- Castaneda, Carlos
- (1925–1998)Anthropologist, neo-shaman, and author of the Don Juan series of books (14 in total with three published posthumously). Castaneda’s work has been immensely popular but has been exposed by scholars as an inauthentic ethnography of Mexican shamanism. There is considerable mystery surrounding Castaneda in all aspects of his life and career. He claimed to have been born in Brazil in 1931, but records of his immigration to the United States in the 1950s indicate his birth was in 1925 in Peru. Castaneda studied anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and received an M.A. and Ph.D. for his ethnographic work with Don Juan, a Yaqui sorcerer and the inspiration for his bestselling books, the first three of which are entitled The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, A Separate Reality, and Journey to Ixtlan. Interest in psychedelics peaked around the time Castaneda chronicled his use of peyote, datura, and other entheogens with Don Juan in the first two books, yet his third presents readers with non-entheogen shamanistic techniques suitable to a postpsychedelic New Age and neo-shamanic audience, indicating that Castaneda’s books were more tailored to the countercultural spirituality of the moment than any indigenous reality. Scholars, including Richard de Mille, Daniel Noel, and Jay Fikes, have exposed Castaneda’s ethnography as “fake,” while devotees of Castaneda argue that even if the ethnography is inauthentic, the teachings within it remain valid; some even claim they have met Don Juan and practiced shamanism with him.
Historical dictionary of shamanism. Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis. 2007.