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The earliest known depiction of a Siberian shaman, produced by the Dutch explorer Nicolaes Witsen, who authored an account of his travels among Samoyedic- and Tungusic-speaking peoples in 1692. Witsen labelled the illustration as a "Priest of the Devil" and gave this figure clawed feet to highlight what Witsen perceived as demonic qualities.
Shamanism ( /ˈʃɑːmən/ shah-mən or /ˈʃeɪmən/ shay-mən) is a practice that involves a practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to encounter and interact with the Spirit world. A shaman is a person regarded as having access to, and influence in the world ofbenevolent and malevolent spirits, who typically enters into a trance stateduring a ritual, and practices divination and healing.
The term "shamanism" was first applied to the ancient religion of the Turks and Mongols, as well as those of the neighboring Tungusic and Samoyedic-speaking peoples. the word "shaman" originates from the Evenk language (Tungusic) of North Asia and was introduced to the west after the Russian forces conquered shaman Khanate of Kazan in 1552. Upon learning more about religious traditions across the world, western scholars also used described similar magico-religious practices found within the indigenous religions of other parts of Asia, Africa, Australasia and the Americas as shamanism. Various historians have argued that shamanism also played a role in many of the pre-Christian religions of Europe, and that shamanic elements may have survived in popular culture right through to the Early Modern period. Various archaeologists and historians of religion have also suggested that shamanism may have been a dominant pre-religious practice for humanity during the Palaeolithic.
Shamanic beliefs and practices have attracted the interest of scholars from a wide variety of disciplines, including anthropologists, archaeologists, historians, religious studies scholars and psychologists. Hundreds of books and academic papers on the subject have been produced, with a peer-reviewed academic journal being devoted to the study of shamanisms. In the 20th century, many westerners involved in the counter-cultural movement adopted magico-religious practices influenced by indigenous shamanisms from across the world, creating the Neoshamanic movement.
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