I. S. Sh. R., 2nd Conference, Vol. II (south As) =

Shamanism in Performing Arts – southern Asiatic (south Chinese; Nepali & Ladakhi)





Shamanic Dance

Daniela Berti


Shamanic Visual Art

Diana Riboli


Ladakhi Shaman

Takako Yamada


Singapore Chinese

R.-I. Heinze



pp. 63-76 Daniela Berti : "Observations on Shamanic Dance". [various tribes in Nepal]

pp. 64-6 drumming & consequent trembling by jha~kri




"The Tamang jha~kri, seated cross-legged before the altar and wearing a bandolier of bells around his neck, grasped the handle of his drum with his left hand, with the drumstick (gajo) in his right. Besides the drum handle, his left hand also held a copper plate ... . Due to the S-shape of the drumstick, he could strike both the drum’s external membrane and the plate in a single movement. ... Suddenly, after a slight acceleration of rhythm, the jha~kri thrice hit the floor with the drum handle, whistling and shouting ‘Oh! Oh!’ (as though he were riding a horse). When he resumed playing, his legs (which he kept


crossed) started to jerk with a movement with was isochronal the the drum’s rhythm. ... All of the sudden, however, the jha~kri changed rhythm completely and ... trembling began, with movements which were no longer voluntary ... . ... This movement alone caused a jerky shaking of the head, face, jaws, shoulders and the upper part of the torso ... . ... In a certain way, ... his trembling caused vibrations in the chanting, at the same time striking or moving the bells of his bandolier and making them ring. ... When the rhythm changed and the invocation of all the deities and spirits started, ... his whole body moved only in a vertical direction. The movement was gallup-like, and even ... by the voice (beating out rhythmically the names invoked) ... . ... The next change of rhythm was marked by three yells (as of someone riding a horse), followed by laughter ... . After about ten minutes, the jha~kri ... got up and started dancing ... . At this point, his whole body was trembling ... . ... The jha~kris


themselves, moreover, told ... that the drum serves to call the gods and spirits who, once they enter a body, are solely responsible for the trembling."

"The transition from the voluntary (or at least self-induced) stage of trembling to the stage in which it is wholly automatic was described ... by the Tamang jha~kri as ‘passing from a state of unconsciousness (behos) to a conscious state (hos)". {In Bodish, this term /HOS/ is also used as an esoteric aequivalent for "Bon"; as well as in common dharan.i-s (such as, "Jas Hum Bam HOS").}

pp. 67-8 contrasts between jha~krini {dhyana-kriyini-s ‘trance-activistess’} & jha~kri {dhyana-kriyin-s ‘trance-activist’}




"the jha~krini ... performed what she called a Rai dance ... . ... Thus, ... the dance of the Rai jha~kri ... was very different to {from} that of the jha~krini ... . ... Furthermore, the instruments used during the dance were considered differently by jha~kri and jha~krini, those which were crucial for one being considered merely decorative by the other."


the jha~krini said :

"During the se’ance, I feel as there were ... wrapped around me with the forms of the gods printed on it. All of a sudden, some animal enters me; the animals appear and disappear. There everything before me becomes gold. The others cannot see it, but I can : the trident, the sticks, everything is gold."

the jha~kri said :

"During the se’ance, ... the movement begins first in my legs, then in my right arm, then throughout my body. The god comes ... and gets onto my shoulders. Then my body begins to swell and the god tells me, "Take the shape of a monkey ... !’ ... I become a monkey".


effect of ban (magically enchanting ‘arrow’) hurled by boksi (‘witch’, a female) at jha~kri (a male) : "the jha~krini -- ... the boksi -- ... threw a ban at him. This ban was immediately caught and thrown back by the jha~kri : it managed to hit the jha~krini and entered her mind, ... ‘driving her gradually mad’. The ... jha~kri ..., at this point, performed a dance for her, during which he put together two bamboo sticks (known as d.ungri and used ... for therapeutic purposes) and placed them in his mouth, extracting from the jha~krini’s mind what he himself defined as ‘insects’."

p. 69 tribal differences among jha~kri-s’ mimicries of beasts

"The Tamang jha~kri performed the mimesis of a dog ... . ... All of a sudden, he ... assumed a four-legged posture ..., barking ... . After this, with his mouth he picked up some burning coals ... . ... The jha~kri, still growling and on four legs, ... with his teeth took up other red-hot ones."

"the Rai jha~kri, ... making monkey-noises, snatched with his mouth the leaves lying on the altar. After this, he began turning round and round, his arms wide, ... and the leaves projecting from his mouth."

p. 71-3 dance-movements as instructions from deities




"The jha~kri’s dance is characterized by jerky bodily movement ... . All dance-steps are in fact jumping steps".


