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Catholic Priest and Shaman- a Contrast of Communications

servers and paschal candleThe means of association and communication with supernatural beings is hugely variable across the cultures of the world. This differentiation is readily apparent when looking at the shaman and the Catholic priest and their respective relationship with spirit.

A shaman moves through the spirit world. He can transport himself into the spirit realm, talk with spirits, and ask them questions at will. And they talk back. A shaman derives his power from this direct, personal communication with the other worldly. His maneuvering of the supernatural landscape, interacting with animal, mineral, and “land of the dead” spirits, makes him a focal point of a hunting and gathering society. This is usually done on an “as needed” basis; it is not tied to a calendrical schedule. Through his personal experience in the spirit world he can heal, bring rain, and divine the future. He can bring the spirits into this world and remove them from this world through personal interaction.

The Catholic priest is an absolute contrast. He derives his power by a learned competence in the use of ritual. A priest does not have the “face-to-face” relationship with spirits or “God” that a shaman does; he interacts with this spirit world through an institution, a regulated calendrical schedule of rites and ceremonies. These rites are codified and standardized, and passed down from older priests, and later passed down to younger ones. The priest interacts with the spirit world through the intermediation of the institution that is the Church. Priests use supplication as a form of communication with the spirit world. They pray to the spirit world; they do not interact and learn from the spirit world. This is done in service to an established enterprise (the church) for the stability of the society in which the church exists, for the continuation of the church.

The shaman talks to spirits while the priest prays to them. The job of the priest is to maintain the status quo, the shaman is the status quo, and he is a part of the culture. I personally would rather go “down the rat hole” than be subject to the proselytizing of a priest, and put my soul in the hands of a shaman. Just my opinion. What’s yours? Leave a comment!

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