A shaman is a person – male or female – capable of entering spiritual realms to obtain answers to and to solve problems of the community. Shamans have existed since prehistoric times. They still exist in surprisingly large numbers both in indigenous communities where their presence is perhaps more obvious, but also in so called ‘civilised’ nations - meaning those with the trappings of technology. One of the most interesting aspects of shamanism is that in prehistoric times it was clearly extremely widespread. Every tribe or hunter gatherer group probably once had a shaman whose role it was to:
- survey territories by using ‘out of body’ flight to track game, find water and identify paths or migration routes through often difficult landscapes
- treat illness using plant and other remedies obtained by communication with the spiritual powers controlling plants
- ‘exorcise evil spirits’
- mark out boundaries between groups and settle boundary disputes
- defend the territory of hunter gatherer communities by spirit fighting with other shamans.
- Escort the dead – the psychopomp role. A large proportion of Egyptian culture, for example, was geared towards helping the shaman as psychopomp to the various regions of heaven and thus helping the dead spirit of his ‘client’ to the right place. The Books of the Dead are for shamans/priests – not the dead person
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