Ronald Hutton's Shamans

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Historian Professor Ronald Hutton’s Shamans: Siberian Spirituality and the Western Imagination [1] [2001] must surely be the starting point for any serious present-day exploration of shamanism from a British perspective.

Here I summarise the book. My approach is to outline Hutton’s argument while being highly selective with his wealth of supporting examples, except where these are of particular interest.

Hopefully, present readers will be encouraged to go on and read Shamans for themselves.

In my usual fashion, I shall be adding comments separately on an ongoing basis. Click on the blue links to get to the various parts of the summary and to the comments page:


1 Siberian Spirituality and the Western Imagination

Siberian Shamanism and Western Scholarship would have been a far more appropriate subtitle. Spirituality suggests an enriching personal relationship with God or some near equivalent, whereas the shamanism described in the book was about performance rather than relationship: about enlisting spirit-helpers, principally to cure illness. Imagination suggests artistic inspiration, whereas the the book is about what academics have made of shamanism.     [Back to the main text]

(c) John C Durham, 2006