Tuesday, September 22, 2009



Spirit conjuring was a very precise and
highly complicated procedure, comparable to
present-day church rituals conducted in an
ancient tongue. The human race very early sought
for superhuman help, for revelation; and men believed
that the shaman actually received such revelations.
While the shamans utilized the great power of
suggestion in their work, it was almost invariably
negative suggestion; only in very recent times
has the technique of positive suggestion been
employed. In the early development of their
profession the shamans began to specialize in such
vocations as rain making, disease healing, and
crime detecting. To heal diseases was not,
however,the chief function of a shamanic
medicine man; it was, rather, to know
and to control the hazards of living.
Ancient black art, both religious and secular,
was called white art when practiced by either
priests, seers, shamans, or medicine men.
The practitioners of the black art were called
sorcerers, magicians, wizards, witches, enchanters,
necromancers, conjurers, and soothsayers.
As time passed, all such purported contact
with the supernatural was classified either
as witchcraft or shamancraft.
Witchcraft embraced the magic performed
by earlier, irregular, and unrecognized spirits;
shamancraft had to do with miracles performed
by regular spirits and recognized gods of the tribe.
In later times the witch became associated with
the devil, and thus was the stage set for the many
comparatively recent exhibitions of religious
intolerance. Witchcraft was a religion with
many primitive tribes.
The shamans were great believers in the
mission of chance as revelatory of the will
of the spirits; they frequently cast lots to
arrive at decisions. Modern survivals of this
proclivity for casting lots are illustrated,
not only in the many games of chance,
but also in the well-known "counting-out"
rhymes. Once, the person counted out must die;
now, he is only it in some childish game.
That which was serious business to primitive man
has survived as a diversion of the modern child.
The medicine men put great trust in signs and omens,
such as, "When you hear the sound of a rustling
in the tops of the mulberry trees, then shall you
bestir yourself." Very early in the history of the race
the shamans turned their attention to the stars.
Primitive astrology was a world-wide
belief and practice;
dream interpreting also became widespread.
All this was soon followed by the appearance of
those temperamental shamanesses who professed to
be able to communicate with the spirits of the dead.
.Though of ancient origin, the rain makers,
or weather shamans, have persisted right on down
through the ages. A severe drought meant death
to the early agriculturists; weather control
was the object of much ancient magic.
Civilized man still makes the weather the common
topic of conversation. The olden peoples all believed
in the power of the shaman as a rain maker,
but it was customary to kill him when he failed,
unless he could offer a plausible excuse
to account for the failure.


Again and again did the Caesars banish
the astrologers, but they invariably returned because
of the popular belief in their powers.
They could not be driven out, and even in
the sixteenth century after Christ the directors
of Occidental church and state were
the patrons of astrology.
Thousands of supposedly intelligent people
still believe that one may be born under the
domination of a lucky or an unlucky star;
that the juxtaposition of the heavenly bodies
determines the outcome of various terrestrial
adventures. Fortunetellers are still patronized
by the credulous.

The Greeks believed in the efficacy of oracular advice,
the Chinese used magic as protection against demons,
shamanism flourished in India,
and it still openly persists in central Asia.
It is an only recently abandoned practice
throughout much of the world.
Ever and anon, true prophets and teachers arose
to denounce and expose shamanism. Even the vanishing
red man had such a prophet within the past hundred
years, the Shawnee Tenskwatawa, who predicted
the eclipse of the sun in 1808 and denounced
the vices of the white man.
Many true teachers have appeared among the
various tribes and races all through the long ages
of evolutionary history. And they will ever continue to
appear to challenge the shamans or priests of any age
who oppose general education and attempt
to thwart scientific progress.

In many ways and by devious methods the
olden shamans established their reputations as
voices of God and custodians of providence.
They sprinkled the newborn with water and conferred
names upon them; they circumcised the males.
They presided over all burial ceremonies and made
due announcement of the safe arrival
of the dead in spiritland.

The shamanic priests and medicine men
often became very wealthy through the accretion
of their various fees which were ostensibly offerings
to the spirits. Not infrequently a shaman would
accumulate practically all the material wealth
of his tribe.
Upon the death of a wealthy man it was customary
to divide his property equally with the shaman
and some public enterprise or charity.
This practice still obtains in some parts of Tibet,
where one half the male population belongs to
this class of nonproducers.

The shamans dressed well and usually had
a number of wives; they were the original aristocracy,
being exempt from all tribal restrictions.
They were very often of low-grade mind and morals.
They suppressed their rivals by denominating them
witches or sorcerers and very frequently rose to
such positions of influence and power that they
were able to dominate the chiefs or kings.

Primitive man regarded the shaman as
a necessary evil; he feared him but did not love him.
Early man respected knowledge; he honored and
rewarded wisdom. The shaman was mostly fraud,
but the veneration for shamanism well illustrates
the premium put upon wisdom in
the evolution of the race.

1 comment:

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