28 August 2007

The "Plastic" versus the "Real" Shaman?

I am not sure how it happened that I ended up on the mailing list of the "Shaman Portal," a website that features "all things shamanic" and offers a variety of resources to shamans, some for sale. I am glad to receive their e-mails, especially as it gives me a sense of the diffusion of indigenous cultures and beliefs, meaning that from early on I sensed that the shamans behind this portal were not necessarily of indigenous ancestry. This particular impression seems to have formed the grounds for a sharp exchange between owners of the Shaman Portal and some readers, as evidenced in this interesting bit of dialogue:

"Dear shamans of all nations,

A few days ago in response to an announcement we posted about http://www.shamanportal.org/ in one of the main shamanic groups on the internet, one of the readers sent us a response accusing us for being "Plastic Shamans" adding:

"....I don't think that anyone who is not part of a native culture where there are actually shamans can call themselves that. The term 'shaman' is used by commercial operators to denote any sort of nonsense that they wish to promote, and it has become a practically meaningless term, having nothing to do with the things that the word originally denoted. This 'shaman community' is really just a name for a lot of unscrupulous operators who take money in order to blow smoke up people's hidden orifices. I checked a lot of them out and they are, to put it simply, phonies....This 'white shaman' phenomena, where all of the shamans are either white folks or else they are white folks who claim Indian ancestry (are they different than other white folks?), is a parody of actual shamanism. Actual shamanism is a practice of third world, native peoples from a specific part of the globe, which one could not aspire to be a part of no matter how much wanted to. What people call shamanism in the context in which your business enterprises operate is actually 'neo-shamanism'.

Recently, an elder indigenous Pagé (shaman) deep in the Brazilian Amazon said to a group of visiting white folks: "We are all shaman. Don't you think that just because I wear those funny clothes and those colorful feathers on my head, I am more powerful then you are. We are all indigenous to Mother Earth, no matter where we come from."

Two very different and opposing view points."

If you have any opinions on this, please feel free to post your comments here.

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