I’m in the middle of reading The Secrets of Shamanism by Jose and Lena Stevens. I’m probably about 2/3 of the way through, and it’s turning out to be your usual neoshamanism flavored by core shamanism text o’ techniques. Doesn’t have much context, and throws in some decent psychological exercises in there for flavoring. Like so many authors, the Stevens insist that you don’t have to go through terrifying dismemberment and other ritual torture to be a shaman (however, to be fair, they also make it clear that reading this book won’t make you a shaman, either).
I also read some articles on Northern Tradition shamanism. This included a good comparison of “classic” (what I usually refer to as “traditional”) and core shamanisms. It’s not the first such comparison I’ve seen; I first read James Endredy’s comparisons of classic, core, and eco shamanisms in his text, Ecoshamanism.
It’s often assumed that anyone who isn’t trained in an indigenous cultural shamanism is a core shaman. While none of the sources I referenced above do this, I’ve run into the assumption more than once (online and elsewhere) that neoshaman = core shaman. True, Michael Harner has had a huge influence on modern (neo)shamanism, being the first person to really bring it into public practice in postindustrial cultures. I do, however, have disagreements with personal practice involving core shamanism; while it’s great for some people, not so much for yours truly.
However, I don’t really fit the definition of classic/traditional shaman, either. No indigenous teachers, and no cultural context other than that which I’m living in. My experience with the spirits is decidedly gentler than a lot of traditional testimonies, though I’m not under the illusion that things will always be easy, or play nice, or be successful.
I wish there was a term for modern postindustrial neoshamanism that was expressly not core shamanism, but that was understood to not be classic/traditional shamanism, either. I like “neoshamanism”, but it does have a lot of core shamanism assumptions around it. And therioshamanism is wayyy too narrow, being what I call the relationship I am creating between myself and “my” spirits. I like the concept of shamanism for postindustrial societies, but it has to be understood that you can’t ever take something entirely out of any cultural context whatsoever. Even if you completely divorce a particular practice from its original context, you are still practicing it within your own cultural context, whatever that may be. Therefore it needs to be tweaked to match the context it’s practiced within.
There aren’t very many non-indigenous shamans who are not practicing A) something based in core shamanism, or B) something based in traditional shamanism but also influenced, to one degree or another, by core shamanism, and who are practicing C) something that is based in a post-industrial cultural context. At least not that I know of, anyway. Maybe they’re all hiding from me.
Of course, sometimes I also wonder why I’m so reluctant to go and try to find an indigenous shaman of one culture or another to train under, and quit trying to mow my own path. I think a lot of it has to do with trying to keep the cultural context as focused on mainstream-America-flavored-by-neopaganism as possible; I feel that if I were to base my shamanism in any other cultures’ practices, then my shamanism would forever have that influence in it–and some things simply just don’t translate well from one culture to another. Of course, if I’m reading about other cultures’ shamanisms in books, then I’m being exposed (thirdhand) to those cultures (which is a poor substitute for actual involvement).
However, books also allow me enough detachment to be able to look at what the goals are, and then be able to figure out how to do them myself, coming from my own context. This way I can pull a “What Would Lupa Do?”, rather than, say, automatically falling back on a cosmology and context learned from another culture which may not be entirely appropriate for where I am. And that’s what I really want–a shamanism that is created from where I’m coming from, that addresses the problems that my culture faces, and that allows me to interact with the spirits in an individual manner, however they–and I–see fit.