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Mircea Eliade - On animals and birds



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Mircea Eliade – Shamanism Archaic techniques of ecstasy

The ecstatic journey of Odin in animal forms may be properly compared to the transformation of shamans into animals; for just as the shamans fought one another in the shape of bulls or eagles, Nordic traditions present several combats between magicians in the shape of walruses or other animals; and during the combat their bodies remained inanimate, just as Odin’s did during his ecstasy.  Of course, such beliefs are also found outside of shamanism proper, but the comparison with the practices of the Siberian shamans is inescapable.  And all the more so since other Scandinavian beliefs tell of helping spirits in the shape of animals visible only to the shamans which is even more clearly reminiscent of shamanic ideas.

Indeed, we may ask if Odin’s two crows, Huginn (Thought) and Muninn (Memory) do not represent, in highly mythicised form, two helping spirits in the shape of birds, which the Great Magician sent – in true shamanic fashion – to the four corners of the world

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Concepts, symbols and science items


Spirit helper

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Activities and commonsteps