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The Strong Eye

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Curious... [Aug. 7th, 2011|03:43 pm]
The Strong Eye


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I've been digging through a lot of books lately on Shamanism, and a couple of things I've seen come up have been a little contradictory. One piece of information says that a 'real' shaman will never call themselves such, and another speaks out against false modesty. I can see the point behind both sides, but it's a bit puzzling. I am drawn very strongly toward this path, and to me that's what being a shaman is: a path that is chosen, not a self centered proclamation. I'm comfortable with referring to myself as a shaman simply because no other word describes the path I have chosen in life as aptly, and while I dislike labels, it's the most accurate description. I don't see Christians, Wiccans, or any other group avoiding calling themselves what they feel they are. I don't claim to be an expert or even particularly good at shamanism, but as with everything else in my life I am always learning more.

Am I wrong? Have I missed some key point or reason somewhere?
I seem to have a knack for awkward or frustrating questions at times, but if I don't ask then I have no way of knowing. My guides haven't been really outspoken on the matter, although the one answer I have gotten was something like "You can no more change your spots then a leopard can change his", though it wasn't quite in words.

[User Picture]From: lupagreenwolf
2011-08-07 07:50 pm (UTC)
I use that term, or (neo)shaman, simply because it's a common enough term that that's what most folks will recognize. However, I do so with the consciousness that what I do is far removed from what indigenous practitioners (who do not use the term shaman, generally) will do. People simply disagree on whether to use a culturally charged term or not.
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[User Picture]From: wolfmare
2011-08-07 10:17 pm (UTC)
Thank you :)

I think you, and a few others thus far, are right... The term itself is something much debated over it seems, but there are so many words that any given language has 'borrowed' from so many others, it's not terribly surprising that the term itself has been appropriated. I don't think there is any particular word in English that has quite the same meaning or connotation that Shaman does,
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[User Picture]From: houseofchimeras
2011-08-07 09:02 pm (UTC)
I call myself an animist rather than a shaman. For one reason is because I don’t think my experiences in my practice fully warrants calling myself a nonhuman just yet. I think people practicing shamanism in one form or another can use the term to describe themselves without being labeled ‘not a real shaman.’ I think it’s a word for someone who as grown in the practice and moved away from having to really study and work to become who they are because they have become who they are in their practice (not to say they have learned everything though). So for me, I simply don’t use the term (yet) simply because of my experience, but on a flip side I might not use the term everyone given how ’shaman’ is such an emotionally charged word for some if they have misgivings over cultural appropriation (whether that is the case of the shaman or not).

- Earth Listener
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[User Picture]From: wolfmare
2011-08-07 10:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you.

I can understand the issue over the term, although modern usage has broadened it's meaning a fair bit I suppose. My beliefs are closer to Native American then anything, so perhaps 'Medicine Woman' is more accurate, but as I have not had the training as such (well, not much) that could be a problematic term as well.

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[User Picture]From: moonwolf23
2011-08-07 09:09 pm (UTC)
Ask 10 different Shamans this question, get 10 different answers. It's a antrhopological term, derived from the Siberian natives.

I have to ask, what sources say Shamans don't call themselves Shamans? Your guide is right. Would you call yourself a Rosicrusinist, or is what you do Shamanism?
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[User Picture]From: wolfmare
2011-08-07 10:03 pm (UTC)
I think you're definitely right about the different answers... It was mentioned in a couple of the books I've been studying through, but even within the same books there's conflicting information.

I suppose, everyone's path being different, what's right for one isn't right for another, etc. I have a tendency to shy away from drawing any attention to myself, so maybe it's a lesson I need to learn.
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[User Picture]From: lyght
2011-08-07 09:45 pm (UTC)
I would emphasize the "false" in "false modesty." Back when I was a young churchgoer, there were sometimes contests among the adults over who was the most humble. People who said they had been going to the church for X number of years lost the argument, while people who "just started believing this morning" won the argument. If people realize that there is a socially-correct and -incorrect answer, they can still engage in a kind of upside-down pissing contest even if there's really no point to it. Being intellectually right isn't what actually matters in the end -- it's more what we become as a result. IOW, I doubt anyone will ever ding you for actual, true-blue modesty. ;)

Also worth mentioning: a possible difference between shamanism and Christianity, Wicca, and the like is that many people do not see shamanism itself as a religion or spirituality, but as a mode of/tools for doing spiritual and/or healing work -- a profession of sorts. There are plenty of folks out there who have things against certain types of work. So it's all context dependent, the same way it would be in determining if you feel comfortable in some particular situation introducing yourself as a doctor, or teacher, or firefighter, or priest, or chiropractor. Certain people will admire or dislike you simply on the basis that you have taken on a certain label and said so to them.

