Haunted by the Archaic Shaman, 1-4.






From Siberia to Nepal



Jha~kri-s & Other Intercessors



Origins of the Jha~kri



The Jha~kriís Calling



The Jha~kriís Ritual Outfit



Altered States of Consciousness



The Jha~kriís Cosmos



Shaman & Witch



Ban- Jha~kri



Jha~kri Basnu



pp. 1-24. Ė 1. "Discourse on Shamanism".

pp. 23-24 ritual intercessors

p. 23

"The Nepali word for shaman is jha~kri. The jha~kri is a part-time practitioner whose calling is involuntary and encompasses a transformative initiatory crisis. ... Among some groups, jha~kris officiate over funerals in the capacity of psychopomp".

p. 24

"Jha~kris comprise one of several categories of ritual intercessors, such as for example the

dhami (oracle),

jharphuke (nonecstatic healer who "blows" mantras and sweeps illness away), and

janne manche (literally, "he who knows," healers who ... dispense charms), among others".


pp. 25-39 Ė2. "Defining Shamanism".

pp. 28-29 interactions with spirits

p. 28

[Rai] "We purify ourselves and call the gods, ancestors, our spirit helpers (guru-deuta), and other supernatural beings. We convince them to enter our bodies. They cling to us and make us tremble (kamnu). This is how we get power. ... We sing particular songs for particular powers."


"At intervals throughout the course of a ritual performance, supernatural beings of sundry classes are beckoned, manifest themselves in various

p. 29

combinations, and enter the jha~kriís body, causing it to tremble, which is a sign that the spirits and gods have come (deuta aayo). In some cases, this is quite dramatic, with the jha~kri bouncing several inches off the floor where he sits in a cross-legged position. {Is levitation involved?} The spirits are embodied, vigorously reined in ..., and the trembling subsides."

pp. 31-33 dhami (Ďoracleí)

p. 31

"A specific recognized tutelary god chooses and regularly possesses the dhami. Their possession events ... are brought on by the godís will, take place at specific occasions according to the lunar calendar, and happen with or without the presence of worshippers ... . The dhami is attached to a particular shrine or temple dedicated to the deity in question. The dhami ... does not play a drum ... . Members of a musician caste provide the drumming that induces the spirit possession event. ...

p. 32

While possessed, the dhami sits on a throne and remains there as long as the god is present. ... His repertoire includes dispensing several grains of uncooked blessed rice (acheta) and placing a t.ika or red spot in the foreheads of supplicants who come to worship the god and seek his advice."

p. 33

"Often taught by a single guru, in contrast to the jha~kri, who may have multiple teachers, the dhamiís healing techniques consist of blowing mantras and brushing (jharphuke garnu), fumigating with incense (dhupanam), and ... do not extend beyond the treatment of minor ailments in adults and diseases of children and domestic animals attributed to minor spirits."

p. 34 goddessís spirit-medium

"mediums, or mother goddesses (mata in Nepali, deo-ma in Newari), ... female, ... are regularly possessed by an identified tutelary deity, ... Hariti, the protector[ess] of children ... . ... The possessing deuta of one of the mediums ... in Kathmandu is Mahalaks.mi, the goddess of wealth and fortune. ... She regularly worships and embodies Mahalaks.mi. ... While the medium is possessed supplicants worship her as a goddess ... . The healing techniques of the mediums involve ... divination (jokhana hernu) by examining the pattern of grains of rice (acheta) on a plate or on the palm of their hand, ... along with sermons on morality".


pp. 41-55 Ė 3. "myths, Narrative, & Ethnography".

pp. 52-53 Bon shamanism & its initiates in the Chumbi Valley [quoted from O&DT, pp. 425-6]

p. 52

"The dpa>bo and bsnyen jo mo are ... sorcerers and sorceresses who become possessed by the spirits of the dead, and who are able to communicate, while in trances, with their protective deities. Their main task is to perform divinations and to cure illnesses.

Just like other Tibetan mediums also the dpa>bo and bsnyen jo mo are ... to have been forced by one or the other supernatural beings to assume this position. ... It is customary to call then an experienced dpa>bo or bsnyen jo mo, who first propitiate the spirit and establish his identity; the same person usually takes over the initiation of the novice. ... After the period of instruction ..., the new dpa>bo or bsnyen jo mo will have to perform a so-called Bon Khrus gsol ... : ...

p. 53

The novice ... invokes all the bon skyong [Bo:n deities] requesting them to descend upon the bumpa. After a while the vessel is supposed to start shaking, the indication that the multitude of the bon skyong has arrived."

