Chapter XX: An Introduction to Shamanism

by Jesse Potter aka Elkin Vanaeon
On this ninth day of August in the year of our Lord and Lady 2005 CE

Introduction and Definition to Shaman and Shaminism

North America - Native American and First Nations cultures

Lokota - the Oceti Chakowin (seven council fires) or Great Sioux Nation

Navajo - Naabeehó Dine'é

End Comments


This is a bare bones introduction to Shamanism and I apologize for briefness of this chapter. I felt it was necessary to provide a simple introduction that related to the rest of the material listed in the Historical Section of this book. I begin with the pre - 40000 BCE period from which Shamanic cultures came into being as a basic form of religious beliefs and ritualistic expression that originated in the early Paleolithic hunting cultures. The different types or traditions of shamanic cultures are usually defined by differences in beliefs, language, customs, and natural surroundings. The harsher their environment the more chthonic their beliefs and customs. These were the earliest forms of Religion from which some cultures evolved into the present day forms of religious practices, or remained much the same as our early ancestors practiced their ritualistic forms of religion. In todays society many people practice shaminism learned from various cultures. They may call themselves Shaman -but in not having been trained and lived within shaministic cultures they are unable to directly relate or have their practice accepted by another tribe or culture.

The definition of the word shaman is:

Whether as Priest or Priestess, Medicine Man or Medicine Woman, Prophet or Prophetess, Shaman or Shamanka - their duties were to perform actions of:

These are several forms of Shamanism portrayed by different cultures!


The Shamanic Culture of the Aboriginal Australian Tribes are those people whose ancestors were the first people to live in Australia, having originally migrated from Southeast Asia. About 750,000 Aborigines with about 500 tribes, each with its own language lived on the island continent when European settlers first reached Australia in 1788. The traditional aborigine's clans who live on this land, identity themselves through their heritage and spirituality of living in harmony with their natural environment! Found in the spirituality surrounding of the origins of landscapes, animals, plants, and people that inhabit them. The size of each tribe depends on the degree of food and water found in their territory. Respected elders, expert in tribal law and customs, make tribal decisions and direct the ceremonies. Each tribe consisted of various subgroups based on whether they were of:

Aborigines are nomadic and constantly move to find food. They either use their natural surroundings as shelter or build huts out of branches, grasses, or other materials. All members of a tribe are related in that marriage united families, not just people. Women work together and take part in their own special ceremonies apart from the men who direct the local groups, tribal affairs, and public ceremonies. Men and women both cooperate in hunting and the collecting of food. The aboriginal belief of the creation of the world is through the Dreaming, or Dreamtime, which is portrayed in their arts and crafts. They see the land and nature in the sense of their beliefs of ancestral beings that never died, but merged with nature to live in the land, to be felt and heard in sacred beliefs and rituals.

Australian's indigenous peoples conceive of all things beginning with the Dreaming or (in some Indigenous languages) Altjeringa (also called the Dreamtime), a 'once upon a time' time out of time where archetypal ancestral totemic spirit-beings formed the World. These shapeshifting spirits embodied forms of animals, plants, people, natural phenomena and/or inanimate objects and their existence is revealed by their formative journeying and the signs they deposited through the landscape. Their dreaming and journeying trails are the songlines (or "Yiri" in the Walpiri language).

The Dreaming time is still with us for those with eyes to see, and so it is now more commonly referred to as the Dreaming. In the dreaming, there is no clear distinction between humans and animals, and several of the spirits are able to change from human form to animal form at will. Dreaming paths or song lines describe the path taken by the Ancestral Spirits during the Dreaming. The signs of the Spirit Beings may be of spiritual essence and physical remains such as body impressions or footprints.

The Yarralin people of the Victoria River Valley venerate the spirit Walujapi as the Dreaming Spirit of the black-headed python who carved a snakelike track along a cliff-face and deposited an impression of her buttocks when she sat establishing camp. Another example is the Native Cat Dreaming Spirits who are said to have commenced their journey at the sea and to have moved north into the Simpson Desert, traversing as they did so the lands of the Kaititja, Ngalia, Kukatja, Unmatjera and Ilpara. Each peoples sing the part of the Native Cat Dreaming relating to the songlines for which they are bound.

As they walk these paths, they sing the rocks, plants, and animals into existence. Guruwari - the invisible seed or life-energy is deposited in the land in all forms of nature These paths are sacred, and there are songs and ceremonies that describe the journeys along these paths. Particular places along the path, such as Ubirr - located in the East Alligator region of Kakadu National Park, are especially sacred, and sometimes dangerous.

Quinkans – Sacred Spirits. Some Aborigines even refuse to pronounce their name, because Quinkans are such powerful supernatural spirits. They lurk in caves and other dark places and come out at night. The first Quinkan way look like a woman whose arms are raised above her head and her knees bent, as if she was jumping up and down. One such was Imjim Quinkan, sometimes called Anurras. They may appear short and fat, and bounce around at night like kangaroos. Other varieties of Quinkans are tall, skinny Timaras, who protect children, or the nasty Turramulli, a no-necked giant.

