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Subject: words/definitions was: John and Caitlin Matthews
From: Dick Dawson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture List.
Date:Fri, 25 Mar 1994 14:02:48 -0500

text/plain (58 lines)

>As an example, I read "Taliesin" (subtitle something about Shamanism)
>in which John gave lots of fuzzy 'evidence' for proving that Taliesin
>and other Celtic Bards were Shamans.  Yet never in the book did he
>explain what a Shaman was.  I have the impression that it's just the
>latest trendy image of the New Age fashion, and they feel a need to
>import it to Celtoids.
shaman is a word from some northeastern Siberian tribe/nation.
Tunguskee or so.  It has a specific definition in that culture and
language.  Many other cultures have _somewhat_ similar practices
involving various techniques of altering consciousness.  One
frequently common practice is use of drugs.  Other similar practices
involve ideation of "leaving the body", "spirit helpers" or "animal
helpers".  I doubt that the practices are identical.  "shaman" has
unfortunately been preempted by a world of neos, eg neopagans, u.s.w.
Another under/over-defined word, like the w word; witch.
Pretty obvious I'm deploring the practice of misapplying words from
one language to label different concepts in other languages.
>Now, don't get me wrong, I think first of all that practices like
>Shamanism are pretty universal in archaic societies and are part of
>the spirital ethos of basic living (see the chapter on Paleolithic
>societies in Oelschlaeger's "The Idea of Wilderness, for example).  So
>it would surprise me if we didn't find traces of shamanism and totemism
>in Celtic myth (there's an interesting article in an issue of Scottish
>Gaelic Studies by John MacKay about some stories recorded by Iain O\g
>I\le's group [forget his English name] regarding an deer goddess figure
>which suggests as much).
Possible _similarities_ in Norse seidhr, native American practice,
u.s.w.  Not likely identical.  "... practices _like_ shamanism ...";
the _like_ being an operant association!
>Second, I think that many people are looking towards such mythos
>and ethos as a reaction against the kind of mass society, mass
>destruction, ecological suicide and cultural monotony that industrial
>society has created, and as a recognition of the "wisdom of the
>ancients" they should be applauded.
>However, I take as suspect people reinterpreting the scraps of
>debris of another civilisation and claiming to speak for it and its
>Truths, particularly when their semantics are so fuzzy.
Well said!  Note that such fuzzy thinkers also attempt to use terms
from other cultures to identify aspects of the cultures they are
trying to analyse.
I specifically _am_not_ knocking Matthews' works.  I have not read
any of them and can not express an opinion.  I'm reacting to the
described misapplication of words out of their cultural context, a
very general problem in mis-nomenclature.
... back off my soap box.
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