Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1972. Paperback, 610 pages. New.
When this book was first published in 1951, it was quickly hailed as a classic work and did much to stir both popular and scholarly interest in Shamanism. In this authoritative and influential survey, Mircea Eliade examines the practice of shamanism, moving from the traditions of Siberia and Central Asia, to both North and South America, Indonesia, Tibet, China, and Oceana. Eliade explores the cultures where the figure of the Shaman – medicine man, magician, healer, mystic, priest and poet, holds sway. Drawing heavily on ethnographic data, travellers’ accounts, psychology and sociology, Eliade examines what he identifies as key features of shamanic practice and cosmology such as initiation and the world tree or axis mundi. Eliade was one of the first of a new generation of scholars who – unlike their predecessors – did not regard shamanic practitioners as fraudulent or merely mentally disturbed, and he was also one of the first scholars to demonstrate that some the themes present in Siberian shamanism were also present in other cultures. Whilst much of Eliade’s work has been contested by later generations of scholars, Shamanism remains a key text for anyone interested in the cross-cultural study of shamanism and mythology.