Ang-Gnarra's initiations - The coming of age of an Aboriginal boy involves an elaborate ceremony performed by a Kajii, during which he would be pushed through a dark, narrow opening. There, he is met by tribal Elders, including one dressed as a spirit, who circumcise him. When healed the young man would have one of his front teeth knocked out. This is because of their belief in life after death - when someone dies and is buried their spirit rises up three days later and flies to the entrance of Woolunda (Heaven.) The door is guarded by a spirit, whose real name is so sacred it must never be said out loud,

Kadji – The Holy "clever men" and "clever women" - these Kadjiuse maban or mabain, the material is believed to give them their magical powers. Maban or Mabain is a material that is held to be magical and is the material from which the kadji of Indigenous Australia derive their magical powers. Maban is variously identified by different Australian Aboriginal tribes with quartz crystals, australites, mother of pearl, blood, ochre, feathers, Desert Rose, seeds, etc. The term maban is also cognate with the term 'shaman' and may be employed to denote Clever Women and Clever Men directly. During the ceremony in which a karadji initiates an apprentice, maban is used and spiritually "inserted" into the body of the apprentice. Besides healing, contact with spiritual beings, involvement in initiation and other secret ceremonies, they are also enforcers of tribal laws, keepers of special knowledge and may "hex" to death one who breaks a social taboo by singing a song only known to them.

Finnic Tribes

Finnic peoples (Fennic) are linguistic groups of peoples including:

The major modern representatives of Baltic Finns who have maintained their languages are the Finns and Estonians. Other groups include the Karelians, mainly living in Karelia, in Finland and northwestern Russia. The Ingrians, Votes, and Veps live around the Gulf of Finland and Lakes Onega and Ladoga, and the Setos and Võros, who live in south-eastern Estonia. In parts of northern Sweden, a Finnic language or a dialect (Meänkieli) has a considerable presence and a Finnic-speaking minority Kven's live in Norway.

The Vogul who are the natives of northwestern Siberia, the Ugrian Ostyak, Vogul, and Samoyed, Gondatti, refer to thier religion through Vogul mythology. The gods of the Vogul are divided into two classes, viz. of good and bad gods. The chief of the beneficent deities is Yanykli-Torilin (called also Numi-Toruni or Voykan-Toruin). The aborigines are 'true Shamanists' - according to the official census of 1914 CE they are still faithful to the practice of their old religion even though some are registered as Orthodox Catholics and Buddhists.


Women known as mudangs, men called baksoo mudangs, practice a form of shamanism in South Korea and are consulted in contemporary society for financial and marital decisions. The use of Amanita Muscaria in traditional practice is thought to have been suppressed as early as the Choseon dynasty. Another mushroom of the Russula genus was renamed as the Shaman's mushroom. Korean shamans are also reputed to use spiders over the subject's skin. Colorful robes, dancing, drums and ritual weapons are also features.

Mongolic Tribes (Shamanic Culture)

The Buryats, numbering approximately 436,000, are the largest ethnic minority group in Siberia and are mainly concentrated in their homeland, the Buryat Republic, a federal subject of Russia. Buryats are of Mongolian descent and share many customs with their Mongolian cousins, including nomadic herding and erecting huts for shelter. Today, the majority of Buryats live in and around Ulan Ude, the capital of the republic, although many live more traditionally in the countryside. Their language is called Buryat. The name "Buriyat" is mentioned for the first time in the Secret History of the Mongols (1240).[1] Consolidation of tribes and groups took place under the conditions of the Russian state. In addition to genuine Buryat-Mongolian tribes (Bul(a)gad, Khori, Ekhired, Khongoodor) that merged with the Buryats, the Buryats also assimilated other groups, including some Oirats, Khalkha Mongols, Tungus (Evenks) and others. The territory and people were annexed to the Russian state by treaties in 1689 and 1728, when the territories on both the sides of Lake Baikal were separated from Mongolia. From the middle of the 17th century to the beginning of the 20th century, the Buryat population increased from 27,700 to 300,000.

The Buryat religion which is a form of polytheism having hierarchical classes of divine beings, each class having at its head one who is above the rest, they have no conception of a Supreme Being over all. The highest spirits are called tengeri or tengeriny who inhabit the sky. There are ninety-nine tengeri, each with a separate name, divided into two groups of the western baruni and the eastern zuni. Those of the west are kind, being fifty-five in numbers, and are called sagani tengeri-White Tengeri. The eastern (forty-four in number) are mischievous, known as kharan tengeri, or Black Tengeri.

North America

Native American and First Nations cultures have diverse religious beliefs. There was never one universal Native American religion or spiritual system. Though many Native American cultures have traditional healers, ritualists, singers, mystics, lore-keepers and "Medicine People" - none of them ever used, or use, the term "shaman" to describe these religious leaders. Rather, like other indigenous cultures the world over, their spiritual functionaries are described by words in their own languages, and in many cases are not taught to outsiders. I will also point out that Evil Spirits are referenced in almost all cultures just as there are evil people. Those who honor the Grandfather and the Ancestors, Honor the Pipe, and the Lodge  - are to be respected for those traditions. The references though to evil witches is due to contamination by the introduction of european catholic and christian beliefs merging with native tribal customs and beliefs. The teachings of the evils of witchcraft and satanism resulted in the burning times in Europe and still occurs in a few areas of the Americas!

