Wednesday, 4 November 2009


We westerners have a talent for taking words and concepts from other cultures and using them for our own ends.

Not surprisingly I am reading about Shamanism right now. I have just come across this website all about Tengerism. This is a website written to promote and preserve Mongolian and Siberian Shamanism. Except it isn't. Tengerism is the religion and Shamans are the priests of this religion.

When anthropologists traveled to the new world they found similar beliefs amongst some of the tribes and so they lumped them all together under the term shaman. The different tribes do not apparently share the same beliefs.

Steps have been taken in some countries to ensure that Shamans are registered so that people can not claim to be what they are not. You can not become a Shaman in a weekend and apparently, according to Tengerism, you are chosen by the spirits at birth and this is made clear later in life. Another Shaman should recognise the potential and seek to train the new Shaman who then progresses through nine degrees, although few reach the ninth.

I can see how if a term that refers to your holy people is hijacked and now refers to people of many nations and beliefs. I can see how different tribes would become offended by being lumped together. How it would be offensive when people assume that because they have read a book about shamans that they therefore know what the believes are of someone who belongs to a specific tribe somewhere else. Ignorance is no excuse.

But what do you do when that word has come to be an umbrella term for a bunch of tribal believes that share certain things?

We all love a label don't we?

I guess the problem is that we carelessly lost our own tribal faiths that would have fallen under the shamanic umbrella. Except it wasn't careless. Just as empire making has spread the word shaman, so it was empire building which took our original pagan beliefs and turned them into something else. They were swallowed up somewhere within Catholocism, wewll parts of them were....

So maybe we need a new word. A new classification. So that we can talk about what we believe without giving offence to those that we seek to learn from. Using our own words, from our own languages. Any ideas or suggestions?

The words we do have Witch, Wicca, Druid and Bard all have meanings of their own...


  1. this reminds me of the talk about "the white elephant" with paganism... you know when you steal another culture... i forget the term.

    In any case- interesting. I had no idea about the different shamans and shamanism.

  2. I wrote this post and was unsure how I felt about it... so i scheduled it and then forgot about it... and then here it is....