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Comparative examination of Northwest Coast shamanism. Jorgensen, Grace Mairi McIntyre

Abstract

The following paper presents a comparative examination of shamanism as practised traditionally among a number of British Columbian Northwest Coast Indian groups. Case studies representing groups about which information is readily available, from each of the six major linguistic divisions in the area, have been presented in terms which indicate the ordered relationships between shamanistic beliefs and practises, and an attempt has been made to suggest structural links with other aspects of culture in each case. The major ethnographic works pertaining to each group were examined intensively and as many independent sources as possible were consulted for cross-checking the data. It was found that while in outward appearance patterns of belief and action show considerable similarity from one group to another, the emphasis and structural implications of these beliefs and practises are different for each group. Some of these differences are expressed most clearly by the variations present in the public initiation of novice shamans. At this time principles such as rank, kinship, inheritance or residence are, to varying degrees, recognised or affirmed, counterbalancing the shaman's identification with the supernatural, as spirit intermediary.

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