Evil Spirits - These spirits, though generally considered evil, were/are far more complex than the demons of Christian fundamental duality. Some spirits would trade off. Others, though greatly feared, were/are also neccessary in that they were co-creators of this universe and world.

"the Works of Howard HoweBancroft" (1886)  


A Native American confederation of seven tribes (the oceti chakowin (seven council fires) or Great Sioux Nation) and speak Lakota, one of the three major dialects of the Sioux language. The Lakota are the westernmost of the three Sioux groups, occupying lands in both North and South Dakota. The seven branches or "sub-tribes" of the Lakota are Sicangu, Oglala, Izipaco, Hunkpapa, Mniconjou, Sihasapa and Ooinunpa. The Lakota are closely related to the western Dakota and Nakota of Minnesota. After their adoption of the horse, šųká-wakhą́ ([ˈʃũka waˈkˣã]) ('dog [of] power/mystery/wonder') in the early 18th century, the Lakota became part of the Great Plains culture with their eventual Algonkin-speaking allies, the Tsitsistas (Northern Cheyenne), living in the northern Great Plains. Their society centered on the buffalo hunt with the horse. There were 20,000 Lakota in the mid-18th century. The number has now increased to about 70,000, of whom about 20,500 still speak the Lakota language.

Lakota Dieties

Terms used by the Holy Man and Medicine Men of the Lakota tribes

Ghost Dance - The religion was started by a medicine man named Paiute holy man called Wavoka (English name of Jack Wilson). He had a vision of a great flood that would come upon the land wiping it clean of all the settlers. Right before the flood the thunderbirds were to come down and bring up those Indians that stayed true to the scared path. When the waters receded the buffalo and those Indians would then be brought back to the land and things would be as they were. Ghost Dance shirts were made in order to protect the Indians from any bullets the white man would use against them. This would be accomplished by performing the Ghost Dance Ceremony which was done by calling on those ancestors in spirit form, to come into the bodies of the dancers making them immortal. Many would paint their shirts with symbols of their personal medicine so that it may come through for them when it was needed. The circles were the power hail for protection along with paintings of the thunder beings. During the battle of Wounded Knee (1890), in which 200 Sioux warriors, women, and children were massacred, many wore "Ghost Shirts" emblazoned with eagle, buffalo, and morning-star decorations. They believed these symbols of powerful spirits would protect them from the soldiers' bullets.  The tragedy at Wounded Knee effectively put an end to the Ghost Dance, although some Plains tribes performed it until 1985 or incorporated aspects of the ritual into their culture, as in the ghost-dance hand games of the Pawnee.  There have been more recent Ghost Dances. Crow Dog's Ghost Dance of 1973 and the most recent movement that took place in central Montana in August 1998. The Ghost Dance of 1973 was a way to connect with the ancestors of the Native Americans. It was supposed to continue the "hoop" that connected them all, keeping the Indian tradition and culture alive. The dance that Leonard Crow Dog brought back in 1973 lasted 4 days with continuous dancing starting at five in the morning. The dance included the peace pipe, tobacco, and other traditional necessities for ceremonies. Thirty to forty dancers were involved in Crow Dog's Ghost Dance. Some of the dancers had visions that uplifted the people spiritually.

Heyoka, translated from Lakota, means “contrarian” or “sacred wise fool” is another name for a clown. Various names for Sacred Fools and Clowns are heyoka, chifone, koshare, “banana ripener,” kwirana, and “blue jay”. There are both humorous and serious clowns. Serious clowns are the guardians of the ritual of the medicine society - maintaining the continuity of fertility, rain, crops, health, and the various orders of Creation. Thought of as being upside-down, backward-forward, and says things like yes when he actually means no (for humor). Heyoka are thought of as being backwards-forwards, upside-down, or contrary in nature. This spirit is often manifest by doing things backwards or unconventionally - riding a horse backwards, wearing clothes inside-out, or speaking in a backwards language. For example, if food were scarce, a Heyoka would sit around and complain about how full he was; during a baking hot heatwave a Heyoka will shiver with cold and put on gloves and cover himself with a thick blanket. Similarly, when it is 40 degrees below freezing he will wander around naked for hours complaining that it is too hot. A unique example is the famous Heyoka sacred clown called "the Straighten-Outer" - He was always running around with a hammer trying to flatten round and curvy things (soup bowls, eggs, wagon wheels, etc.), thus making them straight!

A Heyoka may be initiated via a serious illness, by being struck by lightning and dreaming of thunder or by a near-death experience (e.g., the shaman Black Elk), or one might follow a "shamanic calling" to become a heyoka. There is usually a set of cultural imagery expected to be experienced during shamanic initiation regardless of the method of induction. Such imagery often includes being transported to the spirit world and interacting with beings inhabiting the distant world of spirits, meeting a spiritual guide, being devoured by some being and emerging transformed, and/or being "dismantled" and "reassembled" again, often with implanted amulets such as magical crystals. The imagery of initiation generally speaks of transformation and the granting powers to transcend death and rebirth. When a vision comes from the thunder beings of the West, it comes with terror like a thunder storm; but when the storm of vision has passed, the world is greener and happier; for wherever the truth of vision comes upon the world, it is like a rain. The world, you see, is happier after the terror of the storm... you have noticed that truth comes into this world with two faces. One is sad with suffering, and the other laughs; but it is the same face, laughing or weeping...... as lightning illuminates the dark, for it is the power of lightning that heyokas have.

