Rebecca Lesses

Associate Professor, Philosophy and Religion
School: School of Humanities and Sciences

Sarah Mansfield, A Common Understanding of the Spirit World in Native American Shamanism and Jewish Folk Religion

This is a list of the images in Sarah Mansfield’s Youtube video, with the sources.

  1. Belief that there is a spirit or divine world that is separate from the human world. – 2,3,8
  2. A comparison of beliefs of what each religion thought of who or what these spirits were. Both religions believed that some of these spirits were their ancestors. Shaman societies understood that the spirit world was comprised of spirits from all living things. Jewish folk religion also believed in demons which were the unfashioned souls of beings that God did not give bodies to. - 6, 8
  3. Results of spirit possession and what these spirits are capable of doing to humans. - 3, 8
  4. Both religions believed that illnesses and misfortunes are the result of demon and spirit possession.  - 2,3,6,8,4
  5. Spirit possession can alter one’s personality and behavior. Both practices believed that the personality of a spirit possessing an individual will be projected through their host. 2,6,8
  6. Spirits work to enforce the moral codes of society. Maintaining balance and harmony was a major component of Shamanistic belief and members of these societies believed that spirits worked under the command of the Creator to preserve harmony and balance. Demons were believed to work under the powers of God as a way to keep his followers in check. - 2,3
  7. The belief of beneficial spirits. Both societies seek knowledge from spirits and look to them in order to attain cures for diseases. - 6,8
  8. How members of each spiritual practice communicate with these spirits. Both societies speak to spirits through séances or exorcism, material culture and prayer or adjurations. - 5, 8, 1
  9. Confrontations with spirits in dreams, exorcisms and shamanistic séances. - 5, 6, 8, 1
  10. The material culture involved in both practices. Metal amulets, mezuzahs, and incantation bowls were used to ward of spirits, and Shaman priests wore a crystal quartz to communicate with spirits. -1,5
  11. Extraction of the spirits in both practices. Possessed beings participate in Shamanistic séances in Shaman societies and exorcisms in Judaism in order to pull the spirit out of one’s body. - 3, 1, 2,5
  12. The idea that spiritual healing leads to medical and physical healing is present in both cultures. - 2, 3, 8
  13. How the spirit world is anthropomorphized in both cultures - conclusions pulled from all texts I used esp. 2 and 3
  14. How faith in the spirit world manipulates how these societies may function. - 3,8

Works Cited

(1) Aramaic Incantation Bowls and Metal Amulets from Israel.

(2) Harvey, Graham. Shamanism: a reader. London; New York : Routledge, 2003.

(3) J. H. Chajes, Between Worlds: Dybbuks, Exorcists, and Early Modern Judaism (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003).

(4) The Legend of Lilith.

(5) Lehmann, Arthur C. and James E. Meyers. Magic, witchcraft, and religion: an anthropological study of the supernatural. 4th edition. Mountain View, Calif.: Mayfield Pub., 1997.

(6) Lesses, Rebecca. “Exorcising Power: Women as Sorceresses. Exorcists, and Demonesses in Babylonian Jewish Society of Late Antiquity,” JAAR 69 (2001).

(7) Price, Neil S. The Archaeology of Shamanism. London; New York: Routledge, 2001.

(8) Winkelman, Michael and Philip M. Peek. Divination and Healing: potent vision. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2004.