The woman in the shaman's body : reclaiming the feminine in religion and medicine

by Barbara Tedlock

Book, 2005



Call number


Call number



New York : Bantam Books, c2005.

Physical description

xvi, 349 p.; 25 cm

Local notes

A distinguished anthropologist–who is also an initiated shaman–reveals the long-hidden female roots of the world’s oldest form of religion and medicine. Here is a fascinating expedition into this ancient tradition, from its prehistoric beginnings to the work of women shamans across the globe today.

Shamanism was not only humankind’s first spiritual and healing practice, it was originally the domain of women. This is the claim of Barbara Tedlock’s provocative and myth-shattering book. Reinterpreting generations of scholarship, Tedlock–herself an expert in dreamwork, divination, and healing–explains how and why the role of women in shamanism was misinterpreted and suppressed, and offers a dazzling array of evidence, from prehistoric African rock art to modern Mongolian ceremonies, for women’s shamanic powers.

Tedlock combines firsthand accounts of her own training among the Maya of Guatemala with the rich record of women warriors and hunters, spiritual guides, and prophets from many cultures and times. Probing the practices that distinguish female shamanism from the much better known male traditions, she reveals:

• The key role of body wisdom and women’s eroticism in shamanic trance and ecstasy

• The female forms of dream witnessing, vision questing, and use of hallucinogenic drugs

• Shamanic midwifery and the spiritual powers released in childbirth and monthly female cycles

• Shamanic symbolism in weaving and other feminine arts

• Gender shifting and male-female partnership in shamanic practice

Filled with illuminating stories and illustrations, The Woman in the Shaman’s Body restores women to their essential place in the history of spirituality and celebrates their continuing role in the worldwide resurgence of shamanism today.

User reviews

LibraryThing member alsatia
Tedlock, a Ph.D. and initiated shaman, wrote this very interesting book about the well-hidden female shaman tradition. Due to western scholar's mistakes, misinterpretations, and the historical lack of female anthropologists (which sometimes meant that female rituals were inaccessible to western men studying the culture), the female shaman's existence has been widely discounted in the past. Tedlock reexamines many cultures and describes the crucial role of female shamans across the globe. A scholarly, yet easy read on the topic.… (more)
LibraryThing member lauriebrown54
Dr. Tedlock, an anthropologist, granddaughter of an Ojibwe midwife and herbalist, and shaman initiated into the Mayan tradition, has written a book about two things: the role of female shamans, and her own training as a shaman.

Traditionally, anthropologists have assumed that only men were shamans. But discoveries have been made in Stone Age burials that seem to suggest that some shamans were women, as does some cave art. The majority of societies that still practice shamanism have both male and female shamans. Tedlock and her husband (also an anthropologist) have lived with and studied a number of groups that have shared their shamanic rituals with them. While there are differences between all the groups, they all have a few things in common: they all have both male and female shamans; the women are all considered to have special powers that the men do not; they all achieve altered states of consciousness in some of their rituals, whether it be by drumming, dancing, or psychoactive plants. The shamans are healers, but not *just* healers. They are held to be able to see into other worlds, contact the dead or gods, to see the future. I found this very interesting.

But I had problems with the form of the book. In some ways, it felt like I was reading a doctoral thesis. The fact that the author bounced back and forth between the academic research and her personal experiences was a little jolting; about the time I was immersed in what she experienced, she went back into academic voice. I think a good editor could have helped this book a lot.
… (more)
Page: 0.1325 seconds