Sacred clowns from different tribes can recognize another sacred clown without word passing between them, they would be able to know who the other one was; what he represented and what he was placed on earth to do. The Heyoka symbolize and portray many aspects of the sacred, the Wakan, throughsatire which presents important questions by fooling around. They ask difficult questions, and say things others are too afraid to say. By reading between the lines, the audience is able to think about things not usually thought about, or to look at things in a different way.

Principally, the Heyoka functions both as a mirror and a teacher, using extreme behaviors to mirror others, thereby forcing them to examine their own doubts, fears, hatreds, and weaknesses. Heyokas also have the power to heal emotional pain; such power comes from the experience of shame--they sing of shameful events in their lives, beg for food, and live as clowns. They provoke laughter in distressing situations of despair and provoke fear and chaos when people feel complacent and overly secure, to keep them from taking themselves too seriously or believing they are more powerful than they are.

Sacred fools also serve an important role in shaping tribal codes. Heyokas don’t seem to care about taboos, rules, regulations, social norms, or boundaries. Paradoxically, however, it is by violating these norms and taboos that they help to define the accepted boundaries, rules, and societal guidelines for ethical and moral behavior. This is because they are the only ones who can ask "Why?" about sensitive topics and employ satire to question the specialists and carriers of sacred knowledge or those in positions of power and authority. In doing so, they demonstrate concretely the theories of balance and imbalance. Their role is to penetrate deception, turn over rocks, and create a deeper awareness. During the Sun Dance, a Heyoka sacred fool may appear to tempt the dancers with water and food and to dance backwards around the circle in a show of respect. If a dancer looks into the mirrored eyes of the Heyoka, his or her dance is finished.

Pejuta Wacasa- A Lakota medicineman is called "Pejuta Wacasa" who tends to the sick or injured. A Wicasa Wakan can also be a Pejuta Wacasa!

Sicun - a Sicun is like a spirit and is the ton-ton sni, being immortal and cannot die. Though a Lakota may have many Sicunpi, but will always have one. It may be the spirit of anything. The Bear taught the Wakan Tanka how to put the spirit in a Sicun. A Lakota sings the proper songs his sicun will do as he wishes. One Sicun may be more powerful than another. The Sicun may be of the Great Spirit. A person may lend his Sicun to another. An evil man cannot secure a good Sicun, but may secure an evil one. If the ceremony be performed, a Sicun is secured. Then that Sicun must do as it is directed and complete its actions by the one who chooses it; but the chooser must know the songs that belong to it.

Thunder dreamer - It is believed among the Lakota that if you had a dream or vision of birds you were destined to be a medicine man, but if you had a vision of the Wakinyan Thunderbird, it was your destiny to become a heyoka. Like the Thunderbird, the heyoka are both feared and held in reverence.

Ton - is defined as the power to do the supernatural. Objects such as the rattle, smoke, feather... with tonwicasa wakan has the power of wakan beings, bestowed by WonkanTonka, called a Wasicun, from which the Wicasa Wakan is able to do work. The Ton of the Sky, while a very powerful Sicun, may be secured through old and wise shamans. The Sicun of the earth is next most powerful and next in rank is the Sicun of the rock. The Sicuns of the bear and the buffalo are often chosen; but that of the bear more frequently. A Shaman's Wakan bag is his Sicun and all Sicun are considered Wakan. A doctor's medicine is his Sicun and the implements used by a wicasa wakan in any ceremony are the Sicun of that wicasa wakan.

Waken - Wakan Tanka – can be defined as "wakan" meaning "mystery" and "tanka" meaning "something great." Wakan Tanka are also Wakanpi, those things above mankind and being of the "creators", having never been born and thus never able to fully die.

Wakanpi, spirits, have power over everything on earth and affect everything mankind does, if benevolent the Wakanpi will bestow wishes asked of them, but if evil the Wakanpi are malevolent and to be feared.

Wasicun - The term Wasicun is applied to any object used as a Sicun or it may represent anything which is Wakan. The process by which one performs a ceremony to attain a Wasicun is done in an acceptable manner - then that Wasicun will be the same in essence as the Wakan thing it represents.

Wicasa Wakan - The Lakota Holy Man, not "Medicine man" or "shaman" (a term of Siberian origin) who tends to the spiritual needs.

Yuwipi - Yuwipi is a curing ritual performed by Sioux groups all over South Dakota. It is performed in conjunction with two ceremonies: the vision quest and the sweat lodge. Its origins can be traced back to a mentor of Crazy Horse - Horn Chips, a medicine man who lived from 1836 until 1916. The yuwipi man is trained by the spirits to diagnose and treat 'Indian sickness' - illnesses generally common to the Indians before the white man arrived. The yuwipi man is the sole mediator between the people and the spirit world; he can communicate directly with them; he can understand the languages of all creatures and can communicate with them; he is the sole curer of Indian sickness.


