Shamanism: Traditional and Contemporary Approaches to the Mastery of Spirits and Healing

Shamanism: Traditional and Contemporary Approaches to the Mastery of Spirits and Healing

Shamanism: Traditional and Contemporary Approaches to the Mastery of Spirits and Healing

Shamanism: Traditional and Contemporary Approaches to the Mastery of Spirits and Healing

Synopsis

Pristine shamanism in Greenland is examined and the ambivalent nature of the shaman and the spirit world in the tough Arctic environment is then contrasted with the more benign attitude to shamanism in the New Age.

Excerpt

When I decided to write on the shaman, I was aware that I was venturing into a difficult and very sensitive area of research. Although there had been an explosion of interest during the previous two decades in the role of the shaman in the West and numbers of books of various depth had appeared, I still felt that my special area of interest, the Greenlandic shaman or angakkoq, was not usually represented in the literature on shamanism which was available in English. I therefore set myself the task of writing on the Greenlandic shaman utilising some sources that had only appeared in Danish.

To capture the nature of the angakkoq is a challenge. What is available is a variety of sources produced by narrators who describe not only the behaviour of different angakkut but also voice their own 'approach' to the angakkoq and his relationship to the spirit world. I have, however, used descriptions that I hope through their diversity of opinions on the role of the angakkoq ultimately draw a picture of this mediator between his society and the world of the spirits.

My interest in the traditional Greenlandic belief system started with a chance visit to the Tukâk theatre in 1980. This theatre, situated on the rough west coastline of Jutland in Denmark, was created with the intention of educating young Greenlandic actors and helping them to re-establish contact with their roots, the traditional beliefs in spirits, and the mythology, but in a form that was a mixture of those old traditions and the experiences of the young Greenlander in the modern Westernised society that Greenland, in many ways, had become. As far as I have been able to establish, however, traditional shamanism has not been revived in Greenland.

The attempt of the Tukâk theatre to present a different kind of spirituality was an eye-opener to me. Participating in some of the theatre's courses, I became highly interested in Greenlandic . . .

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