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




IN this chapter, which deals with the different types of shamans, the duties of a shaman will be enumerated. In nearly all the more advanced tribes we shall see that certain shamans specialize in one sort of duty or another, while among the more primitive peoples each performs many different kinds of duties-a state of things made possible by the less complex nature of those duties. The high conception of a shaman's duties among certain tribes may be seen from Banzaroffs ideal picture of a Buryat shaman. He is (a) priest, (b) medicine-man, and (c) prophet.

(a) 'As a priest, he knows the will of the gods, and so declares to man what sacrifices and ceremonies shall be held; he is an expert in ceremonials and prayers. Besides the communal ceremonies at which he officiates, he conducts also various private cerenionials.'[1]

(b) As medicine-man, the shaman performs certain ceremonies to expel the evil spirit from the patient.

(c) As a prophet, he foretells the future either by means of the shoulder-blade of a sheep or by the flight of arrows.

This ideal type of shaman was probably rare even in Banzaroff's time, for he himself says that the shaman was not present at all communal sacrifices.[2] It is the same with some family sacrifices: the ongons are fed by the master of the house; and certain other sacrifices, as, for instance, those offered at child-birth, are made without the assistance of the shaman.[3]

The fact that a communal or family ceremony is sometimes presided over by the head of the commune or family, or that a private individual occasionally performs divination, does not alter the fact that the original type of Buryat shaman had the performance of all these rites in his hands.[4] They had among the

[1 Banzaroff, Black Faith, 1893, pp. 107-15.

2 ibid.

3. Klenientz, E.R.E., 'The Buriats', p. 13 ).

4. Ibid.]

Mongols in the time of Djingis Khan, when the shamans were at the height of their power.[1] We cannot therefore agree with Mr. Mikhailowski, who says, 'Of all the actions of the shaman, the most characteristic of his calling is what is known as kamlanie,' i.e. invocations of spirits.[2] Although it may be that in the decadence of his office a shaman is sometimes nowadays no more than a medicine-man, even now in certain places shamans are present, not only at communal, but also at family rites, and even when not so present we find in the rites traces of their original participation,

The Koryak. Among the Koryak, as among the Palaeo-Siberians and most Neo-Siberian tribes, we may distinguish [3] (1) family shamans, and (2) professional shamans.

Family shamanism is connected with the domestic hearth, whose welfare is under its care. The family shaman has charge of the celebration of family festivals, rites, and sacrificial ceremonies, and also of the use of the family charms and amulets, and of their incantations.

Professional shamans are those who are not definitely attached to a certain group of people. The more powerful they are, the wider is the circle in which they can practise their art.

'There is no doubt that professional shamanism has developed from the ceremonials of family shamanism', says Joebelson. [4] It seems, however, necessary to add another category of (3) communal shamans, forming a transitional class between family and professional shamans. These shamans have to deal with a group of families taking part in important ceremonials. The admission of this third category must not be taken to mean that we agree unconditionally with the idea that the professional shaman is a development from the family, or the communal, shaman, though many practices, and the opinions of such serious investigators as Jochelson and Bogoras, lend some weight to this notion.

It was among the Koryak that professional shamans were first affected by Christianity.

The Chukchee. Among the Chukchee, the above division into family and professional shamans needs to be supplemented, since we find [5] that there exist three categories of professional shamans:

[1. Mikhailowski, Shamanism, p. .58.

2 Op. cit., p. 55.

3. Jochelson, The Koryak, p. 47.

4 Ibid.

Bogoras, The Chukchee, pp. 430-1.]

(A) Ecstatic shamans, (B) Shaman-prophets, (C) Incantation shamans.

Of course, the duties of the shamans of all these categories merge into each other; still, a certain specialization is to be observed.

