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Shamanism in Siberia, by M.A. Czaplicka, [1914], at


I. Palaeo-Siberians.

The Chukchee. The Chukchee call the preparatory period of a shaman by a term signifying 'he gathers shamanistic power'. For the weaker shamans and for female shamans the preparatory period is less painful, and the inspiration comes mainly through dreams.

But for a strong man this stage is very painful and long; in some cases it lasts for one, two, or more years. Some young people are afraid to take a drum and call on the 'spirits', or to pick up stones or other objects which might prove to be amulets, for fear lest the 'spirit' should call them to be shamans. Some youths prefer death to obedience to the call of spirits.[4] Parents possessing only one child fear his entering this calling on account of the danger attached to it; but when the family is large, they like to have one of its members a shaman. During the time of preparation the shaman has to pass through both a mental and a physical training. He is, as a rule, segregated, and goes either to the forests and hills under the pretext of hunting or watching the herds, 'often without taking along any

[1 Tretyakoff, The Country of Turukhansk, 1871, p. 223.

2 Sieroszewski, op. cit., p. 395; Potanin, Troshchanski.

3. Wierbicki, The Natives of the Altai, p. 44.

4. Bogoras, The Chukchee, p. 450.]

arms or the lasso of the herdsman'[1]; or else he remains in the inner room the whole time. 'The young novice, the "newly inspired" (turene nitvillin), loses all interest in the ordinary affairs of life. He ceases to work, eats but little and without relishing his food, ceases to talk to people, and does not even answer their questions. The greater part of his time he spends in sleep.' This is why 'a wanderer . . . must be closely watched, otherwise he might lie down on the open tundra and sleep for three or four days, incurring the danger in winter of being buried in drifting snow. When coming to himself after such a long sleep, he imagines that he has been out for only a few hours, and generally is not conscious of having slept in the wilderness at all., [2]

However exaggerated this account of a long sleep may be, we learn from Bogoras that the Chukchee, when ill, sometimes 'fall into a heavy and protracted slumber, which may last many days, with only the necessary interruptions for physical needs'.[3]

The Koryak. The mental part of the training consists in coming into contact with the right spirits, i.e. with the spirits who are to be the shaman's protectors in his shamanistic practice. 'Every [Koryak] shaman', says Jochelson, 'has his own guardian spirits, who help him in his struggle with disease-inflicting kalau in his rivalry with other shamans, and also in attacks upon his enemies. The shaman spirits usually appear in the form of animals or birds. The most common guardian spirits are the wolf, the bear, the raven, the sea-gull, and the eagle.'[4] One of the two shamans whom Jochelson met among the Koryak related to him how the spirits of the wolf, raven, bear, sea-gull, and plover appeared to him (the shaman) in the desert-now in the form of men, now in that of animals-and commanded him to become a shaman, or to die. Thus we see that, while they are in solitude, 'the spirits appear to them in visible form, endow them with power, and instruct them.' But Bogoras describes the mental training of a new shaman differently. 'The process of gathering inspiration is so painful to young shamans, because of their mental struggle against the call, that they are sometimes said to sweat blood on the forehead and the temples. Afterwards every preparation of a shaman for a performance is considered a sort of repetition of the initiative process: hence it is said that the Chukchee shamans during that time are easily susceptible to haemorrhage, and even to bloody sweat.'[5]

[1. Op. cit., p. 420.

2. Op. cit., p. 421.

3 Ibid.

4. Jochelson, The Koryak, p. 47.

4. Bogoras, op. cit., p. 420.]

Bogoras himself saw two cases of nose-bleeding and one of bloody sweat among the shamans; but in the last instance he suspected the shaman of smearing his temples with the blood from his nose.[1]

As to the physical training of a novice, he must learn singing, dancing, various tricks, including ventriloquism, and how to beat the drum.

