#### A WORD OF CAUTION ####
Becoming a Jewish Rebbe or Shaman is SERIOUS BUSINESS, and not to be entered into lightly! If a person is experiencing
visions, hearing voices, being visited by "alien" beings, being followed by strange looking people that others cannot
see, etc., it is a good idea to obtain a psychological check-up in order to make sure that the person is in full control of
their mental facilities. If, at that point the person is still feeling called to be a Jewish Shaman, then they should find
a teacher and apprentice themselves to that teacher.
As the Torah states: ASEY LEKHA RAV UKNEY LEKHA "One who would learn Torah should first get a teacher (to teach them
how to study) and then get a student (to teach them how to teach)." (PIRKEY ABOT 1: 6)
*PRACTICAL JEWISH SHAMANISM*
A Rebbe should be the equivalent Jewish version of what a Native American Indian shaman-medicine person is, a Blesser,
a Healer, and a Spiritual Guide.
The Shamanic path is a path of healing, guidance and service. He/she is a person who passes on the TRADITION to the next
generations, and offers services to salve the soul of the present generation.
***HEBREW BIBLE IS NOT OPPOSED TO JEWISH SHAMANISM AND SORCERY***
Rabbi Gershon Winkler has written: "Shamanism and sorcery are NOT antithetical to the Hebrew scriptures. In fact,
torturing a witch to death is a far more heinous sin in Judaism than practicing the occult arts.
The proscriptions in the Bible against divination and sorcery refer specifically to the kinds of sorcery practiced by
specified cultures whose ways the Jewish people were forbidden to emulate.
The Hebrew scriptural verse (Exodus 22: 17) M'KHSHEYFAH LO T'CHIYEH for example, has for centuries been haphazardly translated
as 'You shall not suffer a witch to live,' when literally it translates: 'You should not SUSTAIN a witch,' meaning don't get
into the habit of supporting the livelihood of the village magician; don't let some guy with a lot of supernatural power drain
you of your savings through fear and intimidation. Let him get a job like everybody else, and perform his magic out of the
goodness of his heart and in recognition of the sacred gift he possesses.
Another translation of the exact same Hebrew wording would be: 'From sorcery you should not live,' as in don't base your
entire life and all of your affairs on the powers of sorcery, or, don't make a living from it." (From "MAGIC OF
THE ORDINARY by Rabbi Gershon Winkler (C) 2001.)
***What is Jewish Shamanism?*** (from a pamphlet)
by Rabbi Gershon Winkler,
Cuba, New Mexico
Jewish Shamanism is a quality of consciousness that enables one to experience magic in the ordinary, miracle in the natural
course of events, and the spirituality of the physical.
Jewish shamanism is as ancient and as rich as most any other shamanic tradition, sharing in common with many of them the
belief that all of creation is alive, not just fauna and flora, but that the planets, the stones, the sun and moon, too, are
living conscious beings replete with wisdom and soul (e.g. Psalms 8:7-8; 145:10; 148:3-4 and 7-11; Isaiah 55:12; Job 12:7-8;
Midrash Heichalot Rabati 24:3).
The second-century Rabbi Me'ir used to call the sun "My brother" (Midrash B'reishis Rabbah 92:6), "All
the trees," taught the ancient rabbis, "converse with one another and with all living beings" (Midrash B'reishis
Rabbah 13:2). The planets and stars even have their own songs (Sefer Ha'Zohar, Vol. 1, folio 231b).
Had the Hebrews never been given their Torah, their divinely inspired scriptures, they would have been able to learn all
they needed to know from the animals (Babylonian Talmud, Eruvin 100b).
Ask the animals and they shall teach you; and the birds of the sky, and they shall inform you. Or speak to the earth and
she shall show you; and the fishes of the sea shall declare to you.
