Shamanism quote and discussion

Interesting thoughts [edits and emphasis mine]:

Odin, the chief of the gods, is often portrayed as a consummate shamanic figure in the oldest primary sources that contain information about the pre-Christian ways of the Germanic peoples. His very name suggests this: “Odin” (Old Norse Óðinn) is a compound word comprised of óðr, “ecstasy, fury, inspiration,” and the suffix -inn, the masculine definite article, which, when added to the end of another word like this, means something like “the master of” or “a perfect example of.” The name “Odin” can therefore be most aptly translated as “The Master of Ecstasy…” This establishes a link between Odin and the ecstatic trance states that comprise one of the defining characteristics of shamanism.

Source: Daniel McCoy (author of The Viking Spirit), Norse Mythology for Smart People,

My current issue is the overuse of the word “shamanism”, my own use included. I think it has lost most of its intended meaning and it is a borrowed word to boot, that may not have a direct mirroring of the intended meaning to add to the confusion. In other words, I think it’s a poorly appropriated word that has lost all meaning thanks to pop culture as people try to glom on more an more meaning to a word that inaccurately reflects what it was used for in the first place. And that may have been entirely fictional and derived from anthropologic suggestion influences or outright misinterpretation.

And yet, “shamanism” at least hints to the lifestyle, whereas most of the alternatives I can think of are so loaded with baggage from one source or another as to be even more useless for the purposes of trying to describe or explain things. When someone says, “Spirit Worker”, “Spirit Walker”, “Ecstatic”, all of these have been suffused with reconstructionist paganism or New Ageism (or Christian reactionism) to the point that the meaning is lost (you know, because “ecstasy” is always sexual in nature according to some narrow-minded ways of thinking).

I’m big on trying to dig into disused words for such things, but that comes with it’s own hazards: inefficient attempts to explain those choices, cultural appropriation accusations, and (once again) people trying to instill meaning into the words that never existed based on their own biases.

That said, I wasn’t aware of the linguistic derivation of Odin’s name and I find it interesting in a cloying way — it seems to suggest the nature of Odin outside of the “god” sphere and put him in the realm of shaman, and it always intrigues me when you humanize someone’s deities; but it seems too good to be ‘true’, inasmuch as I tend to mistrust self-proclaimed experts (and especially those with letters after their name to indicate just how expert they are in something because they argued it sufficiently in an institute of higher education). But it is interesting all the same, though for what argument that can be made, I don’t rightly know. I trust McCoy more than some for no other reason than he has called bullshit on some of the pop culture’s revisionist attitudes about the Vikings. Anyone who can sit there and say, hey, that belief you cling to about the old Norse religions would be interesting, but it’s not true, nor is there evidence of it ever being true, and then gives a compelling argument (with supportive evidence) as to why it isn’t true is probably okay in my book. It means he doesn’t just accept things because so and so said so — he actually did some digging on his own and confirmed or disproved a claim. Scholarship, which is far too often lacking in books about the old ways, often confusing reconstructionist approaches to the old ways with the old ways themselves and lacking the intellectual curiosity to actually question what you are selling as “truth” when it is, more often than not, a fiction.

Not that I’m against someone clinging to fictions… But I don’t sell my personal fictions in a book and call them truth. I give my bullshit away for free and remind you that your mileage may vary as I do so.

2 thoughts on “Shamanism quote and discussion

  1. interesting thoughts Michael. my pet peeves as well is the misuse or oversimplification of words, ideas and historical figures etc.. by pop culture and trends. or lack of care, or an appropriation of culture etc. having said that i am all for freedom of expression as an artist/poet so there ya’ go eh?

    Liked by 1 person

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