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Posts Tagged ‘Animism’

A Weekend With The Shaman

Classical shamanic practice has generated a renewed and widespread sense of interest within modern spiritual seekers. At issue is how well traditional shamanic concepts and techniques transfer to the denizens of contemporary societies. Can a practice considered by many to be an archaic remnant of earlier cultural thought worlds square with our current scientific and philosophical perspectives of existence? A weekend seminar sponsored by one of the anthropological fields leading authorities on shamanism may hold some revealing insights into these issues.

Michael Harner is an anthropologist and one of the world’s leading authorities on shamanism. Many consider shamanism an archaic and superstitious remnant of primitive and traditional cultures. However, broader awareness of individual claims of spiritual experience and a wider recognition of unseen forces by the physical sciences has rejuvenated contemporary interest in shamanic practice.

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Last Updated on Friday, 25 July 2014 12:25
My Friend The Witch Doctor
Animal skulls at the Lome fetish market

Animal skulls at the Lome fetish market

Animist Practice In Yorubaland

In many societies there exists an ever widening chasm between the ideals of their mythological heritage and the activities of ordinary life.  It often seems with every new nugget of information and technological innovation the relevance of cultural myths and legends as templates of practical action in daily existence recedes.  Their pragmatic authority marginalized, traditional mythology tenuously survives as an existential metaphor of the higher, more abstract ideals of existence as yet not fully explained by contemporary knowledge.  Societies continuing to live in accord with these “archaic,” metaphysical notions are widely considered to be uneducated, superstitious throwbacks destined to eventual doom by their lack of modern awareness.   Possibly the most conspicuous examples of such retrograde behavior lies with cultures who believe in the active, unseen role of spirits; those referred to as “animists.”  However, closer examination of the nature of animism suggests modern judgments may be in need of modification.  Could animist belief and ritual reflect a deeper more accurate ontological understanding than many realize?   Is it possible in many ways the advancements of science are leading us back to the essential truths of our distant mythological past?  The traditional Yoruban cosmology of western Africa may be a relevant case in point.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 5 January 2014 09:39
Losing Paradise
The Torajan village of Kete Kesu outside Rontepao

The Torajan village of Kete Kesu outside Rontepao

The Torajan people on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi are a rarity among traditional cultures.  They possess something capable of holding at bay the inexorable encroachment of modernity.  Something within their cultural essence whose preservation is of great value to the ravenous economic sensibilities of the modern world.  Something allowing them to maintain those native customs, ideals and forms so delicately assembled and maintained over countless generations.  This commodity is neither land nor material resource but rather a unique and dramatic set of spiritual perspectives and behaviors.  The Torajan are a new breed of entrepreneur.  In concert with the Indonesian government, they have parlayed their traditional animist practices into big business.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 12 March 2017 09:01