ancestor veneration and also looks at shamanism in ancient Native American cultures.
Indigenous sacred ways are the religions and spiritual beliefs of native and aboriginal people. These sacred ways often evolved as an attempt by these people to make sense of the mysteries of the universe, and to put the world and the cosmos into some kind of order that they could understand. Their sacred ways were expressed through ceremonies, art, rituals, and the daily practices of life. This paper takes a closer look at two important sacred ways of indigenous people — ancestor veneration and shamanism.
Ancestor veneration is one of the central sacred practices of many indigenous people. Basically, this is ancestor worship. In indigenous cultures that practices ancestor veneration, the soul is just one more never changing part of the universe. This means that we here on earth have a responsibility to ensure the comfort of our departed ancestors in the next world. In fact, the belief is that these ancestors depend on us for many things. Therefore, indigenous people hold certain ceremonies and rituals periodically that are meant to convey certain material comforts to the ancestors on the other side. They are thereby provided for by people here on earth, and this is a never-ending process. Of course, the people on earth can expect to receive benefits in return for all of this meticulous service. In exchange for providing them with the material comforts they crave, the ancestors on the other side will then offer their protection, blessings, and assistance in certain things to those here on earth. It is a reciprocal relationship, and one that is passed down through the generations.
Another important indigenous sacred practice is that of shamanism. Shamans were members of indigenous tribes who specialized in magic. This magic could take many forms, but the most common form was that of healing. The shaman, in using his magic, will leave his enter a trance state and leave his body, travel to heaven or into the earth, and come back with profound knowledge to take care of the problem at hand. The shaman also makes use of a great number of spiritual helpers with whom he is in constant contact. Unlike the trance state, the shaman stays conscious when he is dealing with his spiritual assistants.
Shamans often used native plants that were hallucinogenic to achieve their trance states, but this was by no means a requirement in all societies. What most shamans shared was a personal calling to be a shaman. This calling usually came after a near death experience of some sort in which the potential shaman was helped spiritually. Afterward, having experienced this thing himself, the shaman then felt like he had the experience and knowledge to solve certain problems (because of his own experience), and now had the spiritual help he needed to solve other problems as they arose. Shamanism continues today, and is popular in the New Age movement. For that reason, it is important to today’s shamans that people who come to one are sure they are getting the real thing, as there are now may imposters. “There are many charlatans here, people who stand in the streets and say ‘I’m the chief wizard’, but they don’t deliver,” says Jose Luis Martinez, a veteran shaman.
Christie, Michael. “Rivalries Brew in Mexico Witchcraft Capital.” (1999). RickRoss.Com. Retrieved on October 18, 2003 at http://www.rickross.com / reference/wicca/wicca37.html.
Nyamiti, Charles. “Ancestor Veneration in Africa.” (n.d.). Afrikaworld. Retrieved on October 18, 2003 at http://www.afrikaworld.net/afrel/nyamiti.htm.
Shamanism: General Overview.” (1995). Deoxy. Retrieved on October 18, 2003 at http://www.deoxy.org/shaover.htm#2.
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