An intermediate stage between polytheism and monotheism, which assumes a great spirit, with lesser deities subordinated. With the beginnings of shamanism there was the advent of the medicine man or witch doctor, who assumed a supervisory relation to disease and its cure. Formally, shamanism is a religion of ural-altaic peoples of northern asia and europe, characterised by the belief that the unseen world of gods, demons, ancestral spirits is responsive only to shamans. The indians of north and south america entertain religious practices similar to the ural-altaic shamanism. The word shaman comes from the tungusic (manchuria and siberia) saman, meaning buddhist monk. The shaman handles disease almost entirely by psychotherapeutic means; he frightens away the demons of disease by assuming a terrifying mien.