Pray now for how long
we’re falling from ecstasy
Freedom returned for new souls
here or after
well enrapture me and I’ll change …
(From the song ‘Psychonaut’ written by Carl McCoy, performed by Fields of the Nephilim and The Nefilim)
After the initial and perhaps somewhat quizzical reaction ‘What have neo-Shamanisms got to do with me?’ readers will by now, I expect, have formulated some of their own answers. A great many people from all walks of life are implicated in the issues neo-Shamanisms raise, many even unaware of the fact. This research area, my approach to it and assessment of it, are new, challenging and in no small part controversial. Each of the chapters is a discrete case study of neo-Shamanic practices, but also a ‘blurred genre’ (C. Geertz 1983) or ‘pastiche’ (Strathern 1987a) of neo-Shamanisms in its own right, with its own specific conclusions. From these conclusions, it might be overstretching the point to suggest, as I have done in the past (Wallis 2001), that an ‘archaeology of shamanisms’ must begin not with shamanisms in the past but with neo-Shamanisms in the present. But the point is not invalid: if, as Rainbird and Hamilakis (2001:91) suggest, archaeologists ‘should interrogate (the archaeological and broader) “regimes of truth”, and the links of knowledges with power, and intervene critically in the modern battlefields of cultural production and consumption’, then the sense of urgency in my comment at least does not seem misplaced. Academics and other professionals cannot remove themselves from the social contexts in which they live, in which they are embedded; neo-Shamanisms, therefore, cannot be neglected or written off by them as ‘fringe’ and ‘harmless’.
Neo-Shamanisms, like shamanisms, have a socio-political imperative. The claims by some practitioners that particular neo-Shamanic paths are unbiased, non-cultural or apolitical are erroneous and facilitate elitist avoidance of the polemics. Frequently, neo-Shamans attempt to disengage themselves from the