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Author Topic: Books on Shamanism...  (Read 2907 times)
elaoin
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« Topic Start: January 16, 2008, 08:53:27 am »

Before I get a "Oh you need to look back!" message, I did, and found this quote:

Still, any book on shamanism has to be better than McCoy's By Oak, Ash, and Thorn, which seems at times to be a poor rip-off of Cowan's work, with her particular bent to it.  {bangs head on desk-- I'll never get back the time I spent reading that tripe}. 

...and had to heave a sigh. I was suggested By Oak, Ash, and Thorn by D.J. Conway, and am wondering (fairly certain) if it's the same Aisling mentioned here. If so, then I shake my fist at my local (and only!) pagan shop! I need to write out the list of "do not read" authors before I go searching for books... At least I'm only 60ish pages in. Sad

What I'm looking for isn't the "this is how to do a Shamanistic ritual/journey/etc". I want the meat 'n potatos, the whys, the real 101. All I know is what I read in By Oak, and I just wasn't happy with diving right into the journey work (nor was I impressed by "nothing on your journey can actually hurt you if you have your white light with you!" *gag*). I see Finn suggested Singing the Soul Back Home: Shamanism in Daily Life by Caitlin Matthews in the same thread as Aisling posted in, and am wondering if it covers these basics. I realize there's only so much that can be covered with non-tradition specific books, but I need a starting point. A reasoning. I just don't take people's assertions as truth anymore gosh darnit! Logic must back it up! Wink

Other books I've gleaned from that thread to be good are Exploring Shamanism by Hillary S Webb, Totemism by Claude Levi Strauss (for an academic look, should be more historically accurate... Right???). Beyond that, though, I'm clueless as to where to start at the beginning, and I don't have a ton of money to spend on (another) book that may or may not give what I need. And I don't necessarily need a Celtic tie-in, I just thought it'd be 'neat' to have one, since I love all things Celtic. Pretty silly, now that I think about it...
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« Reply #1: January 16, 2008, 09:35:37 am »

What I'm looking for isn't the "this is how to do a Shamanistic ritual/journey/etc". I want the meat 'n potatos, the whys, the real 101. All I know is what I read in By Oak, and I just wasn't happy with diving right into the journey work (nor was I impressed by "nothing on your journey can actually hurt you if you have your white light with you!" *gag*). I see Finn suggested Singing the Soul Back Home: Shamanism in Daily Life by Caitlin Matthews in the same thread as Aisling posted in, and am wondering if it covers these basics. I realize there's only so much that can be covered with non-tradition specific books, but I need a starting point. A reasoning. I just don't take people's assertions as truth anymore gosh darnit! Logic must back it up! Wink

If you want the meat and potatoes, then start back at the beginning:

Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy by Mircea Eliade. No matter how old this is, this is the text on shamanism.


But The Spirit of Shamanism by Roger Walsh has gotten good reviews here: http://lupabitch.wordpress.com/category/shamanism/, Lupa's Pagan Book Reviews, and so have these: The Shaman by Piers Vitebsky and The Elements of Shamanism by Nevill Drury.

This latter is a less complete overview of shamanism than Eliade, but probably a good general start, and the Vitebsky is about basic shamanism from an anthropological POV.

The Spirit of Shamanism looks a little more psychologically at the shaman experience.


You might want to start with something like The Elements of Shamanism and then move on to the Eliade (heavy stuff there), but either way, the Eliade is basically required reading for anyone interested in shamanism in general.

I hope this helps.
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« Reply #2: January 16, 2008, 11:25:10 pm »

nor was I impressed by "nothing on your journey can actually hurt you if you have your white light with you!" *gag*
Oh, fer cry-ey-ey.  You can die out there (as, for that matter, you can here, especially if you're someplace where you're unfamilar with the conditions; "having your white light with you" is no substitute for looking both ways before you cross the street).

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« Reply #3: January 16, 2008, 11:38:22 pm »

either way, the Eliade is basically required reading for anyone interested in shamanism in general.
Trouble is, Eliade was an armchair historian, not an anthropologist.  (Others can - and have; I should have searched the forums for "Eliade" before I hit reply, but I didn't - address the ways this is problematic better than I can.  I rather think I've seen Catja deconstruct it, but I may be mistaken.)

His work is certainly the trigger point from which neoshamanism grew, so it has a huge influence on modern practice.  But I think I'd rate it as "useful" (I'd say "potentially useful", but Finn wouldn't be recommending it if she hadn't verified that potential) rather than "essential".  I haven't read any of his stuff myself, and the lack doesn't seem to be interfering with my Walking Between the Worlds any.

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« Reply #4: January 17, 2008, 12:21:13 am »

Trouble is, Eliade was an armchair historian, not an anthropologist.  (Others can - and have; I should have searched the forums for "Eliade" before I hit reply, but I didn't - address the ways this is problematic better than I can.  I rather think I've seen Catja deconstruct it, but I may be mistaken.)

He probably has been deconstructed somewhere here--but if you want to start off in the soil that all the shamanic trees have grown from, then Eliade is no bad place to start, and you'd be hard pressed to find something else with the backbone it has.

I see Finn suggested Singing the Soul Back Home: Shamanism in Daily Life by Caitlin Matthews in the same thread as Aisling posted in, and am wondering if it covers these basics.

