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Author Topic: Why I don't consider Wicca a shamanic religion.  (Read 13090 times)

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earthmuffin

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Why I don't consider Wicca a shamanic religion.
« on: September 25, 2010, 12:48:09 AM »

"Why I don’t consider Wicca a shamanic religion." By Earthmuffin

A growing number of articles on the internet assert that Wicca is a shamanic religion or that Wiccans are in effect shamans. While some members of the Wiccan religion may undertake practices also employed by some shamans or practitioners of shamanism, these are two distinctly different spiritual paths that are by no means equivalent and, to my mind, do not even overlap significantly.

However, to make an accurate determination of the validity of calling Wicca a shamanic religion, one first needs to define what ‘shamanic’ means, and therein is where I think the confusion lies over whether Wicca can be considered shamanic. I think we can safely say the terms shamanic and shamanistic mean “of or relating to shamanism.” So how is shamanism defined? If a definition is too broad, it becomes meaningless; if it is too narrow, it is of little use, so we must seek a description that is both sufficiently inclusive and meaningful to be of value.

The root word, shaman, comes from a word of the Evenks, formerly called the Tungus tribe, of Siberia to describe members of that group who act as mediators between the physical world and the world of spirits. (Please note that the plural of shaman is shamans.) Shamanism is the term anthropologists have used to refer to this practice among this people and have applied more broadly to a family of similar practices and beliefs among indigenous cultures around the globe. While each indigenous culture has its own name for the equivalent of the shaman in its society, certain central commonalities exist across cultures. These are a belief that everything has spirit, the regular use of ecstatic trance states by the shaman to make a ‘soul flight’ to otherworld realms, and the ‘mastery over’ (I prefer ‘aid of’) spirits to effect cures for individuals and the community. A modern movement using these core beliefs and practices has rapidly gained popularity in our Western culture since Michael Harner, an anthropologist turned shamanic practitioner, brought these ideas to the public in the early 1980s with publication of The Way of the Shaman. This movement has also been referred to as shamanism or more accurately as core shamanism, modern shamanism, neo-shamanism or urban shamanism. In deference indigenous cultures, I have begun using ‘shaman’ only to refer to members of indigenous cultures and ‘shamanic practitioner’ to refer to members of the modern day Western movement.

It seems needless to define Wicca, a religion that has been around now for nearly six decades and is considered the fast-growing religion in the United States; however, Wicca, the religion, and witchcraft, a spiritual practice, are still confused to this day much as Wicca and shamanism are. Wicca is a religion that originated with Gerald Gardner in the 1950’s. Gardner’s claim that his religion was a rediscovered ancient path has not found support among archaeologists and is generally accepted as fictional by modern pagans (see Adler, Drawing Down the Moon). Witchcraft is more simply the practice of using magic.

The following contrasts between Wicca and shamanism as defined above indicate to me that Wicca should not be referred to as a shamanistic religion.

•   Wicca is a nature-based religion that takes many of its ritual components from ceremonial magic.
Shamanism, on the other hand is not a religion but a worldview and spiritual practice by specific members of certain indigenous cultures.

•   Wiccans typically worship an archetypal Goddess and a God or a pantheon of deities representative of those archetypes.   
There is no specific concept of deity in shamanism.

•   Shamanism is an animistic belief system, in which all things, including inanimate objects like rocks and manmade items, are considered to have spirit, or a form of consciousness.
While many Wiccans have close relationships with the natural world and most believe in the existence of spirits, they are not necessarily animists and being one is not a prerequisite to the religion.

•   Shamans enter trance states to make journeys to specific otherworld realms to accomplish healing for others with the aid of spirits.
Not all Wiccans employ trance in their religious practice. Some Wiccans may practice astral projection, which differs from shamanic soul flight in that the destination is different and there is not a clear healing purpose. Priestesses or solo practitioners may enter trance during the Drawing Down the Moon or Drawing Down the Sun rituals, but in this case the trance is considered a form or possession rather than a soul journey to an otherworld realm.

•   Wiccan practices and shamanic practices do have some more minor aspects in common. Both Wiccans and shamans and shamanic practitioners may practice forms of divination and use herbs for healing, but these are not central components of these paths.

