The shamanistic drum-beating, which is supposed to inspire the “soul journey” or the shaman actually inspires a journey into the realm that Kristeva refers to as “The semiotic”.
One of Kristeva’s most important propositions is the semiotic. Kristeva’s use of the term ‘semiotic’ here should not be confused with the discipline of semiotics suggested by Ferdinand de Saussure. For Kristeva, the semiotic is closely related to the infantile pre-Oedipal referred to in the works of Freud and mainly Melanie Klein and the British Object Relation psychoanalysis, and to the Lacanian (pre-mirror stage). It is an emotional field, tied to our instincts, which dwells in the fissures and prosody of language rather than in the denotative meanings of words. In this sense, the semiotic opposes the symbolic, which corresponds words with meaning in a stricter, mathematical sense. [Wikipedia, my emphasis in bold]
It is a return to the semiotic developmental stage of existence, with a very real potential to draw adult insights from this realm of earlier experience that has subsequently been censored by adult expediencies (in terms of losing openness to other perspectives) that is significant for shamanism. This experiential return to one’s origins enables one to correct modes of development that were dysfunctional, whilst also opening up the eyes to see the world in a way that is not narrowly culturally determined (in Kristeva’s terms, one would not be limited to viewing the world in terms of the Symbolic — ie. in terms of the logical determinations of language.)
My body is the B52’s bombing strategy the dead reckoning
From the deep of the sea the highest of granite peaks
And the air in between are the split infinitives of my speech
It should be noted — since certain things can so easily be misunderstood — that a return to the semiotic (in the shamanistic sense) is not SIMPLY a regression (although it involves a certain capacity to psychologically and emotionally regress). Rather, one’s return to the semiotic realm is from the realm of the Symbolic. Thus it involves a mediation of the Symbolic and a transformation of it.
It also appears that the semiotic realm is linked to the destruction of the socially defined (and, I would add, socially conditioned–) subject. Thus, it is linked with thanatos. So, we have a further explanation as to what the shaman’s dangerous crossing is and how it involves the ability to face “death”.