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De Matteis

The Shamans Won't Save Us

New spiritualities offer the archaic as a playground where we can find our own intimacy for individual rebirth. Native thought, however, is by no means tamed and can teach us fundamental rules such as taking charge and caring.

Today's atheists are very much believers: the more the West wanes, the more the materialism of consumption and technology becomes indispensable, and the more people seek refuge in alternative spiritualities with self-produced cocktails of alchemy and tarot cards, metempsychosis, UFOs and out-of-body experiences... Between yoga and meditation, however, a substantial space is carved out  for a swarm of self-styled shamans who invade the underground scene of mysticism and guide a vast clientele in search of themselves. Behind them, very real ghosts are lurking: from the false shaman of Capitol Hill to Davi Kopenawa, a true Yanomami shaman who has become the new star of ecology; from Black Elk, a Lakota in the odour of sanctity, to an unknown Maori wise man, Tamati Ranapiri, who left a lesson ignored by the West. From this starting point and beyond 'new age' shamanism, native thought, mostly ignored when not even mocked, should be taken seriously for the important clues it offers us for our future, starting with the responsibility of taking care of the nature we are part of, after we merely exploited it for centuries.
STEFANO DE MATTEIS anthropologist, teaches at the University of Roma Tre and is a visiting Professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University. He has long dealt with symbolic representations, performative practices and ritual processes. De Matteis edited both the works of Ernesto de Martino and the Italian edition of Victor Turner's works.  He is a regular contributor to Radio Rai 3 and writes for the Sunday edition of "Il Sole 24 ore".
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