-- Book of Job 12:7-9
The Israelite does not distinguish between a living and a lifeless nature
The Israelites do not acknowledge the distinction between the psychic and the corporeal. Earth and stones are alive, imbued
with a soul
-- Israel: Its Life and Culture, by Johannes Pederson [Oxford University Press: 1959], pp. 55 and 479
The physical reality is seen as but an intermediate phase in the ever-spiraling evolution of the fruition of the Creator's
imagination or will (Sefer Ha'Zohar, Vol. 3, folio 61b).
The various phases of this ever-continuing spiral are comprised of myriad ru'chot, or "spirits", beings who
in turn embody myriad stages involved in manifesting spirit into matter. Every blade of grass, for example, is being constantly
invoked into being by a spirit that empowers and influences its growth from within the spiralic process that is, moment to
moment, actualizing the seed of divine intention to physical fruition (Midrash B'reishis Rabbah, Ch. 10; Sefer Ha'Zohar, Vol.
1, folios 251a and 2:80b). "The Sacred Wellspring [God] impassions all trees and all grasses that are upon the earth"
(Sefer Ha'Zohar, Vol. 1, folio 251a; see also Isaiah 6:3; Jeremiah 23:24; Sefer HaBahir, Ch. 10; Midrash D'varim Rabah 2:26).
Jewish shamanism requires the awareness that every human being is comprised of the qualities of every other being on the
planet. That we are not made solely in the "Image of God" but just as much in the image of all that surrounds us,
stones, plants, animals, the galactic beings, and so on (Midrash HaNe'elam 1:16b; Sefer Ha'Zohar, Vol. 4, folio 118b), that
when the Creator is quoted in the Hebrew scriptures as declaring, "Let us make the human in our image" (Genesis
1:26), the Creator was addressing all of what had been created up to that point in the creation story.
This implies that the Creator addressed all of creation before making the human, meaning that in creating the human, the
Infinite One incorporated all of the attributes of all the animals and plants and minerals and so on that had been created
up to this point. In each of us, then, are the powers of all the creatures of the earth.
-- 17th-century Rabbi Moshe Cordovero in Shi'ur HaKomah, torah, Ch. 4
The human is then fashioned in the image of the do'mem, ts'owmeya'ch, chayyah, and m'daber: Still Being (mineral), Sprouting
Being (flora), Living Being (wildlife), and Speaking Being (human).
In the original Hebrew, the wording is "In the image of Elo'heem." Elo'heem is the God Name that describes the
dynamics of the Creator stirring creation into being. It is therefore a plural word connoting "Forces" or "Powers"
(Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayyim 5:1).
Thus, to the Jewish shaman the human is comprised of the chaotic whirlwind of Primeval Creation, of the divine forces
dancing spirit into matter, matter into form, and form into action (18th-century Rabbi Chayyim of Volozhin in Nefesh HaChayyim,
Jewish shamanism assigns enormous importance to the four directions, calling them ar'ba ru'chot, or "four winds,"
also Hebrew for "four spirits," stressing the organic, living nature of the four directions (Sefer Ha'Zohar, Vol.
4, folio 118b).
Each wind or direction is designated an animal (Sefer Ha'Zohar, Vol. 4, folio 18b; Midrash Bamid'bar Rabbah 2:9): the
eagle in the north, the buffalo in the west, the human in the south, and the lion in the east (13th-century Rabbi Yitzchak
of Akko in Sefer M'irat Einayim, Bamidbar, para. 2). Each wind also has a spirit guardian (Midrash Bamidbar Rabbah 2:10) who,
when invoked by various Hebrew and Aramaic incantations, brings forth the gift of that particular wind.
The attributes of these four spirit guardians are healing, reflection, balance, and vision. The four winds themselves
are tsafon (north), literally: hidden, as in the place of mystery; meezrach (east), literally: from [the place of] shining;
nehggev (south), literally: wiping or cleansing; and maarav (west), literally: from [the place of] blending. Another name
for south is darom, which means place of rising, and another name for east is kehdem, which means beginning or before.
