Panel 8:

CONTEMPORARY CONTEXTS OF NEW FORMS OF SHAMANISM

Chair: Eugenia Roussou


The Globalization of Ayahuasca Shamanism and the Erasure of Indigenous Shamanism

Fotiou, Evgenia

Assistant Professor, Kent State University, Department of Anthropology

Ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic plant mixture used in a ceremonial context throughout Western Amazonia and its use has expanded globally in recent decades. As part of this expansion, ayahuasca has become popular among Westerners who travel to the Peruvian Amazon in increasing numbers to experience its reportedly healing and transformative effects.
Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork in and around the area of Iquitos, Peru, the epicenter of ayahuasca tourism, this paper will focus on some of the problematic aspects of Western engagement with indigenous spiritual traditions. This engagement is usually based on idealized and romanticized notions of indigenous shamanism and an inability to digest its less palatable aspects such as sorcery.
Through ethnographic examples and ethnohistorical evidence, I show that romanticizing indigenous knowledge is not benign. In fact, this one-sided romantic image hides the complexity of indigenous peoples’ situation by erasing the injustices that they have experienced and continue to experience. I propose a more holistic approach to ayahuasca shamanism that views indigenous peoples not living in a fictitious harmony with nature but as people embedded in larger struggles and facing important challenges not the least of which is the recent commercialization of indigenous spirituality.


A Case of Urban Shamanism in Contemporary Japan

Rivadossi, Silvia

Ph.D Candidate, Ca’ Foscari University of Oriental Languages, Venice

Who are the shamans in contemporary Japan?
New images and imagery of shamans are currently emerging both in the Japanese media and in the real world. However, recent studies of Japanese shamanism have focused mainly on “traditional” shamans, thus leaving this increasingly broader field of (re-)invented and new shamans almost unexplored.
In this paper, after an introduction to Japanese shamanism and a brief review of the state of art, I will present the case of a self-defined urban shaman I met and interviewed in Tokyo during the winter of 2013-2014.
This person learned how to be a shaman in southern Africa and believes shamanism to be extremely vital to the contemporary Japanese society. In his view, people in large cities, and especially the younger generations in Tokyo, have lost contact with the natural world as a consequence of the increasing attention on economics. This has led to numerous problems, which he believes a shaman can solve by restoring the relationship with nature.
In the specific context of Tokyo this shaman is, therefore, playing an important role in dealing with the social and economic threats contemporary Japan is facing.
In conclusion, by presenting the above-mentioned case study, this paper aims at shedding light on some of the new forms Japanese shamanism is assuming, while addressing at the same time the issue of the definition of “shaman” and “shamanism” in contemporary Japan.


‘Rainbow Zen Shamanism’: Shamanic Teachings and Practices in North-East Scotland

Barmpalexis, Athanasios

PhD Candidate, Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen

The modern [shaman] […] will have wide-ranging interests. He will be deeply concerned about society as a whole, and about his planet. He will be seeking ways to implement the moral application of his insights, in different arenas — legal, political, philosophical, or scientific. He is the kind of man who is committed to an inclusive community, joining and leading urban citizens in their efforts to fight global warming, world hunger, pollution (Moore & Dougles, 1993).
This paper will examine one practitioner of this latter-day shamanism, Terry Mace, and his own school of shamanic practice, Rainbow Zen Shamanism.
Mace resides in Cullen, North-East Scotland. His school, he maintains, belongs to contemporary shamanism, an amalgam of traditional influences and modern scientific/academic concepts, such as psychotherapy and philosophy, as opposed to co-shamanism, the ancestrally inherited continuation of older practices, which function as official religion in regions where shamanism has a prolonged history. Mace blends shamanic teachings he has received from others with his own psychiatric educational/professional background and applies them to the needs of the people in Cullen, playing ‘an essential role in the defence of the psychic integrity of the community’.
I will explore Mace’s ideas on shamanism, on social and political issues, and his assertion that shamanism needs to adapt to the context in which it is actually practised. Finally, I suggest that these westernized, modernized shamanic practices can actually co-exist alongside the already established traditional ones and even contribute to the adjustment of shamanism to the conditions and needs of the twenty-first century.


From ancient Greek Water Sources to the modern Life-giving Spring

HÃ¥land, Evy Johanne

Independent Scholar

Religious rituals and beliefs in connection with water are found cross-culturally all over the world. Every aspect of human life and divine interferences on earth can be expressed through water-related symbols. In other words, rituals in connection with the religious significance of water recur across several civilizations and religious groupings.
In Greece, springs in caves have traditionally shaped and featured prominently in religious beliefs and practices. In ancient times springs represented Water-Nymphs. Today springs are dedicated to the Panagia, i.e. the Virgin Mary, under her attribute of Zōodochos Pēgē, i.e. the Life-giving Spring. Both ancient and modern believers have expressed their belief in rituals connected to purity and water by fetching Holy water from the caves dedicated to these female divinities. The water is thought to be particularly healing and purifying during the festivals dedicated to the goddesses. This is reflected today in the modern festival dedicated to the Life-giving Spring, which is celebrated on the first Friday after the Resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday. During this festival Athenians come to the Panagia’s chapel inside a circular Spring House hewn in the rock on the Southern slope of the Acropolis to fetch Life-giving water. The Sacred Spring is situated inside a cave over which is constructed a church. Today, it is also important to be baptised in water from one of the many sacred springs, which are dedicated to the Panagia. The cult dedicated to the personified sacred and healing spring-water has also been important for political purposes both in ancient and modern Greece. Moreover, the cult in the Acropolis Cave has been a site of conflict between representatives from the official Orthodox Church of Greece and the popular cult of local Athenians.
The paper will compare the importance of the spring in the modern religious rituals in the Acropolis Cave with the ancient cult of the spring in the actual cave. The comparison will also examine the cult of springs in other Greek caves. Connecting past and present water rituals offers insight into the importance of water in Greek rituals and the longevity of the sacredness of springs. The paper will also tap into similar cults in non-Greek contexts. Thus by bringing ancient and modern worlds together, the paper shows that the issues addressed are relevant beyond the Greek context both in time and space.