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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:South of North: Shamanism in Africa: A Neglected Theme
Author:Lewis, I.M.
Geographic term:Africa
Subjects:African religions
spirit possession
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Religion and Witchcraft
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/40733031
Abstract:M. Eliade's regional survey of shamanism (1951, 1972) is largely responsible for thrusting into general currency a conception of shamanism - which he represents as that of the classical Siberian Tungus institution - which has led subsequent authorities, such as Luc de Heusch, to claim that shamanism is in fact rare in Africa. Others, for instance M. Leiris, have asserted the opposite, stating that the phenomenon is 'widely distributed in Africa'. The author of the present article shares Leiris' view and suggests reasons, including Eliade's influence on terminology, for the general misreading of the evidence from Africa. He argues that the wider concept of shamanism is best specified along the lines proposed by V.N. Basilov as a 'cult whose central idea is the belief in the ability of some individuals chosen by some spirits to communicate with them while in a state of ecstasy and perform functions of an intermediary between the world of spirits and the given human collective'. Although usually described in terms of spirit possession and spirit mediumship, shamanic phenomena can be found in virtually every part of Africa. Bibliogr., ref.