shamanism

(probably Manchu: saman, an excited man)

A vague term used to designate a form of savage magic or science prevailing among the tribes of Asia, Australasia, and the American Indians and Eskimos. Springing from animism, and closely resembling fetishism, it teaches that all nature is pervaded by spirits or gods which can be brought near or driven away by various means, such as symbolic magic, fasting, dances, incantations, and demoniac possession, practised by the Shaman. The Shaman is regarded as a healer, hence the name "medicine man," as an educator, a civil magistrate, and a war-chief, because he cures diseases, preserves the art of writing and divination, is able to foretell the future, make rain, and discover game. Shamanism is not a religion, because the Shaman does not implore the favor of the gods, like a religious priest, but compels them to do his will.

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