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The Last Shaman

By Joe Seamans

(Joe Seamans, a writer, paid a visit to the Huaorani. The Huaorani, like the Yanomami featured in NOVA: Warriors of the Amazon, live in the Amazon and have a strong shamanistic tradition. This is his story.)

Far beyond the fast-paced rhythms of modern life there is another reality, older perhaps than the first recorded civilizations. It is a way of seeing the world that is as old as human consciousness itself. It is the way of the shaman who dwells in the realm of spirit and myth.

What is a shaman? They can be found across the planet, but exactly what they do is a mystery to most people. Where did they come from? Many believe they have a common origin in northern Asia, but this too is a mystery. shaman smiling They have been called by many names—doctor, priest, artist, visionary, master of ecstasy. In the past they have been branded as sorcerers, witch doctors, charlatans, and voodoo priests.

Today some claim they can perform miracles, while others dismiss their knowledge as worthless superstition. To western civilization, shamans and their enduring view of life remain a provocative, challenging mystery. Modern civilization is slowly overcoming the shaman's domain. Has the shaman become simply a curious misfit from an outmoded age or is he/she an enduring survivor—wise in ways modern culture cannot yet comprehend? Does the shaman understand some human need to embrace deep, mythic, spiritual levels within the soul? To explore these questions we must go back to a world where shamanism exists—before that world is gone.


Photos:(1) courtesy Aaron Strong/Strong Images Inc; (2)Joe Seamans.

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