The four winds are also given colors: red in the north, black in the west, white in the south, and yellow in the east
(Gaon of Vilna on Sefer Yetsirah, Ch. 4).
The four winds are considered to possess each their own distinct power and attribute, all of which are played out in the
individual human drama: "The human was created from the powers of the four winds" (Sefer Ha'Zohar, Vol. 1, folio
Reflective of this and other such cosmologies in ancient Judaic mystery wisdom, are the numerous narratives in both the
written and oral traditions about the mastery of the supernatural by the ancestors and teachers of the Jewish people.
Such narratives include accounts of sorcery (e.g., Genesis 30:37-39; Exodus 14:17 and 7:10-12; Leviticus 14:4-7; Numbers,
Ch. 19; Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 65b and 67b; Ta'anit 23a-b, 24b, and 25a, B'rachot 33a; Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 7:14),
communicating with animals (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 17a; Sof'rim 16:9; Jerusalem Talmud, D'mai 1:3), invoking spirits
(Midrash Kohelet Rabbah 2:6; Midrash Bamidbar Rabbah 11:5; Babylonian Talmud, Eruvin 43a, Sanhedrin 101a, Pesachim 110a),
vision quests (Genesis 15:8-17, 24:63, 28:11-22; Exodus Ch. 3-4:17, Ch. 24; 1 Kings 17:2-6), dream quests (14th-century Rabbi
Moshe Bot'ril on Sefer Yetsirah 4:3), rain making (Babylonian Talmud, Ta'anit 23a-b), creating and animating animal and human-like
creatures out of the earth (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 65b and 67b; Manuscript of Sefer Gematriot, printed in A. Eptein's
Beitrage zur Judischen Altertumskunde [Vienna, 1887], pp. 122-123; Sheylot Ut'shuvot Chacham Tzvi, No. 93; Sheylot Ya'avetz,
Vol. 1, No. 82; The Golem of Prague by Gershon Winkler [Judaica Press: 1981]), exorcising wandering spirits (Babylonian Talmud,
Megilah 17a-b; Sefer Sha'ar Ha'Gil'gulim, end), resurrecting the dead (1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:34; Jerusalem Talmud, D'mai
1:3; Babylonian Talmud, Ketuvot 62b, Avodah Zarah 10b, Megilah 7b; Midrash Vayikra Rabbah 21:8), parting waters (Exodus 14:21;
Joshua 3:14-17; Jerusalem Talmud, D'mai 1:3), drawing water out of stones (Exodus 17:5-6; Numbers 20:11), healing snake bites
with a copper serpent (Numbers 21:9), consulting oracles such as the mysterious urim v'tumim (Exodus 28:30; Numbers 27:21;
Babylonian Talmud, Baba Batra 122a, B'rachot 3b-4a), walkabouts (Genesis 13:17), and magical healing (Babylonian Talmud, Shabat
66b-67a, Gitin 67b-70a, Eruvin 29b, Ketuvot 50a, Avodah Zarah 28a-b, Yoma 83b-84a, Shabat 109b).
The shaman is most often approached for healing ceremonies, whether for physical or emotional, or spiritual crises. In
performing healing rites, the Jewish shaman will first chant various permutations of the Hebrew letters of the Infinity Name
of the Creator.
The shaman then becomes an invited sojourner in the realms beyond the par'gawd, or Veil of Illusion, that separates --
in illusion only -- the realm of spirit from the realm of matter. Having transcended the illusory boundaries between the known
and the unknown, the fruit and the seed, the shaman invokes the energies channeled by various spirit beings toward the needed
healing. Sometimes the medium through which the cure is sought is a stone, sometimes an animal or plant, sometimes simply
prayer chants and mystical incantations.
A stone of well-being hung from the neck of Abraham our father. Anyone who gazed upon it became healed instantly.
-- Babylonian Talmud, Baba Batra 16b
In creating the wild beasts and animals and creeping crawlies, the Holy Blessed One intended them [also] to be medicine
for the human.
