Saturday, July 27, 2013

Christian Shamans in Peru

Wonderful photo essay by Juan Manuel Castro about shamanistic practices in the mountains of Peru. Above, skeletons in what CNN identifies as a "shamanic temple." But surely these people identify as Christians and all themselves "healers" or something similar; they certainly don't use the Siberian word "shaman."

This picture, for example, is captioned "A shaman holds a crucifix." So this is obviously a mixture of Christian and ancient Indian ideas, and to judge by this essay it is more Christian than Voodoo is. These men also use tarot cards for divination, a magical practice from the European tradition. (Incidentally, the "voodoo doll" is also a European or Middle Eastern device that Haitians learned from the French.) I wonder what these shamans see on their spirit journeys?

A fire ceremony.

Dried baby alpacas for sale; these are used in rituals.


Unknown said...

Actually, a lot of this just looks like standard syncretistic Catholicism to me. And the "shamanic temple" doesn't even look syncretistic. Italy is full of Counter-reformation churches with identical bone collections, also whimsically displayed (as you've shown before on bensozia). The essay looks like a positive, New Age version of Protestant no-popery propaganda. Look at all those implements and candles! You know they're up to _______ (devil worship? cool magic? goddess worship? take your choice).

Perhaps I'm just embarrassed at my own romanticism about this stuff.

John said...

There is certainly still shamanism in the Andes, but, yeah, this looks mostly like peasant Catholicism.

I share your ambivalence about religion like this.

Anonymous said...

There's actually a lot of shamans who combine the known (and perhaps romanticized) shamanic traditions with other religions, and occasionally more religions simultaneously, depending on the influence of the spirits of ancestors.
It's also got to do with the influence the old colonial powers have had on the old, nature religious traditions. Because a lot of tribes saw themselves being forced to convert to Catholicism, they had to transform their old ways of shamanic practice in a way which seemed Catholic enough for their occupiers to be accepted.
Also, Catholicism has its own long history of healers.
The fact a combination of not just Catholicism, but also other religious and spiritual practice can be effectively healing is something I experience on a weekly basis. There's great prejudice against shamanism, but also against religions, which is primarily culture based.