Cover image for Shamans through time : 500 years on the path to knowledge
Shamans through time : 500 years on the path to knowledge
Narby, Jeremy.
Publication Information:
New York : J.P. Tarcher/Putnam, [2001]

Physical Description:
321 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
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BL2370.S5 S526 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This collection of essays traces Western civilization's struggle to interpret and understand the ancient knowledge of cultures that revere magic men and women-individuals with the power to summon spirits. These writings by priests, explorers, adventurers, natural historians, and anthropologists express the wonder of strangers in new worlds. Who were these extraordinary people, men who imitated the sounds of animals in the night, or drank tobacco juice through funnels, or wore collars filled with stinging ants?Shamans Through Time is a rare chronicle of changing attitudes toward that which is strange and unfamiliar. With essays by such acclaimed thinkers as Claude LÉvi-Strauss, Black Elk, Carlos Castaneda, and Franz Boas, it provides an awesome glimpse into the incredible shamanic practices of cultures around the world.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

For centuries, the Shaman has been a part of many cultures. Shamans come in many forms, such as tricksters, sorcerers, and healers, to name a few. This book is a collection of essays about these mysterious wise men and women, written mainly by anthropologists, including Claude Levi-Strauss and Franz Boas, and early missionary priests from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but also by psychologists. Shamans have been found all over the globe, including such disparate places as Siberia and Brazil. Many people throughout history have misunderstood the world of the Shaman, and this book is an exceptional opportunity to clear up many misconceptions. Editor Huxley is the author of Affable Savages (1995), and Narby is the author of The Cosmic Serpent (1998). Their compilation is an eye-opening experience for anyone interested in learning more about these ancient, and contemporary, spiritualists. --Julia Glynn

Publisher's Weekly Review

Surprisingly little appears to have changed in shamanic practices throughout the world in the last 500 years. Most rely on plant hallucinogens to communicate with otherworldly spirits for guidance and for enhanced perceptions of diseases and the identities of enemies. And most can choose whether to direct their energies for good or for evil purposes, an ability that provoked much hostility among their early observers. Scholarly treatments of shamanism, however, have changed dramatically over the centuries. In this excellent volume, anthropologists Narby (The Cosmic Serpent) and Huxley (Affable Savages) have collected observations about and interviews with shamans from more than 60 missionaries, botanists, anthropologists, ethnographers and psychologists spanning from 1535 to 2000. The contributors convey everything from fear, suspicion and condescension to respect, fascination and adulation. Many contemporary anthropologists lament shamanism's recent popularization and its likely degeneration in global culture. Anthropologist Michael F. Brown writes, "Tribal lore is a supermarket from which [New Age Americans] choose some tidbits while spurning others." As an example of shamanism-as-commodity, British anthropologist Piers Vitebsky cites a dumbed-down version of traditional healing that is part of a compulsory course for schoolchildren in northeast Siberia, where 50 years ago shamans were put to death. On the positive side, ethobotanist Glenn H. Shepard believes that shamans will become the ethnobotanists of the future. This first sweeping study of shamanism is sure to become a classic. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Narby (The Cosmic Serpent: DNA & the Origins of Knowledge, Putnam, 1998) and Huxley (Affable Savages: An Anthropologist Among the Urub£ Indians of Brazil, Sheffield, 1995) have compiled this anthology of excerpts from 64 previously published works to illustrate how shamanism has been perceived through the centuries. The essays are divided into seven parts, each including an introductory essay that identifies the prejudices of the researchers and shows how preconceived notions influenced both their methodology and the evolution of the study of shamanism. Many of the authors included in this anthology, such as Black Elk and Claude L‚vi-Strauss, are familiar to those interested in the subject. What makes this work unique is that it also includes translations of relevant materials that were previously available only in foreign languages. The inclusion of an excerpt from Carlos Castaneda is questionable, however, since much of his "research" has been largely discredited. Recommended for large public libraries and academic libraries with anthropology collections. John Burch, Campbellsville Univ., KY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One "Devil Worship: Consuming Tobacco to Receive Messages from Nature" GONZALO FERNÁNDEZ DE OVIEDO (1535) In the early sixteenth century, Spanish navigator and natural historian Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo described old men using tobacco to communicate with spirits among the indigenous inhabitants of Hispaniola (the island currently comprising Haiti and the Dominican Republic). Oviedo, who wrote in Spanish, did not use the word shaman, which would come from Russia later. By the time Oviedo published his book in 1535, the island's indigenous inhabitants had mostly been exterminated. This explains why Oviedo referred to them in the past tense. Among other vices, the Indians of this island had a very evil one which consists of taking a smoke they call tabaco , in order to get out of their minds.... They consume it in the following way: the caciques and chiefs had little hollow canes ... of the thickness of the little finger, and these canes had two tubes joined into one.... And they put the two tubes into the nostrils and the other one into the smoke and herbs that were burning and smouldering ... and they took the emanation and smoke, one, two, three, or more times, as often as they could stand it, until they were out of their minds, lying on the ground drunk or overpowered by a deep and heavy sleep....     The Indians consider this herb very precious and cultivate it for the above-mentioned effect in their gardens and fields; the taking of this herb and smoke was to them not only a healthy practice but a very sacred thing. And this is how the cacique or chief falls to the earth, and his wives (who are numerous) take him, and carry him to his hammock....     It is not astonishing that the Indians are stuck in the errors I have mentioned, and that they make other errors such as they do not know Almighty God and they worship the Devil in diverse forms and images, as is the custom among these peoples in the Indies; because, as I have said, they paint, engrave, or carve a demon they call cemí in many objects and places, in wood or clay, and also in other materials, as ugly and frightful as the Catholics represent him at the feet of Saint Michael or Saint Bartholomew, but not bound in chains, but revered: sometimes as if sitting in judgment, sometimes standing, in different ways. These infernal images they had in their houses in specially assigned and dark places and spots that were reserved for their worship; and there they entered to pray and to ask for whatever they desired, be it rain for their fields and farms, or bountiful harvests, or victory over their enemies; and there, finally, they prayed to him and had recourse to him in all their needs, to find a remedy for them. And inside there was an old Indian who answered them according to their expectations or in accordance with a consultation addressed to him whose evil image was standing there; and it is to be thought that the Devil entered into him and spoke through him as through his minister; and as he is an old astrologer, he told them the day on which it would rain, and other messages from Nature. The Indians greatly revered these old men and held them in high esteem as their priests and prelates; and they were the ones who most commonly consumed tobacco and the smoke mentioned above, and when they woke up they advised if war should be declared or postponed; and they did not undertake or carry out anything that might be of importance without considering the Devil's opinion in this way. Copyright © 2001 Jeremy Narby and Francis Huxley. All rights reserved.