A. The ecstatic shaman communicates with 'spirits' and is called kalatkourgin.

This includes all kinds of intercourse with "spirits" which become apparent to the listeners; that is, the voices of "spirits " talking through the medium of the shaman, ventriloquistic performances, and other tricks-generally speaking, the whole spectacular part of shamanism, which forms ' the main content of the shamanistic séances.' As observed above, 'all this is often considered merely as a kind of jugglery. For performances of this sort, young people are said to be better adapted than older ones. With increasing years some of the shamans discontinue most of these tricks.'[1]

B. The shaman-prophet, i. e. one who is 'looking into', hetolatirgin.

'This branch of Chukchee shamanism is held in the highest veneration, because the shaman possessing it has the faculty of seeing the danger lying in wait for the people, or the good in store for them, and accordingly he is able to advise them bow to avoid the first and to secure the second. Most of the instructions given are of a ritualistic kind, and refer to certain details of such and such a ceremonial, which must be arranged after a certain manner in order to secure the desired result., [2]

There are shamans who, though they have kelet at their disposal, cannot give any advice; while others, on the other hand, cannot communicate with 'spirits', but 'give magical advice as a kind of internal subjective inspiration, after self-communion for a few moments. These, notwithstanding the simplicity of their proceedings, usually enjoy the highest consideration of their neighhours.'[3]

For instance, the shaman Galmuurgin was said by the Chukchee to be '(with) only his (own) body' (em-wikilin), because no other beings helped him with their inspiration.

'When giving a séance, he began by beating a drum and singing, but in a few minutes he would leave off the exercise,

[1. Bogoras, The Chukchee, p. 430.

2 Op. cit., p. 431.

3 Ibid.]

and drawing a few long, almost hysterical breaths, would immediately proceed to foretell the future. He talked to many people present, one by one. When he was through with one case, he would stop for a while, as if recollecting himself, and then, after several deep-drawn sighs, would pass on to the next applicant.'[1]

C. Incantation shamans (ewganva-tirgin, 'producing of incantations'), who carry on the more complicated practices of shamanism.

Incantations, together with spells, form the greater part of Chukchee magic. The incantations may be of a benevolent or malevolent character. Hence there are two types of shamans in this class:

1. 'Well-minded' (ten-cimnulin), who ply their art in order to help sufferers.
2. 'Mischievous' (kurg-enenilit, or kunich-enenilit, literally 'mocking shamans'), who are bent on doing harm to people.

Good shamans have a red shamanistic coat and bad shamans a black one. The same colours are used by the Yukaghir shamans.

The majority of shamans, however, combine in themselves the gifts of all these categories and in the name of 'spirits' perform various tricks, foretell the future, and pronounce incantations.

The Neo-Siberians.

The Yakut. Troshchanski[2] suggests that the division of shamans into black and white is the most essential division among all Siberian tribes, though many travellers speak of shamans in a general way as if there were only one kind. It would seem, however, that Troshchanski overlooks the distinction between the religious conceptions of the Palaeo-Siberians and those of the Neo-Siberians. They live under different environmental conditions; and, besides, the Neo-Siberians have undoubtedly been to some extent influenced by contact with the higher Asiatic religions.

It is among the Neo-Siberians that magico-religious dualism appears more distinctly. Again, within the class of Neo-Siberians themselves differences are found. Among the Yakut [3] the black shamans predominate, the white hardly existing; while among

[1. Op. cit., p. 431.

2 Troshchanski, The Evolution of the Black Faith, 1902, p. iii.

3. Op. cit., P. 110.]

the Votyak the white are almost the only shamans now to be found, as the cult of the bright god has almost entirely displaced that of the black.

