Shamans/Neo-Shamans: Contested Ecstasies, Alternative Archaeologies, and Contemporary Pagans

By Robert J. Wallis | Go to book overview

4

‘CELTIC’ AND ‘NORTHERN’ SHAMANISMS?

Contesting the past

The use of the runes for divination was the province of a special class of shamans.

(Howard 1985: rear cover)

Caitlín Matthews and her colleagues are not really concerned with the past, so much as with the present and the future … One aspect of this is her imposition upon Celtic lore of a lot of Native American religion, such as the totem, the spirit-quest and the shamanic vision. There are actually no precise parallels for any of these in ancient Celtic culture.

(Hutton 1991:144)

Having presented ethnographic fragments of Druid and Heathen neo-Shamanisms and noted academic avoidance of such literature, practices and interpretations - even from the perspective of ‘appropriation’ - I examine, in this chapter, the historic and archaeological sources neo-Shamans cite as evidence for these shamanisms past. After discussing the Celtic and Northern sources in turn, I conclude by evaluating the usefulness of approaching both in terms of shamanisms.


Celtic shamanisms

Though it is not a widely accepted idea, a number of academics have, over the past hundred years or so, suggested Celtic religion may display shamanistic aspects (e.g. MacCulloch 1911; Powell 1958; Rees and Rees 1961; Eliade 1989 [1964]; Chadwick 1934, 1942, 1966; Ross 1967; Piggott 1968; Nagy 1981; Taylor 1994, 1996; L. Jones 1998; MacKillop 1998; Aldhouse Green 2001a, 2001b). Of these, note that most are non-archaeologists (focusing their attentions on literary sources), and that the suggestions of the trained archaeologists (strictly speaking, Piggott, Powell, Ross, Taylor) are by no means conventional in Iron Age archaeology. Drawing on literary sources and exploring other sources are academics from disciplines other than archaeology and history (e.g. Melia 1983; Lonigan

-107-

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Shamans/Neo-Shamans: Contested Ecstasies, Alternative Archaeologies, and Contemporary Pagans
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgements xvii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - ‘White Shamans’ 24
  • 2 - Plastic Medicine Men? 49
  • 3 - Taliesin’s Trip, Wyrd Woden 79
  • 4 - ‘Celtic’ and ‘Northern’ Shamanisms? 107
  • 5 - ‘sacred’ Sites? 142
  • 6 - Waking Neolithic Ancestors 168
  • 7 - Invading Anthros, Thieving Archos, Wannabe Indians 195
  • 8 - Conclusion 227
  • Appendix 235
  • Notes 239
  • Bibliography 253
  • Index 295
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