Sexuality

Sexuality – Despite significant interest in the gender of shamans, the importance of sexuality in shamanic being and performance is commonly overlooked or diminished. In those cultures where shamanic initiation and roles involve marital relationships with otherworld persons or spirits, sexuality is often explicitly involved. References to the gendered nature of a shaman’s drum and stick are not always only poetic metaphors, especially since they might be (animate) other-than-human persons in their own right, and, in ceremonies, engage sexually. In her discussion of shamanizing among the Siberian Evenk and Buryat peoples, Roberte Hamayon argues not only that shamanic séances are “sexual encounters,” but also that sexuality between shamans and their otherworld partners is more important than the journeying that has gained more attention in both scholarly and neo-shamanic contexts. Nurit Bird-David’s demonstration that hunting among the Native American Cree and among Siberian peoples is frequently spoken of sexually (including “courtship, seduction/ abduction, consummation and procreation/reproduction”) is especially significant in the light of Carlos Fausto’s insistence that shamans and hunters are inseparably linked in Amazonian cultures. Thus, the blatant sexuality of many shamanic performances is neither “mere entertainment” (although it does frequently entertain the community) nor marginal to the main purposes or activities of shamans. Ioan Lewis concludes an important discussion of “shamans and sex” by saying:
the shaman [in Siberia and elsewhere] is literally empowered by his marriage to a female nature spirit and his erotic, shamanic ecstasy dramatizes this relationship. In women’s possession cults elsewhere . . . devotees are regularly considered to be “brides” of the spirit—with whom, in their turn, they make love.

An example from Malaysia in which a woman claimed to have had a child by her spirit husband demonstrates that such relationships might not be positively valued: the woman was fined by an Islamic court for committing adultery. A complete contrast is offered by the initiation accounts of Haitians, who are expected to marry their possessing spirits.

SOURCE:

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

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