The Strong Eye of Shamanism: A Journey into the Caves of Consiousness is a well-researched and lucidly written interpretive analysis of certain archetypal shamanic journey themes found in the Paleolithic rock art caves of southwestern France and northern Spain. Weaving together archaeological research on European cave art, the archetypal approaches of Jungian psychology and comparative symbology, and ethnographic studies of shamanic initiation ceremonies in various cultures, author Robert E. Ryan carefully develops his thesis that these Paleolithic caves may have functioned as ritual sanctuaries--natural cathedrals that may have been used for shamanic initiations or for some other shamanic purposes.
Through the process of examining a sampling of accounts of shamanic initiatory journeys recorded in shamanic cultures around the world (including the Samoyed of Siberia, the Aborigine of Australia, the Maya of Central America, the Huichol of Mexico, and the Tukano of the Amazon), Ryan does a good job of identifying many of the primary themes inherent in shamanic trance journeys. For example, utilizing Reichel-Dolmatoff's ethnographic research on the Tukano, he ably traces the archetypal structural forms and motifs--such as feather crowns, feathered staffs, and images of drowning and returning to the cosmic womb of creation--that permeate Tukano shamanic practices and cosmological myths. Drawing on the research of Peter Furst and Barbara Myerhoff, he performs a similar analysis on archetypal themes involved in the Huichol pilgrimage to Wirikuta, the holy homeland of peyote.
Ryan endeavors to show that the physical journey into the Paleolithic caves of Europe . . . essentially reenacts the classic shamanic journey into the underworld and that the content and placement of images in the caves reflects the most fundamental and universal patterns of shamanic initiation.
This volume contains much stimulating and thought-provoking material that should be of interest to shamanic practitioners.Timothy White , Shaman's Drum