Illustrate thoroughly the essential characteristics of the shaman by referring to events in the mythical narratives about at least two ancient heroes of this type (e.g., Gilgamesh, Herakles, and Cú Chulainn). Shaman as a Hero
Traditionally, the shaman is a character in a religious position who communicates with the afterlife in some way. By altering forms of consciousness, the shaman is able to encounter and interact with the spirit world. In early myths and tales in oral literature the motif of shaman like characteristics is a trend that is evident. However, in these tales the shaman is intertwined with the stereotypical epic Hero. This creates characters that are complicated and intriguing. Tales such as The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Labors of Herakles display a heroic figure that is not only strong in physique but also possesses a divine connection with the afterlife and the gods. With these attributes, these heroes encounter many obstacles that require more than pure brawn to overcome and venture to dark spiritual places alluding to the afterlife/ underworld.
A very common tradition in these oral myths is a conquest of either beasts or some type of wild force that inhibits the shamanistic hero’s culture or people from prospering. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh is faced with many challenges. One challenge particularly threatens his kingdom. Once Gilgamesh and Enkidu have returned from their forest journey, the goddess Ishtar becomes overcome with lust for Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh refuses Ishtar and out of spite, Ishtar asks her father to send down the Bull of Heaven to punish him, bringing seven years of famine with it. With the help of Enkidu, Gilgamesh wrestles and kills the bull. By doing this, Gilgamesh overcomes the beast for the good of his people. Gilgamesh’s morality and greed is questioned but his ability as a leader never falters. “His lust leaves no virgin to her lover, neither the warrior's daughter nor the wife of the noble; yet this is the...
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