In conclusion, while I find it misleading to assert that Wicca is a shamanic religion, shamanic practices can be combined successfully with many religions, including Wicca. A couple of texts I can recommend that do a laudable job of describing shamanic practice within the context of the Wiccan religion are Green Hedge Witch by Rae Beth and the Shamanic Witch by Gail Wood.
« Last Edit: September 25, 2010, 12:52:08 AM by earthmuffin »
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Re: Why I don't consider Wicca a shamanic religion.
« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2010, 02:25:38 AM »

Excellent piece EM ... thank you for sharing your thoughts and information. :warmfuzz:

On a side note, I'm guessing you found some time to read Shamanic Witch?    I'm still working my way through that one. :whistle:
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Re: Why I don't consider Wicca a shamanic religion.
« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2010, 04:31:13 AM »

Yes, it is an excellent piece.  Thanks for sharing EM!
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Re: Why I don't consider Wicca a shamanic religion.
« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2010, 08:25:53 AM »


Very well reasoned, and well written.

peace,
ES
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Re: Why I don't consider Wicca a shamanic religion.
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2010, 10:16:41 AM »

Thanks.  :D
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Re: Why I don't consider Wicca a shamanic religion.
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2010, 11:18:16 AM »

Yep, quite good Muffin. I don't get how the two things got confused in people's minds, other than lack of research.
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Re: Why I don't consider Wicca a shamanic religion.
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2010, 11:31:57 AM »

Thank you so much, EM!  You have done a wonderful job of writing this and clearing up a few things.  I think I will be adding those books to my wish list.  :D
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Re: Why I don't consider Wicca a shamanic religion.
« Reply #7 on: September 25, 2010, 02:28:01 PM »

Well done, EM.  Thank you!
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Re: Why I don't consider Wicca a shamanic religion.
« Reply #8 on: September 25, 2010, 04:15:36 PM »

Yep, quite good Muffin. I don't get how the two things got confused in people's minds, other than lack of research.

I don't either. I think it's because being Wiccan is cool and being a shaman is cool so being a Wiccan shaman is considered even cooler.  :whistle:
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Re: Why I don't consider Wicca a shamanic religion.
« Reply #9 on: September 25, 2010, 04:47:52 PM »

Yep, quite good Muffin. I don't get how the two things got confused in people's minds, other than lack of research.

I don't either. I think it's because being Wiccan is cool and being a shaman is cool so being a Wiccan shaman is considered even cooler.  :whistle:

I think you're on to something, there.
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Re: Why I don't consider Wicca a shamanic religion.
« Reply #10 on: September 26, 2010, 03:38:28 AM »

Yep, quite good Muffin. I don't get how the two things got confused in people's minds, other than lack of research.

I don't either. I think it's because being Wiccan is cool and being a shaman is cool so being a Wiccan shaman is considered even cooler.  :whistle:

I think you're on to something, there.

Yeppers.  It's a based upon a drive to meld neo-Wicca with something other in order to make it cooler (when dropping the 'neo' from Wicca should be cool enough) and so doing to try and make Wicca into something cooler than it already is.
 :omg:

That being said, I believe that the merger of these two trads can be done... In fact I'd go so far as to suppose and suggest that Wicca can (should?) be shamanic in nature.

As an exhibit of evidence let me offer up C Penczak's Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft.
CP's inclusive approach is enough to give this syncretist a major stiffy.  Further, it might help the WalMart Wiccan move past the white-light-n-bunnies phase to truly confront the Shadow-self.
May I add that facing the Dark is a royal beeyotch at best, regardless of trad; it's not for driveby Wiccans, nor for anyone faint of heart or light of scrote.  But it ain't easy for anyone; however I'd suggest giving CP's technique an honest read.
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Re: Why I don't consider Wicca a shamanic religion.
« Reply #11 on: September 26, 2010, 07:56:04 AM »


"In fact I'd go so far as to suppose and suggest that Wicca can (should?) be shamanic in nature." Shamanism is a specialty and a technique that someone of almost any religion can pursue if they've a gift for it, just as Oncology is a specialty any doctor can pursue if that is their choice...but no one can tell you that you should do it. It is a choice and a calling.

