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Thread: The term "shamanism"... borrowed or appropriated?

  1. #41
    Nihilistic Goddess Medusa's Avatar
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    Re: The term "shamanism"... borrowed or appropriated?

    So. We all agree on the word!
    Great.



    oh edit to add:
    The issue is that we all have different experiences with hearing that word. Some hear it through their academic studies, some through their personal spiritual studies etc. And some (most) probably learn of the word through media.
    So who is in charge of teaching the 'proper' use of that word....and if so, what gives you that authority?

    That's what we really need to get to. We all agree, we all have different understandings of it. Now what?
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    Member SonoftheWaters's Avatar
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    Re: Pagan Pet Peeves

    Quote Originally Posted by monsno_leedra View Post
    Not sure about it being mostly the lower nations or not. Most of my interactions have been with member's of the two nations I mentioned above but a few member's of other nations I've spoke to about other things seemed to support those positions. Sort of a red herring but one woman I used to speak to who was Piute, she was full blooded, told me the need to try and keep blood lines was so strong now that her husband was actually from what would have been an enemy nation to hers but those disputes sort of paled. Then it also falls into the cultural appropriation thing that was done and is still done to them as a people by the dominate white culture.

    One would not use the term "Shaman" at all and only used "Medicine ______" when speaking to people, usually white I was told, who might visit a Pow Wow or maybe a reservation. But then as I was told it usually fell into the jewelry type situation, ie these are made only to be sold to tourist not to other member's of the nation. So you sort of got the story you were hoping to hear from the "Elder" or "Medicine Person" and they catered to your dollar. Yet if you came to them with honor and humility and actually showed you have tried to learn their ways and words then you got a different interaction. Not specifically that you'd get invited to participate or anything until you had been there quite some time and had proved your self or been adopted by some elder or medicine person to vouch for you. Then even all of that didn't mean or imply you'd get involved in the more sacred or hidden rites, ceremonies, rituals, etc.

    Not sure again about the Canadian or Alaskan nations but I know many of the nations have their own names for those positions. In that regard I equate it to the concept of the Medicine Wheel and how it varies from nation to nation as to color, influences, animals, etc or even the fact that not all nations actually have one. Regardless of whether they actually call it a medicine wheel or have some other name for that concept. I suppose it could also be compared to the actual ceremony that we tend to call a sweat lodge ritual and how one is actually done. Again material, timing, payment, positional responsibilities vary from nation to nation and even from area to area from what I was told.

    I suppose its a poor analogy usage but when I hear people say "Shaman" I always think of the "Hog" notion. The fact a Hog to some is a pig like creature, to some it's a hand gun, to other's it's a type of name for a motorcycle, for others its a slur for a fat or large person. Many definitions and usages that use comparisons or similarities to describe something but the mental imagery and perception can be so far apart that the initial comparison is more destructive than helpful.
    The problem is that we still do not have a general term other than Medicine _______ or Shaman. If anyone is upset by this then they are going to have to make the effort to make the change by put out their idea of the correct term for themselves and not use the white culture terminology even when selling to the white culture or all they are doing is accepting the term.

    My point in this, is that it is their own fault. Instead of correcting the term they accepted it, so now they either have to accept it or fight to correct it because they accepted it to begin with, even if it was to cater to the whites. They have no one to blame but themselves. If you are unwilling to share your knowledge and wisdom with all who come to you, then expect others to give what they deem your knowledge and wisdom to others outside your control.

    This is one of the reason I hate the keep ye silent rule. While it does apply to things done specifically for you or group it does not apply to ones wisdom and knowledge gained. If they don't like it then they need to share and correct it.

  3. #43
    Silver Member monsno_leedra's Avatar
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    Re: Pagan Pet Peeves

    Quote Originally Posted by SonoftheWaters View Post
    The problem is that we still do not have a general term other than Medicine _______ or Shaman. If anyone is upset by this then they are going to have to make the effort to make the change by put out their idea of the correct term for themselves and not use the white culture terminology even when selling to the white culture or all they are doing is accepting the term.

    My point in this, is that it is their own fault. Instead of correcting the term they accepted it, so now they either have to accept it or fight to correct it because they accepted it to begin with, even if it was to cater to the whites. They have no one to blame but themselves. If you are unwilling to share your knowledge and wisdom with all who come to you, then expect others to give what they deem your knowledge and wisdom to others outside your control.

