Sunday, April 11, 2021

False Correlations Based on Homophonic Resemblances


Tungus shaman with mask and drum.

Alice C.Linsley

The term shaman (šaman) comes from the Manchu-Tungus verb ša, 'to know'. The shaman is consulted to determine the cause of trouble that comes upon a family of community. The shaman consults spirits in a trace state. His or her knowing is of an occult nature. In the shaman’s worldview, trouble, disaster, sickness, and war result when the spirits are offended and/or the spirit world is in disharmony. The shaman’s tools are usually a drum, a medicine bag, amulets, fetishes, masks, fire, and smoke.

The Hebrew words shemen (Strong's #8081) and shamen (Strong's #8082) refer to oil. The verb form is שמן (shaman, Strong's #8080) and means “to be fat.”

There is no relation between the Tungus term shaman and the Hebrew terms shamen/shaman. As Calvin Steck has written, “Homophonic resemblances occur regularly across languages, and there is no significance other than curious amusement. Consider the Hebrew student’s gag line/ mi מי is who, hu הוא is he, hi היא is she, and shi שּׁי is that.”

The terms šaman (Tungus) and shamen/shaman (Hebrew) have totally different cultural contexts. The two languages are not related. Hebrew is a Semitic language in the Afro-Asiatic family. Tungusic (Manchu-Tungus) languages belong to the Altaic family with the Turkic and Mongolian language groups.

In the Hebrew worldview the priest is forbidden to consult spirits, and troubles are largely the consequence of violating divine Law. 

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