Shamanism – What is it?
Shamanism, related to animism, is one of the oldest belief systems in the world and can be found today in many tribal communities in many places around the world. Shamanism teaches that the physical world is controlled by the spiritual world and that most people need a guide or intermediary to navigate those worlds; this guide is known as a shaman. A shaman is sometimes also called a medicine man, soothsayer, necromancer, spirit walker, medium, witchdoctor, sorcerer, or even exorcist.
Shamanism is often combined with Islam, Christianity, or other beliefs including New Age, paganism, and polytheistic belief systems. It seems to be making a comeback lately, known in some places as neo-shamanism. It is decidedly un-Christian.
Shamans are believed to serve their communities by entering the spiritual world to appease the spirits or discern why the spirits are angry at a person or group of people. Shamans are influential and are sometimes feared as they are thought to hold the power to bless or curse, heal, or even kill a person through their interactions with spirits.
Some of these spiritual leaders use drugs, physical wounding, or extreme fasting or quests to guide another person or themselves into an altered state of consciousness or into the spirit world. Ceremonies may include amulets, bells, drums, songs, dancing, chanting, totemic items such as rocks or trees, and specific places a shaman would deem holy. Shamans risk injury, sickness, and mental anguish as they seek spirits and how to placate them.
The belief system underlying shamanism has been around a very long time, and is described in the Old Testament when God's people encountered tribes and peoples who practiced shamanism. God issued warnings to avoid such practices and people who adhere to them (Deuteronomy 18:9–13; Leviticus 18:21; 20:2; 2 Chronicles 28:3–5; 33:6; Isaiah 57:5; Ezekiel 16:21).
At its foundation, shamanism is a belief system based on works—rules and practices a person must follow to please god or the gods. A shaman acts as an intermediary to do so.
Christianity teaches that we trust in the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12), the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:4), and the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16), not to try to appease the spirits through a shaman or their rituals. Jesus has interceded for us in terms of our sin debt with God; when we put our faith in Jesus we become children of God (John 1:12; 3:16–18). Jesus has the victory and the authority over the spiritual realm (Colossians 2:13–15; Philippians 2:1–11). The Bible tells us that we do currently exist in a spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:10–20; 1 Peter 5:8), but our trust is in Jesus. Jesus has conquered the Enemy and He, not a shaman, equips us to stand firm.
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