- “Visionary and dreamer”; the Greenlandic shaman (pl. angakkut; also ilisiitsoq sing., ilisiitsut pl.). Missionary Hans Egede in 1721 offered the first detailed account of shamanism on the west coast of Greenland, describing how the shaman is bound with his head between his legs, his hands behind his back, and a drum at his side. The community gathered in the darkness of the house sings for the shaman, who calls on his spirit helpers to aid his unfettering. Thus untied, he ascends on a journey through the roof of the house to the spirit world, where he consults ancestor shamans and then returns to his people with important knowledge to maintain harmony between the worlds of spirits and humans. The Greenlandic angakkoq was a mediator between human and other-than-human persons, ensuring taboos were maintained and attempting reconciliation where they were broken. Sickness was interpreted as a result of breaching taboos, so healing required confessions to transgressions on the part of the patient. In her important review of reports by the Egede family of Christian missionaries and the Danish ethnographers Knud Rasmussen and Gustav Holm, among others, Merete Demant Jakobsen follows Sergei Shirokogoroff’s assessment of Siberian shamanism and characterizes the angakkoq as a “master of spirits.” The emphasis on control (over the other-than-human people shamans engage with) is fitting for shamanisms of the Arctic and parts of Siberia, but is not a universal feature of shamanisms. Rather than attempt to pin shamans down to a checklist of features, a decentered approach localizes shamans in specific socio-historical circumstances.
Historical dictionary of shamanism. Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis. 2007.
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Jakobsen, Merete Demant — Jakobsen’s volume Shamanism: Traditional and Contemporary Approaches to the Mastery of Spirits and Healing (1999) reviews previous work on the Greenlandic angakkoq and contrasts this with neo shamanic practices. While noting the positive… … Historical dictionary of shamanism
Boas, Franz — (1858–1942) German anthropologist who spent most of his life in the United States and is known as a “founding father” of American (i.e., cultural) anthropology, at Columbia University heading the first Department of Anthropology in the country … Historical dictionary of shamanism
Greenland — The world’s largest island, situated in the Arctic, Greenland has indigenous Inuit and immigrant Danish inhabitants. The Inuit angakkoq (shaman), discussed by such scholars as Knud Rasmussen and Merete Demant Jakobsen, mediates between human… … Historical dictionary of shamanism
Ingerman, Sandra — Neo shamanic practitioner and author. Ingerman’s most well known book is Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self (1991), outlining the practice of soul retrieval as taught by Michael Harner’s Foundation for Shamanic Studies, of which she… … Historical dictionary of shamanism
Inuit — Indigenous communities of the Arctic coasts of Siberia, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland (formerly known as Eskimos), well known for their hunter fisher lifestyle and documented initially by such ethnographers as Martin Frobisher, G. F. Lyon,… … Historical dictionary of shamanism
Sedna — Inuit otherworld, underwater Mistress of Animals. Part of the job of Inuit shamans, angakkut (See Angakkoq), is to mediate between their communities and Sedna, especially to deal with breaches of taboos that have caused Sedna to withhold sea… … Historical dictionary of shamanism
Bibliography — As the scope of the dictionary entries and extent of this bibliography make clear, there is a huge range of literature on shamans, from introductory works, general discussions on such topics as definition, and culture specific ethnographic… … Historical dictionary of shamanism