It’s interesting to see the growth of spiritual beliefs and practises when a country or region emerges from under the yoke of oppression. Shamanism is one such spiritual belief. In the west, the dominance of the Catholic Church led to a severe decline in adherents of pagan religions. Folk practices, medicine men, druids and witches were at the very least frowned upon and at worst burnt at the stake.
This continued over centuries, gradually becoming less severe as the Catholic Church – for various reasons – lost its hold over the people. Today in the west, you can be a witch, druid, shaman and practise any religious belief without fearing for your life.
Russia is currently undergoing something of a spiritual revival after the fall of the USSR. Communism fosters a belief in the state rather than god and so many traditions and beliefs were stamped out. Beliefs deemed harmful to the state were suppressed.
Shamanism in SIberia, once the dominant belief of the region, was reduced to minority status in part because of conflict with other religions (Tibetan Buddhism) and partly because of the old Soviet Union. Today, it is (slowly) emerging from the shadows with Tengerism (Siberian Shamanism) extending its reach beyond SIberia and into Russia proper.*
In many cases of pagan resurgence, the traditional beliefs find acceptance alongside the beliefs of established religions rather than trying to replace them. In this way, they become normalised and as people begin to feel connected to the earth again, they make the full shift into the old ways, leaving the established religions in search of greater spiritual fulfillment. It is almost as if the spread of Christianity across Europe is being played in reverse.
Korea is another country that is paying attention to its traditional beliefs. The National Folk Museum of Korea is displaying the works of folklorist Kim Tae-gon (1936-1996) who went to great lengths to collect and protect nearly 30,000 pieces related to shamanism. Included in the archive is a video of the last shamanic ritual believed to have taken place in Seoul!** Musok (Korean Shamanism) can be traced back about 3,500 years.
Even in Africa, there are active attempts to protect witches, medicine men and Shamans from extremists and preserve their long list of traditions and rituals.
The middle east is one area where information on pagan traditions is absolutely scarce, Apart from the well documented ancient Egyptian paganism and Zorastrianism, very little is known of the pagan beliefs of middle eastern people. Invaded and oppressed for centuries by various religions and cultures (Islam, Christianity, Greeks etc) it is likely that its folklore has long been either stamped out or merged into one of the mainstream religions.
But all hope is not lost. Despite the constant oppression and even the current brutalities of the Islamic State terrorists, pagan beliefs and traditions are something that seem to pass from generation to generation. People the world over are capable of continuing these traditions, behind close doors and away from deadly eyes.
It is almost as if people have a subsconscious will to perpetuate the pagan ways, to keep alive the rituals, offerings and ways that are unique to each culture but at the same time, so common across the world. If hundreds of years of oppression cannot prevent the re-emergence of shamanism, druidism or witchcraft, doesn’t it say alot about our ingrained sense of connection to the earth and the old ways?