Handbook of Contemporary Animism, 22



Shamanism ... of the Siberian Forest : Soul, Life-Force, Spirit

Roberte Hayamon


p. 284 "in the service of the devil"?

"The first {litterate, "civilized" European} observers [of shamans] (at the end of the seventeenth century) were Russian Orthodox clergy for whom the shaman was a reigious character ... suspected of being in the service of the devil because of his extravagant cries and gesticulations ... (van Gennep 1903; Pascal 1938; Delaby 1976 ...)."

{How-be-it, some Christian (or Muslim, or whatever) saints, angels (or whoever) -- and certainly Pentacostals generally -- may at times make yells, gestures, or whatever; so this objection is merely an insincere excuse for persecuting the saints.}

van Gennep 1903 = A. van Gennep : "De l'emploi du mot 'chamanisme'". REVUE DE L'HISTOIRE DES RELIGIONS 47:51-7.

Pascal 1938 [not in bibliography, p. 546]

Delaby 1976 = Laurence Delaby : Chamanes toungouses. E'TUDES MONGOLES ET SIBERIENNES, 7. Nanterre : Universite' de Paris, X.

p. 285 /sama/

"The Tungus verb sama means "to shake the lower parts of the body" when one speaks about wild animals, and

{These, the "lower parts of the body" in standing bipeds = the rear parts of the body in standing quadrupeds.} {An activity in such parts of the body would be the reverse of the effect of dilantin, which is numbing to those parts of the body (such was its effect on my body).}

"to act in a shamanic manner" in a ritual context."

{which may have originally meant 'to waggle the buttocks', or 'to waggle one's tail' (said of a bird, such as of the water-wagtail, whose tail-wagging is significant in Ainu mythology).}

{This /SaMa/ may be cognate with Skt /SuMa/ or /SoMa/ 'moon', where (on account of mention in the Qur>an of the splitting of the moon) "mooning" is taken to refer to the rear of the body (the buttocks with their cleft). Furthermore, this cleft may be aequivalent to the 'parting of the hair; boundary' as meanings of Skt /SiMa/, another probable cognate with Skt /SuMa/ and with Tungus /SaMa/.}

p. 286 spirit-custodian of animal-species

"To enter into a relationship with a species it is necessary to address its "spirit" {i.e., its divine species-custodian} ... . Thus, the spirit of a given edible {i.e., prey to humans} species is held to control its living members {by controlling their will, their intent, such as their specific path of travel} ..., and hence to be able to give the hunters access to their bodies".

{Although the divine spirit-custodian of each animal-species is, when in its true form, always anthropic, yet (according to AmerIndian traditional lore), when teaching mortals how successfully to hunt that species, may appear (in dreams) disguised as that species of animal, and then explain (in the dreams) that such a disguise can be very useful for sneaking up on that species so as to slay it.}

p. 286 ae:rial tomb

"With reference to death, animal bones, like those of humans, are deposited in high places, in trees or on platforms called "aerial tombs". The soul lodged in the bones is supposed is supposed to be recycled {in cycle of incarnation} and then return "to animate" a new individual {a new body, but the same person} of the same human line or the same animal species.

{The divinities in the air (sylphs), along with perhaps those in the sky, assist redincarnation of the soul, when those divinities are informed (by means of exposure of the bones aloft) that such redincarnation is requaested.}

It never transfers to another species ... (even though this can happen in narratives)."

{These narratives are myths, involving animal-deities. Even the persons who become animals after death in the Politeia by Platon are all mythical.}

p. 287 catching of luck (by shaman) for hunters

"The catching of "luck" by the shaman is supposed to determine and foreshadow the catching of game, and this initiates a deliberate optimism on their part."

{As with rituals generally, the deities invisibly observing the human ritual come to understand therewith the human intentions, and are pleased therewith, and grant the petition.}

p. 287 marriage of male shaman to animal-goddess

"The shaman ... "marries" a female {divine} spirit of a game species. ...

She is a ... wife ... "madly in love" with him. She is {witnessed in dreams} as a permanent representative {or rather, controller} of her species ... .

{Because she is in love with him (whom she can consort with in the dream-world), she (along with her own relatives, who are thus affines of the shaman) will control the will and intent of the animals of that species, so that they will make themselves available to be found and slain by human hunters in the waking-world.}

She is ... to command {through co-operation with divine spirit-guides of} animals of carnivorous species

which are regarded {constructively, i.e., by legalistic custom inhaerent to their divine dream-world} as the "brothers in law" of the shaman

{Proprely, all her male relatives are of the same clan (i.e., assist in the governing the same species) as herself. But tribes having defective theologies may attribute her brethren to clans (i.e., the species which they govern) different from her own. Such tribes must have (restricted only to their mythology, and as an anomaly!) all-male clans and all-female clans -- unless the author's informants were incorrect in what they told him (which could happen in a religion so degenerated by recent extermination -- at Stalin's command -- of all its religious experts).}

and who must cooperate with him in hunting.

