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By Gary Seaman, Jane S. Day

Shamanism is the world's oldest faith. The rituals and ideology of this old culture have been carried from Asia and Siberia into the recent international via nomadic looking bands starting 12,000 years in the past. This precise choice of essays on shamanism in significant Asia and the Indian Americas offers sound and fascinating scholarship that displays the nice variety during this interesting box. First released in 1994, "Ancient Traditions" has turn into an essential, usually stated reference within the ongoing learn of historical religions. Over the centuries, shamanism has continued as an abiding subject of curiosity not just due to a human problem with the earlier but additionally as a result of a standard craving to recognize existence lived in nearer symbolic dating to the earth. For readers attracted to indigenous cultures and religions, this choice of essays clarifies a lot of the recent Age hypothesis on universals in shamanism, providing sturdy study on particular ethnic and ancient expressions.

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Indeed, in traditional contexts one of the most important tasks of the shaman is to act as a psychopomp, a guide of the soul, either to return it to its owner or escort it after death into the community of the ancestors. Soul loss is widely perceived in Asia and the Americas to be one of the two principal causes of illness, the other being sickness intrusionthat is, the shooting of a sickness projectile into the victim from a distance by supernatural means, by an offended spirit or deity, perhaps, or a human enemy who has engaged the services of a sorcerer or prevailed upon a god or a spirit to act on his or her behalf.

Furst Professor of anthropology at the State University of New York in Albany, and research associate at the University Museum, University of Pennsylvania, 206 Hyland Avenue, Devon, PA 19333. Larisa R. Pavlinskaya Institute of Ethnography, Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Leningrad. Martin Prechtel 3650 Cottonwood Lane, Berthoud, CO 80513. Gary Seaman Associate professor and chair, Department of Anthropology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0661. Omer C. Stewart (deceased) Professor emeritus in the Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado, Boulder.

It is not too much to say that shamanism is the substratum beneath all of the world's religions, not just those of American Indians, except that among the latter it shines through more powerfully than it has been allowed to do elsewhere. It is little wonder, then, that Western people also feel themselves drawn to iteven if what is presented to them as shamanism may be greatly truncated and the putative Indian "spirituality" is lacking in both context and history. Scholars sometimes make the mistake of seeing the real world as a classroom in which passive listeners are expected to absorb the proffered wisdom and regurgitate it faithfully at exam time.

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