Neo-shamanism in France and Italy as a healing and learning practice

Spiritual research and physical wellness are the two basic constituents through which the argumentation about health is built up in contemporary western world. Both spiritual and therapeutic research share the same objective attainable through activities borrowed from other disciplines like yoga, traditional medicine, Eastern philosophies and neo-shamanic practices.

My field of research is focused on how neo-shamanism is being developed and conjugated in western world, being it considered a form of therapeutic primitivism populated by small fleeting groups gathering together during meetings and seminars (with fee) in France and Italy in order to learn new exotic healing techniques.

The purpose of this paper is to lay special stress on the modalities used by western participants (mostly middle class women, aged 40-50) to embody and assimilate the techniques they learn during seminars. The efficacy of the therapeutic process derives from the capacity of participants to play both the role of the patient and the apprentice at the same time. During seminars, participants are requested to learn shamanic practices aimed at their own healing and to use them on other people at a later stage.

In this context, the neo-shaman is no more the one who performs the journey but turns into a guide for the patient who travels alone from the Otherworld without using psychotropic substances and interacts with spirits. The neo-shaman plays the role of a teacher-therapist in front of the novice-patient; both are involved in a healing and education process where teachings are all about the possibility to raise awareness in exotic cosmologies by learning visualization techniques capable of carrying participants into the shamanic universe fitting the western world demands. In order to better describe such healing practices and their representations I will analyze some neo-shamanic seminars in France and Italy I have taken part in.

European neo-shamans knowledge resulting from modern psychological techniques, spiritual literature, trips to exotic places, Michael Harner teachings, inspiration from indigenous cosmology, and a panoply of instances taken from the universe of New Religious Movement is used to reconnect people with a lost state of nature, and healing personal and universal troubles.