The Yakut white shamans are called aïy-oïuna. They take part in the spring festivals, marriage ceremonies, fertilization rites, and the curing of diseases, in cases where kut has not yet been taken away from the patient.[1]

We read in a certain tale that at one wedding there were present nine aïy-oïuna (white men-shamans) and eight aïy-udangana (white women- shamans). [2] White shamans also ask, in cases of the sterility of women, the maghan sylgglakh to descend to earth and make the woman fertile. At the autumn fishing, in former times, they lighted torches made of wood cut from a tree struck by lightning, purged the waters of all uncleanness, and asked the ichchi (spirit-owner) of the lake for a benefit. This, he considers, was certainly done by white. shamans, if only for the reason that the ceremony was held in the daytime.[3] But, on page 105 of the same work, Troshchanski writes: 'Only the spring festivals were called aïy-ysyakh; the autumn festivals were known is abassy-ysyakh.' Hence the ceremony of fertilization of the lake must have been performed by black shamans, abassy-oïuna, in spite of the fact that this ceremony was held in the daytime.

As to the characters of the two kinds of shamans, Gorokboff says that he knew personally several aïy-oïuna, who were very good people indeed, quiet, delicate, and really honest, while the abassy-oïuna were good for nothing.[4] But Troshchanski says that the 'black shaman' among the Yakut is only professionally 'black', that his attitude has no specially evil character, and that he helps men no less than the white shaman does. He is not necessarily bad, though he deals with evil powers, and he occupies among the Yakut a higher position than among other Neo-Siberians.

Black shamans offer sacrifices to abassylar and shamanize to maintain their prestige. They foretell the future, call up spirits, wander into spirit-land, and give accounts of their journeys thither.[3]

At the present day there are among the Yakut special storytellers and also special sorcerers (aptah-kisi).

[1. Op. cit., 1). 149.

2. Khudiakoff, Verkhoyansk Anthology, p. 88.

3. Troshchanski, ibid.

4. Gorokhoff . Yurung-Uolan, E.S.S.I.R.G.S., 1887, p. 56.

Troshchanski, op. cit., p. 152.]

According to the degree of esteem, in which they are held by the people, Sieroszewski' classifies Yakut shamans as follows:

The Great Shaman-ulahan-oïun.

(2) The Middling Shaman-orto-oïun.

(3) The Little Shaman-kenniki-oïun.

A 'great shaman' has the ämägyat from Ulu-Toïen himself.

A shaman of middling power also possesses ämägyat, but not of so high a quality or to so great an extent as the former.

A 'little shaman' does not possess ämägyat. He is not, in fact, really a shaman, but a person in some way abnormal, neurotic, or original, who can cure trifling illnesses, interpret dreams, and frighten away small devils only.

With regard to the classification of shamans into 'white' and 'black', Troshchanski puts forward the hypothesis that these two classes of shamans originated and developed independently:

'One might imagine that the class of white shamans came into existence first, and that it derived from the class of heads of families and clans. The custom of the choice of one leader (shaman) for common ceremonies or sacrifices may have helped in this evolution of the white shaman from the heads of families. The wisest and most respected member of the community would probably have the best chance of being chosen, as he could please not only the people but also the spirits.' [2]

The same persons might then have been chosen repeatedly, and presently a class of white shamans might arise for the communal cults and sacrifices. In the meantime the head of the family could still keep his priestly power in his own home, until the professional shaman took his place, as we see at the present day among certain tribes, e.g. the Yakut. [3]

Why should we regard the head of the family as the prototype of the white shaman? We shall find in Troshchanski's book no more satisfactory reply to this question than is contained in the following short passage:

'I think we are right in saying that the heads of the family, or the chosen priests, in their practice and prayers do not address themselves to the evil spirits, which in Yakut are called abassylar; hence it is here that we find the origin of white shamans.' [4]

If we follow Troshchanski, we must draw the conclusion that

[1. Sieroszewski, op. cit., p. 628.

