Acting as intermediaries between humans and the forces of nature, shamans have existed since prehistoric times. It is now believed that drawings of animals found on the walls of caves in Lascaux, France, were used to perform magical rituals designed to capture the spirits of the animals being hunted. The word shaman is probably derived from the terms 'Samarambi' -to get excited, and 'Sam-dambi' - to dance. Shamans induce states of extreme excitation by dancing to the beat of one or a number of drums. They then enter a trance, during which they seem to be endowed with extraordinary powers. In her study of shamanism, the anthropologist Mircea Eliade presents an exhaustive list of these powers, which include phenomenon like telepathy, premonition, the ability to walk on fire, clairvoyance, etc.

Whether induced by shamans during the course of a voodoo ceremony, or as part of any other cult ritual, it does seem that the trance state has a definite therapeutic effect on the mind, liberating deeply imbedded archaic behaviors that are generated by the rhinencephalon or olfactory brain, the part of the brain associated with emotion. Problems arising from conflicts between the rhinencephalon and the neo-cortex (the part of the brain associated with language and logic) are often resolved in this way. Once the rhi-nencephalon has had an opportunity to express itself, symptoms of conflict like anxiety, phobias, etc., tend to disappear.

A Brazilian doctor, inspired by a cult similar to voodoo, developed the well known psychotherapeutic method called primal scream therapy, based in this same principle.

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