O&DT = Reneí de Nebesky-Wojkowitz : Oracles and Demons of Tibet. Gravenhage : Mouton, 1956.


pp. 57-78 Ė 4. "Seized by the Spirits".

p. 58 encountres with ghosts

[Jirel] "I was walking home late one evening and passed by the cremation grounds. It was very dark. ... Suddenly, I heard noises, as if someone was pushing or rolling rocks. ... Rocks and boulders began to fly out of the ground and came crashing down on the path nearly blocking it. All the trees began to swing back and forth. There was a screeching, like the sound of a terrible wild beast, and corpses and graveyard demons appeared all around. The sound was their commander, karbir-masan, rallying them. Some had no eyeballs, only empty sockets, some had no heads, and others had eyes on their chests. ...

Afterward, I saw such apparitions repeatedly. Sometimes I saw them as I described, sometimes demons would attack me at night, seize me so that I could not move or speak (ai~than or sleep paralysis). ... Then they would release me."

pp. 59-64 vocation to become a jha~kri : becoming possessed by a spirit


becoming possessed


[Gurun] "Those who are possessed ... shake under the weight of the spirits".


[Taman] "If someone is possessed by gods or spirits and does not follow their direction, if he does not seek to become a jha~kri, he will go mad (baulaunu)."


"when a jha~kri dies, his spirit does not move on to be reincarnated, but lingers on an ethereal plain until it can find a suitable candidate. These revenants ... select people ... often from the same descent group."


[Taman] "When my father died, the gods and spirits entered into my body."


[Taman] "when a jha~kri dies the jha~kri officiating at the funeral entreats him to pass on his power to one of his relatives so that they may not be lost to the world. One among the mourners, a son or grandson, may then tremble, indicating the presence of the deceased jha~kriís spirit, and will inherit his ritual paraphernalia and take up the calling."


[Taman] "When a jha~kri dies, they hold a funeral procession (mahlam). ... Then, at the end of the ceremony, the soul of the dead jha~kri possesses one of his sons or grandsons. The dead jha~kri, through the possessed son or grandson, speaks about where he is and where he is going".


"When a spirit seizes or "mounts" the candidate, as jha~kris describe the experience, he acts as if he is "mad" (baulaha), undergoes uncontrollable seizures and chronic illness, and has horrifying dreams and visual and auditory hallucinations.


[Rai] "I began to shiver when I was 11 years old. ... I heard noises and had frightening dreams. When I awoke, I could not speak. Sometimes I saw people and spoke to them, but no one else could see or hear them. ... Spirits used to converge on me lashing with iron whips. Sometimes they took me high in the alpine forests and kept me there for days. They whispered in my ears. ... I did not get better until I found a guru who told me what was going on and how to control the spirits and gods".


[Jirel] "People thought I had lost my mind, that I was mad (pagal). I began hearing voices murmur to me ... . ... One night I went to the cremation grounds (thursa in Jirel) ... . I remember being unable to move. Then there were ghosts (bhut, masan), and spirits (jakkhu) all around ... they were holding me down. I could not breathe and my chest felt like it would be crushed. The spirits attacked me ... I felt pain and thought I was dead. I saw my body being ripped to pieces {Bodish /gCod/} and I became unconscious ... and then I heard voices. They said they were my ancestors and informed me I was to become a jha~kri, like them. ... I gave in and they began to teach me mantras and jha~kri songs. I could then see these spirits. ... Then they whispered in my ears the different mantras I would need."


[Taman] "When my father died, the gods and spirits that were with him entered my body. My fatherís ghost came to me as well. I began to shiver. At first, the spirits only whispered in my ears, I couldnít understand what they were saying. Then they appeared in person and spoke in their own voices. They told me exactly what to do. ... That is how I became a jha~kri."


[S`erpa] "I began shivering when I was 13 years old. ... I could see the gods and spirits who came to me. ... When they entered inside me, I could not do anything, I couldnít talk or move. I just shook."


[Gurun] "It was the spirit of my great grandfather (jiju-buwa), who seized me and made me shake. My guru was my grandfather (hajur-buwa). He taught me how to ... read a patientís pulse, see and control the gods and goddesses, or nag-naginis".


[S`erpa] "If you shiver from gods and goddesses, or ancestral spirits who choose you ... you can become a jha~kri."