Navajo Nation (Navajo Naabeehó Dine'é) is the name of a sovereign Native American nation established by the Diné. The Navajo Nation Reservation includes about 27,000 square miles (70,000 km²) of land, slightly smaller than Maine or South Carolina) over part of three states, and is the largest land area assigned primarily to a Native American jurisdiction within the United States of America. The 2000 census reported 253,000 Navajo members, of whom 131,166 resided in Arizona. 17,512 of these lived in Maricopa County, which includes the city of Phoenix.

The Nation's boundaries stretch across the Colorado Plateau into Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. Located within the Navajo Nation are Canyon De Chelly National Monument, Monument Valley, Rainbow Bridge National Monument, the Hopi Indian Reservation and the Shiprock landmark. The seat of government is located at the town of Window Rock, Arizona. Members of the nation are often known as Navajo, also spelled Navaho. Navajo call themselves Diné, a term from the Navajo language that means people. The Navajo are closely related to the Apache, and the Navajo language along with other Apache languages make up the Southern Athabaskan language family. Three predominant religions most influence the modern Navajo:

Navaho Terms

Blessing Way - The Blessingway [Hózhójí] is used to bless the "one sung over," to ensure good luck, good health and blessings for all that pertains to them. It is sometimes referred to by English speaking Diné as being "for good hope." Blessingway [Hózhójí] ceremonies are performed for expectant mothers shortly before birth is due. Young men leaving for the armed forces will have a Blessingway [Hózhójí] given for them by their families before they leave. The Blessingway [Hózhójí] ceremony is performed frequently.A family would rarely go six months without having a Blessingway [Hózhójí] ceremonial performed at least once in their hooghan. The Blessingway [Hózhójí] holds historical precedence over all of the other chants, being given to the Earth Surface People shortly after the Emergence into this world. It is in the Blessingway [Hózhójí] chant that the most complete account of the Navajo [Diné] origin myth is recounted including the origin of the Blessingway [Hózhójí] ceremony itself. The first Blessingway [Hózhójí] was held by the Holy People [diyin diné] when they created mankind. They taught them both ritual and skills; Changing Woman [Asdz nádleehé] gave them some songs [sin]. Blessingway [Hózhójí] is most closely connected with Changing Woman [Asdz nádleehé] and is the only ceremony where she is depicted in drypaintings ['iikááh]. The name of the rite, Hózhójí, is translated Blessingway, but that is certainly not an exact translation. In the Navajo language [diné bizaad] the term encompasses everything that is interpreted as good - as opposed to evil, favorable for man. It encompasses such words as beauty, harmony, success, perfection, well-being, ordered, ideal. The intent of this rite is to ensure a good result at any stage of life, and therefore the translation of Blessingway.

Curing of Sickness: Aside from certain diseases of recognized natural origin, all sickness is believed to be sent by witches. Any longstanding illness or epidemic is caused by them. In former times a person suspected of being a witch would be killed; at least this is known to have occurred in some villages and probably once was universal, as it was among other tribes. Witches are the more dangerous in that anyone, even a close relative, may be a witch and working against one's health and welfare. There are a few exceptions to the witch-theory of disease causation. Certain diseases may be supernaturally sent by animals, particularly ants, which may cause skin disease.

Witches were seen to cause sickness by sending foreign objects into the body of the victim or by stealing the soul, or heart. The methods used by witches are not usually known. Witches were seen to assemble in caves or in the darkness and believed able to turn themselves into various animals, dogs, cats, owls, coyote, crew, wolf, bear, and into one type of clown. Owl and crow feathers and cactus spines are part of a witch's paraphernalia. The particular clowns known as koshare (or equivalents) are believed to have close contacts with black magic and so are the members of the medicine societies. Anyone seen around graveyards, peering into doors and windows, etc., may be suspected as a witch. Widespread native practices and beliefs in respect to the power of the medicine men to dispose of evill spirits was by european conquest and the missionaries who followed. Ashes, bear paws, and flints of all sorts, particularly knives and arrow points, are considered potent weapons against witches.

If witchcraft is suspected, a member of a medicine society is called to affect a cure. Should the illness be serious, the whole society may be summoned. The curing involves the setting up of an altar, the use of various items of paraphernalia such as fetish stones figuring the prey animals, mountain lion, wolf, bear, etc., which are patrons of the medicine societies; the use of bear paws, flints, medicine water, and sacred meal, prayers and exorcism, and divination by gazing into the medicine bowl or a crystal. If the disease is caused by intrusion of foreign objects, the medicine men either suck the objects out of the patients body or brush them out with feathers.

