Published under: Shamanism
While conducting research for my documentary, I’ve frequently been asked about the difference between priests and shamans.
Many scholars have theorized that all of the major world religions have shamanism at their very foundation. So, whether the founder was Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, the Buddha, et al.…
these religions grew out of attempts to describe, depict, and explain the supernatural experiences of their founders – who were, by any standard, shamans of the highest order.
And, as the anthropologist Weston La Barre asserted:
all our knowledge of the supernatural derives de facto from the statements made by religious visionaries and ecstatics (i.e. prophets and shamans) – the Priests only administrate the ecclesia established on this supernatural basis.
A further review of the anthropological literature indicates that while some overlap may occur as to what constitutes a shaman versus a priest — shamans primarily obtain their powers from direct contact with spirits — and priests earn their credentials through special training associated with their particular religion.
Bottom line, shamans have the direct experience and priests are part of the religious bureaucracy that begins to build over time…although there are always exceptions.