Friday, May 21, 2010

Where Did the Word "Shaman" Come From? And Why?

"Where did we get the word shaman?" That is actually a more interesting question than it sounds like at first, I think.

Clayoquot shaman in full shamanic regalia

Most people who are interested in shamanism know the word shaman came from Siberia. But that's about it. That's true, but that's not the interesting part.

For that matter, most people think Siberia is part of Russia---or of the old Soviet Union. And that's not true.

In fact, Siberia is a vast region of the continent of Eurasia. Siberia encompasses at least two races and many countries, ethnicities, cultures and languages.

Many of the languages are from completely different, unrelated language groups. Chinese, for example. And Turkish. Plus a whole bunch of languages you probably never heard of, too.

Most people do not remember that shaman and shamanism were words that only anthropologists used till 1980, when anthropologist Michael Harner's book, The Way of the Shaman, became a best seller.

I wrote a new post on my Houston Shamanism Examiner column about the interesting things we know about the origins of the word shaman. Reading it may change a lot of your ideas about what shamanism is and how it started, about who can be a shaman, and why.

Or not. Take a look.

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