2. Troshchauski, op. cit., p. 120.

3. Op. cit., p. 124.

4. Op. cit., p. 113.]

among the Neo-Siberians, e. g. the Buryat and the Yakut, the white shamans form a quite distinct class, although we see that on certain occasions the head of the family may take the place of the white shaman:

'Tailgan is a communal sacrifice in which the whole family or clan takes part. This ceremony is designed to show humility: the Buryat call it the "asking ceremony". The performer of tailgan may be the shaman, or the whole group of family heads without the assistance of a shaman.'[1]

Among the Palaeo-Siberians there is no class of white shamans, and the family cult is in the hands of the father, assisted by the mother, the participation of professional shamans being often prohibited. Among the Gilyak the assistance of shamans at sacrificial feasts, e.g. the bear-ceremonial, is even forbidden. Is this because there is no white shaman among these people? Or is it an indication that, after all, family and professional shamanism have developed separately?

Among the Yakut, from. the observation of whom Troshchanski formed his hypothesis, the white shaman may be a woman, in cases where the woman stands as family head.[2]

Now as to the black shamans, they were originally women, says Troshchanski, and he draws attention to the following linguistic and sociological particulars which are made to act as evidence in support of his hypothesis.

What is the essential meaning of the word shaman? In Sanskrit sram=to be tired, to become weary; sramana=work, religious mendicant. In the Pali language the word samana has the same meaning. These two latter words have been adopted by the Buddhists as names for their priests.[3] But, according to Banzaroff, the word shaman originated in northern Asia: saman is a Manchu word, meaning 'one who is excited, moved, raised'; samman (pronounced shaman) and hamman in Tungus, have the

[1. Agapitoff and Khangitloff, Materials for the Study of Shamanism in Siberia, E.S.S.I.R.G.S., p. 36.

'How this may occur, in the patriarchal Yakut family, Troshchanski explains as follows: 'Each wife of a polygynous Yakut lived separately with her children and relations and cattle; during the frequent absences of her husband she was actually the head of the family, and performed family ceremonials. Several such ye-usa (matriarchal families) formed one aga-usa (patriarchal family)' (p. 116).

3. I am indebted for this information to Mr. M. de Z. Wickremasinghe, Lecturer in Tamil and Telugu in the University of Oxford.]

same meaning. Samdambi is Manchu: 'I shamanize', i.e. 'I call the spirits dancing before the charm'[1]

From the above we see that the essential characteristic of a shaman is a liability to nervous ecstasy and trances. Women are more prone to emotional excitement than men: among the Yakut most of the women suffer from menerik (a nervous disease, one type of the so-called 'Arctic hysteria '). [2]

Thus Troshchanski. But the only conclusion-if any-that he could draw from this would be that women are by nature more disposed to shamanizing than men. And why should this make her the original black shaman? Only one piece of evidence is adduced to connect women with 'black' shamanizing, and that is taken from Kamchadal life,. not from that of the Yakut, upon which chiefly he grounds his hypothesis. Among the most primitive Kamchadal, where there were only women (or koek-chuch) shamans, these practised only black shamanism, summoning evil spirits.[3]

As to the linguistic evidence:

Among the Mongols, Buryat, Yakut, Altaians, Torgout, Kidan, Kirgis, there is one general term for a woman-shaman, which has a slightly different form in each tribe: utagan, udagan, udaghan, ubakhan, utygan, utiugun, iduan (duana); whereas the word for man-shaman is different in each of these tribes.

In Yakut he is called oïun; in Mongol, buge; Buryat, buge and ; Tungus, samman and hamman; Tartar, kam; Altaian, kam and gam; Kirgis, baksa (basky); Samoyed, tadibey.
From the above Troshchanski concludes that during the migration of the Neo-Siberians they had only women-shamans, called by a similar general name; and that the men-shamans appeared later, when these people scattered, settling in lands distant from one mother, so that the term for man-shaman originated independently in each tribe.[4]

Of course, this linguistic evidence concerns only the Neo- and not the Palaeo-Siberians.
Troshchanski gives us further the following religio-social evidence, drawn exclusively from the Yakut, in support of his

[1. Zakharoff, Complete Manchu-Russian Dictionary, 1875, p. 568.

