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Magic of the Ordinary: Recovering the Shamanic in Judaism Paperback – January 10, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: North Atlantic Books (January 10, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556434448
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556434440
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #226,475 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Jewish shamanism? Jewish sorcery? Jewish magical healing? What would Aunty Fanny say? But it’s all here in Magic of the Ordinary, in which Rabbi Gershon Winkler with wit and wisdom leads us to rediscover the more paganistic and pantheistic mysteries underlying the ancient Hebrew tradition. I highly recommend this book."
—Andrew Weil, M.D., author of Spontaneous Healing and Eating Well for Optimum Health

"Gershon Winkler’s brilliance shines a light on the buried shamanic practices of Judaism. Magic of the Ordinary is a treasure—I loved it and was deeply inspired by it."
—Sandra Ingerman, author of Soul Retrieval and Medicine for the Earth

“His refreshing translations of Biblical passages restore an elemental force to the Hebrew. His book Magic of the Ordinary is chock-full of extraordinary material from the Talmud, the Midrash, and the Zohar.”
London Jewish Chronicle (December 26, 2003)

“Winkler’s picture of archaic Judaism diverges sharply from the contemporary image of the ‘Judeo-Christian tradition.’…By bringing to light the long-hidden teachings of Jewish shamanism, Winkler has opened a way for Jews to look within their own spiritual heritage for the shamanic teachings that previously seemed to be available only within other traditions.  …Moreover, because Magic of the Ordinary serves to redefine the contemporary picture of aboriginal Judaism, this book may appeal to a more general readership, and it should be of interest to many students of religion and cross-cultural shamanism.”
—Roberta Lous, Shaman's Drum (Number 66)

"There’s an old Native American saying: ‘If it doesn’t grow corn, what good is it?’
Gershon Winkler grows corn. He's like a laughing Buddha or a Native American coyote trickster; passionate but not serious. He is the friend of Spider, Magpie, and Lizard. He lives with storms. [Magic of the Ordinary] is truly a masterful compendium of ancient Hebraic wisdom.”
—David Carson, Choctaw Elder, author of Crossing into Medicine Country and co-author of Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals and Oracle: 2013

About the Author

Rabbi Gershon Winkler, initiated into Jerusalem by the late Kabbalist Rabbi Eliezer Benseon, has devoted his energy over the past decade to reviving and making more accessible the aboriginal elements of Judaism. A frequent lecturer and workshop facilitator in the United States and Israel, Winkler is both a student and practitioner of this lesser-studied dimension of ancient Jewish mystery tradition. He is the author of eleven books on Jewish mysticism, philosophy, and folklore. He lives with his family in the remote wilderness of San Miguel, New Mexico, where he runs the Walking Stick Foundation and Retreat Center.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Rabbi Winkler is doing an amazing thing for Judaism.
Shachar Link
This is an amazing book, that opens up ones mind to the root and core of Judaism.
My ancestors were Christian, and were highly critical of shamanic methods.
Sue Reinhart

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Shachar Link on September 26, 2004
Format: Paperback
Rabbi Winkler is doing an amazing thing for Judaism. If it weren't for his writings on what the "Hebrews" really were/are/could be, I think I would have simply left my Judaism behind. But I am so thankful that this scholar and spirit has done the work he has done. In this book, he shows how Judaism is full of rituals, ideas, practices, and teachings that fit under the category "shamanic." He talks about how Judaism is a path very much in touch with the natural world around us, all creatures, the heavenly bodies, etc. He discusses how the Hebrew language is one based upon a shamanic (pantheistic?) interpretation of the universe.