    This is one of the reason I hate the keep ye silent rule. While it does apply to things done specifically for you or group it does not apply to ones wisdom and knowledge gained. If they don't like it then they need to share and correct it.
    Now your crossing into that notion of cultural appropriation and what some call colonialism mentality. We have a right to your knowledge and such, usually by force of power and position, and either give it to us or we will change it to fit our assumptions / presumptions. Placing all the blame and responsibility upon the culture being exploited to either change or give up its identity to appease the group doing the exploiting.

    That always reminded me of the ugly American sterotype in Europe and Asia. The ugly American who goes to a foreign place and expects them to speak English and change their ways because the ugly American couldn't be bothered to learn anything of the language, people, culture, etc of the place they were visiting. Then when the people try to accommodate the visitor by using a word close to their usage they are still wrong and should be willing to accept that.

    Man saw that same mentality so many times over the years I served oversea's in the military, especially by tourist to many areas.

    Regarding wisdom and knowledge I truly believe it depends. SO often, especially for many aboriginal or first nation peoples wisdom and knowledge is so tightly wound into culture and social / ethical beliefs that one is not easily separated or understood without the trappings. It's part of the mystical or spiritual aspects of knowledge and wisdom I suppose, you can read, hear, etc all about it but it means little to nothing unless you live and experience it for yourself. That was one aspect of language that always intrigued and amazed me, many words have more meaning when spoken and / or sung than they ever have when read as the written word or translated into another language. Sad part is far to many people in my opinion expect you to give them everything and put little to nothing into the obtaining of that knowledge and experience.

    Sorry drifting off the Shamanism discussion is though perhaps this is a major part as well.
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  4. #44
    Member SonoftheWaters's Avatar
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    Re: Pagan Pet Peeves

    Quote Originally Posted by monsno_leedra View Post
    Now your crossing into that notion of cultural appropriation and what some call colonialism mentality. We have a right to your knowledge and such, usually by force of power and position, and either give it to us or we will change it to fit our assumptions / presumptions. Placing all the blame and responsibility upon the culture being exploited to either change or give up its identity to appease the group doing the exploiting.

    That always reminded me of the ugly American sterotype in Europe and Asia. The ugly American who goes to a foreign place and expects them to speak English and change their ways because the ugly American couldn't be bothered to learn anything of the language, people, culture, etc of the place they were visiting. Then when the people try to accommodate the visitor by using a word close to their usage they are still wrong and should be willing to accept that.

    Man saw that same mentality so many times over the years I served oversea's in the military, especially by tourist to many areas.

    Regarding wisdom and knowledge I truly believe it depends. SO often, especially for many aboriginal or first nation peoples wisdom and knowledge is so tightly wound into culture and social / ethical beliefs that one is not easily separated or understood without the trappings. It's part of the mystical or spiritual aspects of knowledge and wisdom I suppose, you can read, hear, etc all about it but it means little to nothing unless you live and experience it for yourself. That was one aspect of language that always intrigued and amazed me, many words have more meaning when spoken and / or sung than they ever have when read as the written word or translated into another language. Sad part is far to many people in my opinion expect you to give them everything and put little to nothing into the obtaining of that knowledge and experience.

    Sorry drifting off the Shamanism discussion is though perhaps this is a major part as well.
    It does have a lot to do with the problem of the term shaman or any culture term, I am not taking this as far as saying give it to all tourist or tourons as local's in New Orleans call them. However, there have been people I know that wanted to know more and have been flat out turned down because they were not already part of the people, one of the only reason I know as much as I do is because I am part Choctaw and this is wrong. This is also no longer the old world were people are trying to take over or control the culture but simply under stand the culture better. There will always be bad apples but by saying you are not one of us so were are not going to help you, you can say or do whatever you want and we will not correct you, is one of the sources of the problems, especially in America were most people have accept the tribes as they are today, even if there is still some prejudices.

