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Home arrow Sociology arrow Cosmopolitanism, Nationalism, and Modern Paganism



Despite some obvious differences between the various strands of shamanism being practiced in Malta, on the whole these shamans are thoroughgoing cosmopolitans, as are the spirits they invoke and encounter. The core practice of shamanism is the soul journey to other realms to meet the spirits. Such journeys transcend this-worldly borders of any kind: natural, cultural, political, national, local or global. As well as their spiritual journeys, shamans in Malta are bodily mobile participants in supranational networks and experience a strong sense of living in one world. Their goals are twofold: an individual’s holistic healing, well-being and deepening spirituality, and planetary healing, harmony and survival. The politics of nationalism have no part in these goals, and indeed may threaten them. A robust, universal environmental ethics and politics, on the other hand, are vital. Shamans in Malta share with many modern shamans around the world a cosmology drawn from those of indigenous peoples, which, as Elizabeth Reichel (2008: 421) explains:

invoke respect for the sacred and spiritual essence of all forms of existence, to keep a balanced coexistence among the parts composing the total whole of the cosmos. People, ecosystems, and the geoscape and cosmoscape, are defined as having identities defined with matter, spirit, and mind ... imply[ing] shared cosmic synergies among all forms of existence, human and non-human, biotic or not, who must negotiate with other matter, energy, spirit and other essences.

Shamans subscribe to the ideal of a moral cosmopolitanism that posits “all human beings ought to be morally committed to an essential humanity above and beyond the reality of one’s particularistic attachments” (Nowicka and Rovisco 2009: 3), but they would extend this moral commitment beyond human beings to all beings. The spirits with whom they share the world have respected native roots in particular societies, cultures, histories and landscapes, but they are not restricted to geonational spaces or cultures of origin. Spirits “travel well” beyond local boundaries, as do the shamans who journey to meet them and with whom they form relationships.

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