Before the mid-1960s, Shamanism interested only a few anthropologists and historians. Now travel agents are booking ‘shamanic tours’ [and] alternative healers advertise ‘shamanic counseling’. Meanwhile a walk through any large bookstore will produce scores of titles with shaman, shamanic, and shamanism in them. In fact, ‘how I became a shaman’ is becoming a distinct literary category.
(Clifton 1994: frontispiece)
[G]iven the current place of shamans and shamanisms in spiritual movements and cultural commentary, it is incumbent on ethnographers to attend to the wider conversations both popular and academic, not only to devise new ways of being heard but also to engage reflexively these contemporary inventions.
‘Shamanism’ 1 is in vogue at present. Anthropological interests have endured since the 1960s’ explosion of studies on shamans, especially those who utilise(d) entheogens. 2 Archaeologists have constructed sophisticated shamanistic interpretations of the past, but their use of ‘shamanism’ is highly contested and accusations of ‘shamania’ (coined by Bahn 1996) and ‘shamanophobia’ (coined by Dowson 1996) abound (for critical discussion of issues surrounding these terms, see Wallis 2002b). In popular culture, various figures from Socrates and Shakespeare to Aleister Crowley, from Jim Morrison and Michael Jackson to the Pope, have been labelled ‘shamans’. 3 Moreover, recent years have witnessed a growth in ‘New Age’, ‘neo-’, ‘new’ or ‘modern’ (or ‘post-modern’) shamanisms, a wide variety of ‘spiritual’ practices for personal and communal empowerment among Western 4 peoples. Despite numerous studies on shamanisms, the political and ethical sensitivities of neo-Shamanisms have gone largely unrecognised. Academia consistently marginalises neo-Shamans, 5 yet, ironically, there is more literature on shamanisms written by, or aimed at neo-Shamans than there are