Jóska Soós, "Autoportrait chant-chamanique", 1995
Shamanism is based on contact between man and the supernatural. The word 'šamán' is of Siberian origin and is used particularly in an Asiatic and pre-Columbian context, but the underlying principles and rituals associated with shamanism are universal. In the shamanic world view a Tree of Life connects the upper world, our middle world and the underworld. Within those three interlinked realms there is a natural balance between humans, animals, plants, the earth, the planets and the cosmos. Disaster, disease and death ensue if that balance is disturbed.
Shamans try to trace the cause of such a disturbance and restore the balance. A shaman makes a transcendental journey to the other worlds. To do so, he or she will enter a state of trance induced by rhythm, song, dance and, sometimes, hallucinogens. This enables the shaman to reflect on problems from another point of view.
Shamanism has a great capacity to adapt itself to its environment and the surrounding culture. Usually it relies on handed down oral traditions and is not tied to the dogmatic teachings of a book specific to a particular period of time. This probably explains why it has remained a vital force to this day, finding a niche for itself in contemporary Western civilization. It may be that shamanic rituals fulfill a need in people who are seeking a deeper consciousness and wishing to feel connected to some greater whole.
In art, the altered states of consciousness and the unconscious, have always been important creative sources. Examples can for example be found in works of Jozeph Beuys and the Surrealists.
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