'The beating of the drum, notwithstanding its seeming simplicity, requires some skill, and the novice must spend considerable time before he can, acquire the desired degree of perfection. This has reference especially to the performer's power of endurance. The same may be said of the singing. The manifestations continue for several weeks, during which time the shaman exercises the most violent activity with scarcely a pause. After the performance he must not show any signs of fatigue, because he is supposed to be sustained by the "spirits", and, moreover, the greater part of the exercise is asserted to be the work of the spirits themselves, either after entering the shaman's body or while outside his body. The amount of endurance required for all this, and the ability to pass quickly from the highest excitement to a state of normal quietude, can, of course, be acquired only by long practice. Indeed, all the shamans I conversed with said that they had to spend a year, or even two years, before sufficient strength of hand and freedom of voice were given to them by the spirits. Some asserted that, during all this preparatory time, they kept closely to the inner room, taking up the drum several times a day, and beating it as long as their strength would allow.'[2]

Of course a certain diet must be adhered to during the time of the training and before each individual ceremonial.

Have the novices any teachers? One would suppose that they must have, if only to learn the difficult magical tricks, but it is hard to get any detailed information on this point, because the natives ascribe all the cleverness of the shaman to the 'spirits'.

'There are many liars in our calling', the shaman Scratching Woman said to Bogoras.[3] 'One will lift up the skins of the sleeping-room with his right toe and then assure you that it was done by "spirits"; another will talk into the bosom of his shirt or through his sleeve, making the voice issue from a quite unusual place.' Of course he himself was ready to swear that he never did such tricks.

[1. Ibid.

2. Op. cit., p. 424.

3. Bogoras, The Chukchee, p. 426.]

Sometimes the old men teach the young shamans. 'The man who gives a part of his power to another man loses correspondingly, and can hardly recover the loss afterwards. To transfer his power, the older shaman must blow on the eyes or into the mouth of the recipient, or he may stab himself with a knife, with the blade of which, still reeking with his "source of life" (telkeyun), he will immediately pierce the body of the recipient.'

Bogoras did not hear of any transferring of shamanistic power while he was among the Chukchee. He found it, however, among Eskimo women, who were taught by their husbands, and whose children were taught by their parents. In one family on St. Lawrence Island the shamanistic power has been retained through a succession of generations, evidently having been transferred from father to son.[1]

The Gilyak. Sternberg [2] says that although shamans do not play so important a róle among the Gilyak as among some neighbouring tribes, still their power among this folk is almost unlimited. Sternberg was told by a Gilyak shaman that before he had entered on his vocation he had been very ill for two months, during which time he was unconscious, lying quite motionless. Sometimes, he said, he almost regained consciousness, but sank again into a swoon before recovering his senses. 'I should have died', he explained, 'if I had not become a shaman.' During these months of trial he became 'as dry', he said, 'as a dry stick.' In the night he heard himself singing shaman's songs. Once there appeared to him a bird-spirit, and, standing at some distance from it, a man, who spoke to him in these words: 'Make yourself a drum and all that pertains to a shaman. Beat the drum and sing songs. If you are an ordinary man, nothing will come of it; but if you are to be a shaman, you will be no ordinary one.' When he came to himself he found that he was being held by head and feet close to the fire by his friends, who told him that they had thought him already dead, carried off by the evil spirits (kekhn). Forthwith he demanded a drum, and began to beat it and sing. He felt half dead, half intoxicated. Then for the first time he saw his spirit-protectors, kekhn and kenchkh. The former told him, 'If you see any one ill, cure him. Do not trust kenchkh. He has a man's face, but his body is a bird's. Trust us only.'

Sternberg himself was once witness of a first manifestation of shamanistic power.

[1. Op. cit., p. 420.

2. Sternberg, The Gilyak, p. 72.]

Koïnit was a little guest of Sternberg's, a boy of twelve. In spite of his youth he had two souls, being the son of a great shaman, Chanikh, who had as many as four souls (one from the mountains, another from the sea, a third from the sky, and a fourth from the underworld). Once on being suddenly awakened from sleep, Koïnit began to throw himself about, and to shout aloud in different pitches or intonations of the voice, as shamans are accustomed to do. When this was over, the boy's face looked worn and tired, like that of an old man. He said afterwards that, during the sleep which had preceded his outbreak, two kekhns had appeared to him. He knew them for his father's kekhns; and they said to him: 'We used to play with your father-let us play with you also."

II. Neo-Siberians.

Passing from the Palaeo- to the Neo-Siberians, we notice that the shaman's protectors among the latter are highly developed beings.

