- Shamans are commonly distinguished from priests in academic discussions of distinctions between kinds of religious leaders. Although some cultures recognize that there are some situations in which a person may act as both shaman and priest, or shaman and elder, such roles are often distinct. The defining practice of priests is the offering of sacrifices on behalf of their communities or of the world. Caroline Humphrey and Urgunge Onon demonstrate the sacrificial duties of elders but not shamans in Mongolia. In Amazonia, shamans may offer sacrifices, especially as part of their mediating role between deities and human communities. Thus the distinction is not a universal one. It is likely that the preference for shamans over priests in contemporary Western imagination is rooted in intraChristian polemics of Protestants against Catholicism and alleged ritualism and misconstrues the significance of both religious functionaries.
Historical dictionary of shamanism. Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis. 2007.