The traditional peoples of Europe have been extra keen on masks and non secular ritual than you

would suspect should you noticed Europeans in the present day. Masks sporting and shamanism was half

and parcel of on a regular basis life in historic Western European custom, say researchers.

There are tales abound about African and North American tribal shamans however not a

lot is thought about historic European peoples’ involvement with masked ritual or the

apply of magic. That’s the reason discovering out about similarities between the concepts behind

masks from all over the world and people originating from European soil, is a

discovery of intriguing and actual beliefs.

The much less apparent hyperlink of European societies with shamanism or spiritual ritual than

for example the North American native Indian customs or magic exercise prior to now is

because of the extra ‘sanitised’ method Europe has developed due to church

interference in individuals’s lives. The church dominance nearly stamped out any pagan


It was not till after 1960, when the Individuals skilled a revival of the

curiosity in shamanism, that a lot has develop into recognized concerning the European model of

the apply of magic and masks sporting. There may be extra verifyable details about

the true roots of Western European civilisation than initially suspected.

“The spirit if not the precise practise of shamanism has been handed on by way of

Europe’s generations”, one authority on the topic, Leigh Ann Hussey, believes. The

earliest recordings of ceremonies involving masks have been discovered within the caves of the

Trois Freres (Three Brothers) in France the place work of a Paleolithic scene

depicting European animism of the primary order.

Ian Bracegirdle, a masks knowledgeable, describes the cave: A central determine stands sporting

the top and antlers of a deer. He stands, shaman like, surrounded by animals.

Animals which can be essential to the tradition he represents. A number of the animals no

longer exist on this space. Ibex, reindeer, bison, stag and horses. The shaman, for that

is what he appears to be, stands, a human determine amongst the potential meals.

It’s believed that the paleolithic cave served as a spot the place hunters have been initiated.

The sorcerer or shaman was image to sympathetic magic. He wore ears and horns

of a stag, the eyes and beak of an owl, the bearded face of an previous man, the tail of a

wolf, the paws of a bear and the legs of a dancing shaman. He stood in entrance of

painted looking murals. The Shaman served as mediator between people and their

honored animal kin.

That is just about the perfect proof in tangible kind that now we have of our ancestors’

animistic beliefs. It dates again 10,000 years and is accompanied by an abundance of

myths and tales exhibiting our ancestors had loads of comparable concepts. A detailed analogy

exists within the tales of Kernunnos, forest god of the later Celts. The masks specific

animism to some extent.

His data is confirmed by Ms Hussey, who went on a hunt in European

shamanism and located when she examined historic sources, that she didn’t must

borrow from different traditions. “It’s clear that tribal Europe had as robust a shamanic

custom as, for instance, any of the American Indian tribes,” she mentioned.

Summing up the final symbolism that unites masks from across the globe,

Bracegirdle says that there are various hanging similarities between the traditional cultures

of the Pacific West Coast of North America and the tribal traditions of Africa. Symbols

that every one these cultures share are referring to fertility, the hunted animal, ancestors,

initiation into rites, circumcision, cannibalism actual and symbolic, therapeutic and crossing

over into the spirit world for steerage and therapeutic powers or to appease the gods or

ancestors are the accompanying concepts behind masks.

Not quite a bit has been handed on from era to era in any a lot

recognisable kind or form, however among the many strongest hyperlinks is the seasonal

nature of many traditions we nonetheless find out about. Within the UK, the Inexperienced man and the

Passion horse are two potent examples. “To me there’s a super hyperlink which is

sure up with the very nature of the individuals we’re and the way now we have developed. Our

formative roots reside in our societies now”, believes Bracegirdle.

The hyperlinks to historic beliefs may also be discovered in lots of European languages. When

we are saying in English that we’re going berserk, we even instantly seek advice from the shamanic

state of extasy. The adjective comes from the noun ‘berserker’, or ‘berserk’, the Outdated

Norse for ‘wild warriors’ or ‘champions’. ‘Ber’ referring to ‘bear’ and ‘serkr’ to ‘shirt’ or


These berserkers turned frenzied in battle, howling like animals, foaming at

the mouth, and biting the perimeters of their iron shields as in the event that they acted in a Nike

industrial. Berserker is first recorded in English within the early 19th century, lengthy after

these wild warriors ceased to exist. That is illustrative of how the custom seemingly

interrupted, nonetheless lived on.

Related “Bear Docs” tales have been discovered amongst California tribes. In some

instances, the Berserkr or Ulfserkr would even eat the guts of the bear or wolf to realize its

energy. One other feast of hearts happens within the seiðr trance, as described above.

Not quite a bit was recognized about Western shamanism till it hit the limelight within the 1960

and the undoubted knowledgeable within the discipline is the late Mircea Eliade, a faith historian

who taught on the Sorborme in Paris and later on the College of Chicago.

He described Shamanism, or ‘witchcraft’ as it’s referred to additionally, as not a faith however

extra as a way. Shamanism, he says, is ‘not strictly medication males/ladies,

magicians, or healers’. That is the conclusion of in depth research of the phenomenon

all over the world in his ebook ‘Shamanism: Archaic Strategies of Ecstasy’.


believes that shamans should not the identical as clergymen; they could have coexisted with

clergymen and even have fulfilled priestly capabilities in addition to shamanic ones. A shaman

was extra a mystic than a priest or a minister.

A shaman was not “possessed”, as many individuals now imagine, says Eliade. Neither

was the shaman a medium or trance channeler. “Shamans management the spirit beings

with whom they work, or no less than they don’t give up to them. Like a medium or

channeler, a shaman might seem unconscious when working, however upon returning, the

shaman can inform the place she or he has gone”, he says.

The shaman will not be the instrument of the spirits. Conventional shamans treatment individuals

by way of their trances, accompany the souls of the lifeless to the Otherworld, and

talk with the gods. “This small mystical elite not solely directs the

neighborhood’s spiritual life however, because it have been, guards its ‘soul.”

Modern-day processions the place you may nonetheless see previous masks being worn embrace

processions wherein giants and witches are displayed. These and different

masquerades are among the many extra highly effective tangible hyperlinks we nonetheless need to historic

witchcraft ritual.

In well-known childrens’ tales and folklore narrative, the hyperlinks are additionally apparent.

Dragons for example are examples creatures pervading each alley you may think about

of previous folklore and mythology, straight into trendy instances tales. Descriptions of the

beast’s benevolence range from the playful Puff (of Peter Yarrow’s music) to the sinister

Smaug in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”. Babylonian legends painting the Queen of

Darkness as a multi-headed dragon – Tiamat. Walt Disney’s Sleeping Magnificence

includes a battle between Prince Phillip and the evil Maleficent a few curse than

can solely be damaged by three fairies. Likewise, the Germanic fable “Die Nibelungen”

climaxes with the battle between Siegfried and the enormous Fafnir, who has remodeled

himself right into a dragon in an effort to develop into extra scary.

Our response to the bodily traits of the dragon is one other ingredient that we

share with and which connects us to our ancestors. World wide the beasts are

usually depicted as big lizards, bigger than elephants on common. Lengthy fangs are

typically accepted as are twin horns of various size. Western cultures typically

embrace massive bat-like wings giving the dragon the potential of flight. However japanese

dragons, often wingless, use a extra magical technique of flying. Jap dragons additionally

are typically extra snake-like in nature, albeit with entrance and rear legs.


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