I have studied Buddhism a lot, and shamanic traditions a little, and have always found these other traditions to be so much more grounded in real human experience than the Judaism I was raised with. What Rabbi Winkler does is show how Judaism, at its core and in its origin, was just as grounded as these other paths, just as open and responsive to human experience in all its manifestations. Rabbi Winkler is revitalizing Judaism. I highly suggest this book as well as any other by him.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Alice Finnamore on November 3, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First of all, I will say I am not Jewish. My background is Baptist. I enjoy reading books which give me a more thorough understanding of scripture, and this one does. Reading this book feels like a remembering of information I have known in my deepest heart. Winkler's explanation of scripture passages, interspersed with story and quotes from ancient rabbis is masterful and intriguing. My copy is now heavily underlined for study, and I recommend it heartily.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Geoffrey W. Dennis on November 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book can best be described as crazy-wise. Completely defying the historic trends within Judaism for the past several hundred years, trends toward more philosophical, rational modes of thinking, Winkler plunges back into Jewish tribal origins. While his re-reading of Jewish sources may seem eccentric at times, he is not making this stuff up, merely viewing them with an archly-shamanistic POV. His refusal to embrace Christian-derived "spirituality" that, overtly or covertly, devalues earthly physicality is perhaps the most powerful contribution to his unearthing (pardon the pun) authentic Jewish spiritual practice.

When he is being original, he even more interesting. Frankly, his interpretation of Ohr v'Choshek (the meaning of light and darkness) in Jewish mystical sources can most charitably be described as "strong." More bluntly, he turns the traditional mystical perspectives on light and darkness, unity and diversity, being and nothingness, completely inside-out. His interpretation also undermines much of Jewish tradition, both exoteric and esoteric, on messianism. I'd be curious to hear his thoughts on that. Still, it is provocative and compelling, and is well worth reading. I'd recommend strongly, in fact.

I don't see the majority of American middle-class Jews embracing shamanistic Judiasm, but this book will be interesting to anyone looking for compelling post-modern ways of being Jewish. It will be especially interesting to those who already know the sources and are looking to have their cherished assumptions shaken up a little. Fascinating.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Gary Reiner on November 22, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In the book Magic of the Ordinary: Recovering the Shamanic in Judaism, Rabbi Gershon Winkler shows shows how Judaism considers the Earth Mother as the keeper of all the gates to mystery and all the paths to spirituality. The Jewish Shaman takes a journey in order to pass through the Veil of Illusion and learn the dance of spirit and matter.

Judaism is one among the Shamanic religions of the world. Rabbi Winkler demonstrates that "Jewish spirituality has less to do with religion and more to do with direct, open, ecstatic free experience of wonderment through creation" and that the Judaic spirit path is about "the importance of the Divine experience through the magic of living in continual awe." He also shows that "while aboriginal [Shamanic] spirituality in general has been tucked safely underground for centuries, it is experiencing an unprecedented resurrection in our own time."

The Jewish Shamanic tradition is about experiencing the so-called ordinary, mundane material existence as the carrier of the very mystery we expend so much of our life quest seeking in other more transcendental realms. Unknown to most, the ancient Jewish tradition teaches prolifically about the Four Directions and the medicine attributes of animals, plants,and minerals. The earth is sacred and all beings, including the stars and planets, are imbued with Divine consciousness.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By S. Cranow on March 23, 2011
Format: Paperback
Gershon Winkler was a devout Jew living in New York with his several children and his wife. Then one day a change occurred. He is still a Jew and his spirituality is still Judaism, however , he has chosen to get closer to nature and live in New Mexico. He has since studied Native American Shamanism and I believe that it has strongly influenced this current book being examined.

Do not fool yourself into thinking that he has gone ahead and done a cheap combination and made up his own Native_American form of Judaism. Everything written in this book can be supported by such traditional texts as the Talmud, Tanach, Zohar and other books. This stuff is legitimate.

Many would never think of Judaism as being a Shamanistic religion. It used to be. Shamanistic religions are connected to the land. Judaism as practiced by the ancient Israelites was connected to the seasons and land of their kingdom. Being exiled away from their land has caused the Jewish people to lose their Shamanistic connection to the land and spirituality.

To find holiness or kedusha one need not astral travel to the heavenly realms in order to experience divinity. Divinity can be found in our every day lives right here in the earthly realm. In fact it is in the earthly realm that we are meant to find find God. Of course this has been long forgotten.

During their exile in Europe the Christian leaders oppressed those who followed shamanistic path. In fact if you were not Christian you would get killed or worse. As Shaman and witches and Jews were being persecuted the Jews silently shelved their mystical practices. Yet if one scours the Kabbalistic works and the Talmud carefully enough those mystical practices can be found.
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