Western Shoshone - Religion and Expressive Culture
Religious Beliefs. Western Shoshone religion was animistic. Supernatural powers were acquired through dream and vision experiences.
Religious Practitioners. Steward noted three types of shamans: general curers, curers of specific sicknesses, and those who used their abilities for their own benefit only. Both men and women could become shamans, but only men practiced so far as is known. Some groups denied the presence of shamans. Shamans were also used for help in the hunt—for example, an antelope shaman capturing the souls of antelope through dreams and charming them into corrals for slaughter.
Medicine. Injuries and sicknesses that were not thought to be caused by supernaturals were treated with a very large riety of herbal remedies (reaching into the hundreds of Different plant medicines). Sicknesses caused by supernatural agencies were cured by shamans, often by sucking out offending objects or blood. An unsuccessful shaman sometimes Returned the fee. Shamans were sometimes killed for refusing aid.
Death and Afterlife. Customs at death were variable. Sometimes bodies were buried in caves, rock slides, or talus slopes; at other times the bodies were cremated, abandoned, or burned in their dwellings. Some groups had an annual mourning ceremony; others cut their hair and abstained from remarriage for a time. In times of great food scarcity, the aged and infirm were sometimes abandoned. The ghost was believed to leave the body at death and return to the Land of the Coyote, and was feared by some groups.