Three kinds of 'spirits' are associated with a Yakut shaman, namely, änägyat, yekyua, and kaliany (Sieroszewski). Änägyat is the indispensable attribute of every shaman.

But änägyat is also the name of the iron breast-circle, the sign of the shaman's dignity.

Even the weakest shamans possess änägyat [2] and yekyua-the latter is 'sent from above, animal picture, bewitching spirit, devilish devourer' (Yekyua oïun abassyuah, simah abassyuah, üssüttan ongorudh).

The yekyua is carefully hidden from the people. 'My yekyua will not be found by any one; it lies hidden far away, there, in. the rocky mountains of Edjigan.'[3]

Once a year, when the snow melts and the earth is black, the yekyua arise from their hiding-places and begin to wander. They hold orgies of fights and noises, and the shamans with whom they are associated feel very ill. Especially harmful are the yekyua of female shamans.

[1. Op. cit., pp. 73-4.

2. Sieroszewski, in speaking about the division of the shamans into three kinds, says that the last or third kind are not real shamans, as they have not änägyat, but are sorcerers and other people in some way peculiar (12 Lat w Kraju Yakutów, p. 628).

3. Sieroszewski, op. cit., p. 626.]

The weakest and most cowardly are the yekyua of dogs; the most powerful are those of enormous bulls, stallions, elks, and black boars. 'Those shamans who have as their animal incarnation a wolf, bear, or dog, are the must unfortunate; these animals are insatiable; they are never satisfied, however much the shaman may provide for them.' The dog especially gives no peace to his two-footed fellow; he 'gnaws with his teeth the shaman's heart, tears into pieces his body'.[1] Then the shaman feels sick and suffers pain. The crow is also a bad yekyua; the eagle and hairy bull are called 'devilish fighters and warriors' (abassy keiktah). This title is the most flattering one for a shaman.[2] When a new shaman appears, the other shamans recognize him at once by the presence of a new yekyua, whom they have not seen before. Only wizards can see yekyua; to ordinary people they are invisible.

Troshchanski [3] says of the yekyua: 'Among the protectors of the shaman, the most important role is played by the yekyua (literally, "mother-animal"). It is said that the shamans incarnate their kut[4] in certain animals, e.g. in stallions, wolves, dogs, and that these animals are thus the yekyua of shamans.

'If one of these animals kills another of its species, then the corresponding shaman will die.' Troshshanski thinks that the shaman incarnates his kut only during the time that he is actually shamanizing.

Whereas this 'black' animal-protector seems to be of a totemic and personal nature, to a certain extent 'of one blood and flesh' with his protégé, on the other hand ämägyat strikes us as being a more impersonal power.

Sieroszewski [5] explains that it is in most cases 'the spirit of a deceased shaman', or, in some rare cases, one of the secondary heavenly beings. But it seems that the term 'spirit' is used here quite vaguely; e. g., we read further on: 'The human body cannot contain the power of great gods, and so the spirit-protector remains always near the beloved man (outside of him) and willingly comes at his call; in difficult moments it helps him, defends him, and gives him advice.'[6] 'The shaman sees and hears only through his ämägyat', says the shaman Tiuspiut.

Ämägyat comes to a shaman through an accident, or as a

[1. Ibid.

2. Ibid.

3. Troshchanski, The Evolution of the Black Faith, p. 138.

4 The part of the soul which, according to the Yakut, is common to animals and men.

5. Sieroszewski, op. cit., p. 626.

6. Ibid.]

heavenly destiny. 'When I was travelling in the north,' says Tiuspiut, 'I came upon a heap of wood (saïba) in the mountains, and as I just wanted to cook some dinner, I set this on fire. Now under this heap was buried a well-known Tungus shaman (Tiuspiut was a Yakut), and so his ämägyat leapt into me." If the great shamans at death take their (ämägyat to heaven, they are transformed into heavenly beings; but if the ämägyat is not removed to heaven, then it will appear on the earth sooner or later.[2]

Besides the two so-called spirits mentioned above, there comes to the Yakut shaman, during shamanistic performances, still another kind of spirit, a rather mischievous one, which forces the shaman to talk and to imitate various, often indecent, gestures. These spirits are called kaliany, and their representatives may be a Russian devil, a devil's daughter with a devilish groom, who, being blind, is in the habit of groping about in the dark, &c.

