Echoes of Shamanism in Europe

In the video “Echoes of Shamanism in Europe,” Angeles Arrien and Michael Harner engage in a dialogue about the profound influence of shamanism in Europe. Arrien, a renowned leader in transpersonal psychology and cross-cultural studies, brings her extensive knowledge of European mysticism and Basque traditions to the discussion. Harner highlights the historical suppression and subsequent revival of shamanistic practices in Europe, emphasizing the deep interrelationship between shamanism and mysticism in honoring the mysteries of creation.

The conversation delves into the significance of initiation and rites of passage as essential elements of shamanistic practice, emphasizing their universal presence in all cultures. Arrien emphasizes her dedication to bridging ancient wisdom with modern existence, recognizing the presence of initiatory processes in everyday life. Together, they aim to reclaim the heritage of shamanism that was forcibly taken away from Europeans and restored through learning from shamans in other cultures.

Echoes of Shamanism in Europe

Echoes of Shamanism in Europe

Shamanism, the ancient spiritual practice that connects individuals with the natural and spiritual realms, has had a profound influence on cultures across the globe. While often associated with indigenous cultures in places like Siberia and the Americas, the echoes of shamanism can also be found in the history and folklore of Europe. From the conquest and destruction of indigenous practices during the spread of Christianity to the modern resurgence of interest in shamanic traditions, Europe’s cultural anthropology tells a complex and fascinating story.

Historical Conquest and Destruction

With the advent of Christianity in Europe, indigenous shamanic practices faced a period of intense suppression and destruction. The spread of this new religion brought with it the belief that indigenous spiritual practices were heretical and needed to be eradicated. Shamanic ceremonies and rituals were considered pagan and were actively suppressed by the Church. As a result, much of Europe’s shamanic knowledge and practices were lost or driven underground, with only fragments remaining within folklore and oral traditions.

European Cultural Anthropology

European cultural anthropology has long been fascinated with the study of indigenous cultures, and this interest has led to a reevaluation of the continent’s own shamanic heritage. Scholars have delved into ancient texts, oral traditions, and archaeological evidence to uncover the traces of shamanic practices that still linger in European cultures. By examining the rituals, beliefs, and folklore of communities across the continent, researchers have begun to piece together a more comprehensive understanding of Europe’s shamanic past.

Basque Community and Mysticism

In the Basque community of Spain and France, shamanic practices have remained remarkably resilient despite centuries of suppression. This unique cultural group has preserved their indigenous beliefs, incorporating them into their daily lives and rituals. Basque mysticism, which includes healing practices, divination, and communication with the spirits, has provided a valuable glimpse into the shamanic traditions that once thrived across Europe. The Basque people serve as a living testament to the enduring power of shamanism.

The Perennial Stubbornness of Shamanism

One of the striking aspects of shamanism is its resilience. Despite concerted efforts to eradicate it, shamanic practices have never completely disappeared. Instead, they have persisted in the shadows, resurfacing in times of societal upheaval or spiritual seeking. It seems that the ancient wisdom of shamanism cannot be extinguished and continues to exert a pull on those seeking a deeper connection with the natural and spiritual world.

The Interrelationship of All Things

At the heart of shamanism lies the belief in the interconnectedness of all things. Shamans understand that everything in the universe is interconnected and that humans are just one part of a vast web of life. This worldview, which emphasizes the importance of living in harmony with nature and recognizing the inherent value of all beings, is a profound reminder of our collective responsibility to care for the Earth and its inhabitants. Shamanism offers a perspective that is desperately needed in an era of environmental crisis.

Reclaiming Our Heritage

As interest in shamanism grows, many individuals across Europe are reclaiming their ancestral heritage and rediscovering the practices of their forebears. Through workshops, retreats, and community gatherings, people are reconnecting with the rituals and wisdom of their ancestors. By acknowledging and honoring the shamanic traditions that were once suppressed, individuals are finding a deeper sense of purpose, connection, and belonging in their lives.

The Meaning of Initiation

Central to shamanic practices is the concept of initiation. Initiation represents a rite of passage, a transformative experience that marks the transition from one phase of life to another. Whether through visions, near-death experiences, or intense spiritual journeys, initiates undergo a profound transformation that often leads to the awakening of their shamanic abilities. By undergoing initiation, individuals become channels for the spiritual energies that flow through them, serving as intermediaries between the physical and spiritual realms.

Rituals and Rites of Passage

Shamanic rituals and rites of passage take many forms, reflecting the diversity of cultures and traditions across Europe. From drumming circles and sweat lodges to vision quests and trance dances, these ceremonies provide a space for individuals to connect with the spiritual world and receive guidance and healing. Through these rituals, participants are able to tap into their own innate shamanic abilities and access the wisdom of the ancestors. The power of these ceremonies lies in their ability to bring people back into alignment with the natural rhythms of life.

Bridging Ancient and Modern Existence

In our increasingly modern and disconnected world, the resurgence of shamanic practices offers a bridge between ancient wisdom and contemporary existence. By reconnecting with the natural world, honoring the spirits, and cultivating a deeper sense of spirituality, individuals are finding a renewed sense of purpose, balance, and fulfillment. Shamanism serves as a powerful reminder that our modern lives can be enriched by the wisdom of our ancestors, leading to a more harmonious and sustainable way of being.

The Superficiality of Romanticized Projections

While interest in shamanism has grown in recent years, it is important to approach this subject with a critical eye. Romanticized projections of shamanism can miss the depth and complexity of these ancient practices. It is crucial to respect the cultures and traditions from which shamanism originates and not appropriate or dilute their teachings. Instead, we must seek genuine understanding and deep reverence for these spiritual traditions, approaching them with humility and a commitment to learning from those who have preserved them.


The echoes of shamanism in Europe are a reminder of the deep spiritual heritage that lies within our continent. From the conquest and destruction of indigenous practices to the revitalization of shamanic traditions in modern times, Europe’s cultural anthropology reveals a rich tapestry of spiritual knowledge. By reclaiming our heritage and exploring the rituals, beliefs, and practices of our ancestors, we can find a deeper connection to ourselves, each other, and the natural world. Let us embrace the wisdom of shamanism and honor the interconnectedness of all things as we navigate our modern existence.

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