peace,
ES
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Re: Why I don't consider Wicca a shamanic religion.
« Reply #12 on: September 26, 2010, 11:26:06 AM »


"In fact I'd go so far as to suppose and suggest that Wicca can (should?) be shamanic in nature." Shamanism is a specialty and a technique that someone of almost any religion can pursue if they've a gift for it, just as Oncology is a specialty any doctor can pursue if that is their choice...but no one can tell you that you should do it. It is a choice and a calling.

peace,
ES


:yeahthat:

I'd also add that it's difficult and potentially dangerous to delve into just on the basis of reading a few books. A good mentor/teacher is a must, in my opinion.

HZ, I hadn't heard of the Penczak book. Will have to check it out. Thanks for mentioning it.
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Re: Why I don't consider Wicca a shamanic religion.
« Reply #13 on: September 26, 2010, 11:57:28 AM »

It's a good 'ern, but like you say it's no subsitute for flesh-n-blood mentorship.
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Re: Why I don't consider Wicca a shamanic religion.
« Reply #14 on: September 27, 2010, 08:47:38 PM »

Interesting post, I think that the element of spiritual mediumship is another reason that people sometimes refer to Wicca and even Pentecostal Christians as being shamanistic. The ability to connect directly to spiritual energies is a feature often left out of mainstream religions. While shamanism and Wicca are very different things, I think the trend toward solitary practitioners has encouraged even more of that direct channeling of the spiritual without reliance on structure or clergy. Shamanism from a anthropology background, is normally a tribal phenomenon learned by means of apprenticeship, more of varied techniques of ecstatic communion. That shamanistic techniques are used increasingly by many Wiccans is true but as your post so nicely pointed out they are different.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2010, 08:49:46 PM by vordan »
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Re: Why I don't consider Wicca a shamanic religion.
« Reply #15 on: January 30, 2012, 03:26:43 AM »

Quote
Further, it might help the WalMart Wiccan move past the white-light-n-bunnies phase to truly confront the Shadow-self.
May I add that facing the Dark is a royal beeyotch at best, regardless of trad; it's not for drive by Wiccans, nor for anyone faint of heart or light of scrote.

You couldn't be more right! But sadly so few will realize balance is everything and with darkness comes light and with balance comes enlightenment and wisdom. Thank you for writing this piece. I loved it. Very informative and intelligent. I get annoyed when people get these things mixed up, but its easy for the ill educated and ignorant to mix all of the earth based faiths and put them in one basket. I actually got asked if being Pagan was like being a scientologist. I was steaming mad inside. lol SERIOUSLY!!! GRRR lol Thanks again I loved it really. And it inspired me to write my next journal entry :)
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Re: Why I don't consider Wicca a shamanic religion.
« Reply #16 on: February 02, 2012, 01:20:21 PM »

Reading this again, I do want to mention one of the oldest rules about shamanism - it is not a path by choice. True, you can follow the practices in your attempt to become something close to that, but even then you can call yourself "follower" or "shaman beginner" or something like that. True shamanism is not given by choice. It is often that people survive a horrible accident, or recover from a condition modern medicine can't cure, because they have been asked the question.

Usually it evolves around finding yourself in a coma or something like that, during which you are asked by the gods/spirits if you will wish to follow the path as a shaman and heal for them. The question will occur only once, and those who deny it are never asked again. Some of them regret it for the rest of their life.

Anyway, Wicca, destined or not, doesn't involve the whole "being asked a question" thing that is pretty much common for all types of shamanism. Doesn't mean that someone who isn't just following the shaman practice won't be asked the question at some point, but until he is and answered the question with "yes" he cannot truly heal, nor should call himself a shaman.
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Re: Why I don't consider Wicca a shamanic religion.
« Reply #17 on: February 02, 2012, 01:23:26 PM »

What is this cryptic "question" to which you refer?  :confused:

Muffin is an Atheist Shaman, so I'm sure she'll disagree.
« Last Edit: February 02, 2012, 01:25:10 PM by Ghost Wolf »
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Re: Why I don't consider Wicca a shamanic religion.
« Reply #18 on: February 02, 2012, 01:43:34 PM »

Not sure exactly, hasn't happened to me for all I know. It is literally that, "Want to be a healer?" or "Want to be a shaman?" or something of the sorts asked during the coma-like state, which can be three days or just 5 mins during a crash. Yes or No question, basically, different traditions and different cults explain it differently. I did found similarity in the Siberian and Native American traditions when it came to this question, though.

