Asian Shamanism: An Ancient and Diverse Religious Tradition
Asian shamanism is a term that refers to a variety of religious beliefs and practices that involve the interaction between humans and the spirit world through the mediation of shamans. Shamans are individuals who are believed to have special abilities to enter altered states of consciousness, such as trance, and communicate with spirits, ancestors, deities, animals, plants, and natural forces. Shamans may also perform healing, divination, ritual, and other functions for their communities or clients.
Asian shamanism is not a single or unified religion, but rather a collection of diverse and often localized traditions that share some common features. Asian shamanism is mainly found among the indigenous peoples of northern and central Asia, such as the Siberian Tungus, Mongols, Turkic peoples, Samoyeds, Uralic peoples, and Altaic peoples. However, shamanic elements can also be found in some other Asian cultures, such as the Korean mudang, the Japanese miko, the Tibetan lama, and the Nepalese jhankri.
Asian shamanism has a long and rich history that dates back to prehistoric times. Archaeological evidence suggests that shamanic practices may have existed in Siberia and Mongolia as early as the Paleolithic period. The term shaman itself comes from the Tungusic word saman or samanu, meaning “one who knows” or “one who is excited”. The term was later adopted by Russian explorers and scholars in the 17th century to describe the religious specialists of northern Asia. Since then, the term has been widely used by Western scholars and popular culture to refer to various practitioners of similar or related traditions around the world.
Asian shamanism is characterized by a worldview that sees everything as alive and animated by spirits or energies. These spirits may be benevolent or malevolent, helpful or harmful, depending on the context and the relationship with the human. Shamans are able to establish contact with these spirits through various techniques, such as drumming, dancing, singing, chanting, fasting, dreaming, using psychoactive substances, wearing costumes or masks, or undergoing initiation rites. Shamans may also use various tools or objects to aid their work, such as drums, rattles, bells, staffs, knives, mirrors, amulets, talismans, or animal skins.
Asian shamanism is a complex and dynamic religious phenomenon that reflects the diversity and creativity of human cultures and experiences. It has survived and adapted to various historical and social changes, such as colonization, modernization, globalization, migration, and urbanization. It has also influenced and been influenced by other religious traditions, such as Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and New Age movements. Asian shamanism continues to be practiced and studied by many people today who seek spiritual guidance, healing, wisdom, or connection with nature.