Throughout time, Shamanism stands out as one of the more controversial sides of religion.
Shamanism represents a practice which involves divine, and altered states of consciousness. Shamanism’s purpose differs from culture to culture, but many scholars agree that Shamanism existed in very early ancient times, long before most other occupations did. Walsh (1996; p.96) expressed that “Paleolithic art from Europe dated to over 17,000 years ago and from South Africa dated to 25,000 years ago appear to show shamanic practices.” Some archaeologists speculate and some firmly argue that shamanism existed 30,000 years ago or more. However, concrete evidence provided by excavations can only prove the existence of shamanism as early as 10,000 years ago. The word “Shaman” has its origins from a Siberian tribe’s language known as Tungus.
More specifically, “Shaman” comes from the word “saman,” which roughly translated means “one who is excited, moved, raised” (Walsh, 1989, p2). Walsh also affirms that the word “Shaman” “may be derived from an ancient Indian word meaning ‘to heal oneself or practice austerities’ or from a Tungus verb meaning ‘to know'”. More consensus exists on the origin of the term “Shaman” than the first appearance of shamanism in history.The meaning of the word itself provides insight towards what tasks shamans took on. Briefly, part of a shaman’s role can involve healing and links to an altered state of consciousness. In most cultures, the purpose of this practice revolves around accessing a dimension of benevolent and malevolent spirits.
By doing so, the practitioner manages to interact with the spirits’ world and channel these energies into this world. In this paper, I focus on a less known group of people called the Sierra Otomí, more specifically their religion and shamanic practices. I will talk about the way shamans conduct their practices and the symbols and tools. I will also analyze the meaning and purpose of shamanism in the Otomí society.