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The human mind projected,
This review is from: The Quest for the Shaman: Shape-Shifters, Sorcerers and Spirit-healers of Ancient Europe (Hardcover)
A quest is a story-teller's archetype and the story of this book is the persistence of shamanism from the earliest humans through history to the present day. It is the identification of shamanism in Europe before Christianity and its continuation as folklore and mythology afterwards. This is a book rooted in academic research based on ancient objects, cave paintings, rock carvings and classical writings. It is not a book about the contemporary practice of shamanism nor is it about any New Age revival.
The word shamanism, according to this book, comes from a Siberian word meaning the ecstatic one. The shaman and their people lived in a world alive with spirits in animals, in the landscape and in natural events. This was a three-tiered world with the underworld below, the middle-earth of people and animals and the upper-world of spirits. The shaman moves between these worlds via trance or psychotropic drugs. The shaman can be a shape-shifter, can merge with animals and sprits, can provide physical and mental healing, can connect the people with the spirits and the ancestors and can predict the future. This is the shaman of Siberia, the medicine-man of North America, the witch-doctor of Africa, the Celtic druid. The shaman echoes through the ages in the wise man or woman, so distrusted by the church.
Examples are taken from the late Palaeolithic, the Mesolithic through to the Neolithic and the introduction of farming. It continues into the Iron Age. Quotes are given from Greek and Latin writings. The Celts are heavily referenced. Early Greek and Roman religion shows influences, as do the religions of pre-Christian Scandinavia and Germany.
This book reflects the interests of the authors. Both are professors at the University of Wales, one of Archaeology and the other of Human Origins. The authors are often tentative in their assignment of shamanism to the objects, paintings and rock carvings they describe. I would take a more robust view that all early religion was shamanic and that this religion pervaded daily life.
It is published by Thames & Hudson and has this imprint's high production values for books on art and antiquities. There are 134 illustrations, 24 in colour, spread over 212 pages. There are also 28 pages of notes, bibliography and an index.
This is a good book for anyone interested in the history of shamanism, the origins of religion, early artistic expression or just looking at the pictures.