Microbes and Other Shamanic Beings

  • César E. Giraldo Herrera

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xx
  2. César E. Giraldo Herrera
    Pages 1-16
  3. Part I

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 17-17
    2. César E. Giraldo Herrera
      Pages 19-33
    3. César E. Giraldo Herrera
      Pages 65-97
  4. Part II

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 99-101
    2. César E. Giraldo Herrera
      Pages 103-110
    3. César E. Giraldo Herrera
      Pages 119-133
    4. César E. Giraldo Herrera
      Pages 135-144
  5. Part III

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 145-149
    2. César E. Giraldo Herrera
      Pages 151-166
    3. César E. Giraldo Herrera
      Pages 179-203
    4. César E. Giraldo Herrera
      Pages 205-226
  6. Back Matter
    Pages 227-274

About this book


Shamanism is commonly understood through reference to spirits and souls. However, these terms were introduced by Christian missionaries as part of the colonial effort of conversion. So, rather than trying to comprehend shamanism through medieval European concepts, this book examines it through ideas that started developing in the West after encountering Amerindian shamans. Microbes and other Shamanic Beings develops three major arguments: First, since their earliest accounts Amerindian shamanic notions have had more in common with current microbial ecology than with Christian religious beliefs. Second, the human senses allow the unaided perception of the microbial world; for example, entoptic vision allows one to see microscopic objects flowing through the retina and shamans employ techniques that enhance precisely these kinds of perception. Lastly, the theory that some diseases are produced by living agents acquired through contagion was proposed right after Contact in relation to syphilis, an important subject of pre-Contact Amerindian medicine and mythology, which was treasured and translated by European physicians. Despite these early translations, the West took four centuries to rediscover germs and bring microbiology into mainstream science. Giraldo Herrera reclaims this knowledge and lays the fundaments for an ethnomicrobiology. It will appeal to anyone curious about shamanism and willing to take it seriously and to those enquiring about the microbiome, our relations with microbes and the long history behind them.


Medical Anthropology Cultural Anthropology Science and Technology Studies Shamanism Postcolonialism Amerindian shamans pre-Contact Amerindian medicine ethnomicrobiology microbiome Shamanic microscopy entoptic vision Entoptic microscopy Biosocial Ethnohistory of Syphilis Theory of Contagion Ontological Theory of Disease

Authors and affiliations

  • César E. Giraldo Herrera
    • 1
  1. 1.Somerville CollegeInstitute for Science Innovation and Society School of Anthropology and Museum EthnographyOxfordUnited Kingdom

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2018
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages Social Sciences
  • Print ISBN 978-3-319-71317-5
  • Online ISBN 978-3-319-71318-2
  • Buy this book on publisher's site