Thus Sieroszewski, on the mental training of the novice. Further light is thrown on the question by Troshchanski.[1] Following out his main idea of treating black and white shamans separately, he says: 'Not every one can become a shaman, either white or black; only a person whose sür has obtained a suitable education.

'The sür of a white shaman is educated under the care of one of the aïy, and the sür of a black shaman studies with an abassy. How the sür of a white shaman is educated among the Yakut is not known to us. The sür of a black shaman lives with his tutor on the ninth floor (underground-in their ideal division of the universe). If the sür is educated on the ninth floor, then a most powerful shaman will arise from it; if on the eighth floor, then the shaman will be of medium power; if on the third floor, then the shaman will be only a sorcerer.'

The education consists in the sür's learning 'the habits, character, and behaviour of abassylar and shamans.'

As to the education of a shaman himself, and his initiation, the Yakut shaman is taught by an older shaman, who consecrates him by 'placing on him the ämägyat'.[4] This sign is taken away by the shaman from a person who does not wish to be a shaman any longer. There is in the Yakut language a word usüi, which

[1. Op. cit., p. 627.

2. lbid.

3. Troshchanski, op. cit., p. 146.

4. Troshchanski, op. cit., p. 147.]

means to teach the art of shamanizing and to consecrate a shaman.

Pripuzoff [1] describes the consecration of a shaman among the Yakut as follows: 'The old shaman leads his pupil up a high mountain or into a clearing in the forest. Here he dresses him in a shaman's garment, gives him a rattle, and places on one side of him nine chaste youths, and on the other nine chaste maidens. Then the shaman puts on his own garment, and directs the youth to repeat after him certain words.' He demands of the novice that he shall give up all that is most dear to him in the world, and consecrate his life to the service of the spirits who shall come -it his call. He tells his pupil where certain 'black' spirits dwell, what diseases they cause, and how they may be propitiated. Finally the young shaman must kill a sacrificial animal, and sprinkle himself with its blood. The flesh is eaten by those who have been present at the ceremony.

A child chosen to be a shaman is recognized among the Buryat by the following signs[2]: 'He is often absorbed in meditation, likes to be alone, has mysterious dreams, and sometimes has fits during which he is unconscious.' According to the Buryat beliefs, the soul of a child is then in process of being trained, among the 'West Tengeris' if he is to be a 'white' shaman, among the 'East Tengeris' if he is to become a 'black' one. Living in the dwelling of the gods, his soul, under the tutelage of deceased shamans, learns the various secrets of the shaman's vocation; the soul must remember the names of the gods, the places where they live, the means by which they may be propitiated, and the names of the spirits which are subordinate to the high gods. After a period of trial the soul of the child returns to the body, which for a time resumes its normal life. But on his reaching adolescence, peculiar symptoms show themselves in the person who has undergone these experiences. He becomes moody, is easily excited into a state of ecstasy, leads an irregular life, wandering from ulus to ulus to watch the shamanistic ceremonies. He gives himself up with great earnestness to exercises in the shamanistic arts, for which purpose he segregates himself, going to some high mountain or into the forest, where, before a great fire, he calls on the spirits,

[1. Pripuzoff, Materials for the Study of Shamanism among the Yakut, pp. 64-5.

2. Agapitoff and Khangaloff, Materials for the Study of Shamanism in Siberia, pp. 42-53.]

and afterwards falls into a swoon. In the meanwhile, to prevent him from doing himself an injury, his friends keep watch over him unobtrusively.

While the novice is preparing himself for his new life, his relations call in a good shaman, who makes a sacrifice to propitiate the spirits and induce them to help the young shaman-to-be. If the future shaman belongs to a poor family, the whole community helps to procure the sacrificial animals and other things which are indispensable for the ceremonies.

The preparatory period lasts for several years, its length depending largely on the capacity of the young man. He cannot, however, become a shaman until he reaches the age of twenty. Finally he undergoes a purification ceremony. One such ceremony does not confer all the rights and powers of a shaman; there are, in fact, nine. But very few shamans go through all these purifications; most only undergo two or three; some, none at all, for they dread the responsibilities which devolve upon consecrated shamans. To a fully consecrated shaman the gods are very severe, and punish his faults or mistakes with death.

