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One of the things I had to remind myself when I was reading this book was that this edition was written in 1991. The literature on neoshamanism has expanded quite a bit, and evolved some as well, so some of the limitations of the book’s age need to be applied to this review.

Shamanic Experience is a fairly typical book on core shamanism. There is a strong emphasis on self-improvement and the positive aspects of interconnection with the world around us. There are other hallmarks of core shamanism as well, to include automatically equating power animals with the Lower world and more humanoid guides with the Upper world; journeying seen as a relatively safe practice; and an emphasis on the shaman as a healer over other roles. It’s a decent overview of core shamanism in and of itself, and touches on all the basics.

My biggest complaint with this book is that it’s a huge cultural mish-mash. There are smatterings of “Native American” practices (with no tribal specifications) along with Taoism, the Wiccan sabbats (presented as much more ancient than they actually are), Norse runes, and a few other cultural icons, as well as bits and pieces of Western psychology. The chapter on shamanic tools includes some things that are more Wiccan than shamanic. I’ve no problem with people wanting to incorporate various useful techniques in their practices, but the author needed to be a lot more clear about which of these were traditional parts of their culture’s shamanisms, and how he put them all together (and how they aren’t universally shared in their original contexts). The material itself is useful, but the presentation is wanting.

Beyond that, my issues are mainly the ones I have with many modern books on shamanism, such as the predictable power animal dictionary, and a few other formulaic interpretations of denizens of nature. Still, if you’re okay with these things, and you’re still interested in using the practical material, then this is a relatively good choice. Just be aware that it in no way resembles any traditional culture’s shamanism, and it’s heavily eclectic. Useful, but not culturally accurate.

 

~review by Lupa

Author: Kenneth Meadows

Element Books, 1991

pp. 196, $17.95

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