2. Troshchanski, op. cit., p. 119.

3. Krasheninnikoff, Description of the Conoitry of Kamchatka, pp. 81-2.

4. Troshchanski, op. cit., p. 118.]

hypothesis of the evolution of the 'black' man-shaman from the 'black' woman-shaman:

(a) On the Yakut shaman's apron there are sewn two iron circles, representing breasts.[1]

(b) The man-shaman dresses his hair like a woman, on the two sides of the head, and braids it; during a performance he lets the hair fall down.[2]

(c) Both women and shamans are forbidden to lie on the right side of a horse-skin in the yurta.[3]

(d) The man-shaman wears the shaman's costume only on very important occasions; in ordinary circumstances he wears a girl's dress made of the skin of a foal.[4]

(e) During the first three days after a confinement, when Ayisit, the deity of fecundity, is supposed to be near the woman who is lying-in, access to the house where she is confined is forbidden to men, but not to shamans.[5]

How the female black shaman was displaced by the male black shaman Troshchanski explains as follows, again using exclusively Yakut evidence:

The smith who made the ornaments for the female shaman's garment acquired some shamanistic power. He was in contact with iron, which was of magical importance, and power came to him through this contact. (The smiths were, like the shamans, 'black' and 'white', but among the Yakut one hears more of 'black' smiths than of 'white'.) Thus the similarity between the vocation of a shaman and that of a smith becomes close, especially when the calling of smith descends through many generations in the same family. Smiths come to be considered as the elder brothers of shamans, and then the differences between them finally disappear, the smith becoming a shaman.

The woman, then, since she could not be a smith, had eventually to give up her place to the man.

In modern times, as there are no longer any 'inagical smiths', new shamanistic garments cannot be made.'[6]

[1. Krasheninnikoff, op. cit., pp. 81-2.

2 Ibid.

3. Troshchanski, op. cit., p. 123.

4. Ibid

5. Ibid.

Troshchanski, op. cit.. p. 125. It will be interesting to quote here what Sieroszewski says about the vocation of the smith: "Those who approach most nearly to the shamans in their office, and are partially related to them, are the smiths. "The smith and the shaman are of one nest,", says a proverb of the Kolyma district. The smiths also can cure, advise, and foretell the future, but their knowledge does not possess a magical character; they are simply clever people, who know much, and who possess "peculiar fingers". The profession of smith is generally hereditary, especially in the north. It is in the ninth generation that a [hereditary] smith first acquires certain supernatural qualities, and the more ancient his ancestry, the more marked are these qualities. The spirits are generally afraid of iron hoops and of the noise made by the blowing of the smith's bellows. In the Kolyma district the shaman would not shamanize until I [Sieroszewski] removed my case of instruments; and even then his bad luck in shamanizing wits explained by him as due to the fact that, as he said, "the spirits are afraid of smiths [in this case Sieroszewski], and that is why they do not appear at my call." Only a smith of the ninth generation can, without harm to himself, hammer out the iron embellishment of the shamanistic dress, the iron for the drum, or make ämägyat. If the smith who makes a shamanistic ornament has not a sufficient number of ancestors, if the noise of hammering and the glare of the fire does not surround him on all sides, then birds with crooked claws and beaks will tear his heart in pieces. Respectable hereditary smiths have tools possessed of "spirits" (ichchilah) which can give out sounds by themselves.' (Sieroszewski, op. cit., p. 632.)]

This hypothesis of women being the first black shamans is, however, not borne out by the evidence. Even if we allow that the above quotations, especially that containing the linguistic evidence, tend to show that women were shamans before men, it does not follow that they were the first black shamans. There is not enough evidence in Troshchanski's book to support his hypothesis of two separate origins and developments for black and white shamans.

On the other hand, the evolution which Troshchanski ascribes to black shamans might be ascribed to professional shamanism, if we reject Jochelson's and Bogoras's view that professional developed out of family shamanism.

