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The Figure of the Shaman as a Modern Myth. Some reflections on the attractiveness of shamanism in modern societies

Issue: Vol 10 No. 1 (2008)

Journal: Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies

Subject Areas: Religious Studies

DOI: 10.1558/pome.v10i1.70


With an increasing interest in shamanism in western societies during the last decades the character of the shaman was–with an act of identifying–implanted into the cultural perspective of many subcultures. Due to the widespread psychologization of shamanism an overgeneralized and oversimplified view of traditional shamanism gives a matrix which creates the different popular conceptualizations of the figure of the shaman. In this paper, four areas explicitly referring to the figure of the shaman are described, demonstrating the fascination it holds and the manifold possibilities of interpretation. The four areas are: neoshamanism, the ‘urban shaman’ as cultural critic and rebel, technoshamanism/cybershamanism, and the field of performing and visual arts. Looking at these areas one can find ten elements of the shaman myth which form the popular image of shamanism in western societies and which constitute the attractiveness and the fascination of the figure of the shaman. Referring to some philosophical concepts of the German philosopher Karl Jaspers the figure of the shaman can be understood as a powerful cipher of transcendence.

Author: Gerhard A. Mayer

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