rituals or artistic devises are employed to represent, illustrate and venerate such a deity?
Relevant answer
Answer
There's also the Minoan Potnia Theron.  On a methodological note, I think it's important to look at differences as well as well similarities.  Outward similarities may not indicate common meanings across cultures.  So speaking of an Animal Master/Mistress is problematic, because it implies it's the same figure worldwide and can be interpreted the same way....   I'm certainly not against the idea of cross-cultural similarity, phenomenological or otherwise, but I'm also very cautious about it.  
I'm also skeptical about claims of the great prehistoric antiquity of shamanism (often based on dubious equations between indigenous cultures and what we imagine early humans to have been like), and about the interpretation of rock art as necessarily shamanistic.  On these points see Alice Kehoe's Shamans and Religion, and H. Sidky's article "On the antiquity of shamanism and its role in human religiosity," in Method & Theory in the Study of Religion 22.
  • asked a question related to Shamanism
Question
19 answers
Subsistence?  Ritual?  Shamanism?  Cosmology?  Oral traditions?
Relevant answer
Answer
Howdy Alan, you are certainly asking tough questions, and if you don't know, I'm not sure how much  us amateur rock art folks can do! Obviously, the first point is that imagery does not mean the same thing in all contexts.  Like most things that hunter-gatherers do, rock art also is almost certainly particular to specific environments, and we should expect temporal differences even in similar locations. Other than the tremendous interest in Australian rock art, there has been ethnographic questioning of only  a few groups of H&Gs about either their own rock art or past examples in that in their current land use areas. John Marshall filmed a Ju/'hoansi informant interpreting a rock art panel as the story of a hunt. Hard to know how much that was influenced by the filming Marshall was doing or ≠Toma's role in it and his interest in hunting. Laurens van der Post & Jane Taylor popular book "Testament to the Bushnmen", 1984, recounts some older observations about Ju/'hoansi folks who had accounts of 19th century accounts of painting. Van der Post notes that human figures are much more common than animal images in art attributed to "bushmen". He cites several researchers who recorded rock art in Ju/'hoansi territory. Most of these early accounts  link the imagery to mythical stories (i.e., J. M.  Orpen questions to a guide eliciting info he and other researchers felt was purely related to myth). I personally think a lot of this "myth & ritual" is passing off our linguistic ineptitudes as informants concern with non-concrete, non-scientific concepts. In my time with Pumé hunter-gatherers in the savannas of Venezuela, It has often taken up to 24 months and my slowly growing competence in the language of this monolingual group to get answers volunteered that explain activities I've been asking about. Why do Pumé kill all raptors (I thought maybe it was because of competition for the small game-armadillos lizards-rbbits that they rely on for most of their hunting)? After asking over a 20 month period, someone turned to me, while scrambling some hawk eggs with an arrow after her husband climbed a tree and threw all the eggs out of a hawk nest during a hunting trip, and explained that "the Hawk people fly away and tell the Deer people we are here." I thought this was a cute story until I realized it was a naturalistic description of animal behavior, deer see somewhat poorly, but hear and smell acutely, and the hawk's alarm call would certainly startle them. They explained evapotranspiration during the dry season in accurate physics terms: "the wind drinks the water." The only things that are difficult to explain are things with complex causes, such as where will lightning strike and how can it be avoided? We cannot predict that well even with our technological abilities to image and track storms. I have a couple additional long-winded stories about lightning and anti-lightning "magic" devices that I think puts it into a scientific light as well  I personally think a lot of "myth" pseudo-explanations is our own laziness and potentially racism at not realizing that hunter-gatherers have very sophisticated knowledge about the natural world they live in and observe every day (as do agricultural and pastoral folks as well). The geological stability of Australia's  Central Desert seems associated with the geographic stability of much of the placement of rock art imagery, and its frequent association with water holes. Lew Binford contrasted this with his experiences with the Nunamuit in Alaska where he felt  rock art was identified with changing environmental conditions and human behavioral dynamics. I don't think he ever published this, but an example he used was that some rock art was associated with good river crossings. As rivers change their course, new crossings need to be identified. Crossings are named for the individual who identifies them, and rock art is more human focused and less ornamented with animals. He contrasted this with the stable locations and images with fixed names in Australian rock art he visited with the Alyawara. I have one other seminal study that should be well noted. Jennifer Galindo, an M.A. student of LuAnn Wandsnider's at the Univ of Nebraska, Lincoln did a fabulous thesis on rock art in N Australia that should have been a Ph.D dissertation. It is very hard to get a hold of. Iain Davidson "begged" a copy of mine, he could not find it anywhere in Australia. She spent over a year doing an ethnoarchaeological study of rock art distribution and imagery. She was an early competent  archaeological GPS technician and mapped rock art across a set of different clan territories. Her informants were no longer refreshing the rock art or making new rock art, but they