What Is A Shaman?

 In Neolithic, Pagan Belief

Ann and I share our bedtime reading; she reads a bit and then I take over. The book we are reading is Inside The Neolithic Mind. It is complex and difficult but our two brains work well together. I read the book before I wrote my paperback on Stonehenge. I was confident a shaman or shamaness managed the circle at that time. However, I had fogotten the Neolithic Mind and needed to read it again. The shaman, at least in recorded times, have always been men. It appears that some may have been spotted as a potential shaman whilst they were a child. Staring beyond what you are looking at was a pointer. Another was distinctive eyes, bright and piercing perhaps. They might also have eaten magic mushrooms or, in this country, fly agaric, a fungi. What is a shaman? A man who knew his fungi.


The shaman would induce a trance, by eating something or dancing, perhaps even by fasting. He would then go on a a journey into a cosmos that he understood, had perhaps even created himself. On his return, he would describe this other world, perhaps up in the sky or down beneath the ground. It was the world to which his people would move to when they died. We might be sceptical today but it is easy to imagine that then, people did believe these visions. It appears that a shaman type role existed all over the planet. Consequentially, it is a creation of our minds, a manifestation within all of us. The book attempts to study this by analysing archaeological remains in the Middle East and on the Atlantic coast.

What is a shaman?

I rather saw the shaman and shamaness, in my book, as possessing animal movement, smooth and lithe. As with many animals, with bright, piercing eyes. The wood and plaster figures recovered in the Middle East and dated 6,750 BC are shaped like humans. Moreover, their eyes have a bitumen edge so that they stare, even follow you around the room. What these figures were for is open to dispute. However, here, as at Stonehenge, we did not appear to create any figures. However, we did re-configure Stonehenge at least 6 times. It suggests that the shaman demanded the changes in order for the circle to fit into his or her cosmos. The sun and moon featured in that cosmos, it was celestial and not related to humans. Consequently, we did not create human figures, whether sculpted or incised on stones.

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What is a cosmos?