If the disease involves the stealing of the heart by the witch, the doctors must find the heart. This involves going out from the room in which the cure is being effected and fighting with the witches which have the heart in custody. The doctor wears a bear paw on his left arm and carries a flint knife. He is accompanied by the war captains. He has struggles with the witches, invisible of course to anyone else, and eventually brings back the heart, sometimes a doll within which is a ball of rags containing grains of corn, or simply the ball itself with the corn inside. Examination of the condition of the corn grains reveals whether the heart has been damaged. If it has, the patient will not recover, but if they are in good condition, they are swallowed by the patient. Sometimes the doctor captures a witch which is brought in as a small figure and killed by the war captain. The doctor frequently returns in an exhausted condition and goes into a sort of trance or frenzy. (See section on medicine societies.)

In most of the towns there is a communal curing and cleansing ceremony each spring at which all the medicine societies perform in their chambers. Everyone goes to one or another of the medicine society meetings and is exorcised and perhaps has objects sucked or brushed from him. The doctors often go out to fight witches and return with a "communal heart" containing many grains of corn, one of which is given to each person to swallow. (Parsons, 1920, 1925a; White, 1932, 1932a; Goldfrank, 1927; M. C. Stevenson, 1884; Dumarest.)

Changing Woman - Changing Woman [Asdz nádleehé] comes closest to being the personification of the earth [Nahasdzáán] and of the natural order of the universe [Yádihi Bii' Bi Haz'ánígíí] as to any other brief way of describing her. She represents the cyclical path of the seasons [nináhágháhígíí], birth (spring [daan dgo]), maturing (summer [sh shgo]), growing old (fall ['ak'eed]) and dying (winter [haigo]), only to be reborn again in the spring [daan dgo]. Full story can be found at

Ghost sickness is a psychotic disorder of Navajo origin. Its symptoms include general weakness, loss of appetite, a feeling of suffocation, recurring nightmares, and a pervasive feeling of terror. The sickness is attributed to ghosts (chindi) or, occasionally, to witches.

Hatalii - A person who is "out of harmony" or has some kind of sickness goes to a Hatalii who determine the taboo that has been broken and prescribes a particular "sing." Medicine Singers, known as "Hatalii", are often the diagnosticians who determine which chant needs to be done for a patient and, sometimes, even which Singer should perform the ceremony. These Hatalii (men or women) might have the skills of visions, star gazing, divining, clairaudience, hand trembling, etc. The Hatalii communes with the spirit world to help bring the person back into harmony (hozho) with nature. Semantics and intent determined the place of mystic skills which were admired throughout the tribe, and encouraged to be developed for use as a Singer. These may include using special tools such as crystal rocks, and abilities such as hand-trembling and trances, sometimes accompanied by chanting. The Hatalii will select a specific healing chant for that type of ailment. Navajo healers must be able to correctly perform a healing ceremony from beginning to end. If they don't, the ceremony will not work. Training a Hatalii to perform ceremonies is extensive, arduous, and takes many years, and is not unlike priesthood. The apprentice learns everything by watching his teacher, and memorizes the words to all the chants. Many times, a Hatalii cannot learn all sixty of the traditional ceremonies, so he or she will opt to specialize in a select few. Many ceremonies might take days and require several Singers to perform singly, sequentially, or simultaneously. It is cause for a great gathering to take place, with incredible numbers of family and friends coming from great distances to lend their emotional support to the patient and to the Singers. Transformation of of the spirit and physical objects are key to thier beliefs - both good and evil spirits affected those transformations. With the introduction of christianity the european descriptions of witches and sorcerers were introduced into the Navaho religion and merged with the evil beings. Witches and Sorcerers were seen as dark mystics and extremely feared, outcast, and disparaged. Females of childbearing age were discouraged from becoming Singers due to the fear that they might be pregnant at any given time and the fetus might be contaminated or even possessed during a ceremony.

Hogan - from  The hogan is considered sacred to those who practice the Navajo religion. The religious song "The Blessingway" describes the first hogan as being built by Coyote with help from beavers to be a house for First Man, First Woman, and Talking God. The Beaver People gave Coyote logs and instructions on how to build the first hogan, now known as a "forked stick" or "male" (áłchʼįʼ adeezʼá) hogan. This hogan resembles a pyramid with five triangular faces. Earth may fill the spaces between the framework logs, hiding the five faceted shape and creating thick, winter-protective walls. The "forked stick" or "male" Hogan contains a vestibule in the front and was used only for sacred or private ceremonies. The "circular" or "female" Hogan (tsé bee hooghan), the family home for the Diné people, is much larger and does not contain a vestibule. In it, the children play, the women cook, weave, talk, and entertain and men tell jokes and stories. Navajos made their hogans in this fashion until the 1900s, when they started to make them in hexagonal and octagonal shapes. The change in shape may have been due to the arrival of the railroad. A supply of wooden cross-ties, which could be laid horizontally to form walls of a larger, taller home, allowed the retention of the "female" hogan shape but with more interior room. Many cultural taboos are associated with the hogan and its use. Should a death occur in the structure, the body is either buried in the hogan with the entry sealed to warn others away, or the deceased is extracted through a hole knocked in the north side of the structure and it is abandoned and often burned. A hogan may also become taboo for further use if lightning strikes near the structure or a bear rubs against it. Wood from such structures is never reused for any other purpose by a Navajo.

Witchery Way or ’áńt’įįzhį - from  This is the most common type of witchcraft, centering around the Witchery or Corpse-poison Way--’áńt’įįzhį.

