Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Random Comment on Shamans

The old Ice Age communities hunted. A deer, once killed, meant food, clothing and tools. Everyone in the community knew their lives depended on killing animals. Status in the community depended on one's prowess at slaughter. The weather was awful and all useful people focused upon what needed to happen in order to go on living: killing animals without mercy. And then there were the shamans. Very strange people, shamans. They told stories about the animals. They told stories in which the animals spoke and played tricks on other animals and even upon humans. In some of the really weird tales, the animals created the heavens and the earth. Shamans confused the order of things by treating hapless, voiceless food as respectable entities. It's hard not to imagine that hunters held shamans in utter contempt for assigning such value to what lay at the bottom of the food chain (as it were). We might imagine the shaman living at the edge of the tribe, sharing space with the dogs the hunters had recently considered allowing to help track prey. For a reason that's very difficult to understand, hunters tolerated the shamans, their useless stories and their probable insanity.

Today it is almost impossible to understand this fact in any way.

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