Handbook of Contemporary Animism, 24-25



"Shamans" and Rock Art

Robert J. Wallis


pp. 307-8 some praehistoric depictions of supernatural entities

p. 307, Fig. 24.1

"Lascaux "shaft scene"" (depicting man leaning backwards, in front of a wounded bison)

{The meaning would be that in order to induce the goddess (aequivalent to Artemis) praesiding over game-animals, to send a buffalo to be slain by hunters, the shaman had to "lean over backwards" for (figurative for to be very polite and accomodating to the whims of) said goddess in his dreams.}

p. 308

"a rock engraving from Twyfelfontein in Namibia ..., ... depicting ... a three/four-headed ostrich".

{"From this cave ["of Cruathan" (p. 125)] came ... a great three-headed bird, which wasted Erin until Amairgin killed it." (CM, p. 126)} {"Three-Headed Bird" in Splendor Solis (TPs, p. 119, Plate II-3)} {Chinese "3HGBG"}

"the entrance stone to the Neolithic {more specifically, Megalithic} passage tomb of Newgrange in Ireland (c[a.] 300 BCE ...), highly decorated with spirals which may derive from the entoptic phenomena seen in shamans' hallucinations".

{Not "shamans"! Such visions (seen while awake) are caused by certain psychedelic drugs. Shamans, most of whom have never even heard of any psychedelic drugs, let alone ever ingested any, do not see any such oddities while awake; but confine their observations to their own dreams (which lack such entoptics). Furthermore, there are no shamans in such societies as build megalithic monuments by forced labor conscripted by a ruling-class; for thus oppressive societies do not tolerate shamanry, which would provide a means for commoners to obtain divine assistance to overthrow such oppressions.}

CM = John Arnott MacCulloch : "Celtic Mythology". (In :- Mythology of All Races, Vol. 3) Marshall Jones Co, 1918. https://books.google.com/books?id=-pYYAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA126&lpg=PA126&dq=

TPs = Joseph L. Henderson, Dyane N. Sherwood : Transformation of the Psyche : the Symbolic Alchemy of the Splendor Solis. Brunner-Routledge, Hove (E. Sussex), 2003. https://books.google.com/books?id=pAaOAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA119&lpg=PA119&dq=

"3HGBG" = Three headed guardian bird of giants". http://cryptofrabies.blogspot.com/2015/03/three-headed-guardian-bird-of-giants.html

{It may be remotely possible that the spirals repraesent the variegated whirlpools which are witnessed in [closed-eyen-viewed only!] visions (not usually described as "entopic", which term would refer mainly to open-eyen-viewed visions) by ingesters of ayahuasca (and similar drugs), and whirlpools which serve as portals into Otherworlds inhabited by divine denizens furthermore passingly briefly encountred (in such Otherworlds) by mortal ingesters of such psychedelics.}

p. 310 Eliade; Harner; etc.

"The experience of ecstasy,

moving outside oneself, or

{actually, exiting (in another, immaterial body) out of the material body (and not out of one's self)}

"journeying" to a "spirit world"

{such "spirit world" always being a dream-world; and the "journeying" usually being ability to soar, in the dream}

in order to engage with "spirits",

{such "spirits" being [invariably!] persons, or animals, encountred in the dream}

for Eliade (1964) and others, was viewed as the result of

altered consciousness.

{said "altered consciousness" being a state of sleep}

Harner ([1980] ...), most notably, popularized this ..., even going so far as to propose

a distinct SSC, a "shamanic state of consciousness" (see also P. A. Wright 1989)."

{This "shamanic state of consciousness" is slightly distinct ordinary dreams, in that it must entail (1) a recognition that one is at this time in the dream-world, and (2) a realization that any "humans" encountred there are deities (and forthrightly telling those entities that they are "deities"), and that any "animals" encountred there are deities-in-disguise (and likewisew telling them that they also are deities).}

Wright 1989 = P. A. Wright : "The Nature of the Shamanic State of Consciousness". J OF PSYCHOACTIVE DRUGS 21.1:25-33.

p. 310 shamanistic worldviews (i.e., cosmologies)

"Some scholars ... discuss communities with shamans as having shamanistic "worldviews" (e.g. Hardman 1995:xiii), with ... "shamanistic" themes underlying their belief systems, typically based on

a tripartite cosmology of upper, middle and lower worlds (e.g. Lewis-Williams & Pearce 2005)."

