I only use the word "shaman" in reference to its original use. That is, the traditions and practices of the Siberian people/s. I don't think it at all appropriate to use the term in reference to traditions unrelated to Siberian animism. I mean... surely everyone has culturally appropriate words they can use for what they do. There's no need to steal a word from someone else's religious tradition.
I don't know jack about those people's practices. I would never refer to any of my practices as influenced by shamanism for that reason. I mean, I think you have to actually go to Siberia for that sort of info.
Must have overlooked this discussion.
I agree with a lot you have stated. I don't know much about North Asian practices, but do know that the word Shaman is definetly not a First Nations word, for I have seen many who use the word Shaman referencing the indigenous tribes of North America and this is not correct.
I have been told just the same in accordance with the Six Nations: "Such a person was typically chosen early and usually by the presiding..." and is known from birth that the particular child "has got the goods" (an exact quote) and thus takes on an apprenticeship.
I've thought about this, and discussed with some others, and I'm not sure anymore, really..
For starters, many of the native americans here call their medicine people shamans. Perhaps this is because the word has changed in modern usage? Unlike some other words, its use seems to have changed naturally.
Next, related to the above.. I know two practicioners, that I could only describe as shamanic.. One uses a very eclectic mix of practices, but is deeply in touch with both the local tribes where he goes, and the genius loci of those areas... he even asks for permission to enter their spaces. I believe he self identifies as a shaman.
Lastly, I know someone who is on a path described as shamanism. It teaches many practices of north american and central/south american native peoples, from medicine wheels, to smokes, to sweats, to flower essences. It is a multiple years of study, healing and spiritual practice, and people who have taken it have helped the local native people here to reestablish some of their own traditions, those that have been lost.
In addition, the second person's path has "Gateways," I believe they are called... it is very similar in approach to a qabalistic or alchemical/elemental series of initiations etc... the breaking down of the person to rid them of those things that they do not need, and so they may go forward as pure philosophical gold.
Both of the above people are called "Shaman," by those around them, or when describing them, and to be frank the term fits. I really can't think of any other way to think of them. The second person is trained by others who also use the term.
So when do people stop clinging to the past and to a word as if it was a life preserver and they will drown without it? At what point do people adapt, do they evolve, do they stop fearing change?
It is one thing when people intentionally try to change the meaning of a word... but quite another when a word's meaning actually changes naturally.
More to the point... if the stuff above is what doesn't make a shaman... What does?
Some other thoughts from http://www.shamanista.com/origins/women__first_shamans.html:
(The "Women as Shamans," link is interesting as well, citing many of its sources.)
In his wonderful book, Dawn Behind the Dawn: A Search for the Earthly Paradise, historian Geoffrey Ashe traces many myths, legends, and beliefs of Europe, Asia, and the Near and Middle East all the way back to shamanic roots in Siberia.
Geoffry Ashe describes how Russian anthropologists "discovered" shamanism when they studied tribal nomadic herders in Siberia in the 19th century. After their detailed descriptions of the unique set of practices of the spiritual practitioners and healers they observed, whom the tribesmen called shamans, were published, the term came to be used by anthropologists worldwide.
The term shaman was a useful sort of shorthand for anthropologists. It described a certain role in society that they observed time after time in gathering-hunting cultures. They coined the term shamanism because it stood for a specific set of beliefs and practices that anthropologists began to recognize in gathering-hunting cultures around the world.
Until the late twentieth centure, most people had never heard the terms shaman and shamanism. Anthropologist Michael Harner popularized the terms with his best-selling book, The Way of the Shaman.
In Dawn Behind the Dawn, Ashe goes on to explain the later findings of Russian linguistic researchers who discovered that those original Siberian tribes had all branched out over thousands of years from one ancient original tribe. The researchers found that the words for a male shaman are actually different in each of the tribes, proving that the words were borrowed or invented long after the tribes branched apart.
The startling news about the later Russian linguistic research on the shamanist tribes they first studied in Siberia is that the words for female shaman are very similar in all the tribes. All the words for female shaman are derived from the same root word in the original tribal language, which also means bear.
The most important thing about their findings is that it proves that originally, before the tribes grew apart and went their separate ways, the only shamans were female. Women were the first shamans!
I agree that the term "shaman" is used in some circles as a more colloquial term for a Medicine Person. I also agree that it is not meant to be offensive. I do think, however, that like the colloquial term "Indian" (which is also used as short-hand) it does not make it any less incorrect. I think as people with First Nations beliefs that we should be moving towards words that discern, enlighten, and educate. We are not siberian, we are not one spiritual individual for each tribe, we are people who work with Medicines whether they be herbal or spiritual. We should not be afraid to claim whats ours and demand that people identify us as we are and not as they more readily identify. This is the reason I tell people my tribe and not that I am simply "Native American." To say it in that fashion insinuates that there is no difference because the difference is not worth noting. To me, it is.
Generalizations are natural and understandable, but that does not mean they should not be corrected. Eastern and First Nations spirituality are both due equal respect.
Makoons did a way more eloquent job in her comment, in which I have the same sentiments.
IMO I think the word Iroquois (French: Meaning Black Adders/Snakes) is a common example of a word that is has been used to readily identify and describe several tribes of indigenous people of North America who referred to themselves as Haudenosaunee, meaning People Of The Long House.
So for me applying the word shaman to the medicine people of the North American Native Tribes is much like history repeating itself.
The Haudenosaunee, which is also known as the Six Nations and/or the Iroquois Confederacy, is where I am speaking from, although can not speak for other tribes, in order to avoid generalizations, only to what was relayed to me from the Haundensaunee. That the *tradition* was for the presiding holy person/medicine person to appoint or choose the next in line.
So here is a prime example how traditions have been changed according to how others identify it.
Why does this sound so very familiar?
So that brings up questions. If you a) are NOT a member of an indigenous culture which has medicine people b) have NOT been chosen by your community or an older medicine person and c) have only learned about the shamanic path through books, personal experience and occasional classes ... what are you? What is the correct term? How do you explain to someone what you believe without the lable of shamanism? Or is it just the "I am a shaman/Shaman" that is offensive?