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Author Topic: Is the practice of shamanism a 'pagan religion'?  (Read 7095 times)
Zedd
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« Topic Start: August 02, 2008, 03:45:41 am »

I am curious to see how you folks believe shamanistic practices fit into the 'pagan religious' pervue. I understand the definition of 'shaman' is very subjective. For the sake of this discussion, I would like to limit it to one who enters into an altered state of consiousness for the purpose of visiting alternate realities for any of a host of reasons. I do realize that this is a very broad definition, and that many people could practice shamanism and not be calling it that (something I believe to be true).
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« Reply #1: August 02, 2008, 08:20:41 am »

For the sake of this discussion, I would like to limit it to one who enters into an altered state of consiousness for the purpose of visiting alternate realities for any of a host of reasons.

That's such a broad definition as to be meaningless -- and includes far too many things that are NOT shamanism either by academic or more standard "New Age" definitions of the term (two examples of definitely not shamanism that fit the over-broad definition you wish to use: Ceremonial Magicians exploring the Tree of Life, astral projection).

Shamanism is the religious/magical practices of certain Siberian tribes and can reasonably be extended to similar tribal religious/magical practices. Shamanic practices can be borrowed from these tribal cultures by others (which can be done respectfully or non-respectfully, the latter often for-profit).
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« Reply #2: August 02, 2008, 08:36:49 am »

Shamanism is the religious/magical practices of certain Siberian tribes and can reasonably be extended to similar tribal religious/magical practices. Shamanic practices can be borrowed from these tribal cultures by others (which can be done respectfully or non-respectfully, the latter often for-profit).

I personally don't see shamanism (as defined by generally modern terms) as anything but a practice. Sort of like witchcraft. It's a practice. Sure, it can have religious overtones, but distilled down to it's basics, it's a tool.
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« Reply #3: August 02, 2008, 11:49:51 am »

For the sake of this discussion, I would like to limit it to one who enters into an altered state of consiousness for the purpose of visiting alternate realities for any of a host of reasons.


Aside from the fact that that definition is too broad, I think it falls under the Pagan umbrella, especially if you're using the definition of Pagan being any religion that isn't Christian, Islam, or Judaic. As the others said, though, you're describing a practice more than a religion. Following your definition, I think that many Pagan religions have shamanistic qualities. (Is shamanistic even a word? I'll just pretend it is.)
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« Reply #4: August 02, 2008, 05:51:29 pm »


Aside from the fact that that definition is too broad, I think it falls under the Pagan umbrella, especially if you're using the definition of Pagan being any religion that isn't Christian, Islam, or Judaic.

Just for the record, the "official" definition of a Pagan religion at TC is a religion that is not a form of Christianity, Islam, or Judaism AND self-identifies as Pagan.
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« Reply #5: August 03, 2008, 03:29:05 am »

Just for the record, the "official" definition of a Pagan religion at TC is a religion that is not a form of Christianity, Islam, or Judaism AND self-identifies as Pagan.
I think there are some (self-identifying) Pagans who work with shamanic techniques, but that doesn't make all 'Shamans' Pagan. Like there are a lot of Pagans who work with Hindu Gods/esses, but that doesn't make Hindus Pagan.
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« Reply #6: August 03, 2008, 08:38:10 am »

Just for the record, the "official" definition of a Pagan religion at TC is a religion that is not a form of Christianity, Islam, or Judaism AND self-identifies as Pagan.



That's the definition I use, but I have noticed a few Pagans don't like it. . . I think because they would rather be defined by what they are rather than what they're not. It's never bothered me, though (it's less complicated, and most non-Pagans who are unfamiliar with what a Pagan is aren't interested in a long explanation and just need a simple definition anyway). I usually toss in a brief addendum because one time I had a very upset person go off on a ranting tangent about the topic out of nowhere. I doubt I have to worry about that here so much. It's too well-moderated.
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« Reply #7: August 03, 2008, 08:48:10 am »

I think there are some (self-identifying) Pagans who work with shamanic techniques, but that doesn't make all 'Shamans' Pagan. Like there are a lot of Pagans who work with Hindu Gods/esses, but that doesn't make Hindus Pagan.

One vthinkg to rememvber about TC's definition: it isn't talking about who is an isn't a Pagan on an individual level, but about which religions can rationally be considered Pagan. Shamanism, for example,  isn't one religion -- it is a number of loosely related by practice/belief tribal religions and some modern non-tribal ones. Also, some individuals use shamanic techniques and might even call themselves a Shaman while following a comletely different religion. It would be possible for one Shamanic religion to be Pagan and others to not be Pagan.
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« Reply #8: August 03, 2008, 08:53:13 am »

That's the definition I use, but I have noticed a few Pagans don't like it. . . I think because they would rather be defined by what they are rather than what they're not.

We have tried to come up with "defined by what they are rather than by what they are not" definitions of "Pagan religion" that include all religions normally considered a Pagan religion by those who follow them and excludes all religions not considered Pagan by their followers -- but have never been able to do so.  Most of the standard things that go in such a "positive definition" like earth-centered exclude one or more Pagan religions without intending to.
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« Reply #9: August 03, 2008, 09:53:37 am »

For the sake of this discussion, I would like to limit it to one who enters into an altered state of consiousness for the purpose of visiting alternate realities for any of a host of reasons. I do realize that this is a very broad definition, and that many people could practice shamanism and not be calling it that (something I believe to be true).

