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Shamanism among the indigenous peoples of the Americas

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Title: Shamanism among the indigenous peoples of the Americas  
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Subject: Witchcraft, Pawnee people
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Shamanism among the indigenous peoples of the Americas

The numerous indigenous peoples of the Americas held manifold beliefs in magic, sorcery or witchcraft sometimes described as shamanism in ethnology.

North America

Navajo medicine men, known as "Hatałii", use several methods to diagnose the patient's ailments. These may include using special tools such as crystal rocks, and abilities such as hand-trembling and trances, sometimes accompanied by chanting.

South America

Among the Mapuche people of South America, the community shaman, usually a woman, is known as the Machi, and serves the community by performing ceremonies to cure diseases, ward off evil, influence the weather and harvest, and by practicing other forms of healing such as herbalism.

In the Peruvian Amazon Basin and north coastal regions of the country, the healer shamans are known as curanderos. In addition to Peruvian shaman’s (curanderos) use of rattles, and their ritualized ingestion of mescaline-bearing San Pedro cactuses (Trichocereus pachanoi) for the divinization and diagnosis of sorcery, north-coastal shamans are famous throughout the region for their intricately complex and symbolically dense healing altars called mesas (tables). Sharon (1993) has argued that the mesas symbolize the dualistic ideology underpinning the practice and experience of north-coastal shamanism.[1] For Sharon, the mesas are the, "physical embodiment of the supernatural opposition between benevolent and malevolent energies” (Dean 1998:61).[2]

In the Amazon Rainforest, at several Indian groups the shaman acts also as a manager of scarce ecological resources.[3]). The rich symbolism behind Tukano shamanism has been documented in some in-depth field works[4][5][6] even in the last decades of the 20th century.

Both Selk'nam and Yámana had persons filling in shaman-like roles among the Fuegians.

The Selk'nams believed their [xon]s to have supernatural capabilities, e.g. to control weather.[7][8] The figure of [xon] appeared in myths, too.[9] The Yámana [jekamuʃ][10] corresponds to the Selknam [xon].[11]

See also


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