[Jirel] "To find out what is the source of the possession we have to make a diagnosis (jokhana: hernu). ... Feeling the pulse (nari) on the personís wrists is one way to do this. Alternatively, we use rice to diagnose. One a clean brass or copper plate, we put rice, ... and take some rice and touch the patient with it. We then throw the rice on the plate and look at the pattern."

pp. 64-65 vocation to become a jha~kri : identification of the possessing-spirit, so that it can become a tutelary-spirit

p. 64

"Once the condition is determined to be shamanic in nature, it is necessary to establish the identity of the spirit involved."

p. 65

[Jirel process of identification of candidateís possessing-spirit] "It took place ... after dark. ... [The guru] picked up his drum, began playing, and started to call the gods and spirits in succession to possess him. As he played, he began to shake and started bouncing up and down, a visible sign that the spirit he was calling had manifested itself. Each time [the guru] embodied the spirit, he momentarily struggled to restrain it, twisting and pulling his drum handle toward his abdomen as if trying to rein it in like a horse. Then he transmitted the possessing spirit into his studentís body by touching him with the point of his drum handle. In response, [the cela] shuddered, an indication that the spirit was now inside him. This process went on for about twenty minutes, ... as spirits were passed back and forth. Then [the cela] began to shake intensely and started hissing and choking, a sign ... that the correct spirit was now inside him. At this point, the possessing spirit revealed its identity, speaking through [the cela]."


"Alternatively, the assailing spirit may reveal its identity to the candidate or his teacher in a dream or vision ... . Once identification was successful, the guru must ensure that the spirits desist assailing the candidate and assume the role of tutelary spirits (guru-deuta). ... It is through the tutelary spirit that the neophyte will become acquainted with innumerable other deities and spirits in the course of his activities as a practitioner."

pp. 70-71 invoking cemetery-spirits

p. 70

[S`erpa] "My teacher and I went to the graveyard at midnight. We had to wait for a moonless night. We had with us a human thighbone trumpet [rka:ig-gli:ig], and a tiger bone trumpet [stag-gli:ig]. ... The human thighbone trumpet is used to raise the masan. The tiger bone is {in?} the right hand of Kali ... . ... To do this ritual one must go naked. I took off my clothes and my teacher smeared my body with the ashes me collected from the cremation place [masan-ghat.] ... . My teacher then thrust his spear into the ground and asked me to walk around it in a circle and blow the thighbone trumpet to call the masan. I then recited the ghost mantra ... . ... The ground began to move slightly and then more violently. ... Then the masan appeared in front of us and could be seen, terrifying and terrible. I made the masan dance ... downside up and upside down {" when a commoner seeks to raise a ghost, the spirit rises upside down, with his head below and his feet above" ("NE")} ... . Then after sometime I sent him back to where he belonged".

p. 71

[S`erpa dismissal of the masan] "By the oath of my guru

Karbir-masan return dancing upside down

Karbir-masan return dancing downside up

Let the Ganges return upside down".

"NE" = http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/necromancer-of-endor-midrash-and-aggadah

p. 73 acquisition of a drum

[S`erpa] "My guru [tutelary spirit] appeared to me in a dream and took me to uncultivated grounds above the village and pointed to a tall tree next to a stream and said, "there is your drum." The next day, I set out ... to the place in my dream ... . ... I came upon one large tree that sent tremors through my body. ... We knew we had found the right tree. ... I made my drum."

pp. 74-75 consecration of jha~kri by guru

p. 74

[Taman description by guru of initiation of cela] "I call the spirits and gods to enter into his body one by one. If he can control them, and if the spiritís voice speaking through him is comprehensible, the he is ready. I then touch his head and shoulders with the bumba containing holy water and throw the consecrated rice (acheta) over his head."


[Jirel description by cela of initiation] "I put on my costume and hat [five-paneled rigs lnga crown] and started playing the drum ... . My guru began drumming as well and started to shiver. Then he asked me to hold a

p. 75

bumba, which contained flowers and was filled with water, and have the gods and spirits enter it. ... I danced with the bumba on my head ... . ... Then he poured some holy water on my head, I began to shake very hard. ... This is how I became a jha~kri."

pp. 76-77 no financial nor political aggrandizement by jha~kri

p. 76

"jha~kris are not economically better off than other members of their community ... . Like their counterparts in Siberia, what income jha~kris earn is insubstantial".

p. 77

"Nepalese shamans never ... take part in local politics ... . The gods they shoulder or embody never issue political directives".


H. Sidky : Haunted by the Archaic Shaman : Himalayan Jha~kris. Lexington Books, Lanham, 2008.