While in a strict ethnographic sense the shaman's cultural province is Siberia, the term and category are used in a generic sense by most writers. . . Shamans everywhere enter altered states of consciousness, in order to gain spiritual inspiration or divinatory guidance, or to effect their mystical cures. . . A classic example is the Kalahari Ju/'hoansi Bushmen . . . (The Cambridge Encycopedia of Hunters and Gatherers, p. 427).Rituals of a shamanistic nature have indeed been frequently reported for various Bushmen groups where, according to some reports, more than half the males, and also some females, are "shamans." According to Megan Biesele and her Ju/'hoansi Bushmen collaborator, Kxao Royal-/O/OO,
Ju healers have access to supernatural powers such as n/om, magical energy/potency with which Ju/'hoansi can counter malevolent ghosts, heal the sick, and resolve conflicts. When one sings special songs, Ju say, n/om comes out. Ju/'hoan ceremonies feature intense, exhilarating, all-night healing dances, where the power of n/om heals, protects and gives well being (The Cambridge Encycopedia of Hunters and Gatherers, p. 208).As I already reported (in post # 231),
The “supernatural energy-songs” representing almost half of the Ju|’hoansi repertoire are [according to Emmanuelle Olivier] given to healers in dreams or during trance, where the spirits of dead ancestors, sing “in the three tessituras” while the healer sings a melody along with them “in the principal tessitura” (1998:366). Upon awaking, "he/she sings this melody to his/her spouse without variations (repeating it identically) and the spouse follows the healer’s vocal line, but tries to avoid an identical reproduction of what he/she is singing."And, as we learned in the same post, a very similar practice has been reported among the BaAka Pygmies:
Significantly, dreams through which spirits transmit songs to the living, as described above . . . are a part of Aka culture as well. [Michelle] Kisliuk recounts a story told by an Aka woman about the dream origin of an eboka (a performance combining song and dance), transmitted by a deceased man to his sister, who is expected to teach it to her husband, who will then teach it, in turn, to the young men of the group. According to Kisliuk, “an eboka can emerge as a mystical, dreamed gift within a family, transferred across genders and across the threshold of death” (Seize the Dance:177–78).Specialized healers known as Nganga are also reported among the BaAka, though it's not clear to what extent their activities could be characterized as "shamanistic" in the strictest sense -- see Barry Hewlett, Aka Pygmies of the Western Congo Basin. In Seize the Dance, Kisliuk describes a ritual dance called Njengi, where the dancer, who becomes possessed by the Njengi spirit, is completely covered by a mask made of leaves. The mask itself is strictly "off limits to women," who are expected to believe the leaves are inhabited by a spirit.
Spirit possession of a similar sort is an essential aspect of the Mbuti Molimo ceremony, as described by Turnbull in The Forest People (see especially Chapter Four). The molimo is understood to be both a musical instrument and an animal and, again, the women are expected to believe that it is in fact a spirit-animal. As with the Njengi mask of the BaAka, they are forbidden to see the instrument itself. Though Turnbull never refers specifically to shamans, shamanism or even healers among the Mbuti, there are instances where individuals fall into trance, which is, as I understand it, not unusual among pygmy groups generally.
Mauro Campagnoli refers to spirits which dance along with the Baka Pygmies and dances which are healing rituals led by Baka healers. Again it's hard to say whether these healers are in fact bona fide "shamans," though they would seem to perform at least some of the same functions.
[Added Nov. 6: From the Encyclopedia of World Cultures: Tropical Forest Foragers, by Barry Hewlett:
Religious Practitioners. All the forager groups have traditional healers, and several of them (e.g., the Aka, Baka, and Mbuti) recognize the supernatural abilities of great hunters, who can communicate with the supernatural world, make themselves invisible, and take the forms of various animals.]While I would not be so bold as to assert that such evidence proves that shamanism was practiced by HBP, the fact that we find instances of supernatural healing, trance, and spirit possession among representatives of EP, WP and Bu, does strongly suggest that practices very close to shamanism in certain respects were part of HBC. The evidence also suggests that the ancestors of the Bushmen subsequently went farther in this direction than the ancestors of the Pygmies, since rituals of a shamanistic nature would appear to play a much greater role among the former than the latter. Possession, trance and healing appear to be treated much more casually and informally among Pygmies than among Bushmen. The roots of shamanism are of course a very complex and difficult topic which requires much more knowledge than I have at the moment. All I'll say at present is that it looks like some form of shamanism or proto-shamanism was part of HBC, but to what extent or what this might mean is hard for me to say.