{Virtually all religions (whether shamanistic or not) have a cosmology based on a vertical partititioning of the worlds into sets of at least 3 types (such as, e.g., in the Puran.a-s : 7 kha-s, 7 tala-s, 7 naraka-s).}

Hardman 1995 = Charlotte Hardman : "Introduction". In :- Charlotte Hardman & Graham Harvey (edd.) : Paganism Today : Wiccans, Druids, ... and Ancient ... Traditions for the Twenty-first Century. London : Thorsons. pp. ix-xix.

Lewis-Williams & Pearce 2005 = J. David Lewis-Williams & David G. Pearce : Inside the Neolithic Mind : Consciousness, Cosmos and the Realms of the Gods. London : Thames & Hudson.

p. 312 shaman's spirit-helpers

"Shamans are held to engage with "spirits" or "spirit-helpers" ...,

{Such "spirit-helpers" are generally animal-divinities who, experientally, are recruited in the dream-world to assist the shaman within such dream-world.}

so that the the interpretative focus is on ... reifying of metanarrative (e.g. shamanism as the origin of religion)."

p. 314 shaman's costume

The Darhad shaman's costume [quoted :] "affords the shaman with a multiple, extra-human body ... . (Pedersen 2007:142)"

{This assertion is misleading! The shaman's multiple subtle bodies (for visiting dream-worlds) are immaterial, whereas the costume referred to is material, and that costume is employed [instead!] for enticing the whereabouts of deities during a caerimony performed in the material world.}

Pedersen 2007 = M. A. Pedersen : "Talismans of Thought : Shamanic Ontologies and Extended Cognition in Northern Mongolia". In :- Amiria J. M. Henare; Martin Holbraad; Sari Wastel : Thinking Through Things : Theorising Artefacts Ethnographically. London : Routledge. pp. 141-66.

p. 316 further details of the Lascaux "shaft scene"

"(Lewis-Williams 2002:265) ... a metaphoric representation of the shaman's trance {dream, not "trance"!} experience, with the erect penis "common in altered states and in sleep" (ibid.).

{The erect penis is actually intended to indicate the erotic aspect of the shaman's marriage-contract with the goddess who is controlleress of game-beasts; this marriage is, indeed, consummated in dreams (for, the dream-world is the abode of said goddess).}

The bison, for its part, is a "spirit bison" with the painted image "fixing the spirit animal" onto the rock (ibid.). {As though it were feasible for mere mortals to control animal-spirit-guardians so easily!}

{A "spirit animal" would be an animal as witnessed in dreams; but this bison, depicted wounded, can be no dream-beast (for, a dream-beast would simply be a disguised deity whose intent is to assist hunters, and who could never be wounded), but rather instead is intended as one slain by mortal hunters in the waking-world.}

Following Davenport and Jochim (1988), Lewis-Williams (2002:264-5) also argues that the two bird-headed are linked by a transformation, with the shaman shape-shifting into a bird."

{Any such "shape-shifting" is typically performed by shamans only in their dreams.}

Lewis-Williams 2002 = J. David Lewis-Williams : The Mind in the Cave : Consciousness and the Origins of Art. London : Thames & Hudson.

Davenport & Jochim 1988 = D. Davenport & M. A. Jochim : "The Scene in the Shaft at Lascaux". ANTIQUITY 62:559-62.

p. 319 shamans' travel, via waterholes, subterraneously

"Bushman ... shamans refer to experiences of entering holes in the ground including water holes, ... the water hole ... may have been used by shamans as the entrance to and channels for out-of-body travel (R. J. Wallis 1996a ...)."

{"A practitioner will generally indicate how the underworld of the ancestors is entered either before beginning the actual tale or as an initial part of the dreamtale. ... Entryways can be ... deep pools, streams, sinkholes, hot springs ..., etc." (DE&S, p. 61)}

DE&S = Timothy J. Knab : The Dialogue of Earth and Sky : Dreams, Souls, Curing and the Modern Aztec Underworld. U of AZ Pr, Tucson, 2004.