In a similar vein, it can sometimes be important to distinguish between, say, being a nurse vs. doctor, being a med school student, taking a residency, being licensed, running one's own practice, etc. Shamanism is far from formalized in its structure, of course, and tends to be based a lot on community-type networks and word of mouth. Still, many people (such as myself) are very uncomfortable calling themselves "shaman" because of a common implication that one is working specifically for a community. People working more heavily in self-practice sometimes call themselves "shamanists" as a way to distinguish what they do from what community workers are doing.

Self-practice and community work are not mutually exclusive, of course. However, having the former in solid order before starting in with the latter is never a bad idea, and being clear about one's limits can also help avoid lots of trouble. Kind of like anything else, I guess. :)
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[User Picture]From: wolfmare
2011-08-07 09:58 pm (UTC)
Thank you for your answer, it definitely gives me more sense of how others may see it.

The odd thing is, if someone asked me, I'm not sure I'd say outright "I'm a shaman", but more likely "I consider myself to be a shaman". It's not actually something that has come up in conversation much for me, outside of my own home and family, but had been an idle thought for a while. Today just felt like the right time to come out and ask opinions, so I did :)
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[User Picture]From: wynsong
2011-08-07 11:15 pm (UTC)
I don't claim to be a shaman, but I do use shamanic techniques within my healing practice (with permission from the client or patient), in my case the techniques come from the southern hemisphere, not the local Native American or even the North American traditions, although there are similarities.

Druid is a comparable term from the western European part of the world, I think.

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[User Picture]From: valkyriur
2011-08-07 11:45 pm (UTC)
I call my practice "shamanic" and "animism", but I wouldn't call myself a "Shaman" because I'm not one. Shamanism originated in Siberia and has become more of an umbrella term for practices that contain certain things. I do know somebody who considers himself a "Shaman" and does serve his community when a situation arises.

Edited at 2011-08-07 11:45 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: tatjna
2011-08-08 02:23 am (UTC)
I tend to see it as a shaman being a person that serves a community spiritually/emotionally/shamanically and is recognised as the performer of that service by said community.

Me, I follow a shamanic path but I don't call myself shaman (or whatever word substitutes for that). That's up to other people.
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[User Picture]From: lupini
2011-08-10 09:13 pm (UTC)
I'm also more in the camp of calling myself a shamanist or shamanic practitioner than "Shaman." Although some folks have issues with Tom Cowan, I think his essay on being a shamanist is a reasonable food for thought.


Shaman, to me, seems more of an honorific title. In that form, I think it should be used by others in reference to you before you start using it yourself. However, most days I'm at a complete loss to give a name to my spiritual path--and my guides are generally not very particular about such titles/designations, either. ;)
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[User Picture]From: wolfmare
2011-08-12 11:58 pm (UTC)
That's a good idea. The only ones I can claim have thus far though, have all been very close friends and family, so I'm not sure how much that counts.
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[User Picture]From: wolfmare
2011-08-13 03:13 am (UTC)
They do, on both counts... I don't think I could have brought myself to mention it if they didn't.

Amusingly, I think I've only met one person face to face that I would call a shaman. But, like many other things, you can't really tell by looking.
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[User Picture]From: lalitadevi
2011-09-06 05:33 am (UTC)
It seems like it's an issue of how your community uses the term.

For example, I have a very specific idea of what a "shaman" is, and that is someone who have given themselves over to the Gods to do their work on earth. This often involves serving their community in some way. I've only met one person I truly consider a shaman, and as I understand it giving oneself over in this way is not much of a choice, people are just called to it.

However, anyone can be a shamanic practitioner, or use the practices in a way that feeds and informs their spiritual practice.

I'm sure in other communities and circles, these words are used very differently. It's interesting to hear how others view these words!
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[User Picture]From: wolfmare
2011-09-06 02:47 pm (UTC)
I completely agree... The sheer variety of responses I've gotten, and am still getting occasionally, amazes me.

The odd thing is, while I never made a choice as such, I've felt 'pulled' to specific places before. Inevitably, when I get there, there's some situation that happens which I'm the best person suited to deal with. Generally, someone is upset, or in one case was severely injured and needed someone to keep her calm, or needs advice from a different perspective... Always something that, somehow, I seem to be the ideal person to handle.

If asked, I couldn't say exactly how I know where to go, it's just a compulsion that won't ease until I do what it asks, and it isn't always at a convenient time either. My family just shrug and refer to it as my "hunches", and either go with me or ask what "called" me when I come back. I suppose in a sense, that could be called 'serving my community', though I can't see it as much beyond "I'm helping those who need help".
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