|The dreams of man|
|Disturbing your sleep|
“”Boom shakalaka, here comes the spirit man!
|—George "Filthy Frank" Miller, [].|
Shamanism is an umbrella term, most commonly used to denote religions in which a person (i.e., a shaman) acts as an intermediary between the physical and supernatural realm. The word "shaman" itself originated with the Evenks of Siberia, although there is some dispute as to whether it got to the English language from Russians who reported on Evenks or from the Evenk-related Manchu language. Due to this fact, some anthropologists argue that the idea of shamanism is artificially constructed and its application outside of the Siberian context is misleading. Nevertheless, anthropologists have attempted to define some of the characteristics of shamanism. These common features may include:
- a supposed ability to interact with spirits or other supernatural entities
- the use of altered states of consciousness in the performance of rituals
- powers of healing or divination
Depending on how one defines it, shamanism has likely existed since the Paleolithic period. Cave paintings and other markings provide evidence that shamans may have used certain locations to enter altered states of consciousness and to perform rituals. As hunter-gatherer societies became more complex during the Upper Paleolithic, this may have enabled the formation of roles for part-time religious specialists such as shamans.
- Alice Beck Kehoe. (2000) Shamans and Religion: An Anthropological Exploration in Critical Thinking. London: Waveland Press.
- J. David Lewis-Williams. (2002) The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art. London: Thames and Hudson.