-- Midrash Tana D'bei Eliyahu Rabbah, Ch. 1
All medicines come from the earth. And therefore, during the time when the earth gives forth her bounty she empowers all
trees and plants, especially during the time of her fullness which is in the moon of Iyyar (around May) during which there
is potency in all the medicines, for then the earth empowers them.
-- Likutei HaMaHaRaN No. 277
At times, the horn of a ram, or shofar, is employed for the healing ceremony, sometimes as a conduit for directing herbal
smoke as in smudging (Midrash Thilim 22:14), and sometimes as a way of shifting the breath, as with other shamanic traditions
where the shaman blows healing breath into the patient. The shofar is believed to wield the power of shattering any factors
of resistance to healing that might be present (Likutei HaMaHaRaN 22:5-7).
Illness is perceived primarily as a misalignment or imbalance of the soul's manifestation in the body. The rites are intended
to stir the patient out of whatever stupor might be keeping them tangled in their crisis, and then to empower the patient
with a fresh sense of life commitment. The less the life commitment, the less the soul becomes manifested in the body, and
the more vulnerable the body then becomes to death, toward which illness is believed to be a momentum (Likutei HaMaHaRaN No.
While there are auspicious times during the year when it is best to receive healing plants from the earth, such as in
early Spring, the Jewish shaman will not take the plant unless the earth is at peace (Likutei HaMaHaRaN No. 277), and will
first chant prayers of blessing for the earth and perform any number of rituals, from drawing magical circles with mystical
symbols to soothing the earth spirits by simply dancing. Plants wield great wisdom and powers that are imbued with raw divine
energies (Sefer HaZohar, Vol. 2, folio 80b).
All trees rejoice in God's Resonance. And all plants dance in God's Rejoicing.
-- Midrash Heichalot Rabatti 24:3
How good and how beautiful is it when one is able to hear the song of the grasses.
-- 18th-century Rabbi Nachmon of Breslav, in Likutei HaMaHaRan, p. 306
Shamans often journey to other realms through deep meditation induced through drumming and chanting (Exodus 15:20; 1 Samuel
10:5; Maimonides in Mishnah Torah, Hilchot Y'sodei HaTorah 7:4). In the course of these journeys they encounter various spirits
at the doorway to each plane who demand of them a sort of password in the form of symbols that they would image, each symbol
representing the name and attribute of the spirit guarding entry to that particular realm (Heichalot Zut'rati, MS Oxford 1531,
folio 44a; Ma'aseh Mer'kavah 54b). Upon return from the journey, the shaman kisses the earth in gratitude for her revelatory
experiences (Sefer Ha Zohar, Vol. 3, folio 168a). On rare occasions, the shaman may become "trapped" at the passageway
to one of these mystical realms, in which instance a disciple or colleague must apply to the shaman's knee a twig from a myrtle
plant that is wrapped in pure wool and dipped in balsam oils. If that fails, one more ingredient is added: the light touch
by the finger of a woman who is in transition from her menstrual cycle (Midrash Heichalot Rabbati, Ch. 18).
The initiation of the shaman requires a meditative journey akin to a Native American "vision quest." The initiate
sits for seven days in the wilderness dressed only in the m'il haTsedakah, or Garment of Balance.
This garment is a hooded, sleeveless deerskin decorated with various mystical symbols and God Names. At sundown on the
seventh day, the initiate goes to a body of water and chants various prayers and incantations to call forth the spirits who
channel the divine energies of creation. If the initiate then sees a reddish glow emerging from the water, the ceremony is
successful and complete. If the emerging glow is green, however, the process is incomplete and must be repeated (Sefer HaMalbush
vTikun Meel Ha Tsedakah, MS. British Museum, Margoliouth ed. 752, folio 92-93).
The recent re-introduction of Jewish shamanism represents a restoration of ancient and early medieval Jewish mystery wisdom
harvested from Hebrew and Aramaic texts that reflect thousands of years of scriptural and oral teachings and ceremonies.