I just realized I didn't mention anything about the Singing The Soul Back Home book. As anything with the Matthews', exercise caution. Luckily, she doesn't go into her "Celtic shamanism" in the book, but it is only slightly above 101 in terms of depth into the subject--it does cover the basic, but little else. This may be a good thing--since I read it having a bit of practice under my belt anyway, it served more to help me clarify the purposes I had given myself in my practice.

I know many others have problems with the Matthews', no matter what they write, but I have and continue to find them to be a source of inspiration on how to approach my own spirituality, and even a source of poetic "revelation" (though perhaps that's too big a word for it), even if I wouldn't rely on their scholarship as being historically accurate (w/regards to Celtic spirituality anyway), nor would I consider them the end all to all things shamanic. 
 
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« Reply #5: January 17, 2008, 10:09:44 am »

I want the meat 'n potatos, the whys, the real 101.

Hmmm. The stuff I read was kinda academic, but in case you're interested:

The Shaman by Piers Vitebsky -- it's so colourful! and pretty! Like those Dorling Kindersley (sp?) info books. I found it covered a lot of ground in terms of basic beliefs and similarities, didn't go too in-depth into different cultures but, well, it's accurate when checked against the others. And did I mention pretty!

Shamanic Voices: a survey of visionary narratives by Joan Halifax -- the first chapter concisely outlines some basic common shamanic beliefs and experiences (very useful if you just want basic info without being saddled with loads of examples from non-Celtic cultures). The rest are basically accounts by shamanic practitioners (we're talking about the real McCoy, old Native American and Siberian and other kindsa folks) on some of their experiences.

Shamanism: an introduction by Margaret Stutley -- extremely wide-ranging; chapters about clothes, drums, cosmology, etc. etc. But the chapters mostly consist of a LOT of examples from different cultures, so it's very anthropological and not that useful for magical practice.

I also have Eliade's book but it's so thick I can't look at it.  Grin
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« Reply #6: January 18, 2008, 10:06:52 pm »


I can't vouch for it because I've only just started reading it, but you might want to take a look at Shamans/Neo-Shamans: Ecstasy, Alternative Archeologies and Contemporary Pagans, by Robert J. Wallis.

As I said, I've only just started it, but it seems to be an exploration of the anthropology of shamanism.

(If anyone has already read this and hates it, please let me know and save me the trouble of reading it myself.  Wink )
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« Reply #7: January 18, 2008, 11:14:45 pm »

Before I get a "Oh you need to look back!" message, I did, and found this quote:

...and had to heave a sigh. I was suggested By Oak, Ash, and Thorn by D.J. Conway, and am wondering (fairly certain) if it's the same Aisling mentioned here. If so, then I shake my fist at my local (and only!) pagan shop! I need to write out the list of "do not read" authors before I go searching for books... At least I'm only 60ish pages in. Sad

What I'm looking for isn't the "this is how to do a Shamanistic ritual/journey/etc". I want the meat 'n potatos, the whys, the real 101. All I know is what I read in By Oak, and I just wasn't happy with diving right into the journey work (nor was I impressed by "nothing on your journey can actually hurt you if you have your white light with you!" *gag*). I see Finn suggested Singing the Soul Back Home: Shamanism in Daily Life by Caitlin Matthews in the same thread as Aisling posted in, and am wondering if it covers these basics. I realize there's only so much that can be covered with non-tradition specific books, but I need a starting point. A reasoning. I just don't take people's assertions as truth anymore gosh darnit! Logic must back it up! Wink

Other books I've gleaned from that thread to be good are Exploring Shamanism by Hillary S Webb, Totemism by Claude Levi Strauss (for an academic look, should be more historically accurate... Right???). Beyond that, though, I'm clueless as to where to start at the beginning, and I don't have a ton of money to spend on (another) book that may or may not give what I need. And I don't necessarily need a Celtic tie-in, I just thought it'd be 'neat' to have one, since I love all things Celtic. Pretty silly, now that I think about it...

I see no one has recommended Mr Old Standby, Michael Harner's Way of the Shaman, but I do think it is an excellent, if old, overview of shamanism worldwide. I am also just starting Tom Cowan's Fire In The Head; Shamanism and The Celtic Spirit, and I am liking it so far, but I do belief that it may have been dissed here by some. I am getting goodies out of both, ymmv a course. Smiley
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« Reply #8: January 19, 2008, 09:45:59 am »

I see no one has recommended Mr Old Standby, Michael Harner's Way of the Shaman, but I do think it is an excellent, if old, overview of shamanism worldwide.

I've generally read not such great stuff about Harner, and Cowan is sketchy, but if you're getting goodies out of them, more power to you.

I got thinking after I read Fire in the Head, mostly about the sketchy information, but I did find some other tangential stuff useful when I was reading it.
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« Reply #9: January 19, 2008, 10:29:27 am »

I am also just starting Tom Cowan's Fire In The Head; Shamanism and The Celtic Spirit, and I am liking it so far, but I do belief that it may have been dissed here by some. I am getting goodies out of both, ymmv a course. Smiley

I don't think it's been dissed here, so much as this review gets pointed to whenever it comes up:
http://www.summerlands.com/crossroads/remembrance/_remembrance/fire_in_head.htm
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