Shamanism in Detroit

Photo: Detroit Metro Times

Michael Harner, cover your ears. Despite the new interest in shamanism since the 1970s, the real shamans on the American religious scene (and elsewhere) are certain Pentecostal Christian preachers.

Contacting the unseen world while in an altered state of consciousness? Check.

Faking when it they have to because the audience expects it? Check.

Healing people, sometimes? Check.

Frequently having deep problems of illness or bad behavior in their own pasts, problems that went away once they acknowledge or were granted their “spiritual gifts”? Check.

Identifying spiritual causes of mundane misfortune? Check.

Putting on a good show, a spiritual spectacle? Check.

It all sounds like shamanism to me. Read this story about the Triumph Prophetic Worship Glory and Deliverance Center.

Some in the audience spin off from the circular march and sit alone in their seats, praying intensely, with heads bowed. Others are crying their eyes out, standing along the wall, sobbing with their whole bodies, as others lay their hands on them, exhorting them to give in, to let the self melt away and allow the voice of the spirit to break through in the same unreal language being shouted by the woman on the stage. Everything is now a swirl of loud noise and quick movement and sheer intensity, and it feels like something’s about to give, the room’s about to burst, and everyone’s just waiting to finally exhale or collapse in surrender.

Read the whole thing. Tell me if all the essential elements of the spiritual technology that we call shamanism aren’t there.


6 thoughts on “Shamanism in Detroit

    1. Ok, now that I have read *the whole thing* this seems strangely familiar:

      “…walk in a circle as they whisper their prayers or talk in tongues, building up the energy for the climactic release at the end of the night…”

      Or is that just me?

  1. Medeine Ragana

    Felicitas D. Goodman (1914–2005) was a Hungarian-born linguist and anthropologist. She was a highly regarded expert in linguistics and anthropology and researched and explored ritual body postures for many years. She studied the phenomenon of “speaking in tongues” in Pentecostal congregations in Mexico. (from Wikipedia, but based on some of the information from her books).

    In her book “Ecstasy, Ritual, and Alternate Reality” (which I have and am quoting from) she postulates that “we have a biological propensity for experiencing both ordinary and the alternate reality. In the long run, as I maintain above, humans cannot tolerate ecstasy deprivation. The religious trance is an indestructible part of our genetic heritage.” (pg. 171)

    If she is right, I suspect that our modern seeking for the ultimate “high,” whether thru drugs, alcohol, music concerts or whatever, is directly caused by “mainstream” religions losing that critical part of ritual in which the participants DO experience the alternate reality. Pentacostalism simply put it back into the place where it belongs. Other religions such as Voudoun, Santeria, some Native American and Pagan groups have incorporated it as well.

    As a friend of mine said once, “The Goddess will not be denied.”

      1. This is good to know. I picked up “Ecstasy, Ritual, and Alternate Reality” last time I was in the big city & it has been sitting at the bedside since. I was thinking I might push further back in the queue, but perhaps instead I will push it forward.

  2. Looking at the photo in this piece, and being casually acquainted with the Pentecostal Christian ‘ritual’, I would suggest there is an even closer relationship to Haitian Voudoun (Maya Deren cover your ears).
    From this photo we see the equivalent of the flag-bearers of a Voudoun société, sword bearers for the ceremony (“la place”), the mixed priesthood of women and men (manbo and houngan). And then there’s the “laver tâte” or “baptême” (baptisms) and certainly the Christian prayers, songs and chants that help to carry the wave of trance.
    In a sense, shamanism is too primal, compared to many similar ceremonials shared between the Pentecostal Christian and the devotee of Voudoun.
    vinum sabbati,

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