The word "shamanism" is a misnomer. In actuality, there is no such practice or religion called "shaman(ism)." This word is from the indigenous Eastern Siberian religion of Tengerism. A shaman is a Tengerist spiritual practitioner. So, the modern Western use of this word is incorrect. It would be similar to naming a spiritual practice "priestism." Nobody worships priests. This is silly.

Tengerism is an animist religion that believes:

1) That all things are have a spirit (rocks, trees, rivers, animals, humans, etc.,) and deserve respect. (This is a core belief among all forms of Animism.)

2) In the concept of personal responsibility.

3) In maintaining balance. (By respecting all things, balance can be maintained.)

When things go out of balance the Shaman, (wise one) is called to communicate with whatever spirits are causing the imbalance. Through various means of divination, ritual, meditation and vision work, the shaman can speak to the different entities that may be angry, lost, hurt or confused. The shaman will then determine what method is best to rectify the imbalance.

Tenger is a Siberian name for the Sky Father. Tengerists also believe in a 9 branched world tree very similar to the Northern European pre-Christian mythological world tree called Yggdrassil.

One of the most well known aspects of Tengerist shamans is their practice of entering altered states of awareness through trance drumming. While in these altered states, they experience themselves as traveling outside their bodies into other spiritual dimensions. The shaman will travel to other dimensions including the upper and lower worlds. While on these visionary journeys, the priest may summon or encounter protector or helper spirits to aid him in his spiritual quest.

Anthropological "Shamanism"
The term "shamanism" has been appropriated by archeologists for hundreds of years to describe any animist practice and the word "shaman" has been appropriated to describe any traditional animist spiritual practitioner who mediates between the spirit world and the human world.

According to this definition, just about any spiritual practitioner can be called a shaman. But shamanism has specifically been used to describe "primitive" spiritual practices and "shaman" has been used to describe a primitive, tribal priest. It is this stereotype that continues to cause offense to many people. For European anthropologists, the closest representation of "primitive" animist spirituality was symbolized by the Siberian, Tengerist animist. So, they began referring to all animist practices as types of shamanism.

So, even though throughout recent history people have actually been interested in studying different expressions of animism, because modern Western culture lacked a contemporary name for animism, the stereotype became the Tengerist priest.

The Controversy

I must confess that I myself have incorrectly used the term shamanism to describe an animist spiritual practice. I recently realized that even though this appropriated word was a convenient term to describe my preferred method of spiritual practice, that by doing so was destructive to both my practice and the Tengerist religion. The misuse of this word results in the dilution of both practices. When the average person uses the word "shamanism" what they really mean is "animism."

The controversy of Westerners appropriating this term to describe various modern Earth centered animism is growing. This term is also often incorrectly attributed to Native American Spirituality. Often times any animist or neo-animist practice is referred to as shamanism or shamanic. More and more ethnic Siberians are speaking out against the misidentification of new age neo-animism with ethnic Siberian and Mongolian Tengerism.

It should be noted that only someone who practices Tengerism and has been officially initiated and sanctioned by a recognized Siberian/Mongolian priest can call themselves a shaman. Even ethnic Siberians and Mongolians cannot refer to themselves in this manner without initiation and permission to do so by a recognized master from a recognized lineage.

In order to avoid further controversy and unwittingly offending ethnic Siberians Westerners could simply refer their Earth centered practices as "animism." Or, better yet, they could seek out animist practices from within their own ethnic heritage...

(For authentic pre-Christian European animism click HERE or click on the HOME page.)

Siberian Tengerism and other animist practices that are still practiced can certainly be studied and used to help understand and verify Western traditions that are currently dormant. So, there is a place for using Tengerism to help Westerner create an authentic Earth based form of animism. But, it is not necessary to adopt another cultural mythology to do so.

for more info click on Shamanism