Shamanism Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Notes on Sidky’s The Origins of Shamanism, Spirit Beliefs, and Religiosity (2017) and Botta’s Dagli sciamani allo sciamanesimo (2018)


  • Leonardo Ambasciano Managing Editor, Journal of Cognitive Historiography



Anthropology, Cognitive Historiography, shamanism, Botta, Sidky


The present contribution offers a descriptive account of two recent books concerning shamanism, Homayun Sidky’s The Origins of Shamanism, Spirit Beliefs, and Religiosity: A Cognitive Anthropological Perspective (2017) and Sergio Botta’s Dagli sciamani allo sciamanesimo. Discorsi, credenze, pratiche (2018). The commentary starts by supplying a brief historical contextualization of the subfield of shamanic studies in both Anthropology and the History of Religions, highlighting the main trends and widespread approaches. Sidky’s neurocognitive account and Botta’s poststructural historiographical walk-through are then taken into consideration and reviewed. The conclusions under-score the need for an integration between these two perspectives and urge cognitive historians to collaborate with like-minded anthropologists in order to further the study of shamanism and prevent the subfield from becoming de novo monopolized by paranormal and postmodern anthropology.

Author Biography

Leonardo Ambasciano, Managing Editor, Journal of Cognitive Historiography

Leonardo Ambasciano earned his PhD in Historical Studies at the University of Turin, Italy, in 2014 with a cognitive and evolutionary analysis of the ancient Roman cult of Bona Dea. In 2016, he was Visiting Lecturer in Religious Studies at Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic. He is the author of An Unnatural History of Religion: Academia, Post-Truth, and the Quest for Scientific Knowledge (Bloomsbury, 2019). Among his most recent articles are “The Trials and Tribulations of Luke Skywalker: How The Walt Disney Co. and Lucasfilm Have Failed to Confront Joseph Campbell’s Troublesome Legacy”, Implicit Religion 23(3): 251–76, and “An Evolutionary Cognitive Approach to Comparative Fascist Studies: Hypermasculinization, Supernormal Stimuli, and Conspirational Beliefs,” Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture 5(1): 23–39.


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How to Cite

Ambasciano, L. . (2022). Shamanism Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow: Notes on Sidky’s The Origins of Shamanism, Spirit Beliefs, and Religiosity (2017) and Botta’s Dagli sciamani allo sciamanesimo (2018). Journal of Cognitive Historiography, 6(1-2), 194–216.



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