The Rise and Fall of Shaman Queens of the East

The Rise and Fall of Shaman Queens of the East

The word ‘shaman’ conjures up images of Native American medicine men smoking peace pipes, dancing in a trance to drumming around a fire or African sangomas, adorned with leopard skin, throwing dollose bones and shells to divine and drinking beer from calabash.  This is far removed from the concept of sophisticated, regal shaman queens of the East in China, Japan and Korea who used their talent and connection with the ‘Otherworld’ to the benefit of their kingdoms and populace.  Later this feminine healing power was suppressed and persecuted by religious men, who regarded it as a threat to their faith.

Mongol Darkhad Shaman just starting Shamanic ritual at Khovsgol lake (Munkhbayar.B /CC BY-SA 4.0)

Mongol Darkhad Shaman just starting Shamanic ritual at Khovsgol lake (Munkhbayar.B /CC BY-SA 4.0)

Woman Shamans on a Global Platform

Worldwide, women have been at the forefront of this field of spiritual healing. In some cultures, they even became leaders. From the Buryats in Mongolia to the Bwiti religion in Gabon, the first shaman was in fact a woman. Other examples of the surviving shamans include Machi (a traditional healer and religious leader) of the Mapuche in southern Chile and the Babaylan and Catalonan of the Philippines. Images and historical descriptions show women in many different roles such as invokers, healers, herbalists, oracles and diviners. They also performed as ecstatic dancers, shapeshifters and priestesses of the ancestors.


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