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What is a Shaman?

Linda Neale - Monday, October 03, 2011

On a recent radio show, I was introduced by the well-meaning interviewers as a "shaman".   I was alarmed.  Nothing in my written bio mentioned that word, and I had a minute or so of commercial time to consider how to respond.  Many things went through my head in that minute.  I thought about ceremonial leaders who have let others define them, allowing people to call them "medicine man", "shaman" or "chief".   I thought about Casimirro Mamallacta, an 80 year old Kichwa ayowaska shaman friend who knows the medicinal uses of every plant in his Ecuadorian rain forest.  I thought about the weekend shamanic workshops you can find everywhere on the internet.  I remembered the years of intense training my Dine (Navajo) friend Patrick went through to become a hitaali, or singer.  I could let the interviewers' comments go, and begin the process of allowing others to define me --  after all, some people say that it's the community that defines who is a shaman, who is a medicine person, and who is not.  But I've met real traditional shamans, and I have too much respect for them and their training to allow that to happen.  Read More


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