This vast body of esoteric knowledge and practice introduces us to myriad parallel as well as alternate realities where
herbs wield magical powers over demonic energies (Sefer Ha'Zohar, Vol. 2, folio 80a-b); spirits guard the passageways to underground
earth realms (Midrash Heichalot Rabati); spirit-doubles serve as vehicles for shamanic journeying (Sefer Ha'Zohar, Vol. 3,
folio 104b); canyon walls encrypt mystical resonances that are awakened through the echo of human and rhythmic sounds (Sefer
HaZohar, Vol. 3, folio 168b); lovemaking is the act of unifying Creator with Creation (Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 17a and Ketuvot
62a); and good and evil engage one another in a concerted dance of divine mystery (Sefer Yetzirah 6:4; Sefer Ha'Zohar, Vol.
2, folio 69a-b).
To this day, a major portion of Jewish shamanic and other mystery wisdom remains either in oral traditions relegated to
a select few, printed Hebraic and Aramaic texts, or in microfilmed manuscripts recovered relatively recently from the archives
of the Vatican and the libraries of Paris, Moscow, and Oxford (Kabbalah: New Perspectives, by Moshe Idel [Yale University
Press] pp. 19-21) much of it the spoils of centuries of pogroms, witch hunts and Inquisitions aimed as much at the Jews as
a group as at women as a group.
Women as a gender groups suffered a special liability in that they had become identified with Jews. Both groups suffered
from being associated with magical practices: making potions and poisons, wearing amulets, possessing the evil eye, sticking
pins in dolls, having abnormal knowledge about dreams, fortune-telling, or the magical properties of gems.
Rumors circulated about their bodies...that both could turn themselves into animals...
-- Witchcraze by Anne Lewellyn Barstow [HarperCollins: 1995] pages 63-64
Jewish shamanism is about a way of consciousness that perceives magic in the ordinary, miracle in the "natural course
of events." Where most people will be awestruck at the sight of a passing comet, the Jewish shaman will be awestruck
at the sight of a fallen leaf. It is about engaging the Creator Spirit in clear and open relationship in the course of which
the veil between spirit and matter grows thinner and thinner and we no longer experience ourselves as observers of this wondrous
planet, but as integral components of it.
Bottom-line, the Jewish tradition in its raw, un-modernized form, is blessed with a very ancient and rich shamanic tradition
that is both paganistic and pantheistic, and proudly so.
JUDAISM and SHAMANISM: THE MYSTERY OF ITS HISTORY
By Rabbi Gershon Winkler, Walking Stick Foundation, Cuba, New Mexico (Reprinted from PUMBEDISSA, Vol. 8; No #6, 2003-5763)
The notion of "Jewish shamanism" may seem like an oxymoron to a lot of people, but it happens to be an integral
part of the Jewish tradition that has been suppressed for centuries. Driven from its ancient sojourns in the fresh air of
earth and sky, it is now confined to crowded, inaccessible texts that are as unintelligible in English translations as they
are in the Aramic and Hebraic original. As with any other aboriginal people, the shamanic elements of the Jewish people grew
with them from their infancy some 4,000 years ago as a people of the land, whose very karma and spiritual practice was from
the onset interconnected with the earth and the flora and fauna with whom they shared the earth.
Not unlike other aboriginal peoples, the Jews enjoyed their independent commonwealth for millennia before they were conquered,
colonized, and whipped into conformity to the religious standartds and values of oppressive host cultures that considered
themselves superior and sole heirs to absolute truth.
The American Indians have suffered this way for close to five hundred years, and the Jewish people have suffered this
way for close to seventeen hundred years. Both have suffered their spiritual and physical oppression primarily under the influence
of Christian doctrine and agenda that held both groups as sub-human species: the Jews as devils, and the aboriginal peoples
as "savages" and in dire need of compulsive salvation from problems they did not have.