To unite {or more accurately, to simulate uniting} with her, the shaman "animalizes" {to imitate her animal-disguise} his own appearance during the ritual ... . ... He imitates the deer's call, but he never goes on all fours {as is done only by hunters while they are approaching prey}."

{The true uniting is carried out only in the dream-world. The function is the described ritual (performed in the waking-world) is actually to facilitate the advent of the veritable (not merely simulated) activity in the dream-world (while the material body is sleeping in the waking-world).}

{Though praesently unknown anywhere in the world, all-male and all-female clans may have been usual in Neanderthal society -- a reason for conjecturing this is that in Ireland, where much of the archaic population is of Neanderthal type (large-headed, bulging-eyed) the clans are of two categories -- those named after goddesses and those named after gods. [May 1 2015]}

p. 287 armored shaman

"The fighting {which is being re-enacted in order to demonstrate combat in the Netherworld during dreaming} ... is likewise affirmed in both gestures and words. ... let us cite ... the Buriat verb mu:rgehe "to head butt (with respect to horned ruminants)" ... . In Mongolian, the costume is "cuirass" huyag, and in Buriat, "armour" zebseg, and the iron crown bears a deadly dagger {is this supposed to be figurative of a unicorn's horn?} in the middle of the front."

{The armor worn by a shaman during a public performance is intended to remind the Netherworld-deities of the pact which that shaman had solemnized with them during a dream, to the effect that those deities are to release the captive soul of a human victim, namely the soul of the patient being cured (or alternatively, rescued from post-mortem captivity in their Netherworld), in exchange for some ritual demanded by them. The armor hath (which is, of course, never worn by animals -- except [in Chinese Taoist metaphor concerning the Black Warrior of the North] by turtles and tortoises), quite unrelated (except perhaps metaphorically) to any overt activities by animals themselves, as however is misleadingly alleged by the authoress.}

{As usually for anthropologists in the United Kingdom, the authoress hath entirely evaded the essence of all shamanism, which is dream-realm activities in the Netherworld on the part of the shaman. The result is, as usual, a gross travesty of shamanry.}

p. 288 authoress's false allegation that shamanry in hunting is merely metaphorical, alleged metaphor concerning sexual seduction of female game-animal by male hunter

"the metaphorical structure ... makes ... possible to legitimate the act of predation by presenting it in terms of taking a wife ... and the consumption of game in terms of a sexual act. This metaphorizing process, which entails words, gestures and objects as well, aims to mask the killing in the guise of a love relationship. ... .

{The situation described by the authoress is a degenerated fake simulation of shamanism, artificially contrived recently by local Yukagir after the thorough extermination of all genuine shamans by Stalinist murderers in the 1930s. The former (genuine) practice of shamanry in that tribe (exactly as in all Siberian tribes having a sufficiently developed practice of shamanry) had been for a male shaman to meet in a dream a goddess praesiding over the game-animals in a particular district in the waking-world, to marry her, and for her so to control those animals as to cause them to be easily slain by hunters of the male shaman's clan.} {When genuine shamanry had been practiced (i.e., prior to extermination of shamans by Stalinists), it was in no way merely metaphorical : instead, it had all been an experiential matter of a shaman's undertaking in his dreams.}

... the gestures of a shaman ... are of animal inspiration. ... . ... the shaman has ... to interact with animal spirits ... . ...

{The only factor of "animal inspiration" in Siberian shamanry is the function of the shaman's spirit-helper -- the animal-guised spirit-helper located in a dream by a human-guised spirit-guide abiding in a dream : both spirit-guide and spirit-helper performing their designated activies on the shaman's behald in the shaman's dreams.}

For the shaman's part it is at the same time "to make present" the animal spirits and to interact with them. ...

{It is true that at shamanic performance performed by a shaman in the waking world, the shaman's spirit-helpers are invited to emerge from the dream-world into the waking-world, and so audibly, visibly, and tactilely, with encouragement also from the human faithful in the mortal audience.}

The shaman's task usually also involves divination in order to influence

{This act of faith is a demonstration to the deities praesent audibly, visibly, and tactilely praesent, enabling those deities to act on behalf of the congregation of participants.}

the by definition random outcome of the ritual."

