- 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: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,352,859 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Shamans Through Time: 500 Years on the Path to Knowledge Hardcover – April 23, 2001
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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.
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Top Customer Reviews
It's a collection of essays throughout the ages about shamanism – but all from outsiders' points of view. It was an especially hard read because it goes chronologically, and essays from the 1500s right up to about the 1950s or so all denigrate the topic and approach it with such disdain and cluelessness. It taught me nothing except how dismissive and self-aggrandizing people can be.
We actually start to learn and gain some great insight once we see essays from people who actually respected the topic and/or participated in shamanic practices themselves. Unfortunately, we don't see any of that until nearly the end of the book.
This might be great for historians or academics, but if you're actually interested in insight into shamanic practices, there are better books out there.
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.
You will enjoy every article.
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. A shaman - `one who maintains by profession, and in the interest of the community, an intermittent commerce with spirits...' (using Metraux's definition) -- is gifted with access to major power, for healing and for harm. In an age when many profess to this calling, we need a deeply reliable voice on the matter. This is it.
Milhaly Hoppal, Director of the European Folklore Institute, says `Shamans Through Time' is "the most comprehensive survey on shamanism ever. It will be a classic in its field." I'm sure he's right. It's a marvellous book.
Michael Schwab, Doctor of Public Health