The Altaians. Wierbicki [1] says that among the Altaians, besides the shaman, called kam, there are also (i) rynchi, 'who, during attacks accompanied by pain, can foretell the future'; (ii) telgochi, or 'guessers'; (iii) yarinchi, or those who can divine by means of the blade-bone; (iv) koll-kurechi, who divine from the hand; (v) yadachi, who control the weather by means of a stone, yada-tash, which is found in narrow mountain defiles, where winds blow continually. To obtain these stones a yadachi must swear away all his possessions. Hence he is poor, lonely, and usually a widower.

The Buryat. Among the Buryat, according to Shashkoff,[2] shamans are divided into (a) hereditary shamans and (b) shamans of the first generation. Another division is into (a) real, (b) false

[1. The Natives of the Altai, pp. 44-6.

2. Shashkoff, Shamanism in Siberia, W.S.S.I.R.G.S., p. 82.]

shamans. Again there are (a) white (sagan-bö) and (b) black (haranïn-bö).

The white and black shamans, the Buryat say, fight with each other, hurling axes at one another from distances of hundreds of miles. The white shaman serves the West tengeri and West khats, and has charge of the ceremonies held at birth, marriage, &c. He wears a white coat and rides a white horse. A famous white shaman was Barlak of the Balagansk district, at whose grave his descendants still go to worship.

The black shaman serves the tengeri and khats of the East. These shamans are said to have power to bring illness and death upon men. They are not liked, but much feared, by the people, who sometimes kill black shamans, to such a point does this dislike develop.[1] The grave of a black shaman is usually shaded by aspens, and the body is fastened to the earth by a stake taken from this tree.

According to Agapitoff and Kangaloff, there are also a few shamans who serve both good and bad spirits at the same time.

The Samoyed. Lepekhin [2] Says that the Samoyed shamans are not divided into distinct classes, black and white, as among the Buryat, but serve both for good and bad ends, as occasion arises. The Lapps likewise make no strict distinction between good shamans and bad. Some of the Lapp noyda (shamans) are known as 'Big', and others as 'Little', noyda.

The Votyak. The whole Votyak hierarchy arose from the white shamans. The chief of the shamans is the tuno. At the present day the tuno [3] is the chief upholder of the old religion.

As the soul of a tuno is 'educated' by the Creator, he is without doubt a white shaman. Besides the tuno, there are priests, chosen either by himself or by the people under his advice. 'In most cases the profession and knowledge of a tuno descend from father to son, although any person who has the opportunity of acquiring the knowledge necessary to a tuno can become one.' [4]

Among the Votyak there is a classification of shamans into (a) permanent and (b) temporary. The latter are chosen to Perform some particular sacrifice. Besides these there are

[1. Agapitoff and Khanaaloff, op. cit., pp. 85-6.

2. Lepekhin, Diary of a Journey, p. 262.

3. Bogayewski, A Sketch of the Mode of Life of the Votyak of Sarapul, p. 123.

4. Op. cit., p. 126.]

secondary priests appointed by the tuno and called töre and parchis.

In former times black shamans also were to be found among the Votyak, but they have given way to the white, just as among the Yakut the white shaman has been largely displaced by the black.

The Votyak black shaman of former times has been converted into an ordinary sorcerer. He is called pellaskis, and 'he can aid the sick, and find lost cattle through his incantations; but all this without any connexion with the deities'.[1] Another kind of sorcerer is called vedin. He is feared and hated by all. [2]
When the tuno has finished his education under Kylchin-Inmar (the Creator), the latter takes his pupil to a place where the candidates for the position of sorcerer reside. He examines them, and to those who answer satisfactorily he gives permission to enchant and destroy men.

[1. Bogayewski, op. cit., p. 12).

2. Op. cit., p. 126.]

Next: Chaper X. The Accessories of the Shaman