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Shamanism/Indigenous Peoples
Record Type: Review   ID: 631

Shamans, Priest and Witches: A Cross-Cultural Study of Magico-Religious Practitioners

Winkelman, Michael James

 This work is based primarily on the author’s dissertation and other scholarly articles he has written. In the Preface he says it "integrates the findings of a cross-cultural study on types of magico-religious practitioners within the context of anthropological and sociological studies of magico-religious phenomena." He notes that it differs from other general efforts to provide a theoretical framework to explain such phenomena in that it uses "a formal cross-cultural sample and statistical analysis of data to reveal an empirical structure related to the institutional bases of magico-religious practices." He adds that "this approach has determined a typology of magico-religious practitioners with universal applicability. The correlation of this typology with existing data on the socioeconomic conditions has provided a basis for developing a general theory of magico-religious phenomena, their origins, and their emergence and transformation under socioeconomic change. These findings are integrated with other studies on magico-religious phenomena to provide a general organizational framework for integrating a diverse set of magico-religious phenomena" (p. vii). The study emphasizes the types of magico-religious practitioners and the evolution of their practices, as well as the role of altered states, rather than the magico-religious phenomena or types of exceptional experience themselves, but those that appear to be associated with magico-religious practices in this study are healing, divination (which can involve clairvoyance, telepathy, and precognition), protection, and finding game animals or other lost or missing persons, animals, or objects; weather control, ability to fly (OBE), fire-immunity, communication with spirits of the dead (postmortem communication) and with animal spirits (human-animal communication), and being able to transform themselves into an animal (shape shifting). They also experience death and rebirth experiences and other mystical experiences. Shamans and related magico-religious practition-ers are the primary subject of this volume, and anthropologist Winkelman treats them from several viewpoints. He begins with a review of the anthropological approach to magic and religion and an overview of this study. In the second chapter he presents his methods, including a description of the sample, coding format, and statistical methods. His results are reviewed in the subsequent two chapters which deal with magico-religion, practitioner types and their socioeconomic condi-tions/characteristics; and then their interrelations, social conditions, selection as practitioners, their magico-religious activities, and the evolution of their practice. There follow chapters devoted to Shamanism, including a description of the universal basis of shamanism, Shamanistic Healers, the Priest, the Sorcerer/Witch, Altered States of Consciousness, Thera-peutic Aspects of Shamanistic Healing, including further discussion of the role played by altered states, and Conclusions, including a discussion of the universal features of magico-religious practice and magic and religion. There are appendices on Magico-Religious Practitioners, Methodology, and altered states variables.
Publisher Information:Tempe: Arizona State University, 1992 (Anthropological Research Papers No. 44). 194p. Bibl: 179-191; Chap. notes: 173-177; 11 figs; 4 tables
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