Neoshamanism is, quite literally, new shamanism. It is derived from indigenous shamanic traditions, with the understanding that the term shaman originated from Siberia and was initially used by anthropologists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to denote any sort of a holy person, mystic or other sacred individual who used trances and rituals to serve the community. Neoshamanism isn’t based in any particular culture (other than, perhaps, modern American mainstream culture, or neopaganism), though some neoshamans, particularly plastic shamans, may do their utmost best to convince others that what they read in a book makes them an authentic Native American shaman. Core shamanism was created by Michael Harner, an anthropologist who studied both theory and practice with shamans in a number of indigenous cultures. He took the techniques he learned out of their cultural context and made them into a bare-bones magical system. Ironically enough, many people who learn core shamanism try to plug it back into traditional cultures and say that Harner’s works are traditional.

I am a neoshaman. I wasn’t trained by any particular indigenous culture (or by anyone else, for that matter), and the techniques I use are primarily derived from core shamanism and from UPG (Unverified Personal Gnosis). Harner is an influence, among several other sources (a bibliography of written source material can be seen here). Additionally, totem-specific techniques, such as those in Ted Andrews’ works on totemism were an influence. However, the bulk of my practice is based on intuition and conversation with the spirits. Since I am not the 2,000 year old (wo)man, I can’t really say I’m anything but a neoshaman.

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