Shamanism is a visionary tradition, an ancient practice of utilising altered states of consciousness to contact the gods and spirits of the natural world. The word derivation is originally a Siberian practice in which gifted individuals would intercede with "Otherworld" spirits on behalf of a local tribal community. Now largely eradicated by a combination of Stalinist intervention and the creeping influence of modernism, shamanic performances used to be common. They were very physical, dramatic and cacophonous: as much showmanism as shamanism. The word has been linguistically misappropriated in recent years and applied to similar, but culturally different, practices found world-wide, particularly in North America, where it has replaced the pejorative terms medicine man and witch doctor. In the last few years shamanism has become a New Age buzz-word to describe modern techniques used for personal spiritual growth.