  5. #45
    Silver Member monsno_leedra's Avatar
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    Re: Pagan Pet Peeves

    Quote Originally Posted by SonoftheWaters View Post
    It does have a lot to do with the problem of the term shaman or any culture term, I am not taking this as far as saying give it to all tourist or tourons as local's in New Orleans call them. However, there have been people I know that wanted to know more and have been flat out turned down because they were not already part of the people, one of the only reason I know as much as I do is because I am part Choctaw and this is wrong. This is also no longer the old world were people are trying to take over or control the culture but simply under stand the culture better. There will always be bad apples but by saying you are not one of us so were are not going to help you, you can say or do whatever you want and we will not correct you, is one of the sources of the problems, especially in America were most people have accept the tribes as they are today, even if there is still some prejudices.
    I agree it's hard if not out and out difficult to impossible to penetrate some of the barriers. Many times it seem's it's either a deal of your not of the blood, heritage, etc so we can't share. Other times it's a matter of not passing the tests or proving your sincere about actually trying to learn something.

    In some ways reminds me of my military experience in that there are many who talk about being an Initiated Chief Petty Officer (CPO), speculate on what it means to be an Initiated Chief Petty Officer (CPO), many who speculate and discuss why it's not open and shared but very few who actually become Initiated Chief Petty Officer's (CPO's). So we tend to speak within our own group as we all have a shared military experience, shared military background and shared life experience's regardless of whether we were Airdale, Submarine or Surface. Yet we still chide each other about our respective "Callings" ie calling Surface ships targets, submariners bubbleheads, brown shoe or black shoe Navy, etc.

    There is a great level and degree of knowledge and history that everyone knows but to us it's entirely different. Yet no matter how much you ask to be shown it you'll not grasp and fully relate to it unless you went through it and have done nothing but live, breathe, eat and yes even die under it. That I find is the issue with many family practices, trad practices and lineage'd mystery practices. People expect them to be open and share but you can't share experiences only talk about them and then the shared reality allows you to relate and even empathize / sympathize with those who are experiencing it themselves.

    I used to have discussion's about O.B.E.'s (Out of Body Experience) and N.D.E.'s (Near Death Experience) and use it to understand and discuss what it felt like to die. I've had both O.B.E.'s and N.D.E.'s and actually died in my youth so there is some comparison for discussion and relating to the experience. Yet there is also a lot of emotional, cultural, social, ethical, spiritual / religious influences there that can't really be spoken of or explained as to how each impacts upon you. Trying to describe or put it into words doesn't always work to convey the true meaning and depths of the experience. Sometimes living is just as difficult to express as dying when the life style and influences are so strongly tied to culture, social, ethical, ethnic, etc bindings.

    I personally think part of the issue surrounding Native American beliefs is so much has been falsely wrapped about the notion of the noble savage and this presumed great pagan like connection to the natural world. Yet that presumption is often severely distorted by both historical misinformation and a certain rose colored tint upon everything. It's like my ancestry is mountain people even back into our ancestry into the highlands of Scotland an such. So how do I convey that via words that another can understand and relate to with all the baggage that accompanies it?

    It's all history, knowledge, experience and the stuff that makes it up. Yet if I talk about it all you get are words without any of the emotional and psychological triggers, images and stimulus that goes with it to make it something. That I think is what people never really grasp when they come to anything and say tell me, show me, open it up to me or share it with me.

    Consider the so called Sin Eater and how they are sometimes equated to some Shamanic practices. To know both the hatred, disgust and antisocial attitude towards them can not be conveyed without all the emotional imagery and feelings the very idea brings upon people associated with it. Failing to realize that by consuming the sins and and such of the spirit and body they also serve the capacity of psychopomps and Spirit Keepers aiding the spirit to separate from its earthly garb, at times act as a Spirit Keeper in allowing the sins of the flesh as it were to be washed away and removed while the spirit itself unburdens itself.

    Sorry off topic again.
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    Re: Pagan Pet Peeves

    Many Native Americans get insulted by being called “shamans” because this is a foreign word to them and it does not necessarily define what they are. Just because a tribe has a similar spiritual practitioner in their culture, does not necessarily make them a shaman. Furthermore, it is more respectful of aboriginal peoples to be referred to by their own names and titles from their own language.
    Source: http://www.tengerism.org/native_americans.html

    Personally, I prefer the more academic terms myself. Polytheist, pantheist, panetheist (yes, there are tribes around the world which have or used to have this later belief). If there is need for me to refer to the specific beliefs of a certain group, then I can always look it up and call them by their chosen name. I.e.: Tengerist Shaman, Umbanda Pai, etc.

  7. #47
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    Re: The term "shamanism"... borrowed or appropriated?

