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Schamanismus Bei Den Germanen – Thomas Höffgen (2017)

I thought I heard of this book, but its publication is so recent (March 2017) that I doubt that it was this book. Its publisher also (re)published the Heidnische Jahrbücher (which are sold out), but there have been none since 2012, so that is not where I can have heard about the current title.

So, ‘Shamanism with the Teutons’. There is something that you hear about every now and then. According to the author, the subject has never been really well investigated and he aims at filling that gap. I am afraid I have to say that, in my opinion, he does so unconvincingly.

In the first pages of the book, the author says that the term “Shaman” is explained so generally, that much can fall under it. That is exactly my feeling about this book. Sure, Odin rides a horse, but is he therefor a shaman (and Sleipnir a drum)? Certainly, Berzerkr wear bear-skins, but does that make them shamans? I do not argue that when you list them all, quite a couple of elements of the Norse religion can be linked to shamanism, but I fail to see the use to do that as indiscriminately as the author does.

Völvas, people performing Utiseti (‘sitting outside’) or healing (wo)man undoubtedly have shaman elements or could be seen as shamans when you use that as a general term, but is an Ulfheðnar a shaman because he wears a wolf-skin and perhaps ate mushrooms before going to fight? Are their battles, ‘battles of the spirit’ then? And why make shamans of all the Gods, when a shaman is actually (at least in my opinion) a human being reaching for the world above? Why would a God need to be a shaman?

Höffgen mentions many of the known examples of drawings and references that we find in other books, only that he uses them to prove shamanism while author authors use them for other argumentations. This collecting of information does give the book some merit though. The author is a bit limited in sources. The name “De Vries” is mentioned once, but Jan de Vries is not in the bibliography. I also miss other authors in the field, even other authors that wrote in the German language.

An author that Höffgen does mention is Otto Höffler and his Kultische Geheimbünde der Germanen (‘Cultic secret societies of the Germans’) and this is the only occasion on which he presents another way of looking at the same information. Höffler wrote about esoteric initiation bonds rather than shamans. The two use (as I said) the same examples.

Shamanismus Bei Den Germanen is a little book (140 pages) that makes an alright read and there is not too much contemporary literature of this kind, but I simply cannot follow the author seeing shamanism in every animal cloth or possible reference to hallucinates.

2017 Edition Roter Drache, isbn 3946425208

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