I have writen about shamanism at my blog a couple of times, what it is, why is it done and how, but today i want to write about it as a anthropological study, more turned to those who are a bit sceptical about it, or need science to prove the existance of such a work as entering the world of the spirits, which is perfecly natural, if science can explain the natural world and the behaviour of us humans in the past towards it, the better we may understand our paths and the way the universe works.
Shamanism, summarizing it, is the ability to leave this world and travel to the realms of the spirits, or the otherworld, it has always been a part of our human condition since the dawn of times, since we humans exist and work in such ways. Anthropology has been evolving and improving, becoming increasingly adiscipline which can be learned by meeting the traditional communities still alive in our world, be those of South America, Africa, Australia and of course Siberia. Anthropology tried to explain shamanism in a shallow way, telling us about the items, tools and clothing people wore and how they arranged their ceremonies, no one mentioned the actual journeys the shamans made into the otherworld, the only explanation for that was the “logical” conclusion that shamans probably were clinically deranged, and all sorts of new and different illnesses were invented. Anthropologists had never head of the otherworld or the realm of the spirits before, and of course never had experienced it, so this was understandable, the way they behave towards such phenomenon. But time passes and we evolve, and we are alwayseager to learn, so anthropologists decided to take their studies into a different level and began to follow these shamans in their practices in this world and the otherworld. To the surprise of the anthropologists, they had similar experiences to those described by the shamans, and this opened a new field of research.
The studies went on and it was established that the shamans go into trance in order to facilitate their entry into the otherworld. This was tested in laboratories during the 1960’s and 70’s, and the experimentations showed that certain hallucinogenic drugs could induce into similar trance states, or altered states of conciousness, also field research found that some shamans use natural forms of these same drugs to assist in their journeys to the otherworld. All of a sudden everything began to make sence in the world of sciences, because after these experiences, anthropologists ignored the trance and that could only make them understand part of the shamanic world those people lived in, because the existance of the otherworld and the spirits, was exactly the reason that lead people in these communities to make everything they do. This was also an huge step to Archaeology, which showed that if these people live their lifes around trance experiences, so did the peoples of the past. Anthropologists by this time had already shown that they could enter trance and journey to the otherworld as easily as traditional people, and that all humans have the same ability to do so or to experience similar altered states of conciousness.All such trance is facilitated by a stimulus, even archaeologists looked into the records of the past and they found a lot of drugs that were already in use for such practices, from opium, to burnt seeds and even mushrooms.
Drugs aren’t the only means of inducing trance, also listening to repetitive drumming at a certain beat and frequency is also very effective, which explains why Neolothic people designed the forecourts around burial tombs to resonate drum beats just this frequency, it was also found burnt stones, which were used in saunas, and we also know that shamans in Siberia also induce their trance by inhaling steam in a sauna.
Many people see geometric shapes after entering in trance, but these are formed entirely within the eye itself with no outside stimulus. Scientists call them phosphenes. This fact allowed archaeologists to recognise them in the past, since the first forms of art anywhere in the world, all of a sudden these shapes of trance were everywhere in every archaeological digging, even on 70.000 year-old stones from South Africa.
Studies showed that moving deeper into trance, these shapes coalesce into a tunnel and if one follows it till the end, a new landscape reveals itself which of course shamanic people identify as the otherworld. The concept of a long tunnerl leading into another place may have induced palaeolithic people to follow passages into the earth and thus the myths and stories of caves, tombs, holes in the ground and later wells and such things were entrances into the otherworld.
The more people delve deeper into trance, the more they can identify whatever symbols and images that were painted or carved on the walls of caves and tombs in ages past by our ancestors. Animals are often seen in these altered states of conciousness, but not just animals we are use to see, but also creatured of similar shapes and forms but somehow different, also the otherworld is inhabited by the spirits of the dead, which explains many of the rituals and traditions surrounding burial activities and a strong reason why people went to these practices again and again and again. Neolithic people build huge tombs with long passages leaning to an enormous chamber, to symbolize the experiences they had while in trance, an idea that it seems that people believed the dead also took such a journey to arrive into the otherworld.
Both Anthropology and Arcaeology recognize that there is more to shamanism than just the physical characteristis of the rituals done by shamans or shamanic practitioners, this is an huge step, we can now delve into our deep thoughts and journey out of this world, take similar experiences and know more about the way ancient people live their lifes and how their mind worked, we can understand these things by living the same experiences. Archaeology and Anthropology helps us to prove that these experiences are not made up or a figment of a deluded mind and our past is real and very much alive, something natural and attached to every human brain.
To our ancestors these experiences were their day by day life, and it was easier for them to believe in the existance of the world of spirits and such things, they lived it, they depended on it, and from therecame the inspiration for the creation of art, tools, music, jewelery, clothing, architecture and so on. Today for us it is hard to believe, we underwent through a series of events in our human history, the creation of lots of religions, the disbelief of the same, the coming of sciences trying to explain everything, even if there isn’t a good explanation for the natural world itself, we are poisoned by the amount of television programs, religious and political propaganda, a mixture of events that drives us crazy and the most welcoming thing to stop all that madness is scepticism and everything that turns away from that path, seems too fantastical, unreal, impossible, but we must go through this veil and see things as they were and still are.
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