The Nature of Shamanism

Substance and Function of a Religious Metaphor

By Michael Ripinsky-Naxon

Subjects: Religion
Paperback : 9780791413869, 304 pages, May 1993
Hardcover : 9780791413852, 304 pages, May 1993

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Table of contents



1 - Introduction: A Personal Dialectic

2 - Shamanism and Culture: Configurations of a Religious Metaphor

Cultural Ethos and Mysticism

Hunting Magic

Master of the Animals-The Lady of Wild Things

The Spiral and the Labyrinth

Shamanism and Ancient Egyptian Religion

Shamanistic Metaphors, Techniques, and Appurtenances

Mongolian Shamanism

The Celtic Religion

The Role of the Shaman

3 - Substance and Function of Shamanism

Definitions and Problems

"Answering the Call," Initiation, and Shamanic Enlightenment

The Shamanistic Experience

Shamanism and Psychopathology

4 - The Psychotropic Universe: Cosmology of the Spirit World

Cosmic Transformations

Corresponding Realities and Otherworlds

Numerical Potencies

Rock Crystals and the Hexagonal Universe

Reason and Order

5 - The Ritual Drug Complex: Ethnobiology of Heaven and Hell

The Drug Ceremonial

Psychoactivity and Mechanisms of Hallucinations


6 - The Botanic Experience: Hallucinogens in Archaeology and Ethnohistory

The Old World

The New World

The Quest for Magical Plants and the Origins of Cultivation

7 - The Power of Metaphors: Phenomenology of Symbolic Forms

Language, Perception, and Reality

Metaphor, Myth, and Transcendence

Visionary Experiences and Art

Phosphenes and Shamanistic Symbolism

Shamanistic Parallels and Survivals





Ripinsky-Naxon explores the core and essence of shamanism by looking at its ritual, mythology, symbolism, and the dynamics of its cultural process. In dealing with the basic elements of shamanism, the author discusses the shamanistic experience and enlightenment, the inner personal crisis, and the many aspects entailed in the role of the shaman.

Michael Ripinsky-Naxon is Director of the Central American Institute of Prehistoric and Traditional Cultures in Belize and executive board member of the American Foundation for Cultural Studies. He was formerly the Director of Prehistoric Studies at the Mediterranean Research Center, Greece.


"This book is provocative! It is a 'thinking book;' the reader cannot remain passive. It makes one realize that truths are constantly being rediscovered in all cultures throughout all time—how we create culture and how culture in turn creates us—the circle of truths, ancient and modern. I was sometimes awestruck by the comprehension of the author. A profound and powerful work, I enjoyed it to the last sentence. " — Lana Clark