The disappearance of the aboriginal Jewish mindset and wisdom is easily traced to the deadly campaigns waged against sorcery
and witchcraft that cost the lives of millions since the period of the Crusades. "In line with much popular Church teaching
about the Jews through the centuries," writes Dr. David Cohn-Sherbok, "the Jewish population was perceived as possessing
the attributes of both the Devil and witches... Dabbling in the occult, they were associated with devils and demons... Given
such diabolical attributes, it is not surprising that the Jewish people were relegated to a sub-species of humanity, and as
a result were butchered without remorse or guilt..." (The Crucified Jew, by Dr. David Cohn-Sherbok).
In order to survive, the Jewish people had to compromise much of their shamanic tradition and practice, and stow it either
in the disguise of innocent hymns or in cryptic oral transmissions confined to a select few. According to Dr. Ann Llewellyn
Barstow - Professor of History (emeritus) at State University of New York at Old Westbury - while women were especially singled
out for persecution by the Church, Jews had long before set the tone, eliciting the wrath of the Church on account of their
mystical dabbling, and their practices of sorcery, herbology, alchemy, and other downhome earthy preoccupations.
WOMEN AS A GENDER GROUP SUFFERED A SPECIAL LIABILITY IN THAT THEY HAD BEGUN TO BE IDENTIFIED WITH JEWS (capitals added
by Rabbi Caudill for emphasis). Both groups suffered from being associated with magical practices: making potions and poisons,
wearing amulets, possessing the evil eye, sticking pins in dolls, having abnormal knowledge about dreams, fortune-telling,
or the magical properties of gems. Rumors circulated about their bodies... that both could turn themselves into animals...
(Witchcraze, by Dr. Ann Llewellyn Barstow).
By the time the Church, under the guise of witch hunts, had declared its all-out war against women-of-power, they were
seen as yet another sub-human species of the Antichrist along with the Jews. "For the most part," writes Dr. Barstow,
"witches and Jews were persecuted interchangeably. Both witches and Jews were perceived as traitors to Christian society
who must be eradicated" (Witchcraze, by Dr. Anne Llewellyn Barstow).
The fact is that acts of sorcery fill much of the narrative in the Hebrew Scriptures: "Jewish magic was rooted in
Jewish tradition and Jewish sorcerers were humble, pious individuals, who were well versed in the tenets of the Jewish faith
and their proper observance. Within the ranks of these wonderworkers were scholarly men and women who were thoroughly trained
in Hebrew and Aramaic and an understanding of the oral and written traditions of the Kabbalah. Such knowledge enabled them
to invoke the Sacred Names so as to effect metaphysical phenomena whether magically healing wounds or concocting love potions
(The Crucified Jew, Dr. David Cohn-Sherbok).
