Female Shamans and Medicine Women

Eric Edwards Collected Works

mongolian shamanka

Mongolian shamanka

Female Shamans and Medicine Women

In some societies that practice shamanism there is a preference for the practitioners to be female. Evidence from archaeology in the Czech Republic indicated that the earliest Upper Palaeolithic shamans were in fact women (Tedlock, 2005). Descriptions of female shamans describe these women “…as invokers, healers, herbalists, oracles and diviners, ecstatic dancers, shape-shifters, shamanic  journeyers, and priestesses of the ancestors.” (Dashu, 2006).  Female shamans or ‘shamankas’, are located among the Tungus people, the Buriats, Yakuts, Ostyaks, and among the Kamchadals “…the place of the shaman was usually taken by especially gifted old women.” (MacCulloch, 1918).

SB_-_Altay_shaman_with_drum

Altay shamanka with drum. Kharkas ethnicity, circa 1908.

In Siberia, in the steppes and central regions, the female shaman possessed greater power than the male shaman and “…in general the feminine element plays a very prominent role in sorcery among the Yakuts.2 (Maddox, 1941). Female shamans are found in Tibet…

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