Sunday, June 14, 2009

Religion in America - Ice Age Shamanism

My new blog, American Seeker, will follow the progress of my book, American Seeker: Exploring the Spiritual Landscape of America. It will include excerpts from my book-in-progress, plus other material and images that I find in my research that will not be in the book.

Woolly mammoth replica the Royal British Columbia Museum
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
~ photo: Jonathan Blair/Corbis

The First American Religion: Shamanic Hunting Magic

What remain of America’s ice age hunters are their bones, their spear points and the blood red ocher used to mark their burials and sacred sites. Human beings did not evolve on the American continents. No one knows precisely when or from where the first migrants arrived but evidence shows that successive waves of hunters and gatherers came into North America from Eurasia during the last ice age, possibly 40,000 to 10,000 years ago.

With huge masses of the earth’s water bound up in glaciers, stone-age hunting groups followed their prey; mammoth, bison and deer, across a land bridge called Beringia where the Bering Strait now separates Siberia from Alaska. Many seem to have traveled through a corridor between two ice sheets as they migrated into North America along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.

What they found here was a hunter’s paradise of verdant grasslands, lush forests and plenty of big game. And I do mean big, their prey included woolly mammoths as tall as a house, giant moose, bison a third larger than today’s breed and beavers the size of a modern bear. But their world also included grave risk. These hunters were competing for their meat with packs of wolves and saber-toothed tigers. It was the shamans both male and female who warned the people of danger, defined their place in the universe and guided them with visions.

Clovis Points ~ Tool of Ice Age Hunters in North America