From the outset, this author understands that the words shaman and shamanism are not relevant to Native American culture and there are those who have started a movement against their use in terms of Native American cultures; however, it is now part of the accepted dialogue of esoteric practices by Aboriginal peoples around the world. Additionally, there are currently a number of modern alternative medical practices that can be part of the healing arts under the umbrella term ‘shamanism’.

Some scholars claim that the word shamanism is used so indiscriminately that it no longer has meaning. And there are those who affirm that a complete definition is impossible. Two Dutch diplomats who had accompanied Peter the Great at the Embassy to China in the late 17th century are credited with using the term shaman for the first time.

In 1875, the Encyclopedia Britannica published an article by AH Sayee, which used the word shaman. Opinion indicates that the word is of Tunga origin. More specifically, the term appears to come from the Siberian Manchu-Tangu dialect, from which we derive our most common usage.

However, even this is not without its challenges. Some ethnolinguists claim that the word derives from Chinese scha-manwhile others claim it is from the Pali shaman, a term used for a Buddhist monk. There seems to be common agreement that the word shaman found its way into the modern language of Sanskrit, sramana.

The word shamanism, which has been around since the 1600s, has now become a heuristic term in Western culture, referring to a man or woman who fills various roles within the culture. Specifically, two aspects of shamanism have gained popularity: physical healing and psychological healing.

Whatever their origin, the words shaman and shamanism are here to stay.