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Historical Witchcraft, Shamanism and the Modern Witch

By Sara Amis

If we accept the premise which I discussed a couple of weeks ago, that historical witchcraft fits a worldwide pattern of shamanism, then what does that mean for those of us trying to follow the path of a traditional witch? Especially in a culture that barely registers that there is such a thing.

To begin with, I think that shamanism, like music and art, while it has significant cultural components is not so much a belief system as an inherent quality or ability of human beings. The particular manifestation is cultural, but the traits which generate it seems to be universal. The emergence of H. sapiens sapiens is marked in the archeological record with an astounding burst of technological innovation and artistic expression. We have no way of knowing for sure what our remote ancestors were thinking as they drew figures like “The Sorcerer” on cave walls, or carved bird-woman figurines, or played flutes carved from bone. However, such expressions are both ancient and pretty much universal, and they are generally accompanied by a common set of ideas and perceptions of the world. The notion that the evolutionary jolt that produced modern humans was also accompanied by an outpouring of shamanic practice is not a huge leap. We do know that historically dance, music, drama, storytelling, and the other arts in their most ancient forms all have their roots in religious (read shamanic) ritual. Either directly or indirectly, shamanic practices and their accompanying artistic expressions must have conveyed a powerful evolutionary advantage, which led to a rapid global shift in human culture along with the spread of the new variant of H. sapiens. We are all a product of that revolution.

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