HomeShamanism PracticeCultural Appropriation in Shamanism


Cultural Appropriation in Shamanism — 6 Comments

  1. The word “shaman” almost certainly start off from the Tungusic in the language of Evenki of North Asia. Where Evenki means to shaman. Shamanism is a great performance of distorted states of the realization in order to distinguish and interrelates with a strength of mind world and waterway these transcendental energies on the planet.

  2. I am pleased to finally see an article about respecting others sacred traditions.

    Unfortunately, the West has decided to label Shamanism pretty much everything that shares common features, practiced in different times amd place. I come from a country whose practice is virtually identical to Native American practices. As there are no records of our oral tradition that is disappearing, and I discover new things that I wasn’t taught I end up reading on other cultures to help me understand them. I am oceans away from home, and the new generations have pretty much, unfortunately, forgotten the old ways. Your site is therefore very usefull to me in understanding my own path. A big thank you to you for sharing.


    • I am very happy to hear that Shaman Links was able to support you in your own path. It is the goal of the site to give people information so they can find their own unique way of working.

  3. I am very happy to have found this post. It is very helpful to me, as I greatly struggle with being called to this work but not wanting to appropriate or disrespect anyone’s practices. This post feels like a good starting point. Thank you.

  4. This post was a refreshing look at the idea of cultural appropriation. You mentioned that if the spirit world does exist, then one can receive instruction directly from it. There is another principle there. If the spirit world is real, then the spirits there most likely own themselves. They decide if, when, and how to reveal themselves to humans and they are not slaves or puppets “owned” by various human cultures. This means that if a spirit reveals to you the same thing that it had revealed to another culture centuries ago, that other culture has no right to force the spirit to take it back or to otherwise withhold it from you. No one can own truth. Do modern astronomers need the permission of the descendants of Galileo and/or a Cultural Board for the Preservation and Non-Misappropriation of Italian Culture before they look through a telescope?

    If a spirit reveals itself to you, do you then have the right to turn around and tell the spirit that it is now your slave and must never reveal itself to any other person?

    The whole idea of a culture “owning” traditions and stories really does parallel Western ideas of Intellectual Property (IP). In Western IP, one can own a (fake) story such as Lord of the Rings, but no one can own the underlying Celtic and Viking histories that inspired it. If a tradition or story represents truth, it can be paraphrased and restated in an analogous way to an academic citation.

    If a culture claims ownership of a teaching, is that culture not therefore claiming that the teaching is made up, that is, their own fictional story?

    • While I do think simply imitating or pretending to be something you are not is probably not a good idea. I tend to agree with this, “Spirit Instruction” concept. There are some people so hung up on appropriation it makes me want to pull back from others and what has become the “shamanic awakening movement”. The incessant judgement of others is really quite tiring.

      There are first times for some things in nearly every culture. To think just because you grandma didn’t do something you can’t either is almost laughable to me. Think of people that join a religion, say Catholicism. Is there a problem that the new convert uses *some* of the rituals since they have no Roman ancestors?

      Look at Peyote Rituals of Native Americans. Most historical studies I have read said the popularity of these ceremonies occurred in post-Colombian times when horses and transportation became available. This is because in most of North America peyote does not grow. It was a “plant medicine” and ceremony that was passed along between tribes and nations from those near tribes in the South near today’s Mexico-Us border. Today here in Utah there is a Native American Church anybody can join called ONAC. Though I have not attended I understand they do offer a peyote ceremony yet peyote never has and probably never will grow naturally here in this habitat. Personally I have absolutely no problem with this Native American group practicing something they have found valuable and effective to their spirituality.

      Some of my personal rituals and specifically some very minute detailed aspects come to me through journeying. Many times I am later shocked to find somebody or some culture does nearly the exact ritual that came to me in my journeying.

      Additionally I find that sometimes sharing a ritual brings a bond that may not normally exist. An example is smudging and my smudge sticks. Early on when I experienced the success of an energy clearing smudge I realized if I was going to do that very often I would need to makemy own. Many of the harvesting techniques came natural to me such as asking the sage-plan permission. While other things such as ‘Offering Tobacco’ were adopted from some of my Native American friends. To me gathering sage and other plant medicines is almost a ritual unto itself. This has absolutely never bothered my Native American friends, in fact I have received praise from Native American Spiritual leaders for teaching my children that old way. Worried about appropriation problems I frequently remind them that I have not Native American as they have added me to there closed and secret Native American social media groups. They also know that when I give them my smudge sticks made with my own hands, they know it was gathered in a good way, with sacrifice rather than simply predatory harvesting techniques or buying commercial mass harvested white sage smudge sticks on line.

      Now one more experience of appropriation line blurriness that I have experienced also from journeying and spiritual prompting seems to come NOT from my ancestors but from my children’s ancestors, probably because I do share so much of my shamanic experience and rituals with my children. My Wife is from Mexico and NOT into shamanism but still attends a very dogmatic and rigid church. Now through marriage there does seem to be some very natural ritualistic mixing, by both of us. An example here is now multiple times I have seen in my journeying a Native Mexican “Ojo De Dios” hanging in the energy centers on the rural mountains where I go in Nature for meditation and journeying. For some reason I have been told numerous times to make these crafts, show my children how to make them and hang them there. I am a full grown, midlife dude and the thought of making colorful string crafts actually seemed a little weird to me. However I will go ahead and show my children and we will have them ready by next spring. I had similar instruction to burn “copal” on special occasions in my yard which I now do.

      I guess to sum this up I highly agree that simply “acting” to be something you are not is probably not a good idea but there is and will always be adoption into certain cultures. In my case I have adopted my wife from Latin America into my more American culture and I have been adopted by many in the Latin American culture.

      Likewise when I see others with their particular flavor of rituals I simply take a step back and wonder where they learned it. I am not sure what level of quote- “shamanism” you must reach before you can self-righteously call out others for “appropriation infractions” but apparently I am not there yet. 🙂

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