used the same images in bark art for the tourist trade. So they were still very conversant in what the images represented. Adults also were still very knowledgable about the locations and boundaries of different clan territories. Jennifer compared images with their geographical and clan territory distributions. She recorded the design format of each rock art image (color(s); solid or outline; infilling style-i.e.,hatched; dots; "x-ray"; etc). In comparing the distributions of the images to the natural and clan geography, she found no associations between any terrestrial animals and any natural or clan areas. Fish had a slight association with streams, but that was not exclusive. No stylistic element of color, infilling, etc. patterned spatially. The ONLY spatial association was that anthropomorphs were distinct to particular clan territories, and were located along paths, so that if someone was unfamiliar with the area or too stupid to know whose territory they were entering, there was a big road sign spelling it out. Many Australian groups maintain detailed stewardship knowledge about areas they have special knowledge about, and that includes who goes in there and what they find. Most groups, at least in desert areas, must use multiple territories. Often bands are made up of folks with different "ethnicities" who together have access to several areas or have secondary-tertiary  abilities to request permission to forage in other locales.  Clan markers were important in Galindo's study. In talking with Jennifer about her results, it seemed the terrestrial animals are everywhere, and rock art with them reflects that distribution. Fish were mostly painted near water, but not always. No design or stylistic treatment had any pattern, these appeared to simply be idiosyncratic choices by the artist. Jennifer presented her findings at an SAA symposium on rock art, dominated by interpretations of penis and vulva images in anything long, lozenge shaped, or triangular. No one expressed any interest in what I thought was superb, hard-headed scientific inquiry, doing difficult ethnoarchaeology over one year, approaching a very intractable topic with exemplary creativity and rigor.  This doesn't answer your question Alan, but I hope it outlines some positive real world ways that scientific archaeology can sneak up on aspects of rock art with hypothesis, and not on the crutches of assumed mythological meaning (how could we ever get at such subjective "meaning" if it was the core of rock art imagery?). There are many aspects of creativity in rock art, but I think we have to start by evaluating what is knowledge that can be anchored to some real world hypothesis (like the zooarchaeology people have done very successfully with taphonomy-which applies to ALL aspects of the archeological record). Additionally, the archaeological record is an accretion of materials across many years, decades, centuries, or millenia. It is not stacked individual ethnographic moments, and almost never can it provide the view we have if we walk into a hunter-gatherer camp. The most visible archaeological records are temporal abstractions beyond the experience of any individual lifetime or short set of events. Interpretive approaches to rock art that hope to unlock their meaning seem unlikely to succeed. However, I think we can improve our understanding of how rock art may have functioned in some places. Alan, we have discussed some conversations I've had with Hopi informants to this effect as well. 
  • asked a question related to Shamanism
Question
4 answers
Relevant to on going research.
Relevant answer
Answer
Hello Kathleen
Sorry for the late response.
During the last 20 years several researches focuses on the effects of "shamanic drugs" (such Banisteriopsis caapi) from a neuropsy point of view. In fact, most of them use the EEG.
  • Riba, Jordi, et al. "Topographic pharmaco‐EEG mapping of the effects of the South American psychoactive beverage ayahuasca in healthy volunteers." British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 53.6 (2002): 613-628.
  • Stuckey, David E., Robert Lawson, and Luis Eduardo Luna. "EEG gamma coherence and other correlates of subjective reports during ayahuasca experiences." Journal of psychoactive drugs 37.2 (2005): 163-178.
  • Don, N. S., et al. "Effects of Ayahuasca on the human EEG." Phytomedicine 5.2 (1998): 87-96.
  • Hoffmann, Erik, Jan M. Keppel-Hesselink, and Y. M. da Silveira Barbosa. "Effects of a psychedelic, tropical tea, ayahuasca, on the electroencephalographic (EEG) activity of the human brain during a shamanistic ritual." MAPS Spring (2001): 25-30.
Prof. Ferigla did some neuropsychological study on Amazon shaman under the effect of Banisteriopsis caapi. His bibliography is immense, but I think that the most impressive work is
  • Fericgla Josep. 1997, Al trasluz de la ayahuasca. Antropología cognitiva, consciencias alternativas y oniromancia, Libros de la Liebre de Marzo, Barcelona y Abya Yala, Quito. 216 págs
You can read his complete CV at:
Also, Benny Shanon (2002) proposes a different approach -based on the cognitive psychology and on a purely phenomenological analysis of the altered state of consciousness generated by yajé- to understand what he consider, paraphrasing Aldous Huxley, the Antipodes of the Mind: the regions of our psyche that could be reached with the assumption of ayahuasca.
See:
  • Shanon, Benny 2002. The Antipodes of the Mind: Charting the Phenomenology of the Ayahuasca Experience. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press.
I hope this info could be useful.
Best regards
  • asked a question related to Shamanism
Question
4 answers
I'm looking for Chilean researchers interested in psychedelic research for sharing ideas and research projects.
Relevant answer
Answer
Great, Matias, you thought you already knew Cláudio Naranjo. If by any chance I get to know of other names I will let you know. Best regards! Alfredo