Synthesis of the “Shamanic Practices ...” side event OSCE – HDIM 2014

Synthesis - Shamanic Practices and related health and spiritual issues

In an increasingly globalised society religions will influence each other. New relations and situations will appear organically.

Practitioners of certain spiritual traditions risk their human rights and even their freedom due to ambiguous, unspecific legislation regarding the regulation of illegal food and substances.

In the case of shamanic practitioners using herbs, they may risk to find themselves convicted and imprisoned due to the ambiguous the legal status of herbs and other ingredients of shamanic ritual practices.*

Dr Nadelman founder and director of Drug Policy Alliance in USA compare western view on shamanism and other foreign and differently structured religions "as a form of racism".

There exists an issue of interpretative prerogative, whereby European culture favours what it recognizes in itself. What is specifically typical of European religion is also the strict division between body and soul, science and religion.

Today this strict separation between science and religion is still behind some of contemporary society’s biggest challenges with inner ecology crisis.

Shamanism has the connection between body and soul as starting point, and could not make difference between science ad religion. Shamanism addresses the issues of body and soul holistically. Inner nature is healed and balanced in relation to out nature at a very direct level. Shamanism does not place man above plants and nature, but as organically integrated part of nature. There are cases where Shamans are learning from plants and using them for medicine both for body and soul. *

First we spoke about Shamanism and Globalization - growing European issue, a need to embrace. Our guest, Marina Jakobsen, representative Santo Daime, Denmark and Dr Andrew Dawson, Senior Lecturer at Lancaster University commented on this issue.

Marina Jakobsen spoke about Santo Daime, mentioned as neo-shamanism, a syncretic spiritual movement that also uses the sacrament from "the rain forest - the Amazon", and is one of the world fastest going spiritual movements. Here the spirituality is aimed at healing, to come home to our hearts, to the source, to be enlightened and on the way all illness will subside, in body, mind and soul.

According to Dr Andrew Dawson, Senior Lecturer at Lancaster University, there is a danger of being “home blind”.  Europe habitually consider religion something with “churches” and “priests”, that it tend to recognize in among others Islam or Buddhism. While religious expressions and methods of more foreign forms that cannot be put in the same boxes, is still rather considered as tribal sectarian culture, not really a proper religion.

We continued with the Legal perspective – blind judicial practice risk to violate human rights presented by Charlotte Walsh - law lecturer within the Law School at Leicester.

She raised human rights issues: shamanic plants are not generally scheduled, either internationally or nationally, and to treat them as coterminous with their psychoactive constituents is an abuse of process, breaching the right to legal certainty encoded within the ECHR.

We continued with two cases of processes against shamanic practice in Scandinavia, hearing the stories of the indigenous sami shaman from Sapme, Sweden, Jungle Svonni and Danish shaman in apprenticeship from the Amazonian Sipibo-tribe, Jan Hansen.

Jungle Svonni told us his story:  „...Two years ago I moved back (to Sweden), to share the shaman knowledge with my people. Swedish authorities arrested and jailed me for 18 days. They confiscated my sacred plant medicine, the San Pedro cactus, and I was accused of smuggling narcotics - mescaline. The San Pedro plant is completely legal and can be bought in any Swedish flower shop. ... Media portrayed me as a criminal, fuelled by ignorant and false statements from the prosecutor. Surprisingly it took the judge one and a half year to find that the legal San Pedro has nothing to do with mescaline or the drug market. I became the first Sami shaman ever to win against the Swedish authorities, without denying being a shaman. ...”

Jan Hansen continued the side event by sharing with us the fact that the sentence given by court in his case is the first one where a Danish shaman is criminalized for his religious practice. Shamanic practice is growing all over Europe. Jan considered that it is important for every one to know how the law can be misinterpret it and that is why he came to tell his story. He ended saying that „The laws used against me were meant to fight dangerous drugs, not shamanic practice.”

We concluded with questions and answers and last comments from speakers.

*Not all Shamanic practitioners utilize plants and herbs (correction made to original article, October 2017)