ANATOMY OF A SHAMAN
Shamanic petroglyphs combine aspects of the ritual dream to demonstrate
the ability to enter the spirit world, merge and become one with the spirits
and objects that bring power, and return with those powers at the shaman's
Images of shamans underscore the central idea that the shaman, his power
objects, the spirit helpers, and the ritual itself merge to become inseparable.
Shamans wore headdresses made of bighorn sheep skin with horns and ears
intact, or made with the topknot feather from a quail (pictured here).
Petroglyphs also show shamans wearing "arrow" headdresses, though these
may have been symbolic of death, rather than drawings of actual headdresses.
The hallucinatory experience is often described as a feeling of being
caught up in a whirlwind. This whirling effect is equated with flying,
a metaphor for leaving the everyday world for the spirit world. The result
is shaman imagery featuring a "whirlwind" head of swirling circles.
Shamans are often shown with a hunting device: a bow and arrow, or an
and dart, in this case. The shamanic trance was seen as a ritual death,
a dying to the everyday world. Likewise, the hunting and killing of a
bighorn was a metaphor for the "merging" of the shaman with the sheep
spirit, and his "borrowing" of the sheep spirit's power to bring rain.
A medicine bag body is symbolic of the merging of the shaman and his
ritual objects. Through the shaman's trance, he becomes or contains the
power transferred to him by his spirit helper through the ritual objects.
Bird feet are another symbol for the flying feeling that occurs during
the trance, marking the ability to leave the everyday world and enter
into the spirit world.
Other common symbols for transformation include hands and feet with extra