Shamanism and Spirit Possession


Shamanism is centered on the claims of individuals to exit their bodies and venture into other realms of consciousness, while spirit possession charts the opposite movement, where other selves or beings take over or are invited into a human host.  Both of these involve fusing or blurring the normal states and boundaries of body, personhood and consciousness, in interaction with other supernatural beings and powers. Both are routine religious experiences and practices in many parts of the world, past and present.

This course surveys these practices and beliefs and the various models (phenomenological, socio-cultural, biological, psychological) for understanding personhood, its nature and boundaries.  Far from being "primitive" phenomena, we will explore how these living practices relate to great civilizations, as part of regional, national, and global ideologies of religion and culture.

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