Yeenaaldlooshii or Skin Walker from - In Native American and Norse legend, a skin-walker is a person with the supernatural ability to turn into any animal he or she desires. Similar creatures can be found in numerous cultures' lores all over the world, closely related to beliefs in werewolves (also known as lycanthropes) and other "were" creatures (which can be described as therianthropes). The Mohawk Indian word "limikkin" is sometimes used to describe all skin-walkers. It is also known as the Yenaldooshi.

Meso America

Before Spanish conquest of the Americas, indigenous tribes had their own healers, plants, medicines, and spiritual guidance unique to their region and culture. When the Europeans arrived, they brought their own healers and health practices. According to Perrone, Stockel, and Krueger,“ curanderismo came to the Southwest with the Spanish and Mexican pioneers” (1989). More accurately, the Spanish brought with them elements that contributed to the development of curanderismo. During the European exploration and conquest, the Spanish brought with them a large number of African slaves, and these slaves brought with them their own culture. Ultimately, curanderismo is the creation of those three cultures. Mexican magic is a blend of Catholic and Pre-Columbian Indian beliefs and practices, and very similar to Cuban Santeria in some ways, yet radically different in others. The gods, particularly the "household gods" (as opposed the deities of the state religion) were versions of the ancient gods and goddesses who were worshipped from time immemorial throughout Mesoamerica, but having traits in common with ancient beliefs from all over the world. Tonantzin ("Our Lady"), the mother goddess identified with the moon, is one of the principal household deities worshipped by the Mexica and by other tribes of Mesoamerica. The principal shrine to the patron saint of Mexico – the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico City, the Virgin of Guadalupe, is located on the exact spot where the pyramid of Tonantzin once stood.

Brujas - Among certain Hispanic and Native American cultures of the Southwest, the practice of Brujeria is feared as a manifestation of evil. Those who use rituals, spells, incantations, potions, and powders and perceived to work ill against others are known as brujas (witches), who are primarily female in number (the male witch is known as a brujo). All the negative facets of witchcraft feared by people throughout the world are seen as being practiced by the brujas:

The brujas are percieved to create dolls in which they insert bits of the victim's hair, fingernail clippings, or pieces of clothing and focus their evil intent upon the miniature representative of the person to be cursed. Brujas are also thought to be accomplished shapeshifters, possessing the supernatural ability to transform themselves into owls, coyotes, or cats. In the form of an animal, they may spy upon potential victims and may even administer a potion into their unsuspecting quarry's food or water or hide a bad-luck charm on his or her premises. There are certain amulets or rituals that offer some protection from the brujas, but the only sure way to rid oneself of their evil deeds is to employ the services of a curandero who may contact the bruja through supernatural means and demand that the curse or spell be removed. In more severe cases, the curandero may have to direct a spell toward the bruja and defeat her on the spiritual level in order to force her to remove the evil directed toward the victim.

Curandero -a type of shaman who uses white magic and herbs to bring about cures. In the struggle between good and evil, the curandero, using God-given powers, battles against harmful spells and hexes with the aid of saints and spirits, talismans, prayers, and spells to do only good. The three most common types of curanderos are the

Curanderismo is a system of “holistic” or “folk” healing typically presided over by a curandero (male healer) or curandera (female healer) who has el don de Dios , the “gift from God” to heal others. Modern day curanderismo have been shaped by six major historical influences:

They use their gift of healing to tell whether an illness is provoked from nature or an evil brujo (witch). The healers deal with the dual elements of "natural" and "supernatural" illnesses. They believe that spiritual protection must be worn at all times to prevent evil spells cast by brujas (witches and sorcerers) from doing harm. They may perform curses, or manipulate the souls of the living or dead. Part of the role of the curandero is to be an adversary for good in the struggle between good and evil. In this case, evil is Satan and those who have made secret pacts with him, namely brujos or brujas (witches). This belief is strongly supported by tenets of Catholicism that still include exorcism. In the reeducation and changing beliefs and acceptance of Wicca has resulted in some acceptance by a few curendaro, which has resulted in thier having been considered weak (bespelled by the witches) by thier peers and having to be cured, exorcised or expelled from thier communities. Exorcism is a sacrament of the Catholic Church that uses spiritual authority to expel demons or demonic possession. Healing may consist of rituals, herbal remedies, potions, or counter magic, depending upon the illness being treated. Healing often occurs in a ceremony called a barrida (the sweeping) whereby eggs, lemons, and various herbs, along with prayer, are used. Typically, the egg is swept repeatedly over the victim's body while prayers are chanted. The egg is usually then placed in a glass under the victim's bed. In the morning, the egg may be either cooked or contain a small amount of blood, indicating that the healing was successful.

Polynesia (Hawaiian Shaministic Culture)

Huna Kapua or the Secret Healer, Huna means "secret," but also refers to the esoteric wisdom of Polynesia. Kupua refers to the specialized healer who works with the powers of the mind and the forces of nature. These are a few of the Polynesian deities worshipped:

The basic teachings of the Seven Principles of Huna were taught as:

The Four Selves of the Individual - Human behavior and experience can be explained and changed through the interaction of the four selves, aspects or functions:

The Four Levels of Reality - A third set of teachings from the kupua tradition divides all experience into four levels of beliefs about reality:

The kupua (Hawaiian Healer) learns to move in and out of these realities in order to control the changes of the different forms of perceptions and experiences.

