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Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (Bollingen Series (General)) Paperback – February 8, 2004

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Editorial Reviews


"Eliade writes of the shamans with that masterly combination of sympathy and detachment. . . . . [His] findings will almost certainly be echoed by great voices of the future."--New York Times Book Review

"Eliade is the most informative guide to the modern mythologies."--Frank Kermode, New Statesman

"[A] close and detailed yet comparative study of shamanism. . . . [It] has become the standard work on the subject and justifies its claim to be the first book to study the phenomenon over a wide field and in a properly religious context."--Times Literary Supplement

"Clearly the best work on Shamanism published so far."--The Review of Religion

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Bollingen Series (General)
  • Paperback: 648 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; New Ed edition (February 8, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691119422
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691119427
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #350,910 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book is the ultimate book for understanding the beliefs and practices of Shamanism, written by one of the world's foremost experts on religion and sociology. I cannot stress to you enough how thoroughly Eliade manages to cover the subject. A good portion of the book focuses on the Shamanic traditions of Siberia and Central Asia, the heartlands of Shamanism. Amongst the Mongols, Yakut, Chuckchi, Saami (Lapps) and other people of that region Shamanism was first observed, and is stil practiced today in many regions. Eliade goes into great depth about the beliefs and symbolism, about the clothing and ornamentation, about the meaning of ritual tools and amulets and much more. Everything from the axis mundi to ecstasy and trance states to helper spirits to Shamanic ideas of death and illness is covered in superb detail. But Eliade goes far beyond a simple survey of Shamanic beliefs and practices, almost literally taking you into the world of the Shaman. After reading this book, you will understand the Shamanic mindset and world view far more than you ever thought. And, as I said, Eliade goes far beyond the traditional forms of Shamanism in Siberia and Central Asia. In this encyclopedic work, Eliade explores the Shamanic traditions of the Americas (North and South), Australia, Indonesia, Oceania, Tibet, China and beyond. Even the Shamanic traditions of the ancient Indo-Euorpeans, such as the Greek myth of Orpheus, Persian views of the after world and the Germanic God Odin, are given treatment. This book is very lengthy, well written, extensivily bibliographed and filled with detailed accounts and accurate information on virtually all facets of Shamanism. I cannot recommend this book enough. Even after all these years, "Shamanism" remains perhaps the definitive book on Shamanic beliefs and thought. To truely understand Shamanism and its role in Siberia/Central Asia, you must read this book.
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Format: Hardcover
I agree whole-heartedly with the many earlier reviewers who have praised this extraordinary book. However, it has given rise to some controversies, and prospective purchasers might as well be aware of them. Given the richness of the volume, I consider them minor, but a chorus of praise invites disappointment.

First of all, the original French edition was in 1951 (and was one of the author's post-war works apparently not written in his native Romanian). The revised and updated English translation (the fine work of Willard Trask) first appeared in the Bollingen series in 1964. Princeton University Press issued the Bollingen edition in paperback in 1972, and this appears to be the version currently in print. Hence, it is, obviously, more than a little out of date bibliographically. Some people are troubled by this, but there is no way the book could have been expanded to deal with the explosion of research and publications which followed its appearance (although about two hundred titles, mainly post-1948, were added to the 1964 bibliography and notes). Just be aware that it may not mention something important.

[Since this review was originally posted, the MYTHOS edition for which it was written has been replaced by a new Princeton printing (January 2004), with a preface by Wendy Doniger, describing the book's importance and limitations with clarity and considerable authority. (She is the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago.)]

Also because of the book's age, Eliade still used terms and ideas which were common in European scholarship in the first half of the century, but have been largely abandoned since, and in some cases never made much of an impression on the English-speaking scholarly world.
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Format: Paperback
Mircea Eliade's foundational work 'Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy' is a massive 648 page resource work that was first published in '51. Now some fifty-five years later it's still the authoritative reference work on the history, beliefs and practices of shamanic cultures.

By the way, just in case you were initially attracted by the subtitle 'Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy' let me warn you, it's not that kind of book. Or if you're looking for some entertaining reading the likes of Carlos Castaneda filled with vivid, exotic first-hand accounts of interaction with the spirits you'll be disappointed. This is a scholarly reference work designed for serious students in sociology, anthropology, psychology and the history of religion. There's nothing exciting here, unless you find knowledge something to get excited about.

So if you're serious about the subject of shamanic magical practices and beliefs than this is a must own volume for your library. However when it comes time to read it be sure to have a very large glass of water close at hand. It's as dry and dusty a read as you'll ever find.
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Format: Paperback
Eliade's book is widely acknowledged to be the definitive work of scholarship on shamanism. It deserves its reputation.
Shamanism is mostly comparative anthropology, describing shamanistic systems from all over the world and relating them to what Eliade considers to be the paradigmatic type, namely, Siberian shamanism.
The shamanic universals are of considerable interest in themselves, not just as evidence of some ancient pan-cultural Ur-religion (although as such they also make interesting thought-fodder). They include initiation experiences (almost always involving the oneiric dismemberment of the shaman by demons), a history of self-healing (frequently the young shaman must and does cure himself of epilepsy or some other such condition), equipment and regalia used, beliefs about the nature and structure of the spirit world, and the claim by twentieth-century practitioners that a few generations back some catastrophe caused a degeneration in the powers shamans are able to command.
The portrait Eliade evokes of the practicing shaman is fascinating, but I have to admit that I read this book as much for insight into the interaction between the human brain and mind as for anthropology. Admittedly dry at times, Shamanism more than repays the effort required to take it in.
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