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Shamans Through Time: 500 Years on the Path to Knowledge Hardcover – April 23, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Surprisingly little appears to have changed in shamanic practices throughout the world in the last 500 years. Most rely on plant hallucinogens to communicate with otherworldly spirits for guidance and for enhanced perceptions of diseases and the identities of enemies. And most can choose whether to direct their energies for good or for evil purposes, an ability that provoked much hostility among their early observers. Scholarly treatments of shamanism, however, have changed dramatically over the centuries. In this excellent volume, anthropologists Narby (The Cosmic Serpent) and Huxley (Affable Savages) have collected observations about and interviews with shamans from more than 60 missionaries, botanists, anthropologists, ethnographers and psychologists spanning from 1535 to 2000. The contributors convey everything from fear, suspicion and condescension to respect, fascination and adulation. Many contemporary anthropologists lament shamanism's recent popularization and its likely degeneration in global culture. Anthropologist Michael F. Brown writes, "Tribal lore is a supermarket from which [New Age Americans] choose some tidbits while spurning others." As an example of shamanism-as-commodity, British anthropologist Piers Vitebsky cites a dumbed-down version of traditional healing that is part of a compulsory course for schoolchildren in northeast Siberia, where 50 years ago shamans were put to death. On the positive side, ethobotanist Glenn H. Shepard believes that shamans will become the ethnobotanists of the future. This first sweeping study of shamanism is sure to become a classic.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Narby (The Cosmic Serpent: DNA & the Origins of Knowledge, Putnam, 1998) and Huxley (Affable Savages: An Anthropologist Among the Urub# Indians of Brazil, Sheffield, 1995) have compiled this anthology of excerpts from 64 previously published works to illustrate how shamanism has been perceived through the centuries. The essays are divided into seven parts, each including an introductory essay that identifies the prejudices of the researchers and shows how preconceived notions influenced both their methodology and the evolution of the study of shamanism. Many of the authors included in this anthology, such as Black Elk and Claude L?vi-Strauss, are familiar to those interested in the subject. What makes this work unique is that it also includes translations of relevant materials that were previously available only in foreign languages. The inclusion of an excerpt from Carlos Castaneda is questionable, however, since much of his "research" has been largely discredited. Recommended for large public libraries and academic libraries with anthropology collections. John Burch, Campbellsville Univ., KY
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Tarcher; First Edition edition (April 23, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585420913
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585420919
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,257,814 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This volume is a must-have collection of writings on indigenous shamanism since the conquest; Edited by
Jeremy Narby (The Cosmic Serpent) and Francis Huxley (The Way of the Sacred). Beyond the
superlative selection of dozens of first hand records over the centuries and up through modern times, we
also see the mirrored portrait of our own evolving delusions, as our framework for understanding
shamanism progresses from considering shamans worshippers, then imposters and lunatics, and on to the participatory anthropology in the post-Wasson era .
There are some really amazing stories in here... it's the real stuff.
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By A Customer on April 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
`Shamans Through Time'
What is a shaman? How does he practice? Jeremy Narby and Francis Huxley, anthropologists of the mind and much else beside, deftly guide us through five hundred years of literature - from the 16th century Christian view (Ministers of the Devil), through the coming of anthropologists, to contemporary accounts by shamans themselves. The selected writings are richly varied, each reflecting its time and place; and they are short, which makes the reading easy. Here's Diderot in 1765, Franz Boas in 1887, Alfred Metraux and Levi Strauss in the 1940s, Carlos Castaneda in `68, Maria Sabena in 1977 -- sixty four in all, a significant number, you might think: Huxley is a conjurer of numbers no less than letters (see the Raven and the Writing Desk). His own contribution to the collection is a gem, `Smoking Huge Cigars', about an Urubu shamanic ceremony in which vast quantities of tobacco are smoked. Narby also tells a good story, `Shamans and Scientists'(2000), about an encounter between three molecular scientists and a Peruvian ayahuascero.
The entire collection is divided into seven chronological sections, each with a short, bright introduction by the editors. The result is a map by which to navigate this otherwise quite bewildering terrain. There's also a topical index, with surprising and helpful categories, like `Varieties of Shaman'' (diviners, healers, jugglers, tricksters and magicians...), `Creatures' (anaconda, ant, antelope, caterpiller...) and `Magic Substances' (arrows, cords, crystals, darts, ectoplasm, viruses and DNA!).
`Shamans Through Time' is not only skillfully put together and easy to read: it offers deep understanding. This is important, because shamanism is serious stuff.
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Format: Hardcover
I really liked this book. Edited (in part) by the author of "The Cosmic Serpent", it gives a sweeping five-hundred year look at how outsiders have percieved Shamanism, from early missionaries and explorers who viewed it as the "work of the devil" to early anthropologists to modern seekers who want to experience Shamanism for themselves. The focus of this book is Siberia and the Americas (which is soemwhat disappointing, as they could have included Hokkaido, Micronesia, South Africa, Indonesia and elsewhere) and the whole purpose of the book is to tell about how outsiders have viewed (and expierenced) Shamanism. As such, its not always clear what the realities of the practice are or were. In addition, there were a few glaring omissions, such as Frazer. Nonetheless, the sheer scope of this overview (both in terms of times and geography) and the amount of information within make it an excellent source for study. If you are seriously interested in the historical practices of Shamanism, or perhaps the changing attitudes toward Shamanism in the west, then you really should seek this book out.
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Format: Hardcover
Shamans Through Time is not simply another long-winded dissertation, it is a collection of short anecdotes and ethnographic observations made between 1535 and 1995 by mostly western missionaries, anthropologists, and other observers with ulterior agenda, on what are these days commonly called shaman. As another reviewer pointed out, the writings are centered around the Americas, North and South, and Siberia, where the term shaman originated.

Although I picked up my copy from a used bookstore shelf labeled "New Age", there is really nothing new age about this book. It should more rightly have been shelved in the Anthropology section. Even where it discusses Castaneda, which may properly be categorized as New Age, the Castaneda phenomenon is so important as the impetus for further immersion and the defacto introduction to shamanism, that it would be remiss, even prejudiced to have not included an overview of Castaneda. And while there are many Native Americans who positively hate and slander Castaneda, as they feel he had no doubt lampooned NatAm culture, he served a very important purpose as the stepping stone to a more academic and mature understanding of what shamanism is about.

The subject is out of the bag, and western civilization will proceed to accrete shamanic practice into the traditional religious medical bag, perhaps even improving upon it, in the same way that Japan has taken the American automobile and improved upon it in most ways. Neither wishing it will just go away, nor vandalizing the reputation of those who wish to deepen their understanding will effectively irradicate the concept of shamanism from modern culture.
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