So where in the Jewish tradition is this mystery wisdom? Unfortunately, very little of it got passed down through the
ages from teacher to disciple for fear of repercussions from host cultures bent on eradicating this kind of wisdom and its
practice from off the face of the earth. Even some of the rabbis themselves became unwilling parties to the burial of this
raw, sensuous, pantheistic body of knowledge and practice, in their noble but futile attempt to placate Church monitors and
In 1233, Pope Gregory IX ordered the Dominican Order to fan out in the city streets of Provence and Languedoc to root
out any remaining forms of heresy of any kind, whether Jewish, Christian, or otherwise. The Dominicans established an office
of special investigations - an Inquisition - which brought in a significant number of suspects who were arbitrarily declared
heretics, whether the facts justified the allegations or not. It was during this period that a number of Jewish leaders, hoping
to spare their communities from persecution, put a grinding halt to the perpetuation of those forms of Jewish mystery wisdom
they felt would attract adverse attention from the Church authorities. One of those leaders, Rabbi Me'ir Ben Shim'on of Narbonne,
still traumatized from the recent terror of the Crusades, went a bit overboard in trying to convince the Church that Judaism
was a respectable religion that posed no threat to Christian beliefs and consisted of nothing that would be deemed heretical
in the eyes of the Holy See. Ironically, in his polimical tract, MILCHEMET MITZVAH, "War of the Commandments," written
around 1235, he unwittingly offered ample evidence - to the contrary - of just how widespread Jewish shamanism and sorcery
actually was (Heavenly Powers, by Neil Asher Silberman). His attempt, and those of other Jewish leaders, were well-meaning
and noble but were to no avail. In the summer of 1239, the Pope ordered the confiscation and burning of all Jewish sacred
texts, from the revered Talmud to the esoteric writ of the Kabbalah. A total of twenty-four wagonloads of HAND-WRITTEN books
(no printing press, yet) perished in the fires of France alone, bringing to a tragic end millennia of treasured Talmudic and
Few fragments of Jewish magic and shamanistic traditions survived the taboo and book burnings in the middle-ages. In 1553,
for example, Pope Julius the Third ordered the burning of the Talmud, the Jewish people's precious legacy of seven centuries
of oral traditions covering the periods between 200 B.C.E. to 500 C.E., and the cessation of its printing. On the first day
of Rosh Hashanah, the Hebrew new year holy day, the Inquisition staged a massive burning of the Talmud and other Jewish books
in Rome, and subsequently in other cities across Italy. Less than a month later, over a thousand copies of the Talmud and
hundreds of other Jewish books were burned in Venice. In 1559, ten thousand Jewish books were burned in Cremona, Italy, by
order of the Inquisition. The Jewish mystical classic, SEFER HAZOHAR (Book of Splendor), only escaped the burnings by being
printed at a non-Jewish print shop. Certainly, the greater tragedy was the torching of thousands of Jewish people by the Church
during this period as well as before and after, but the Jewish people lost as well an enormous chunk of not only their ancient
wisdom texts but, along with those, their ancient shamanic mindset. "Pograms and expulsions," writes Professor Moshe
Idel of Hebrew University, "are not conducive to the preservation of unique manuscripts" (Kabbalah: New Perspectives,
by Professor Moshe Idel).
The Spiritual Connection Between Jewish and Aboriginal American Shamanic Traditions and Practices (this title not in original
Pumbedissa article, added by Rabbi Caudill to create interest)
Other fragments of ancient Jewish mystery wisdom remain at this writing fossilized under glass throughout Europe, including
in the archives of the Vatican and the libraries of Munich, Paris, Rome, Oxford, and Moscow. Some of these manuscripts have
finally been photographed by Jewish scholars and restored secondhand to the Jewish peoplehood, albeit very little of it is
accessible beyond the Jewish academic libraries in New York and Israel that now house them in the form of duplicated versions
and microfilm. Such institutions include the Institute of Hebrew Microfilms at the National and University Library in Jerusalem,
and the Jewish Theological Seminary Library in New York City.
What these texts most importantly demonstrate is that in its aboriginal form religious dogma and practice are given a back
seat to the more immediate emphasis on divine experience through the magic of living, of breathing, and of conscious relating
with all the elements of existence in both their spiritual and physical manifestations.
Religion as a focus is a whole new experience for Judaism whose primordal shapers would have found the concept totally
alienating and antithetical to the very soul of their message.
"By the eighteenth century," writes Professor William Nicholls, "religion, in the new narrow sense borrowed
from Christianity, became central to [the Jewish people's] understanding of what it meant to be Jewish, in ways in fact not
traditional for them at all" (Christian Antisemitism, A History of Hate, by William Nicholls).
In fact, according to Professor Moshe Idel of Hebrew University, the TZADIK, or spiritual leader and teacher of the Jewish
community - who was also a healer and magician - functioned "in a way that is reminiscent of the shaman" (Hasidism:
Between Ecstasy and Magic, by Moshe Idel).
