They realized that overuse of the land one year would result in fewer yields the following year. This suggested to these people supernatural powers, leading to the development of concepts of gods or goddesses, the idea that luck could be obtained by learning how best to appease the deities that ruled over these forces.These ideas are reflected in shamanism as the people found it more advantageous to have an authority on the various ways in which the spirits could be appeased. By appointing a single individual as the spiritual advisor, the other members of the group were free to focus their attention on other important concepts, like how to increase the amount of food available for the group or how to improve hunting techniques or develop more effective weapons. The connection with the land was a deeply personal connection, so spiritual concepts had to be deeply personal and close as well. This connective spirit was not limited to the humans, but extended to the plants and animals as well and even further, into the very rocks of the earth and the breath of the sky. Other aspects of shamanism that are reflected in this early culture are the ideas of rituals and the concept that each individual has some responsibility to communicate on a personal level with the spirit world.Western writers had a very poor understanding of shamanism from their earliest encounters with it. During the medieval period, reports such as the Historia Norwegian, Eirik’s Saga, and the writings of Giovanni da Pian del Carpine and Marco Polo depicted the spiritual beliefs of ‘others’ as strangely primitive and relate them to the beliefs of the peasants within more sophisticated societies. Among the practices, they find interesting, odd, or unusual are the use of singing and dancing as a means of inducing trances or attracting animal spiritsand the belief in out-of-body experiences and animal transformations as a means of divination. With the rise of the Christian powers, though, in the 1300s, such practices were viewed as threatening and peasants still practicing ‘savage’ religions were often tortured and killed unless they agreed to convert.
The Importance of Divination in History