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Shaman Vs. Medicine Man

Published June 10, 2015 by murgcat

HPIM0463

Laaadies an gentlemen! In this corner we have the perennial North American favorite The Medicine Man known south of the border as El Curandero! In the opposing corner, hailing from the far reaches of Siberia but now a worldly cosmopolitan traveler – The Shaman.
What I’m trying to understand is all of the arguments I have been seeing lately about who may or may not be entitled to call themselves by these titles. The attacks can be quite vehement. But what do these appellations mean? They are descriptive words not titles.
Shaman is easy. It is the agreed upon anthropological term for indigenous healers and spiritual workers worldwide. The word has become the equivalent of karate and kung fu, generic words that evoke a spirit, an idea that allows many people to understand what is being talked about. Just as there are many different styles of martial arts that are categorized by the above, shamanism has the same phenomenon. Saying someone practices shamanism leaves it open to a fairly broad range of interpretation.
Medicine man, words that hold so much weight. A white mans limited description of a rich and varied spiritual tradition. Always tinted by the feelings of moral and intellectual superiority as pointed out by the good book. I can understand medicine is a good generic term to describe what some of the spiritual people of the North American continent practice. Yet some of our Indian brothers seem to want to defend their use of the white man’s term to the death!
Was there one homogonous spiritual practice amongst the natives on this continent? I didn’t think so but from the arguments it would seem that’s a common belief. Also, that path is reserved only for those whose ancestors originated in North America. Wouldn’t it be better to use the title the tribe has bestowed on the person rather than fighting over the white man’s word. In fact, the term was probably “curendero” before medicine man. In fact the first white term for these functionaries in the red tribes would have been whatever term the Vikings used for healer. That could have been shaman.
There are also the two other sides that should be examined. Part of the argument is the Red Path is the best highest way that lives in harmony with mother earth and all her creatures. If I agree, why should I be denied that path because of my heritage? If it is indeed the proper path then shouldn’t Indians everywhere try and help everyone else get it right? Instead we are fighting over the words used to describe similar practices.
The vision quest is a wonderful example. The founders of almost every major spiritual belief system have spent time alone in the wilderness to receive their epiphany. We may call it anything but a vision quest. Those words, again English words, belong to our Indian brothers.
The third side is if you put credence in reincarnation. Perhaps not so much in the past but now the human lifespan is but a drop in the bucket of time. If we are indeed on this planet to learn, we have had multiple opportunities. Not always as the knight in shining armor or as the damsel in distress, rather a little of everything. Everyone has walked the earth as man, woman, rich, poor, good, evil, every aspect of the myriad of manifestations in this dichotomy of life.
If a certain path feels right, there is a chance you have walked it before. Just because your current meatsuit isn’t the proper attire doesn’t mean you can’t resonate with the tunes at the dance. If reincarnation is the way of this reality then at some point you have probably been what you hate the most. Take a moment think about it.
Does the path have heart? Do you feel like you are walking with Spirit? What does it matter what you call it. Fighting over the words distracts everyone from fighting for Gaia and her creatures. I do understand that the snake-oil salesman needs to be called out. Those that are sincere can be forgiven for their vernacular. It is all about Intent after all.

HPIM0589

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