I read the following link relating to Native American replies to people referring to their medicine men/ holy healers as Shaman: http://www.angelfire.com/electronic/...t_shamans.html
Kenan- My guess is you might have already come across this information. In any case, with regard to the well-intentioned use/bastardized use of "Shaman", I say you are in good company with many others who observe the Native American tradition and have their issues with the use of the term.
The information I read says that using the word Shaman to depict a medicine healer in native american tribes is an insult- for interesting reasons included in the reading.
But, what to do in the Age of Technology and the access to so many points of view on the Internet? Who is genuine, who's not? What skills/beliefs/experiences draw the line to separate Shaman status with not?
I think one possible method
(While acknowledging a multitude of other possible methods out there as well, potentially more or less superior to my own explanation-there's my disclaimer!)
to answering the questions can be described using two ideas: One, as humans most of us have a sense of "seeing through the bullshit". A skilled bullshit artist, claiming shaman may be able to proclaim all day long their shaman credentials and only be verbally skilled at bullshit to consistently staying one step ahead of the argument. But most people can sense that, "even if I can't seem to pin this person down verbally, I just know their bullshitting me". "I can hear it in the inflections in their voice, see it in the "tell" on their face, hell, I can almost taste and smell the stench of charlatan in this person!"
One of the catches with this idea is that not all of us can equally tell a disingenuous shaman, or salesperson, or clergyman, etc. One person will tell right off, others will realize this after having paid for the less-than-satisfying $1000.00 "Sweat Lodge Ceremony" Weekend. But I think on a general level most of us can tell if someone is "for real" or not. Some people will challenge and attack the "fake", most just avoid them, set them aside, say to themselves, "You seem nice, but I simply don't believe you".
The second method involves a technique I learned in the business world. To describe I will use myself as an example: I manage workgroups that fulfill customer orders and ship/distribute them to customers. Pretty straightforward. Our work can be pretty mundane. How interesting can shipping possibly be? On two occasions I was leader of two test workgroups that was able to successfully change two standard, mundane processes in the receiving and shipping of goods that haven't significantly changed in 40 years. I came up with the idea, I printed the steps, but my most important achievement was that I gained the complete trust from the team I led. Without their trust in me that I "really had something worthwhile and different", the group would work around me, tell me "we like you, but but we don't believe this crap".
Similarly, I needed to trust my group that they would do the work correctly. Giving them a procedure to follow and having their trust in my competence that it would work was critical. A "shaman" who is skilled but not trusted by the group they serve, I suspect, would not be successful.
I think any type of healer, counselor ,which I am assuming a shaman, in their most basic function, would seek to do
(I'm sure replies will abound with issues exceptions/additions taken to this general statement- too bad, I said it anyway)
with the skills they are innately gifted with or skills developed through hard work.
To underscore the ideas of trust and "being for real", when I signed up for MW, I use the word Titan to describe myself. I didn't place that name on a public forum arbitrarily. I picked it up from the research on my birthday when I had first become interested in Magic and Non-Christian spirituality. My birthday, 12/16, falls under the central image of Titan or otherwise known as The Week of the Sagittarius III Titan. More specifically, people with my exact birthdate are capable of feats requiring titanic energies. Once directed toward a goal, little can be done to stop them from achieving far-reaching successes.
This also explains the many setbacks and flaws associated with Sagittarius III- so a heavy personal price is paid for the "titanic energies". But, well before my interest in magic, I have been a person who is often called upon in the work I do when something significantly more than going the extra mile was required- and on many occasions I was able to deliver that service.
So, when I signed up for MW, I thought about what would describe me best. Titan described the idea of the best I had achieved. But I also chose an avatar picture showing the flaws, vulnerability, which I believe also defines SAGIII as well.
(BTW, Atlas was a close second choice-he was chosen by Cronus to lead the mythological Titan attack, only to be given that well-known special punishment by Zeus later- but the idea is the same).
But its been made clear to me through my reading these symbols accurately reflect the course many of my life's events, because to me it looks, sounds, smells, tastes like my life experience.
I think your point about not being able to corner the usage of the Northern Asian Shaman term is correct. Words, ideas and people evolve so quickly with their version/combination of so many terms, "Shaman" probably will continue to evolve and be wrapped into many other beliefs and concepts in the future.
But in terms of a person being a "worthy Shaman", in the tradition of work that a real, true to life North Asian Shaman performed, I say, are they trustworthy amongst the group(s) to handle the work and live up to the job? Can you see, hear, taste and smell the Shaman in that person?
At the end of the day, these methods may be the among the only real ways to tell.