This should be mandatory reading for any animist/fakir apprentice/spiritual adept with the inclination towards shamanistic esoterism, or anthropology scholar. I acquired this brilliant tome after perusing many a quaint volume, seeking for the elder mythology, about the REAL shaman. Who was this elusive figure so etched in the minds of the neo-spiritist, in me? First, they are teachers and healers, and these seems to have never changed over many generations and time epochs. I had to filter through some pretty incompetent new age interpretations though before deciding on this book. The author Mircea Eliade also wrote The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion, The Myth of the Eternal Return: Cosmos and History & Yoga: Immortality and Freedom. I had deemed myself responsible for setting aside the focus to study this work in it’s intricate details, as I had made a proper look into what Shamanism really was, it’s origins and how it evolved.
The ‘archaic techniques’, adequately make a large dose of this book. The first few chapters are devoted to the initiations the shaman, medicine man, or mystic fakir undergoes. The patterns are very uniform, existing through many of the shamanic cultures throughout other countries. I was enlightened by the way in which they were ‘elected’ and their specialized inception towards sickness or mental instability or indifference that often characterized these shamans. Also the almost exclusive position of the male shaman, and how this has been adamantly defended as part of their social structure until more recent decadence of the shaman type in modern ages. A copious amount of the ritualistic seances the shamans ensued was in the presence of the public, even when a patient was present. This shows really how they advocated strong sense of tribal community, and a motivation to teach as well as cure.
The contrived transcendent state that is so intrinsic to the shamanic experience is beautifully described here in an array of different but parallel fantastical summae. The elegant wording as given directly from some of the chiefs, natives, or shamans themselves let me mind go beyond the mundane of everyday experiential imagination, and see into these secretive windows where only the privileged and open have been. They must be read, almost as meditation, with full concentration on your own to fully intake them. The animism of the shamans is also inherit, as one reads about the elaborate dance costumes made of fur, hide, bones, sacred feathers, body paint, masks and blood. This gave me some way to connect what they must submit themselves to in the shamanic therianthropy.
What is entirely devoid in this tome, are the ‘tips’, ‘practices’, and ‘how to’ of becoming shaman, and for me this is the truth of this work. It is not about reiterating the past for our own selfish needs that anyone with some money can buy at a local ‘occult’ shop for instant enlightenment. Shamanism is not a product to get or the learn per se. It is a tradition, passed from an original divine source. The heritage value of this book far surpasses any westernized wiccan, kaballah, secular interpretations, because they all are conformist ideologies and have no competence for discussing the sacredness of Shamanism. In this great work, the truly perspicacious will find everything they want about the shaman cult. Believed heavily by those who have and are living it as coming from the once inseparable unity between the earth and the sky and contact between all living things in the universe. The origins come from a divine teacher, an eagle or an eidolon, and his training and exile to the material world of the first shaman after his arrogance of power that he could challenge the god in the sky.
I have read over the Prose Edda a couple times over and some of the sagas, the Bhagavad Gita,, hundreds of indigenous cultural texts, studied about the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Hindu mandalas and planning to read the Kalevala, and over the 5-6 years that I have attached interest to these works, I had began noticing the repetition and patterns found within each. The stories of ontological lore, creation myths, non-material gods/godesses, natural phenomena, belief systems and traditions, are all fairly replicated to some respectable degree although falling under countless different names, schemas, class and language. I always knew there was something to simple in them that suggested possible influence from many world cultures on each other in ancient times and the confluent existence of each individual theory of life to be very unique to whatever peoples embraced it at that time, and still do today. All of this, I immediately started to see unveiled in the shamanic cosmology as well! Everything right down to the sacrificial rituals, axis mundi, dreams, spirits, secret societies and roles, in some way or another were manifestations of other lost secrets, or resurfaced in new societies in all parts of the world.
The most interesting section of this read was finding out about it’s tantric influences from Lamaism. I found ruin the meat of what all this is referring to, but it seems Buddhist tradition was very integral for the advancement of what shamanism is today. You can read about why exactly this was. Throughout the over 500 pages of literary genius is the observations at how and what the myriad of different medicine cultures performed in their region. Sibera, Tibet, East Asia, China, North/South America, and India are just a mere fraction of which ones are probed.