    Quote Originally Posted by Medusa View Post
    So. We all agree on the word!
    Great.



    oh edIt to add:
    The issue that we all have different experences with hearing that word. Some hear it through their academic studies, some through their personal spiritual studies etc. And some (most) probably learn of the word through media.
    So who is in charge of teaching the 'proper' use of that word....and if so, what gives you that authority?

    That's what we really need to get to. We all agree, we all have different understandings of it. Now what?
    The problem is the controversy over modern usage of the word. Because the culture from which it was borrowed still exists. So we are all practicing potentially harmful cultural appropriation by using it, in the same way that it's considered harmful cultural appropriation to use certain Native American terms outside of their proper context.

    Unfortunately for this particular term it's too late, we'll never get it out of modern usage now. But it's a big debate in the academic world.

    The thing is that the only ones who don't have an alternative term for themselves are core-shamanists and plastic shamans. Everyone else is a seidhkona, a naoide, vegetalista, medicine man, hedgerider, spirit worker, mudang, baksu, yascomo, kadji, sangoma... the list goes on and on and on.

    The other thing is that the modern neopagan conception of what a shaman is, is... wonky. Which is why we get into discussions like this one. The different experiences, as you mentioned, pull together people who are sensitive to the cultural issues of the term, people who are shamanists, people who aren't shamanist, people who don't know about the cultural issues and people who just don't care about them. At the beginning everyone thinks they are talking about the same thing, but it's a lot more complicated than that.

  8. #48
    Nihilistic Goddess Medusa's Avatar
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    Re: The term "shamanism"... borrowed or appropriated?

    Yeah, I realize now my idea of shaman is incorrect. But then again so is most of the population if pressed. When do you just go along and use the common vernacular? I mean it took people forever to give up Eskimo (sort of). I mean ask random people what an Inuit is. But everyone knows what an eskimo is.
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    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: The term "shamanism"... borrowed or appropriated?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rae'ya View Post
    The problem is the controversy over modern usage of the word. Because the culture from which it was borrowed still exists. So we are all practicing potentially harmful cultural appropriation by using it, in the same way that it's considered harmful cultural appropriation to use certain Native American terms outside of their proper context.
    In what way is it harmful? Be specific.

    Words are not sterile, they touch things and contaminate them. Neither are things sterile, they touch words and contaminate them.

    Human cultures are not laboratory cultures preserved against contamination. Cultures rub shoulders and mix. Sometimes people from different cultures even have sex, and sometimes that causes children to happen... Does that produce contamination? Which culture are they allowed to be part of?

    Sure... I get the idea... "This thought/idea/word belongs to ME and MY PEOPLE, and you can not have it!" But it doesn't make sense... unless some sort of "ethnic purity" is accepted as a goal - and I thought we were all past that kind of madness...

    Maybe I should get all pissy because their is a popular Asian cartoon called "Full Metal Alchemist"...

    First rule of language - clarity. Use the word your audience understands. Currently, in most contexts, that word is "shaman." If the campaign to change this works, I'll use the word that replaces it in the same way I now say "I used an entheogen" where I used to say "I got stoned out of my head and saw god" (it sounds so much more special that way anyhoo).

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    Opinionated Rae'ya's Avatar
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    Re: The term "shamanism"... borrowed or appropriated?

    Quote Originally Posted by Medusa View Post
    Yeah, I realize now my idea of shaman is incorrect. But then again so is most of the population if pressed. When do you just go along and use the common vernacular? I mean it took people forever to give up Eskimo (sort of). I mean ask random people what an Inuit is. But everyone knows what an eskimo is.
    That is actually a really good example. I highly doubt that we'll ever be able to replace 'shaman' and 'shamanism' in common vernacular, but we can be sensitive to the issues when we do use them. I really like the quote posted earlier about respecting practioners by calling them by the terms they prefer for themselves. We can also be sensitive to the fact that modern usage has twisted our sense of what many of these practitioners actually do... not just the indigenous ones but also those practicing a traditional or recreated form of these techniques.

    Quote Originally Posted by B. de Corbin View Post
    In what way is it harmful? Be specific.
    Is this a genuine question? Or are you trying to get us into a cultural appropriation debate? I'm just asking because a proper answer with specifics is going to take some time and the PC and I'm not inclined to do it if this is not a genuine discussion point. And I find it very difficult to believe that you have no concept of cultural appropriation and the potential harm it can have on the cultures being appropriated from.

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