The first consecration ceremony is preceded by a purification of water. For this an experienced old shaman, called the 'father-shaman', is chosen, together with nine young men to be his assistants. These are spoken of as his 'sons'. The water for the ablution must be drawn from a spring-sometimes from three springs. They go in the morning of the day of consecration to fetch the water, taking with them tarasun [1], with which they make a libation to the master- and mistress-spirits of the spring. As they return, they pluck up from the earth birch-seedlings, of which they make a broom, and take it to the house of the novice. Next the water is heated over a fire, and into it are thrown certain herbs and pieces of bark. Then from the ears of a he-goat prepared beforehand they cut pieces of hair, and some shavings from its horns and hoofs, and throw these also into the pot. The he-goat is then killed in such a manner that its blood drips into the pot. Then only is the water ready for the consecration ceremony. The flesh of the goat is given to the women present, who cook and eat it.

Now the father-shaman foretells the future from a sheep's shoulder-blade. He summons the shamanist ancestors of the

[1. A native Buryat drink, composed of milk and wine, called also wine of milk'.]

novice, and offers libations of wine and tarasun. Then he dips the birch-broom into the water and beats the candidate on the naked back, as do also the nine 'sons' of the 'father-shaman', saying at the same time: 'When thou art called to a poor man, ask little in return for your trouble, and take what is given. Take care of the poor always, help them, and pray to the gods to defend them against the power of evil spirits. If thou art called by a rich man, go to him riding on a bullock, and do not ask much for your trouble. If thou art called at the same time by a poor and by a rich man, go first to the poor.' The candidate repeats these precepts after the shaman, and promises to observe them.

Then follows a libation of tarasun to the guardian spirits; this closes the ceremony.
The purification of a shaman by water is performed at least once a year, but sometimes once a month, at the new moon; or else at any other time when he considers himself to have been defiled, e. g. by touching some unclean object. If the defilement is especially gross, then purification is performed with blood. The shaman also purifies himself after a death has occurred in the ulus.[1]

This ceremony is followed after some time by the first consecration, called kherege-khulkhe, the expenses of which are shared by the community. Again a 'father-shaman' and nine 'sons' are chosen, and they, accompanied by the novice, ride on horseback from yurta to yurta, collecting offerings. Before each yurta they stop and announce their coming with a shout. They are hospitably entertained, and offerings of different kinds-votive handkerchiefs, which are tied to 'a birch staff carried by the novice, and sometimes money-are brought to them. They buy wooden cups, little bells tied to horse-staves, wine, &c. The day before the ceremony a certain number of stout birches are cut from the groves by the 'sons' under the direction of the 'father-shaman '; from the straightest of these they make horse-staves. The grove from which these are taken is one in which the dead of the ulas are buried, and for the propitiation of the spirits there they make offerings of mutton and tarasan. At the same time they prepare the shaman's accessories, and meanwhile other shamans of similar standing with the 'father-shaman ' summon the spirits.

[1. ibid.]

In the morning of the day of the consecration the birch-trees cut the day before are planted. The stoutest birch, which has its roots still attached to it, they plant in the south-west corner of the yurta, where the ground is left bare for the fire; the top of the tree projects through the smoke-bole above. This birch represents symbolically the porter-god who allows the shaman ingress into heaven. It points the way by which the shaman can reach the sky, and remains permanently in the yurta as a sign that the dwelling is that of a shaman. The other birches are planted in front of the yurta in the place where sacrifices are usually offered, in the following order, from west to east:

(i) A birch under which, on a carpet of felt, is placed some tarasun. To the branches of this ribbons of black and yellow are tied if the shaman is to be 'black', of white and blue if he is to be a 'white' shaman, and of all four colours if he is to serve both kinds of spirits.

(ii) A birch to which are tied a big bell and the sacrificial horse.

(iii) A fairly stout birch which the novice has to climb.-These three trees are planted with their roots, and are called serge (posts).

