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Soc Sci Med. 1985;20(5):511-5.

The shaman and the medicine-man.


The present article discusses the terms medicine-man and shaman as used by scholars and scientists, and tries to arrive at a possible distinction between them. It is obvious that the two terms not only overlap but also cause confusion, even among shamanologists. They have consequently been used interchangeably by many scholars. By recourse to the North American ethnographic material in particular (which once was the source of this confusion) the author reaches the conclusion that the only way of separating the terms from each other is to approach the whole problem structurally as a two-levelled issue. It is then possible to differentiate between the shaman as primarily the mediator between the supernatural powers and man, and the medicine-man as primarily the curer of diseases through traditional techniques. The shaman may also be medically active when his expert knowledge of the supernatural disease agents is called for. This means that some shamans are medicine-men. Conversely, some medicine-men are shamans.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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