Accredition and licensing of Shamans?

Barbara Ruth Campbell (CAMPBELL@ZODIAC.BITNET)
Sun, 24 Jul 1994 15:12:13 -0400

Dear Anthro-L Colleagues,

One more post before I go back to parsing.

Part of the difficulty I'm having trying to find acceptable
terms - I threw out non-biomedically trained health care
provider earlier this week - is the fact that although
some Ayurvedic practitioners are "certified" per se, and
many Traditional Chinese doctors have degrees from
"accredited" schools of traditional Chinese medicine,
there really isn't anything like the American Medical
Association's, American Library Association, American
Lawyers Association, etc. etc 's accreditation and
licensing programs for "folk" medicine, shamans, etc.

This is an excerpt from an article on Shaman Pharmaceuticals
downloaded from Dow Jones News Retrieval's DowQuest:


07/07 Drug Company Looks To `Witch Doctors' To Conjure Products

By Thomas M. Burton
Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal
JATUN MOLINO, Ecuador -- Along the Bobonaza River, deep in the
forests of the Amazon basin, daily life is intertwined with the
outlandish and the surreal.

No wonder that Illias Gualinga, the medicine man in this community of
75 Quichua Indians, is fixated on the supernatural. The 4-foot-10
shaman recently diagnosed a young boy's swollen knee as the result of
offending the spirits of the forest. The shaman drank a hallucinogenic
potion made from ayahuasca, the so-called vine of death, to conjure
visions of the spirits, which instructed him on how to treat the child;
he then applied a medicinal-plant poultice.
It might seem strange that a U.S. corporation would stake its future
on this medicine man and others like him. But Shaman Pharmaceuticals
Inc. of South San Francisco, Calif., is doing just that. Its president,
Lisa A. Conte, a former venture capitalist, founded Shaman in 1989 on
the premise that native healers' knowledge of medicinal plants could
help unearth curative compounds -- and profits.


07/07 Drug Company Looks -3-: Shaman's Medical Practice

In between botany questions, Illias tells stories of his life. When
he was a boy, his mother disappeared from a garden. Hours later, her
body was found in the forest, covered with bite marks. Illias concluded
that angry spirits had killed her. When he was 15, Illias says, his
uncle, also a shaman, became enraged, believing that his nephew had
greater powers than he. Soon after, Illias was struck by lightning;
another shaman told him that his uncle had sent it and that his
survival proved Illias was already the stronger of the two.
Illias says he wasn't surprised when the Shaman team first arrived.
His grandfather had told him that strangers from a faraway land would
come one day and seek his knowledge of plant medicines.

I have another aricle about a shaman in Micronesia who had to kill
his uncle in a sorcerer's duel so:

What if sorcerer's were licensed and had to take tests to get
certified? Not that they don't just what if the tests were
conducted along the same lines as the American professional
association's board certification rituals?

Would Illias be considered a licensed healer? He practices
medicine and "witchcraft". Some native healers (I have a several
articles on this) are considered superior to others within their
respective communities. Are their quack folk healers? Quack
medicine men/women? Quack sorcerers? How about phoney witches
and false Shaolin priests? (By the way for those Kung Fu fans
there really were Shaolin temples - see David Carradine's work
and references in the Atlas of Chinese Culture).

As John McCreery has posted, there's a problem between the
philosophy of Chinese medicine and the actual practice of
Chinese medicine. But then I assume that a renowned sorcerer/
healer would discredit his/her competitors in the same way that
the AMA discredits anyone who has not gone through the licensing
process and anyone who has lost his/her license.

For the section on medical models, I'm hoping to get the
prescribed, "accredited", recognized philosophy as practiced by
highly reputable healers be they witches, warlocks, sorcerers,
Shaolin priests, or local herbalists. There are hundreds of
herbalists in some regions but only a handful with recognized
expert knowledge passed down from generation to generation.

What do you all think? Met any "reputable" sorcerer'healers?
Have any experiences with quack herbalists only to find that
the respected herbalist knew the right mixture and the other
made you sick?

How many anthropologists do you suppose have spent time studying
self-proclaimed authorities only to find out they were duped?
Can you imagine spending the kind of money Shaman Pharmaceuticals
does only to find out the "shaman" was a not they master
sorcerer but only an apprentice or an outcast shaman?