It is no surprise, then, that during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, missionaries and explorers of the so-called
New World wrote profically about the similarities between the Jews and the peoples indigenous to the Americas and other newly
"discovered" regions like New Guinea. Report after report demonstrated common practices, socially, shamanically,
ritually and otherwise between the "savages" and the Jews. These findings in turn led to the theory that the Native
Americans were descendants of the "lost tribes of Israel," a notion that achieved wide polularity during this period,
even amongst the Jews themselves, and continues to linger today as well in both Jewish and non-Jewish circles. In 1650, for
example, Thomas Thorowgood argued that the Indians must be descendants of ancient Jews because "the rites, fashions,
ceremonies, and opinions of the Americans [Indians] are in many ways agreeable to the custom of the Jews, not only profane
and common usages, but such as be called solemn and sacred" (Jews in America, or Probabilities That the Americans Are
of That Race, by Thomas Thorowgood). The seventeenth-century John Eliot shared similar sentiments in his "Brief Narrative
of the Progress of the Gospel Amongst the Indians in New England in the Year 1670" (London), as did other chroniclers,
many of whom are quoted in Maurice Wasserman's "The American Indian As Seen by the Seventeenth Century Chroniclers"
(Ph.D diss., University of PA, 1954) and in Lee Eldridge Huddleston's "Origins of the American Indians: European Concepts
1492-1729" (University of Texas Press, 1967).
As helpful as these discoveries were to the age-old tirades against Judaism by the Church, that Judaism was indeed a pagan
religion in need of salvation just like the other aboriginal religions, nonetheless the theory soon backfired because the
comparison of Judaism to the savage religions inevitably involved Christianity itself since the latter based the validity
of its own scriptures on those of the Jews. "The impulse to radically differentiate Judaism and savage religions was
part of an ongoing attempt to protect the privilaged status of Judaism, and by extention, Christianity" (Howard Eilberg-Schwartz:
The Savage in Judaism: An Anthropology of Israelite Religion and Ancient Judaism, 1990).
As quickly as the theory of comparison had sprung up, it died, and was replaced by a theory of "evolution,"
whereby Judaism's similarities to the savage religions was by virtue of its EVOLUTION from those ways, an evolutionary process
that had ultimately climaxed with the "superior" ways of Christianity. And with that pronouncement in the eighteenth
century, what had almost been the beginnings of an anthropological study of Judaism as an aboriginal and shamanic tradition
was quickly silenced and sent underground. "The lack of interest among twentieth-century anthropologists in Judaism is
itself a 'survival' of an older attitute of the nineteenth-century which viewed [Judaism] as fundamentally different from
those of savages" (The Savage in Judaism, p. 20).
At present, in the year 2003, no one is being persecuted for the practice or restoration of shamanism or other aboriginal
wisdom, paganism or witchcraft, all of which are therefore now re-emerging from their centuries-old forced exile. Native Americans
are slowly restoring sacred dances and ceremonies that once cost them their lives at the hands of a predominantly European
Christian culture that had invaded their lands and forbidden their ways. Wiccans, too, are coming out of the closet, free
at last to convene covens and perform their rites without fear of being burnt at the stake. Likewise, Jews are gradually recovering
their ancient and early medieval treasures of text and tradition replete with elements of shamanism they share with other
ancient earth-based religions. Practitioners of this path in Judaism are at present few in number but are slowly growing as
its rituals and wisdom re-emerge in reprintings of archived manuscripts and the promulgation of long-silenced oral traditions,
both in Israel and in the United States. The term "shamanism" may not be well popularized as of yet in reference
to Jewish traditions, but is slowly being applied as the distinctions between aboriginal mysticism and Jewish mysticism become
increasingly transparent. As Professor Howard Eilberg-Schwartz of Stanford University writes: "As the opposition between
Judaism and savage religions is obliterated, one can expect to find the savage reinscribed within Judaism. By this I mean
that some traits originally assumed to be characteristic of primitive peoples alone will turn out on reflection to be characteristics
of Judaism itself."
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