{No event nor sequence of events can ever be "random" : all events are controlled and arranged by the purpose of committees of deities.}

p. 289 shamanesses

"Women ... are restricted to minor and private forms of ritual, and they never "marry" a male animal." {The authoress's statements apply only to certain Buryat clans -- neither to other Buryat clans, nor to other tribes of Mongol, certainly not to Siberians as a whole, nor generally to non-Siberian shamanry.}

{Actually, Siberian tribes differ among themselves as to whether a male (shaman) or a female (shamanesses) is the religious authority -- even subtribes of Mongol differ among themselves in this regard. In tribes employing (instead of a shaman) a shamaness, she will marry a male animal-deity, who will involve his divine sistres with the shamaness. Such tribes are those wherein male hunters make use of dreams by women to guide them to the animal-prey -- which dreams are, of course, a much more effective method for locating prey than mere random searching; so that tribes employing shamanesses are far more effective at hunting than those employing shamans, so that it may be assumed that in the former epoch when subsistence by hunting (instead of reindeer-herding) was (in the Arctic) everywhere paramount, only shamanesses existed.}

pp. 290, 292 religious services on behalf of the unhappy dead

p. 290

"the activity of the shaman increases in the private field, in relation to ... the souls of the unhappy dead -- from those who died too early, or in a tragic way, and especially those without descendants through which to be reborn. These souls are ... frustrated ..., bringing trouble to the living. As a result, some (living people) suffer from depression, anorexia (the dead soul soul having stolen that {food?} of the living) ... . The shaman offers to these souls consolation and compensation so that they leave the living to live in tranquillity. Invited to make a ritual, he indicates ... the dead person responsible, invokes it, and sings the ups and downs of its life. Then he intersperses his song with phrases said in the name of the dead, to express its misfortunes and thus to settle its account with the living. ... He asks questions and gives answers in a dialogue of negotiation which leads ... to the curing of the living patient it disturbs ... . He may even organize a venerative tradition to transform the dead into a guardian. This is what the Buriats call "making good

p. 291

the bad dead" (Batarov & Horoshih 1926:56)."

Batarov & Horoshih 1926 = P. P. Batarov & P. P. Horoshih. Buriatovedcheskii sbornik, II:50-9.

p. 291 the unmarried dead are ritually mutually consecrated into marriage

"A shaman may also, for example in Korea or in Taiwan, ritually "marry" the soul of an unmarried dead young man and that of an unmarried dead young woman."

pp. 291-2 souls of communards; souls of the victims of Stalinist mass-murders

p. 291

"The practice ... crossed into the veneration ... brought by the Russian peasants who came to Siberia. The category of the {heroic} dead who have been made into venerated guardians accommodates ... the souls of "communards" ... of the Paris Commune in 1871; they ... in Lake Baikal ... give fish to the fishermen ... (Mihailov 1965:100-101)."

p. 292

"The souls of the unhappy dead demanding attention are mainly the souls of those shamans who fell victim to Stalin's purges. To deal with them means in a way to rehabilitate them {while deprecating Stalinism}."

Mihailov 1965 = T. M. Mihailov. In :- I. E. Eliasov (ed.) : Kritika ideologii shamanizma i lamaizma. pp. 82-107.

{Cults of this sort are likely to exist sporadically elsewhere. This specific cult surely could not have been devised by "peasants" (agriculturalists who contrast with fisherfolk) of any sort, and far from being genuinely Russian --even if the Paris Commune was learned of from Russian immigrants (instead of from immigrants from France or elsewhere in western Europe) by local natives --, must surely be of local provenience of Mazdayasnian type (diaspora of Magian/Zaratustrian religion succeeding Muslim hegemony in Iran), converting Iranian fisherfolk-heroes (e.g., Tobias who caught a medicinal fish in the river Tigris) into something more acceptable to Russian authorities.}

p. 292 spirits housed in artefacts

"An object is said to be "animated" if it is regarded as the abode of a spirit;

it is not by itself a spirit for all that. ...

{This would tend to refute the allegation alleged on p. 260 supra, that "religious statues are persons".}

The spirits which they house are either animal or human and

must be "nourished" in order to retain their "life force"."

{More cogently, the spirit must be offered offerings in order to be willing to remain in the same artefact.}

p. 292 spirits of animal-species; spirits of plants

"the spirits of animal species are associated with living animals."

{While any mortal being (human, animal, or plant) is in transition (Antara-bhava/Bar-do) betwixt incarnations, that being is in direct custody of whatever deity (Yama, Hermes, or the ilk) as may be performing the transportation of that mortal being, rather that of a species-regent deity.}

"Plants may also be considered to be living, hence to also be animated and,

in some Siberian societies, to have a soul

{Whether animals have souls : This is a point about which different individual persons may have different opinions.}

and, therefore, intentionality.

{Whether soul be aequivalent to intentionality : It also a point about which different individual persons may different opinions.}

They are usually constant or provisional supports of spirits".

{These are vexing quaestions, even for an experienced shaman, let alone for common layfolk.}


Graham Harvey (ed.) : Handbook of Contemporary Animism. Acumen Publ, Durham; ISD, Bristol, 2013.