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Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy

Mircea Eliade

Pages: 612
Price: $18.95
Publisher: Princeton/Bollingen
Pub Date: 1974
ISBN: 0691017794

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Table of Contents >

Note on Orthography
1. General Considerations. Recruiting Methods. Shamanism and Mystical Vocation
2. Initiatory Sicknesses and Dreams
3. Obtaining Shamanic Powers
4. Shamanic Initiation
5. Symbolism of the Shaman's Costume and Drum
6. Shamanism in Central and North Asia, Celestial Ascents. Descents to the Underworld
7. Shamanism in Central and North Asia, Magical Cures. The Shaman as Psychopomp
8. Shamanism and Cosmology
9. Shamanism in North and South America
10. Southeast Asian and Oceanian Shamanism
11. Shamanic Ideologies and Techniques among the Indo-Europeans
12. Shamanic Symbolisms and Techniques in Tibet, China, and the Far East
13. Parallel Myths, Symbols, and Rites
14. Conclusions
List of Works Cited

Description >
Shamanism is preeminently a religious phenomenon of Siberia and Central Asia; throughout this vast area, the magico-religious life of society centers on the figure of the shaman, at once magician and medicine man, healer and miracle-doer, psychopomp, priest, mystic, and poet. The same phenomena and techniques occur elsewhere in Asia, in Oceania, in the Americas, and among the ancient Indo-European peoples. - Publisher

Writing as a historian of religion, Eliade synthesizes the approaches of psychology, sociology, and ethnology to study the figure of the shaman, at once magician and medicine man, healer and miracle-doer, psychopomp, priest, mystic, and poet.

Reviews/Excerpts >


Healer and psychopomp, the shaman is these because he commands the techniques of ecstasy--that is, because his soul can safely abandon his body and roam at vast distances, can penetrate the underworld and rise to the sky. Through his own ecstatic experience he knows the roads of the extraterrestrial regions. He can go below and above because he has already been there. The danger of losing his way in these forbidden regions is still great; but sanctified by his initiation and furnished with his guardian spirits, the shaman is the only human being able to challenge the danger and venture into a mystical geography. - The Readers Catalog


The importance of the intoxication sought from hemp is further confirmed by the extremely wide dissemination of the Iranian term through Central Asia. In a number of Ugrian languages the Iranian word for hemp, bangha, has come to designate both the preeminently shamanic mushroom Agaricus muscarius (which is used as a means of intoxication before or during the seance) and intoxication ... The hy mns to the divinities refer to ecstasy induced by intoxication by mushrooms. These facts prove that the magico-religious value of intoxication for achieving ecstasy is of Iranian origin. But what does this prove concerning the original shamanic experience? Narcotics are only a vulgar substitute for "pure" trance. We have already had occasion to note this fact among several Siberian peoples; the use of intoxicants (alcohol, tobacco, etc.) is a recent innovation and points to a decadence in shamanic technique. Narcotic intoxication is called on to provide an imitation of a state that the shaman is no longer capable of attaining otherwise. Decadence or (must we add?) vulgarization of a mystical technique-in ancient and modern India, and indeed all through the East, we constantly find this strange mixture of "difficult ways" and "easy ways" of realizing mystical ecstasy or some other decisive experience. (pages 400-401)


CSP's Entheogen Chrestomathy entry for Shamanism

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