Doctors

Doctors – In many indigenous cultures, shamans are healers. As the local equivalent of Western doctors, they seek the causes and cures of illnesses. However, since their medical practice exists in an animist context, it is frequently either spiritualized or demonized in Western discourse. For example, the use of the term medicine people with reference to Native American religious leaders can be interpreted in a way that privileges allegedly metaphysical “powers” rather than recognizing the importance of the people’s skill as healers. On the other hand, the term witch doctor in many African contexts is often taken to place these people among suspect workers of magic rather than recognizing their role as combatants against witches and the illnesses they cause. In both cases, local medical knowledge is highlighted by indigenous terms and denigrated or misinterpreted in many Western contexts. Many indigenous people, for instance, the Karuk, prefer the term doctor to the term shaman.

SOURCE:

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

BOOKS FOR YOU TO READ IN OUR LIBRARY:

Related Articles

North America

North America – Shamanism has been identified among a wide range of indigenous nations in North America, from the Yaqui living around the Mexican border…

Holy People

Holy People – A term for religious leaders among many Native American nations, who may be comparable with shamans elsewhere. Medicine people is a similar…

Clever People

Clever People – A term used with reference to knowledgeable and skilled Aboriginal Australian elders, healers, and ritual leaders. Thus, it is equivalent to “shamans”…

Karuk

Karuk – A people indigenous to northwestern California who typically refer to their shamanic healers and ritualists as “doctors,” êem. Traditionally considering themselves to live…