Animals as entities in contemporary spiritual practices in Western societies
Denise Lombardi (GSRL )
Paper short abstract:
The purpose of this investigation is to understand how the participants to neo-shamanic practices can connect with a pantheon animated by different entities that are presented as animals belonging to the shamanic cosmology.
Paper long abstract:
This investigation, which focuses more on the "native point of view", the European participants, rather than on the shamans' point of view, is aimed at understanding how the participants to neo-shamanic practices can connect with a pantheon animated by different entities that are presented as animals belonging to the shamanic cosmology. We can use the distinction proposed by Ingold (2013) between "non-human animals" and "human animals" in order to differentiate animal-entities from participants who take part to the neo-shamanic practices. We observe the group learning to approach the animal entities belonging to the upper or to the lower world as shaped by the shamanic cosmology. Non-human animals are more complex than entities belonging to a religious system such as a divinity. They are generated both by means of the shaman's indication and through the intentionality of the practitioner. However non-human animals still need to retain their own individual properties as real animals. During the shared verbal elaboration of the experience, the participants describe the totem animal with a richness of details that contribute to define a kinesthetic experience, perceived and lived through both the imaginary and sensorial apparatus. During the neo-shamanic sessions, participants achieve their personal objectives through the contact with the animal entities that do not belong to any particular cultural statement. This paper will represent an opportunity to reflect upon the reasons that move a "human animal" (the subject) to create a link with an imaginative (but real) non-human animal in order to reach his own ontological humanity.