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Neoshamanism refers to a "new" form or a revival of an old form of "shamanism", a system that comprises a range of beliefs and practices related to communication with the spirit world.
Neoshamanism is sometimes used as a disclaimer or qualifier, where revivalists are trying to piece back together shattered systems that no longer exist as a whole due to significant changes in the original culture, often as the result of colonisation, globalisation, or genocide. Neoshamanism is not a single, cohesive belief system, but a collective term for many such philosophies. However, certain generalities may be drawn between neoshamans. Most believe in spirits and pursue contact with the "spirit-world" in altered states of consciousness which they achieve through drumming, dance, or the use of entheogens. Most systems might be described as existing somewhere on the animism/pantheism spectrum. Most neoshamans were not trained by any traditional indigenous shaman directly but rather gain their training through books and self experimentation. That is the reason they are called "neo" or new. True Traditional Shamans were raised directly in cultures with indigenous shamans and have apprenticed directly with an indigenous shamans for many years. There are very few of these Traditional Shamans left.
Many members of traditional, indigenous cultures and religions are suspicious of neoshamanism, believing it to rely too heavily on cultural appropriation, or that it is an excuse by fraudulent shamans to cover up inconsistencies in their ceremonies. According to York (2001) one difference between neoshamanism and traditional shamanism is the role of fear. Neoshamanism and its New Age relations tend to dismiss the existence of evil, fear, and failure. "In traditional shamanism, the shaman’s initiation is an ordeal involving pain, hardship and terror. New Age, by contrast is a religious perspective that denies the ultimately [sic] reality of the negative, and this would devalue the role of fear as well."
The 2011 United Kingdom census made it possible to write in a description of one's own choosing for "Religion". The figures for England and Wales show that from just over 80,000 people self-identifying as Pagan, 650 wrote in the description "Shamanism".
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- Office for National Statistics, 11 December 2012, 2011 Census, Key Statistics for Local Authorities in England and Wales. Accessed 12 December 2012.
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- Shaman on the Stage (Shamanism and Northern Identity) by Tatyana Bulgakova, writing about some Nanai shamans who experienced performances on the stage as dangerous, believing that inappropriate (untimely, superfluous) invocation of the helping spirits can raise their anger.