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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Shaman's Quest in Africa
Author:Lewis, Ioan M.
Periodical:Cahiers d'études africaines
Geographic term:Africa
Subjects:African religions
spirit possession
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Religion and Witchcraft
External link:https://doi.org/10.3406/cea.1997.1990
Abstract:Mircea Eliade's classic survey (1951) of shamanism across the world explicitly omitted Africa from consideration. Ironically, this has encouraged the misleadig impression that there are virtually no shamans in Africa. This view, elaborated by Luc De Heusch (1962) and many other anthropologists, ignores a great deal of evidence to the contrary, and can be traced ultimately to Eliade's evolutionary and fundamentally misleading representation of the classic Siberian data on shamanism. According to Eliade, shamanism is characterized by the theme of 'mystical flight', while possession by spirits is not specific for shamanism. The present author, referring to S.M. Shirokogoroff (1935), who studied the Siberian Tungus, and V.N. Basilov (1981, 1984), proposes an alternative view on shamanism. In this view, shamanism is not a specific religion or cosmology in itself, but rather a set of religious or ritual techniques, applied by the shaman, which can be found in many different religious traditions and which exist potentially in all religions. As far as British social anthropologists are concerned, the reluctance to apply the term 'shamanism' to African phenomena illustrates their persistent hostility towards descriptive categories which they associate with diffusionism. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French.