Wilson's 'apprenticeship' model not only gives us a way to conceptualise shamanism without recourse to sui generis discourse, but draws interesting parallels between indigenous cultures and the somewhat hidden world of heterodox religious practices in the West.

About this episode

Two firsts for the Religious Studies Project this week. Surprisingly, we’ve never talked about Shamanism, one of the watchwords of discourse on “indigenous religion” for scholars and laymen alike, insiders and outsiders. The term originates with the Romanian scholar Mircea Eliade, who took it from a specific group in the Tunguskee region of Russia, and applied it universally to describe individuals who communicate with spirits for the benefit of their communities. For Eliade, Shamanism was one more example of a heirophany, an interjection of an ineffable sacred into the mundane world. Unsurprisingly, however, when such sui generis notions are disregarded, and the category examined from the data up, the category ceases to be easily defined. In this interview, David Wilson tells us that while studying shamanism while undertaking training as a medium in the Spiritualist Church, he noticed that both seemed to exhibit similar features; an emphasis on healing, communication with the dead, as well as other “spiritual beings”, but most importantly, a pattern of training  through apprenticeship. After telling us about his own experiences of training, he outlines how this pattern of apprenticeship – an initial ‘calling’, a process of direct training from established mediums, beginning public practise and finally acceptance by the broader community. Wilson’s ‘apprenticeship’ model not only gives us a way to conceptualise shamanism without recourse to sui generis discourse, but draws interesting parallels between indigenous cultures and the somewhat hidden world of heterodox religious practices in the West, particularly in regards to the frequent presence of healthcare. David’s book, Redefining Shamanisms, is available in all formats now. You can also download this podcast, and subscribe to receive our weekly podcast, on iTunes. If you enjoyed it, please take a moment to rate us. And remember, you can use our Amazon.co.ukAmazon.ca, or Amazon.com links to support us at no additional cost when you have a purchase to make – particularly in the run up to Christmas! If you enjoyed this episode, the spirits tell me you may also enjoy our interview with Ann Taves on Religious Experience, our recent roundtable featuring David Wilson on Non-Ordinary Realities and our two-part collaboration with Jack Hunter on Religious Studies and the Paranormal (Part one. part two).

This episode has not been transcribed yet. 

Consider a donation to pay for the cost of editing a transcript?

Related Resources

Religion and Memory

Podcast

In the year 2000, English-speaking scholars interested in ‘religion’ were introduced (in translation) to one of the most important texts in the sociology of religion in recent years, Danièle Hervieu-Léger’s “Religion as a Chain of Memory”. This book placed the study of ‘religion and memory’ firmly on the academic agenda,
Alex Norman on Spiritual Tourism

Podcast

What would you think if I told you I had just come back from a holiday in Aya Napa? How about Santiago de Compostella or Glastonbury? How about Mecca? When does travel become pilgrimage, and what are the spiritual factors behind our holiday choices? In this week’s interview, Alex Norman and David Robertson discuss the history and modern relevance of journeys undertaken for spiritual benefit and transformation.
Editors’ Picks 3: Jay Demerath on Functionalist Religion and the Substantive Sacred

Podcast

Week three of our Editors' Picks. Chris tells us why he (and his fiancée) liked Jay Demerath's interview on substantive and functionalist definitions of religion. Could the difficulties associated with the academic conceptualisation of “religion” be overcome by changing our focus instead to “the sacred”?

Responses to this episode

Sámi Shamanism – Up Close and Personal

Riddu Riddu has been important for the Sámi population as a meeting place as well as for people who have lost their connection to the Sámi and wish to learn. In his RSP interview, David Gordon Wilson tells us why he started studying spiritualism and shamanism, his relation to shamanism now, and general problems one may face while studying these subjects.

Other EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY

Boxing and Religious Identity

Podcast

Are boxers' religious affiliations only as skin deep as their tattoos? Find out in this conversation about boxing and religious identity with Prof. Arlene Sanchez Walsh by David McConeghy.
Religion and Authority in Asia

Podcast

Given its contextual and perspectival malleability, the notion of ‘authority', and even more so of ‘religious authority’, is challenging to define and to study. In today’s interview with Paulina Kolata, Dr Erica Baffelli discusses the notion of authority and charismatic leadership in the context of her research on New and ‘New’ New religions in contemporary Japan.
Beyond ‘Faith-Based Organizations’: Religion and NGOs in comparative perspective

Podcast

In this interview, we talk with Erica Bornstein about her studies of religious giving and social activism in India and Africa, and what the results of her research contribute to our understanding of the complex configurations of ‘Faith-Based Organizations’ across diverse religious contexts.Since the turn of the twenty-first century, ...
Empty Signs in an Automatic Signalling System

Podcast

In this week's episode, Timothy Fitzgerald speaks with David G. Robertson about why the history of the category “religion” should make us reconsider many other modern categories like politics, liberal, secular. Can these interrelated terms ever escape their origins in centuries of colonial epistemé?
Material Religion

Podcast

"...religion happens in material culture - images, devotional and liturgical objects, architecture and sacred space, works of arts and mass-produced artifacts. No less important than these material forms are the many different practices that put them to work. Ritual, communication, ceremony, instruction, meditation, propaganda, pilgrimage, display, magic,...
Applied Religious Studies at Georgia State University

Podcast

In this episode, Professor Molly Bassett, chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Georgia State University speaks about her program’s efforts to develop applied religious studies master’s certificates in “Religion and Aging” and “Nonprofit Management.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial- NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

The views expressed in podcasts, features and responses are the views of the individual contributors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Religious Studies Project or our sponsors. The Religious Studies Project is produced by the Religious Studies Project Association (SCIO), a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (charity number SC047750).