Entering the Crack Between the Worlds: Symbolism in Western Shamanism


  • Susannah Crockford London School of Economics and Political Science




Shamanism, Michael Harner, Carlos Castaneda, symbolism


This paper will explore shared symbols in Western shamanism, their meanings and signification. Shamanism is a contested and multivalent term, so first there will be a theoretical delimitation of what is meant by Western shamanism. The definition presented is a religious practice found in contemporary Western society. Symbolism will then be analysed through three main categories. The first category of symbols will be the use of darkness/light metaphors, and their meaning and importance in Western shamanism. Then the symbol of soul loss and retrieval will be analysed, and the image of the journeys and what this is supposed to achieve. Finally, the practice of symbolic appropriation will be tackled by analysing the use (and abuse) of symbols from other cultures. What this will demonstrate on the one hand is the Western origin of the shared symbols used in Western shamanism and on the other hand how this origin is concealed with non-Western symbols, used as a strategy of legitimation.

Author Biography

Susannah Crockford, London School of Economics and Political Science

Susannah Crockford is a doctoral student at the London School of Economics.


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How to Cite

Crockford, S. (2013). Entering the Crack Between the Worlds: Symbolism in Western Shamanism. Pomegranate, 13(2), 184–204. https://doi.org/10.1558/pome.v13i2.184




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