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Shamanism is an ancient religion that includes belief in animism, deities, and demons. The shaman, or priest/medium, is believed to have special powers that allow him to communicate with ancestral spirits, the gods, or their evil counterparts. Shamanism is still practiced by indigenous peoples in Siberia.
The term "shaman" has come to refer to any priest or priestess who uses magic and superstition to heal the sick, exorcise demons, or communicate with spirits. Shamans are thought to possess magical powers and have esoteric knowledge, especially regarding the healing powers of certain plants. In Malaysia, the shaman is called "the bomoh." In Indonesia, the shaman is called "the dukun."
Shamanic healing centers, books, and programs are common New Age developments, growing in proportion to the complexity of the modern world and the longing for a simpler past. For some people, shamanism is a window to a glorious, if illusory, past, when humans lived in harmony with nature and with each other. Shamanism offers not only an alternative medicine, but an alternative reality.
Some contemporary folks have been attracted to shamanism because of its association with altered states of consciousness induced by drumming, fasting, wilderness vision questing, sweat-lodges, and especially by hallucinogenic plants. For such people, shamanism offers the hope of an experience that will not only give meaning and significance to their lives, but will also erase from consciousness, at least temporarily, the horrors of a world that at times seems to have gone mad.
Neither New Age shamanism nor Native American religions have any direct connection to the ancient religion of Siberia.