>I also get that shamans ultimately do have the ability to spiritually
>combat other spirits, even when they are embodied. For example, a
>shaman can defend if attacked on the spirit plane and can exorcise a
>spirit from someone possessed. I assume that same ability could allow
>a shaman to possess someone (which, I imagine, most animist societies
>define as some sort of evil -- which leaves open some interesting
>enemy shamans who go around possessing people). Maybe you are saying
>that their ability to bargain with spirits depends on their ability
>to fight if needed, and that the decision to bargain is simply a
>practical one (because it is less risky to bargain) or an ethical one
>(because it is wrong to attack the ancestors, etc.)?
Isn't this a form of mastery over life and death. If you can force the spirit of a dead person to possess a living one or conversely exorcise one you control both the living and the dead. Certainly bargaining with friendly spirits is easier and safer than defeating hostile ones but a shaman has to be able to do both. I'm not sure ethics have much to do with it. What's wrong to do to someone of your tribe may be perfectly acceptable to do to an outsider.
Mastery of life and death possibly exaggerates the ability of most shamans. It realistically only describes a heroic one, the more typical shaman can do so when conditions are right and luck is with him. Of course others may believe a shaman to be far more powerful then they really are.
-- Donald Oddy http://www.grove.demon.co.uk/
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