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Shamanism, Art and Ritualtinyurl.com/aiemythshaman

Arts, Myth &Imagination


What is a shaman?What do you think the role of a shaman is?How does a shaman appear across different cultures?

Aims and Objectives

AimsTo understand the relationship between shamanism and art.ObjectivesTo identify the role of shamanism within societiesTo explore the relationship between shamanistic processes and artTo apply shamanistic practice through art

What is Shamanism?

A shaman is a person who is seen to demonstrate a link with the spirit world and through various altered states attempts to act as a catalyst for transformation, change or healing in the everyday (sounds very much like an artist doesn't it?)The word shamanism comes from the Russian word šamán and derives from Russian observations of the indigenous peoples of Siberia.

What is Shamanism?

Task: Power animal

In shamanism, a power animal is believed to be a spiritual guide or helper. This animal provides protection, guidance, and support during shamanic journeys, which are altered states of consciousness where the shaman travels to gain insight, knowledge, and healing. The power animal is believed to embody certain qualities or characteristics that are important for the shaman to cultivate for healing work or spiritual growth. For example, a bear may represent strength and courage, while an eagle may represent vision and clarity. What would be your Power Animal and why? Extended Task: Make a list of shamanic type experiences you have in society / your life. What is shamanic about them?

What is Shamanism?

Shamanistic dealings with the spirit world, might appear fantastical, however, we might see this as one way of understanding the forces and symbols which impinge on our reality. In this sense, a shamanistic ritual may be akin to western ‘talking cures’, such as psychoanalysis, which include the necessity of a person who is ‘supposed to know’ / facilitate transformational activities.

Shamanism & Jung

Shamanism and Creativity

The transformative and alchemic potential of shamanic rituals make the practice a compelling influence for creatives interested in exploring the limits and norms of human personhood and society.

I Like America and America Likes Me

Joseph Beuys

Beuys spent three days locked in a New York gallery with a coyote (an animal which has a mythological place in the belief systems of many Native American peoples) as an effort to commune with, and heal what he saw as the poisonous spirit of America. His aim was to address “the schism between native intelligence and European mechanistic, materialistic, and positivistic values”.

How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare

Joseph Beuys

Beuys locked the gallery doors from the inside, leaving gallery-goers outside. With his head entirely coated in honey and gold leaf, he began to explain pictures to a dead hare. Whispering to the dead animal on his arm, he moved through the gallery from artwork to artwork. When the public was let into the room. Beuys sat upon a stool in the entrance area with the hare on his arm and his back to the onlookers.

7000 Oaks

Joseph Beuys

Beuys proposed a plan to plant 7000 oaks throughout the city of Kassel, each paired with a basalt stone. The 7000 stones were piled up on the lawn in front of the Museum Fridericianum with the idea that the pile would shrink every time a tree was planted. The project, seen locally as a gesture towards green urban renewal, took five years to complete and has spread to other cities around the world.


Sit opposite someone in the room.Stare at them for a period of time without talking.How does it make you feel?What do you notice? How has your relationship to time, space, the environment and each other transformed during the ritual?

The Artist Is Present

Marina Abramović

The work was inspired by Abramović's belief that stretching the length of a performance beyond expectations serves to alter our perception of time and foster a deeper engagement in the experience. Seated silently at a wooden table across from an empty chair, she waited as people took turns sitting in the chair and locking eyes with her. Over the course of nearly three months, for eight hours a day, she met the gaze of 1,000 strangers, many of whom were moved to tears.

Drawing Restraint 9

Matthew Barney

The two main characters participate as guests in a tea ceremony, where they are formally engaged after arriving on a whaling ship as strangers. The guests go through an emotional and physical transformation slowly transfiguring from land mammals into sea mammals, as they fall in love. Petroleum jelly simultaneously passes through changing states, from warm to cool, and from the architectural back to the primordial.

The Cremaster Cycle

Matthew Barney

The work is filled with anatomical allusions to the position of the reproductive organs during the embryonic process of sexual differentiation: Cremaster 1 represents the most "ascended" or undifferentiated state, Cremaster 5 the most "descended" or differentiated. The cycle repeatedly returns to those moments during early sexual development in which the outcome of the process is still unknown — in Barney's metaphoric universe, these moments represent a condition of pure potentiality.

Two components:

Assignment Expectations

  • Reflective writing (2500 Words) - Assessment Weighting: 60%
Submitted to Turnitin
  • Presentation (20 Minutes) - Assessment Weighting: 40%
Presented live and submitted to Turnitin


Reflective Writing

Write a reflective account of the power of art and myth as potential transformative narratives for education within our contemporary society.

  • What is the potential of art and myth for generating narratives that both transform learning and wider society?
  • How might art and myth be approached to generate transformative effects? What strategies might be used and what might be their impact?
Your critical reflections should be supported with reference to relevant literature.



You will engage with a chosen myth to produce a creative project (writing, poetry, artwork, music or multimedia), in which you situate your own personal theme or story within a universal or archetypal perspective.You will consider the value of cultivating such an approach for arts education in particular, and human wellbeing in general. Reference to relevant literature is an expectation.The presentation will be 20 minutes in length and will include a Powerpoint.


Last week you were asked to choose a personal theme / topic or story that is important to you. Consider the mythic themes and approaches we have looked at so far (Hero's journey / Archetypes / Jung's Active Imagination / Shamanism) and consider how they might relate to your personal theme / topic or story and consider how they might be incorporated within your presentation. Share your thoughts and develop your ideas. Generate Mind Maps.

Directed Task:

Develop an initial plan for your presentation topic.The presentation will be 20 minutes in length and will include a Powerpoint.