(iv) Nine saplings, in groups of three, the saplings in each group being bound together with a rope made of white horsehair. To these are tied ribbons of different colours in the following order-white, blue, red, yellow, and so on again. On the saplings are hung skins of animals.

(v) Nine posts to which sacrificial animals are tied.

(vi) Some stout birches to which the bones of the sacrificial animals are tied after being bound up in straw. These birches form a row.

From the principal birch in the yurta to all those which stand outside are led two ribbons, red and blue. This is a symbolical representation of the path of the shaman to the spirit-world. To the north of the row of birches are placed nine pots for cooking the sacrificial meat.

When everything is ready, the novice and the others who take part in the ceremony don their ceremonial dress. Then the shaman's accessories are blessed, after which the horse-staves are said to turn into real horses. All the morning the assembled shamans have been summoning the spirits and sprinkling tarasun. The 'father-shaman' now calls upon the guardian gods, and the novice repeats after him the words of his invocation. The candidate climbs the birch inside the yurta, gets on to the roof, and from there summons the spirits in a loud voice. When the moment comes for leaving the yurta, four shamans take hold of a certain felt carpet, each by a corner.[1] Just outside the entrance to the yurta a fire is made, and various herbs are thrown into it: everybody and everything which passes over the fire is purified by it.

The people leave the yurta in the following order: first the 'father-shaman', then the candidate, then the nine 'sons', and finally the relatives and guests.

The ceremony ends with feasts and sacrifices.[2]

Among the Samoyed and Ostyak of the Turukhan country the future shaman spends his youth in exercises which stimulate his nerves and excite his imagination.[3] At the consecration of a novice, according to Tretyakoff[4] he must stand with his face towards the west, while the officiating shaman asks the Dark Spirit to help the candidate and to give him a spirit to serve him. At the end of the ceremony the shaman sings a hymn in praise of the Dark Spirit, and the novice repeats it after him. The beginner is tested by the spirits, who require of him certain sacrifices, as of his wife or son, and he has to promise them various other sacrifices.

Both Castren [5] and Islavin [6] speak of the special training of the novice by an old shaman. One of the Samoyed shamans told Castren of how he was entrusted to the care of an old shaman for training, when he was fifteen, as he (the candidate) came of an

[1. According to Potanin, the felt carpet alluded to by Agapitoff and Khangaloff provides the means of performing what is considered the most essential part of the ceremony. The novice is carried on it, by the four shamans mentioned, out of the yurta to the row of nine birches. Of the moment of his elevation on the carpet, they say bo begde, 'the shaman ascends'. On reaching the birches, the shaman must leap from the carpet on to one of them, which he climbs. From the top of this birch he must jump to that of the one next to it, and so on to the end of the row, whence he must return in the same manner to his starting-point, and is then again placed on the carpet. After this ceremony the new shaman begins to shamanize, to foretell the future, and to heal the sick-but all this without the use of the drum. This accessory he is not permitted to acquire until after the third year from his consecration. (Potanin, Sketches of Northern Mongolia, vol.iv,pp.58-9.) According to Appitoff and Khangalolf (op. cit., p. 141), the custom thus described by Potanin is peculiar to the Buryat of Balgansk.

2. Ibid.

3 Bielayewski, op. cit., p. 113.

4. Tretyakoff, The Country of Turukhansk, pp. 210-12.

5. Castren, Nordische Reisen und Forschungen, p. 191.

6. Islavin, The Samoyed, their Home and Social Life, p. 109.]

old shamanist family. The means of education was as follows: Two tadibey (shamans) blindfolded him with a handkerchief, and then beat him, one on the back of the head and the other on the shoulders, till his eyes were dazzled as with too much light, and he saw demons dancing on his arms and feet. It must be remembered, of course, that he had been taught beforehand about the Samoyed world of spirits.' In former times Lapland was a school of shamanism, and all neighbouring tribes sent youths thither to be trained as shamans.[2] At present only among Russian Lapps are noyda (shamans) to be found, and they are but degenerate copies of their predecessors.

[1. Castren, op. cit., p. 191.

2. Schefferus, Lapponia, p. 120. N. Kharuzin, The Noyda among the Ancient and the Modern Lapps.]

Next: Chapter IX. Types of Shamans