Quotes on PNW Shamanism: Initiation
McIntyre Jorgensen, Grace Miri. A Comparative Examination of Northwest Coast Shamanism. University of British Columbia Department of Anthropology and Sociology, 1970.
On the initiation and training of shamans:
“The spirit powers of shamans were acquired largely independently (the shaman did not normally inherit his spirits but acquired them independently in a solitary quest), and were concerned with affairs such as sickness, the prediction of the movements of game, the detection of witches, or the control of weather which were of general rather than lineage importance.” (p.14)
“The trainee was usually twenty-five to thirty before he experienced anything, some were over forty, and others never achieved success. [...]A man could transfer power to his son but the son would still have to train for it and the power ‘would not be as strong as the fathers’. [...]Training had the effect of weakening the bonds which united the individual’s vitality and mind to the body, so they could ‘travel’ greater distances to ‘penetrate beyond the veil of the everyday world to the mystic realm of the unseen’.” (p.31-32)
“Like the individual guardian spirit powers, and in contrast to the ceremonial initiations, shamanistic initiation was commonly, if not always, solitary. Acquisition of shamanistic power could be sought or unsought.” (p.110)
“This account is interesting for the way it indicates the extent to which shamans knew of each other and cooperated with each other and for the way in which it suggests that prospective shamans depended on the aid and teaching of other shamans. [...]It also suggests that although there was cooperation and exchange between shamans, there was no necessary close association between shamans in terms of tribal or clan affiliation.” (p.112)
Mayne, R.C. Four Years in British Columbia and Vancouver Island: An Account of Their Forests, Rivers, Coasts, Gold Fields, and Resources for Colonization. John Murray: London, 1862.
“Those who have themselves been visited by some serious sickness, and have recovered; or else have been, at some time in their lives, exposed to great peril, but have escaped uninjured [...] for it is believed that, during the period of unconsciousness, supernatural power and skill were vouchsafed them; and also, by their recovering, it is concluded that they have successfully resisted the efforts of bad medicine, or the evil workings of some malevolent being.”
I wish I could own the first work, but alas it is a thesis and cannot be purchased. One day I’ll photocopy the whole work so it isn’t lost to time. I hope it gets scanned into UBC’s digital library collection, but I don’t see that happening any time soon. It is, hands down, the best title on the spirit work and shamanism of the Native tribes of the Pacific Northwest Coast. The next best work to get your hands on if you have an interest in this area is the academic work Indian Healing: Shaman Ceremonialism in the Pacific Northwest Today by psychologist Wolfgang G. Jilek.