Wallis 1996a = Robert J. Wallis : "Footprints of the Rain Shamans ... in the the Twyfelfontein Valley, Namibia". M.A. diss, Univ of Southampton.

pp. 321-2 advice from the Otherworld; art viewed by supernatural beings

p. 321

"in Argyll, Scotland, the selective choice of naturally cracked rock surfaces ... (A. Jones 2007:209-13) perhaps indicates the advices of other-than-human-persons {viz., divinities, in dreams} ... . ...

{One reason for divinities' advising so to employ cracked surfaces could be that rock-Tursar gnomoi could use such cracks as observation-posts whence to surveil the world of mortals.}

Perhaps whole panels of rock art were ... not meant to be viewed by humans but by other-than-human persons living below the surface {i.e., by gnomes}, viewing the imagery from "the other side"."

{This is true not only of religious art generally (art is made to be viewed by deities), but also of religious ritual generally (ritual is done to be witnessed by deities).} {That deities are looking, from underground, at mortals who are above ground, is a tenet of Siberian tribal religions.}

p. 322

"Some of the earlier megalithic art positioned in the Boyne Valley passage tombs was intentionally hidden on the reverse of stones out of the way of human gaze. ... (R. J. Wallis ... in preparation a) ... This hidden art may have been produced for consumption by other-than-human-persons, ... so making them hidden, the stones and their art were carefully brought into contact with ... soil and the living things it produces."

{Perhaps earthworm-spirits were intended thus to be entertained; and, if so, this was because the earthworm-spirits were considered as known to, and loved by, the sarcophagic worms which feed on corpses within tombs. The spirals engraven on the outward-facing tomb-stones may have been intended to repraesent spirits of coiled worms. Earthworm-spirits are cherished by Eskimo shamans; and the worms which feast on human corpses are worshipped in Malagasy spirit-possessed spirit-mediumship.}

Jones 2007 = A. Jones : Memory and Material Culture. Cambridge Univ Pr.

Wallis in praeparation a = Robert J. Wallis : "Hidden Art in Irish Passage Tombs". In :- Thomas Meier & Petra Tillessen (edd.) : Archaeological Imaginations of Religion. ARCHAEOLINGUA, series minor, 31. Budapest : Archaeolingua Alapítvány, 2014.

p. 322 divinities who may appretiate tomb-art

"For ... Irish passage tomb art and architecture, the ... interred perhaps included not only human-persons, but also

animal-persons, stone-persons, pot-persons, flint-persons".

{An "animal-person" would be the animal's guardian-spirit; a "pot-person"would be a small spirit residing within a pot; other artefact-"persons" would be spirits taking a liking to those particular artefacts. All these would have readily-visible counterparts in dreams.}



Whence "Spirit Possession"?

Paul Christopher Johnson


p. 325 allegedly actual instances of spirit-possession

"the fact that a Dinka boy "has a ghost in his body" (Lienhardt 1957:58) and that a Thai villager afflicted by a phii phaub cries out or laughs loudly ... (Tambiah 1970:321) are ... of the class spirit possession."

{These sorts of cases are largely irrelevant, for they lack the full-blown development into spirit-mediumship professionalism, nor yet into the caerimonialism of singing traditional hymns to the accompaniment of music, deemed necessary (in, e.g., West Africa) to achieve any socially benefical spirit-possession. They are too little evolved even to be alluded to in any serious discussion of spirit-mediumship.}

Lienhardt 1957 = Ronald Godfrey Lienhardt : Divinity and Experience : the Religion of the Dinka. Oxford : Clarendon Pr.

Tambiah 1970 = Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah : Buddhism and the Spirit Cults in North-east Thailand. Cambridge Univ Pr.

{Why is the most recent book on the subject cited, chosen only from those published more than 40 years earlier, when so much improvement in quality of anthropological literature on the subject hath been achieved since that date?}

p. 326 "point of disembedding"

"Spirit possession's point of disembedding cannot be as easily located" {as it can, however, be for practice of shamanry}.

{If by this expression "point of disembedding" the point of departure by the atman (self/soul) out of the deha (material body) be intended, there is, in Samskr.ta, literature on the related topic of point-of-departure from the body at the moment-of-death.}

p. 327 antient European, mediaeval European?!

