what-cha-manismeIf you talk on shamanism to most Westerners, they will surely think about the techniques of traditional care, travel or shamanic medicine men of Indian peoples of North America (which were not, interestingly, necessarily shamans). But shamanism and shamans are not words used by American Indians although shamanism is practiced for at least two thousand years, and probably as far back as the Paleolithic era (perhaps there 50,000 years). The word shaman is not used in most shamanic cultures which remain today in the world: other names for shaman among the Zulu sangoma include, babalawo among the Yoruba, and kahuna in Hawaii. Shamans of People Mapuche in Chile almost always women and are known as the Machi. 

The word shaman, himself, seems to come from among the peoples s aman Toungouz and E venki in Siberia, but there is much discussion and confusion because the word is very near the Samana Tocharian word meaning Buddhist Monk. The Tocharian were a Buddhist people of European descent who lived in Asia until the tenth century or so, and it is likely that they had a shamanistic culture.

In fact, Shamanism predates by several thousand years in the Buddhist Tocharians. The former Australian Aborigines practiced shamanism 10,000 years ago and probably well over longer than that. There is evidence that the European peoples also practiced shamanism at the time of the ice age, there are some 15 to 30,000 years. It is clear that shamanism is probably the oldest tradition of care in the world, and, after the recent discovery of drum sticks and bones of animals used in rituals throughout the world, we can reasonably assume that shamanism was practiced by all cultures for about 50,000 years or more.