Animals

Animals – Shamans engage with animals in a range of significant ways. In societies that live by hunting, shamans may journey beyond their physical location or seek the aid of knowledgeable other than human helpers to locate prey. They may also seek permission from those who control animal groups (a master or mistress of animals) before the hunt or offer them gratitude afterward. In animist communities (where animals may be considered to be persons or to have souls), shamans may be required to mediate between their human kin and animals or their “owners” who may be offended by the taking of lives. Bear ceremonialism and totemism form wider contexts in which some shamans also form intimate relationships with particular animals or animal species. In initiation, they may bond with animals who become their helpers throughout their careers or lives. Animal communities may also be thought to employ shamans among themselves, and sometimes such shamans visit human shamans. As among humans, some animal shamans can be dangerous and unwelcome, that is, may practice sorcery. Particular cultures give priority to particular animals; for example, jaguars and anacondas are especially important in Amazonia.

SEE ALSO:

  • Power Animals.

SOURCE:

Historical Dictionary of Shamanism by Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis 2007

BOOKS FOR YOU TO READ IN OUR LIBRARY:

Related Articles

Owners

Owners – Shamans in some societies are said to engage with otherworld or other-than-human persons who “own” animal species or all animals. Permission may be…

Helpers

Helpers – Shamans are often marginal figures, but they are rarely solitary. In some cultures, they are aided by apprentice shamans or by other types…

Resource management

Resource management – A significant role for shamans in many indigenous cultures, part of their mediatory and political functions. Shamans may engage with particular animals,…

Elders

Elders – Shamans are rarely the only social and ritual leaders in their communities. Caroline Humphrey, Urgunge Onon, and Marjorie Balzer clarify the role of…