Mastery of Spirits

   Shamans are sometimes distinguished from other religious or cultural leaders by their ability to control or master spirits or other other-than-human persons. For example, it may be the shaman’s job to gain control of hostile beings who cause illness by overpowering ordinary people. They may combat beings who cause possession or “soul loss.” However, it is now clear that Mircea Eliade and Luc de Heusch overstate the distinction between shamans who master spirits and their clients and members of “possession cults” who are mastered by spirits. In Siberia, the Arctic, Greenland, and many other places, shamanic initiation and performance require a degree of control by otherworld helpers. It is more useful, then, to consider the empowering relationships between shamans and other-than-human persons to be reciprocal to some degree.

Historical dictionary of shamanism. . 2007.

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