The way of the shaman, by Michael Harner

Michael Harner’s book opens with lengthy detailed accounts of his experiences with Jivaro American Indians during 1956 & ’57 and Conibo Indians in 1960 & ‘61. He is aware that an ethnocentric approach to anthropological study of the particular rituals he describes might have produced blinkered results. So the first chapter appropriately tackles his very strong learning experiences encouraged by consuming the sacred ayahuasca. He describes preparing for the supernatural journey for a day and consuming the drink at night under the strict guidance of a local Shaman. He describes many visions and related emotional responses that at first appear to be very personal. During the following chapters, Harner relates these experiences to his comprehension of the practices and philosophies of Shamanism. In Chapter three he describes two illustrative examples of the healing purpose of the journey made between realities by a shaman;

A shaman may be called upon to help someone who is dis-spirited, that is, who has lost his personal guardian spirit or even his soul. In such cases, the shaman undertakes a healing journey in nonordinary reality to recover the lost spirit or soul and return it to the patient. Or a shaman’s patient may be suffering from a localised pain or illness. In such a case, the shaman’s task is to extract the harmful power to help restore the patient to health. (Harner 1990 p.44)

In the following chapters Harner describes methods and rituals that can be undertaken by the inexperienced practitioner including making a journey to find a power animal or spirit guide. Rituals of healing are described and methods of drumming and dancing are illustrated in relation to inducing trance.

HARNER, M. J. (1990). The way of the shaman. San Francisco, Harper & Row.

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