What is shamanism?

The ancient Celts believed every object had a spirit, including everyday objects.

I read a debate where some people tried to define shamanism, many of them totally wrong.

The Oxford Dictionary defines a Shaman as follows:

“a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of good and evil spirits…”

“Shamanism” is the describing word of the practice of a Shaman in accessing and influencing through contact with spirits.

The Celtic people believed that everything had a spirit.  The Celtic druids evolved from shamanic roots, and retained much of their ritual and belief systems from an earlier era of the megalithic culture.  The colourful Mug Ruith was an Irish druid (means “slave of the wheel”) who was described as being dressed in a bird mask and a hornless bull hide.

The idea of genius loci would best describe the idea of a spirit that inhabits all objects.  In Colchester we have a temple dedicated to Emperor Claudius “the god” who the Romans considered the spirit of the Roman Empire.  Colchester has its own genius loci, known as Camulus, associated with warriors and war.  The Romans of Colchester also had a household genius loci like the one found at Sheepen in Colchester, thought to be the goddess Minervia.

The Celtic belief in “fairies” is the idea that every tree, rock and flower had a spirit.  Also, every river, hill, mountain, valley and spring had its own genius loci.  The Celt also believed that a human had a soul, and a common description of Celtic belief by classical writers speak of their belief in reincarnation.  Since megalithic times the people of Britain buried their dead with food, drink and other items, indicating from an archaelogical point of view a belief that the dead continued to exist after death.

The Celts also believed that items also had a genius loci, for instance Lugh had a homicidal spear named Areadbhar that had to be kept drugged as it would slaughter people.  In the time of King Arthur (approx 500’s CE) his sword had a name, “Excalibur”.

In Colchester a burial mound of a British “king” was discovered in which items had been deliberately broken to “kill” them.  The Celts had gone to some trouble to gouge out the side of a bronze axe head, to “kill” it thus sending it into the underworld along with the “king”. The archaeology, such as that at Lexden, indicates a belief in everyday objects having a spirit, which is released by killing or destroying the object.

The Celtic memeplex is shamanic in nature, with a belief in all things as having spirit, a genius loci, and to which the druid, or their equivalent, would relate with on behalf of the “tribe”.


One response to “What is shamanism?

  1. Pingback: Delving into shamanism « Ann Stanley

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