“The term “shaman” originates in Siberia where it describes a person who possesses the ability to perform soul journeys, and thereby serve as a mediator between the tribe and the spirit world.”
The purpose of the shaman within a community was to work for the greatest good of the tribe, by the use of healing herbs and other forms of medicine; and through seeing a wider perspective on matters that affect the tribe with the use of spiritual tools.
Much has been written on Native American Shamanism, but the purpose of this site is to explore the Shamans of Northern Europe in more detail; to separate myth and assumption from fact, and to share the great myths and folk lore of the Nordic region in order to better understand why such stories came about and what cultural significance they still have to the Northern Shamanic Tradition.
Without wishing to get too political, it is important to observe the tragic mistreatment of the Northern Shamans, so this page will include some overview of the historical plight of the Northern Shamans and people in order to develop a better understanding of that plight and the importance of respecting the earth and the people on it, as the story of the Sami highlights a worldwide problem, and for the sake of the Sami people, their story deserves sharing.
According to Basilov, “Shamanism … emerged in the period when hunting and gathering were the main means to support life … [The] most important … beliefs [are:] (a) all the surrounding world is animated, inhabited by the spirits who can influence man’s life; (b) there are general and reciprocal interconnections in nature (humans included); (c) human beings are not superior but equal to the other forms of life; (d) human society is closely connected with the cosmos; (e) it is possible for human beings to acquire some qualities of a spirit and visit the other worlds; (f) the aim of religious activity is to defend and make prosperous a small group of kinsmen.”
This supports my own hypothesis that human consciousness was developed in the time when the human race had access to resources for a regular food supply, and that drumming with animal hides and the culture that came about from being able to sit down and take stock around the fire, to ‘put the world to rights’ as it were was the true cradle of civilisation in that we were finally able to think about what we were doing following aeons of hand-to-mouth existence. This theory is discussed in Lewis-Williams’ The Mind in the Cave, and one day I’ll get around to uploading my dissertation on this subject; but let’s not digress.
Geographically, there are well documented links between native African shamanism and the origins of shamanism in Northern Europe – before the supercontinent Pangaea (etym: Pan/Gaia – ‘all of the Earth’) broke up into its constituents, Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America were connected by land; and all constituents we now know were reachable by foot or animal in extensive pilgrimage. This goes some way to providing an explanation for the similarities between African Shamanism, Native American Shamanism, and Northern Shamanic Tradition.
Beginning in the late Triassic period, Pangaea separated into two smaller supercontinents; Gondwana, comprising Africa, South America, India, Australia, and Antarctica; and Laurasia, the original unified landmass of Europe, Asia, Russia, and North America. Later, America separated from Laurasia by further continental drift and Eurasia comprised Europe and Asia.
“The earlier Gondwana versions have dancing but they do not yet have the
typical Siberian feature of shamanistic drumming and not yet much of the shamanic dress. Nevertheless they share, instead, a unique perception of difficultly controlled
heat that raises from the lower end of the spine upwards (…) In sum, we are dealing here with a very ancient form of shamanism that has undergone some local developments over the past 65,000 years or so but still is remarkably consistent in its forms: the shamans go into trance though contact with the spirits, they manage ‘heat’ rising up from the lower spine, somatically, they move upwards to heaven spiritually (and downwards to the netherworld); they use the powers gained in contact with the spirits for healing and enhancing the hunt.
Against this background, ‘classical’ Siberian shamanism is a later, a Late
Paleolithic or rather a Mesolithic, development. In terms of the comparative
mythology now proposed, ‘Siberian’ shamanism belongs to one of the northern
(Laurasian) groups of people found in Eurasia and the Americas, while the older,
southern groups (of Gondwana Land) have preserved the older, more original forms
of shamanism to this day. Their study is of high urgency as they represent the
common heritage of humankind.”
With this in mind, this discussion will focus on Northern Shamanic Tradition; with particular reference to the importance of the Shamanic drum and the veneration of reindeer in Sami culture. As a sound artist, it is of great personal interest to explore the links between sound frequencies and spirituality – as shamanic drums tend towards lower frequencies (bass) and overtones therefrom by reverberation across the drum skin and the inner body of the drum which bring them into the same frequency band as energy healing, the Shaman uses their drum to channel an energy which brings about an altered state of consciousness with which they are able to be conscious of other planes of existence.
As discussed in the instruments page of this site, matter is made up of a friction, a frequency of atoms, and the whole universe is defined by the frequency each constituent vibrates at, or the overtones between each group of constituents; so whilst Shamanic drumming is not the only way to divine and channel these energies, it is a useful focal point for this discussion.