shamanism and culture shock

Daniel Maher (dmaher@MAIL.WIN.ORG)
Sat, 11 May 1996 09:32:09 -0500

Greetings All,

This is my first message. My name is Dan Maher and I am an instructor of
sociology and anthropology at St. Charles County Community College
located in the St. Louis Metro area. I have been following the
discussion for a few weeks now and feel compelled to jump into the
discussion on shamanism and culture shock.

Why has there been no mention of the shamins in American culture? On a
weekly basis you can observe in the United States individuals placing
hands on others and drawing spirits out of them and inserting new
spirits. These shamans are so powerful they can cause people to speak in
tounges or even to completely pass out.

I have witnessed this behavior in numerous small evangelical churches.
These "performances" are considered to be genuine by all those in
attendance. As someone who personally does not believe in the
performance I am always struck by the power that the participants assign
to the individuals who are capable of bringing on such reactions.

To be clear I am not talking about the type of show you can see by the
televangelists. Televangelism seems to be to Christianity what the World
Wrestling Federation is to folks who actually wrestle by rules. Erving
Goffman's concept of performance is obviously tranformed into
entertainment in the case of the WWF and televangelism. In contrast
the smaller evangelical churches are at the level of genuine performances.

Is it safe to call this behavior by individuals shamanistic? If so I
believe many anthropologists would be shocked to discover how many
shamins are living next door to them.

Since I brought up the World Wrestling Federation let me ask another dumb
question. Why couldn't these Wrestlers be considered shamins. Each one
takes on a persona and has special abilities. They serve to work the
crowd into a psychological frenzy, not unlike the evangelical christians.
The WWF is often linked to larger world views as well. The best example
I saw was when "Seargent Slaughter" took on "The Shiek." In this match
we had the stereotypical military man fighting the stereotypical middle
easterner. What made the entire match profoundly efficacious was the
fact that the Gulf War was in progress at the time. During the match
"The Shiek" began to beat "Seargent Slaughter" (by playing dirty of
course) so "Hulk Hogan" came to the rescue. The "good guys" won, of
course, and the match ended by Hulk Hogan waving the American flag and
singing patriotic songs. Meanwhile, the crowd had been treated to a
wonderful dramatization of the Gulf War.

If this isn't dealing with spirits, being possessed, healing the psyche,
etc. then could someone tell me what is?

I'm still learning, so be kind.

Daniel Maher
Instructor of Sociology
Saint Charles County Community College