I think I read somewhere it was just a "Yes or No" choice or something like that. But anyway, you are chosen and given a choice; at least that is what I know for the common shamanism. I am not familiar with the atheist shamanism you speak of, it probably has different traditions and traits.
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Re: Why I don't consider Wicca a shamanic religion.
« Reply #19 on: February 02, 2012, 02:04:41 PM »

Muffin would have to explain it. I don't understand it myself.
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Re: Why I don't consider Wicca a shamanic religion.
« Reply #20 on: February 02, 2012, 02:07:01 PM »

Muffin would have to explain it. I don't understand it myself.

Yeah, that. ^
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Re: Why I don't consider Wicca a shamanic religion.
« Reply #21 on: February 02, 2012, 05:12:38 PM »

I think Rovay us talking about being "called" by the spirits but also about initiation. The calling happens for most shamans, but not necessarily all. Some native shamans are initiated into shamanism because of their family lines (father was a shaman). But most are called, which usually involves something very traumatic like a period of mental or physical illness or near-death experience during which one gets an inkling that there are spirits that want you to follow a certain path. One may be healed of whatever the illness was at that time by spirits.  The shamanic initiation usually happens later, when the newbie shaman has started along the path. The initiation as I understand it happens during a shamanic journey, in which the shaman experiences death and often complete dismemberment in the otherworld. I don't know about a specific question being asked and answered per se. That perhaps is a feature of some cultures, but not necessarily the same with all.  I think for many shamans there really is not a choice offered-- you either get the message and follow the path you were meant to follow or you suffer more and more physical and/or emotional problems that either direct you back to that path or kill you. I suppose the choice is you either get it or  you fight it and be miserable or succumb to the illness.  It is a feature characteristic to shamanism but I didn't list it because Wiccans could find their path along similar lines-- the proverbial giant cluex4 whacking you upside the head repeatedly-- though usually the physical illness is not a component for Wiccans and some Wiccans are initiated by other Wiccans rather than by spirits.

For the record, I consider myself more of an agnostic than atheist, and at this point, I don't feel I have the right to call myself shaman. Shamanic practitioner is a better descriptor. I'm still trying to figure it all out. ;)
« Last Edit: February 02, 2012, 05:59:55 PM by earthmuffin »
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Re: Why I don't consider Wicca a shamanic religion.
« Reply #22 on: February 02, 2012, 10:14:33 PM »

Wiccans are always initiated by other Wiccans, male to female, female to male. Spirit initiation is not a part of Wicca. Nor can one initiate one's self. ;)
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Re: Why I don't consider Wicca a shamanic religion.
« Reply #23 on: February 03, 2012, 12:14:44 AM »

I realize that is the traditional viewpoint, GW, but it ignores the fact that there are many solitary "self-initiated" Wiccans out there. Scott Cunningham, widely respected and beloved Wiccan author, describes self-initiation rituals in several of his books. He describes the God/Goddess as being the entities passing power to the initiate instead of the High Priestess/Priest. By his definition, then, a solitary Wiccan initiatory rite could be considered similar to (but obviously not the same as) a shamanic initiation.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2012, 12:26:34 AM by earthmuffin »
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Re: Why I don't consider Wicca a shamanic religion.
« Reply #24 on: February 03, 2012, 02:36:01 AM »

Yeah, thanks EM, I was trying to explain "the Call" but I was kind of inadequate yesterday. You explained it the way I wanted to, though, so thanks. But yeah, that is why I meant when I said "destined" when it comes to Wicca and stuff, you do get whacked in the head with signs too, but I think shamanism has a more unique call.

And I thought Wicca can be practiced solo, from what I read?
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Eer aan die gode en hul oordeel.
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Those that are best with the blades rarely let them leave the sheaths.
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