Have you read Graham Hancock's " Supernatural"?  Whilst I have issues with  his theories in other books he's written ( and don't much like his style of writing), in this one he visits and participates in shamanistic rituals across a number of different cultures with interesting results. 
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« Reply #10: August 03, 2008, 09:55:49 am »

Have you read Graham Hancock's " Supernatural"?  Whilst I have issues with  his theories in other books he's written 

I should have added that I find some of this " very odd" too!!
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« Reply #11: August 03, 2008, 10:41:56 am »

We have tried to come up with "defined by what they are rather than by what they are not" definitions of "Pagan religion" that include all religions normally considered a Pagan religion by those who follow them and excludes all religions not considered Pagan by their followers -- but have never been able to do so.  Most of the standard things that go in such a "positive definition" like earth-centered exclude one or more Pagan religions without intending to.

The textbook I teach out of calls them Neo-Pagan (for clarity reasons) and has a reasonably good definition, to which I've added my refinements, which comes out to Neo-Pagan religions being those that are: 1) Wiccan or Wiccan-related/derived; 2) reconstructionist; 3) modern nature-based; or 4) some syncretic religions. And we note that the edges of Neo-Paganism are more fuzzy than in most cases -- and that Neo-Pagan is a meta-group or a "movement" of many different religions, not "a religion" itself.

This catches MOST of the Pagan religions I've been exposed to; I can think of a few that fall on the fuzzy edges (f'ex, some non-Wiccan witchcraft, but that's often either individual (so not a "religion"), or could be easily fixed by including "witchcraft" into the Wiccan part of the definition, or, despite what the practitioners may claim, is historically Wiccan-related/derived. This last gets us into issues of whether we accept religions' self-definition when they are clearly a-historical; when a group of fundamentalist Christians claims their church sprung into being in 1872 with NO INTERVENING INFLUENCES since Jesus died, do we accept that as legitimate? It's CLEARLY important to their self-definition and often central to their beliefs, but it's just as clearly bunk.).

Part of the issue is that the boundaries of ALL religions are fuzzy. (Are Baha'i Muslims? Sunnis think they're Muslim heretics. Baha'i think they're the true carriers of the revelation that appears partially (in their eyes) in the Koran. Most outside observers view them as two different religions. Are Mormons Christians? They have a spare testament, a non-Trinitarian God, and don't confess the Nicene Creed; yet they're clearly Christian-derived and share many of the same core beliefs.) All you Pagan types seem to think you're going to come to a comfortable and clear definition of what a Pagan (or Neo-Pagan) is. You're not. Cheesy Every religion is fuzzy on the edges, and no definitions ever fit perfectly.

For example, here I would tend to include the syncretic Yoruba religions as Pagan (Voodoo, Candomble, Santeria); when I teach, however, we deal with them separately as their historical development is quite distinct from the types of Neo-Paganism listed above, and their communities outside the US aren't very tied in to the Neo-Pagan movement. Does it matter? As long as we're accurately representing the beliefs and practices of those religions, how we sort them probably doesn't matter a whole lot.

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« Reply #12: August 03, 2008, 05:41:17 pm »

The textbook I teach out of calls them Neo-Pagan (for clarity reasons) and has a reasonably good definition, to which I've added my refinements, which comes out to Neo-Pagan religions being those that are: 1) Wiccan or Wiccan-related/derived; 2) reconstructionist; 3) modern nature-based; or 4) some syncretic religions. And we note that the edges of Neo-Paganism are more fuzzy than in most cases -- and that Neo-Pagan is a meta-group or a "movement" of many different religions, not "a religion" itself.

That's not a bad definition. I'd probably like it a lot more if I had not been through the whole PUC "definition of Paganism" thing. I now look at how a definition first to see if it could be used to exclude groups that are sometimes considered under the Pagan umbrella. That's probably not a good thing, but that's the way I've become.
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« Reply #13: August 03, 2008, 05:49:46 pm »

The textbook I teach out of calls them Neo-Pagan (for clarity reasons) and has a reasonably good definition, , to which I've added my refinements, which comes out to Neo-Pagan religions being those that are: 1) Wiccan or Wiccan-related/derived; 2) reconstructionist; 3) modern nature-based; or 4) some syncretic religions. And we note that the edges of Neo-Paganism are more fuzzy than in most cases -- and that Neo-Pagan is a meta-group or a "movement" of many different religions, not "a religion" itself.



I don't object to the term "Neo-Pagan" but I don't use it to describe myself, simply because I think the neo part is a bit superfluous because it's already implied by the fact that I'm alive here and now. It makes sense to use the term when talking about the entire movement (such as, "Neopagans of Europe. . ." as that would would obviously mean contemporary Pagans and not the historical ones) but I don't feel the need to distinguish myself from historical Pagans when referring to my personal beliefs, because I am already distinguished from them by the fact that I'm alive and they're not.


The definition used in your post reaffirms my belief that it's much easier to embrace the "anything that's not Christian, Islamic or Judaic" definition instead of fighting against it. Your definition is a good one but man that's a mouthful, and might even need revisions to make it longer as time goes by and more and more distinct paths emerge. Grin
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« Reply #14: August 03, 2008, 07:47:05 pm »

The definition used in your post reaffirms my belief that it's much easier to embrace the "anything that's not Christian, Islamic or Judaic" definition instead of fighting against it.

The problem with that is that Buddhism and Hinduism aren't really "Pagan" religions, at least not in any way that's meaningful w/r/t discussions of the modern Pagan movement. (And, yes, I realize that many Pagans incorporate Hindu and Buddhist beliefs, but that's not quite the same thing.)

"Anything not JCI" could also include atheists, Scientologists, Cao Dai ... it's simply too broad.
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