by Tim Brennan — The Great Antler Ley

3 — The Shaman

Shamanism was made popular from 1970s onwards (mainly work of Mercea Eliade from 1951). It has become a catch all for what appears to be a commonality between world cultures – that a special individual would be singled out in the social group, tribe, clan etc as the wise one, the sage, the doctor, judge, keeper of ancestral knowledge, artist, poet, magician, priest/priestess, mystic.

The Shamen are similar to priests. However, on the whole they are not ordained by a governing hierarchy. There are exceptions to this and if we understand the traditional idea of the Celtic druid we might find examples that do involve the individual being inducted through stages e.g. the bard, the ovate and the druid in Wales. Having said that they do possess some similarities to some priests or priestesses of some denominations of religion in their ability to mediate with other realms. They are often selected through

This special individual can access other dimensions through ritual trance/meditation techniques – repetitive drumming, breathing, dance, whirling (whirling Dervish), chanting and often amplified with the use of psychedelics, ayahuasca, peyote or in the case of the Sami: Fly Agaric mushrooms.

Once induced the Shaman can enter other parallel worlds, can transmography (shape shift) into animal forms (spirit animals perhaps), a hare, fox, eagle, a snake, a stag, or hybrid form etc
The animal form might map the terrain to aid the group's hunting.
The shaman might travel through time
Might visit ancestors.
Might spy or enact things upon others
Might heal the sick
Might travel to the future

There are illustrations of Siberian Shaman wearing antler frontlets like the ones found at Star Carr and this suggests that the ‘special individuals’ of Mesolithic Flixton may have adopted the antlers in much the same way – as tools for divination.

Ritual objects are often used to conduct power. The wand (think musical conductor)

Perhaps something we might call a sculpture or small totem, a small fetish (think voodoo dolls or sometimes called juju by western academics)

shell design
Antler Frontlet  artist's impression, Melanie Wright, 2021

Once the tool is used and ceases to function it is discarded and a new one is made. In some cultures the new one doesn’t have to look the same as the last one. Western academics don’t really know because these are terms that change from group to group – all we know is that there are general similarities.

So who is to say that the antler headdresses of Star Carr aren’t discarded power tools – used to do something or many things very special that are beyond the realms of our rational world view.

Who is to say that the phenomena of Bempton, Grindale, Barmston, &c aren’t the residue or the persistence of Mesolithic Shamen visiting our time from their time, across time.

The Shamen, a shapeshifter, a trickster.

Useful Links: For more on Shamanism visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shamanism:_Archaic_Techniques_of_Ecstasy