"spirit possession as ... apparatus {is a possessing-spirit in control of, or controlled by, so-called "apparatus"?} ... emerged out of the nomenclature of Christian demonology, .. peaking from the fifteenth to the first half of seventeenth century {as though praesent-day spirit-mediumship practitioners were negligible in Europe!!}".

{Utterly irrelevant! Virtually all anthropological literature on shamanry consisteth of emic description of ongoing practices, generally in Africa or in the Far East (especially Vietnam, southeastern China, and Korea), in modern France and in modern Brazil and modern Haiti, as experienced and as described by current practitioners, with no reference to (and usually no awareness whatever of) the quite scanty and meagre antient-and-mediaeval European literature.}

{Current European spirit-mediumship is derived from experience by European colonists, during the 19th century ChrE in the Far Orient (Vietnam and southeastern China), of Taoist spirit-mediumship practices, with no connection to anything done in Europe in centuries prior to this. It was learned of and written about by European authors (such as Victor Hugo) writing novels based on experiences by European colonists in cities on the China Sea; and soon came into vogue in Europe also, largely due to the influence of such novels.} {Please do note also the author's evasive and misleading use of such terms as "apparatus" and "nomenclature", usedsd by the author with no reference to ongoing experience by any praesent-day spirit-mediumship practitioners.}

p. 329 emergence

"spirit possession emerged ... in the seventeen century".

{Spirit-mediumship had already been in vogue (as proven by references in mediaeval Chinese literature) as a religious practice among the Yu:eh/Miao for quite some centuries, by then.}

p. 339, n. 9 persons of interiority

"Swedenborg's 1758 Treatise ... identifies Africa's interior lands {metaphorically} with persons of the greatest interiority, precisely because they receive spiritual communications in unmediated form ... : "The Africans are a more interior people than the rest {residue} (ibid.:49).""

Swedenborg = Emmanuel Swedenborg : Treatise Concerning the Last Judgement, and ... Babylon. 1758. (reprinted 1788 by R. Hindmarsh in London)

p. 339, n. 11 "Heavenly Possession"

"Quaker writer Richard Vickris published a tract in 1697 about how to keep the "Heavenly Possession"".

{Such "Heavenly Possession" may be a "Great White Stone", upon which a New Name is written. (Apok. of Ioan.)}

p. 336 Hurston; Deren

"The first published account of scholar possessed ... came from the hand of Zora Neale Hurston ([1935] ...), but

it was most famously applied by Maya Deren's vivid description of the sensation of "white darkness", in The Divine Horsemen (1953)."

p 340, n. 23 a sympathic (i.e., involving magic in African context -- "SM"; "WThM", p. 154) description of the religion of the Ewe of Togo

""Gorovodu ... is a nexus of ... bodies and spirits both dead and alive ..." (Rosenthal 1998:3); thus, "this is a text issued from the vodus" (ibid.:7). "... I wanted very much to merge into the trance state with the spirit hosts" (ibid.:7)."

"SM" = Brill’s New Pauly, article "Sympathic Magic". http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/brill-s-new-pauly/sympathic-magic-e1126840

"WThM" = Judith H. Anderson : Words That Matter : Linguistic Perception in Renaissance English. Stanford Univ Pr, 1996. https://books.google.com/books?id=gDsyti1sacQC&pg=PA154&lpg=PA154&dq=

Rosenthal 1998 = Judith Rosenthal : Possession, Ecstasy, and Law in Ewe Voodoo. Charlottesville : Univ of VA Pr.

p. 337 servant of the deity

"As an Umbanda priestess in Rio de Janeiro expressed it, "I don't have a free choice ... . I don't have my own life : I am a slave" (Hayes 2011:13)."

{All practitioners of shamanry confess to this fact : that they are compelled by a deity, without which compulsion they would have been reluctant to become a practitioner.}

Hayes 2011 = Kelly E. Hayes : Holy Harlots : ... Black Magic in Brazil. Berkeley : Univ of CA Pr.


Graham Harvey (ed.) : Handbook of Contemporary Animism. Acumen Publ, Durham; ISD, Bristol, 2013.