South America

The healer shamans in the Peruvian Amazon Basin and north coastal regions of the conntinent are also known as Curanderos.

Machi - Women known as the Machi, among the Mapuche people of inhabitants of Central and Southern Chile and Southern Argentina of South America, usually serves the community by performing ceremonies to cure diseases, ward off evil, influence the weather and harvest, and by practicing other forms of healing such as herbalism.

Jekamu and Xon - Tierra del Fuego - Both the Selk'nam and Yámana peoples of the Islands of Tierra del Fuego and the archipelagoof Chile and Argentina have persons filling shaman-like roles. The Selk'nams believed their xons to have supernatural capabilities, such as to control weather. The Yámana "Jekamu" corresponds to the Selknam "Xon".

Turkic Tribes is of the Yakut and the Altains (Shamanic Culture)

The Altai mountains are situated in Central Asia and their foothills reach Kazakhstan, Gorno Altaisk (South Siberia), Tuva, Mongolia and China. The Mongolian Altai is, together with the Gobi Altai and with its 13 peaks and the 77 valleys the longest mountain range. It extents from the west of Mongolia up to the Gobi desert in the south. The tribes living here use the riches of water and the steppe grass that the nature is offering them for their big herds. They live upon milk products, barley and wheat, on lamb and beef, and, occasionally, by chasing. Like the Turk people of the Altai, they also drink fermented mare's milk, called "Airag".

Within the teachings of the Yakut tribe, the chief benevolent god is Urun-Aïy-Toyon, the white lord, and creator of the earth and man. When the Yakut migrated northward, where the sun is not so much in evidence as in the south, they kept the name Urun-Aïy-Toyon as that of their principal 'white' god. Giving a new name to the sun--Kun-Toyon, 'Sun-Lord', or simply Kun; the latter being the ordinary word for 'light', 'day'. With the teachings of the Altains tribe, they believe good spirits (aru neme) are all subjects of the good god Yulgen, and bad spirits (kara neme) of the evil god Erlik. Yulgen is kind and generous, never harming people. Sacrifices are offered to him out of love and not fear. Every bridegroom must sacrifice to him a horse (iik) of a light color after his marriage. The iik is surrounded with every mark of respect, red ribbon is tied to its mane, and no woman must mount upon its back. This sacrifice is offered in spring; no woman may be present at the ceremony, and even the shaman must be a man. Women may partake of the sacrificial meat, but only unmarried girls may share the feast where the sacrifice was offered; married women must not approach nearer than sixty feet.

The Yakuts (also known as the northern Turks) were corrupted by Christian missionaries late in the eighteenth century.  The following Creation Myth story represents the Yakut's version of the Christian teachings:

"Satan was the older brother of Jesus, but he was bad while Jesus was good.  When God wanted to create the earth, he said to Satan: 'You brag that you can do everything and that you're greater than me.  Well then, see if you can bring back a bit of sand from the bottom of the ocean.'  So Satan dived down to the bottom of the sea, but when he came back up again he noticed that the water had torn the sand out of his grasp.  He dived down twice more, always in vain, and on the fourth time he transformed himself into a swallow and managed to bring up a bit of ooze in his beak.  Then Jesus blessed the ooze, which became the Earth.  And the Earth was beautiful and flat and smooth.  But, wanting to create a world of his own, Satan had kept a bit of mud hidden in his beak.  Jesus saw through his trick and hit him in the neck.  Then Satan spat out the mud, and when it fell it made the mountains."*

*V.L. Serosevskii, Yakuty (Petrograd, 1896), cited by Joseph Campbell in Primitive Mythology: The Masks of God (New York: Viking-Penguin, 1959).

End Comments

Shamanism has never died out and is still practiced in our present day world of various religions and traditions. Some have even brought in the teachings and principles of various cultures that they too have met over time as many of the different cultures of 'Shamanic Traditions' have evolved from their early beginnings.

It must be understood though that the language and customs of one culture, though similar in nature, cannot be superimposed on another culture. The term shaman has been loosely applied to cover all native medicine men and women the same as witchcraft or witch has been applied to African tribal medicine men and women (the old terminology of witch-doctors). Those names never existed in those societies until Europeans introduced those terms. The actual names in their native languages were long and varied so they were given short generic terms in order to not only classify them, but also to demean their status to the rest of the world by Christian researchers. Terms such as Medicine man, Medicine Woman, Healer, Shaman, Shamanka, and Witch have been accepted in their own societies and many others over time as education, languages and cultural barriers were properly crossed without the negative influence of religious bias! This is especially important where the effects of catholicism and christian beliefs lump Wicca or other forms of paganism together with those who believe in Satanism or practice Satanic Rituals! This is the result of cultural bias of people of one belief projecting thier own beliefs of evil into anyone believing differently.


See the section under Chapter Twenty Three - Bibliographies under "Shamanism"!


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