The jha~krini ... replied, ‘I don’t know how to dance. It is my god who makes me dance ... . All of the sudden, the god ... makes me dance.’ "


"Unlike the music, with which the jha~kris ... called the gods and spirits ..., the dance is the carrying out of the god’s instruction."

pp. 73-4 brandishing of ritual-objects during shamanic dance




"While dancing, the jha~kri holds various ritual instruments in his hands. Each jha~kri operates with his own paraphernalia, communicated to him in a dream by his personal guru. ... The ... jha~kris maintained that, thanks to the use of these instruments, they could ‘dance (khelnu) and move with the god’. In all the se’ances I observed ..., I never saw a jha~kri, even for a moment, dancing with empty hands. During the first phase of the dance, the various ritual objects which the jha~kri holds in his hands are moved about in the air ... . By tracing vertical, horizontal and diagonal movements and blowing in all directions, the jha~kri defends the surroundings". [fn. 18 : "In this connection, ... jha~kris always created a concrete point of reference to which they would return, whether by a glance or physically, after each movement. This point of reference could be the ... altar".]


"The more operative phase of the dance subsequently begins, during which the various ritual objects are used fro {for} a concrete and precise purpose : divination, diagnosis, therapy, etc."

pp. 74-5 ritual-objects used by jha~kri-s of various tribes (T[aman], R[ai], N[ewar])















N., T.


sickle & "bunch of leaves for divination"

T., R.


two bamboo sticks

N., R.





grains of rice



notched stick






vase full of flowers









iron ladle






peacock’s claw



pp. 77-88 Diana Riboli : "Shamanic Visual Art in Nepal". [C^epan]

pp. 78-9 religion of shamanism; shamanesses

p. 78

"the only practiced religion is shamanism and the shaman, called pande {cf. [Skt.] /pan.d.ita/} in Chepang language, is the main

p. 79

personality in the community. The Chepang shamans are considered, by other ethnic groups, the more {most?} powerful of Nepal".

pp. 79-80 underworld, contrasted with overworld

p. 79

"chepang {sic : uncapitalized adjectival usage, as in French} shamans ‘walk’ only in patal (N) {[Skt.] /Patala/, the lowest of the 7 Tala-s}, that is in hell {more correctly ‘Limbo’ (a sort of Paradise); ‘Hell" (or rather ‘Purgatory’) would be /Naraka/, which is a distinct region, or group of regions (all below Patala)}, whereas akas (N) {[Skt.} /akas`a/} that is heaven {more correctly a sort of supernal element (not a particular location); ‘Heaven’ would be /svarga/ or the like} is seen by Chepangs as a remote and unknown world {this would seem to repraesent /A-vyakta/ (the realm of the unknowable, beyond the knowable Mahat)}, even dangerous for mortal men, being the abode of Yama raja {rajan}, hinduist god of the deads {/los muertos/, in Spanish}. ... Yama ... for Chepangs he is ... supreme chief of heaven nine levels. {Heaven of 9 levels is typically Taoist.} Yama ... is often called and represented on the ground with coloured powder {as in the Pima-&-Papago style of man.d.ala} during the sessions. Yama lives on the ninth level of heaven (some say seventh level {confounding with the 7 Tala-s}) and all the other levels are abode[s] for dangerous supernatural beings submitted {submissive} to Yama[’s] orders. Namely pisac (N) {[Skt.] Pis`aca}; ... two planets (graha in Nepali) which are sent to men by Yama when he wants to give illness ... . ...

[A] Chepang describes patal as an idyllic land, ... inhabited by four of the main Chepang godheads :

Batise` and Tiwase`, two brothers,

Soboti` and Devkli` {[Skt.] Devi-Kali}, two sisters.

The two sisters were once living in akas, but they moved in[to] patal to help thw two brothers ... to create a world where human beings could live. The Chepang myth on world creation is long, poetic and very articulated" {C^, pp. 128-9}.

p. 80

"Chepang pande ... talking about themselves ... are sure, after death, to go to patal and continue a life of peace and richness".

C^ = http://111.wikia.com/wiki/C%5Eepang

pp. 80-1 ritual paraphernalia & ritual substances

p. 80

Group A :

"the drum (called dhyangro in Nepali and ring or rin in Chepang);

the necklaces, principally made of Elaeocarpus ganitrus seeds ... and bright black seeds ..., worn by shamans during the sessions;

the bells bandoleer."


Group B :

"the narling mendo, white transparent oval seeds pierced by sticks, representing the forefathers;

painted eggs placed on the altar layed on the ground."

p. 81

Group C :

"reproductions are created on the ground using coloured powders ... or ground rice flours. ... At the end of this phase this supernatural being becomes very dangerous, so he must be rapidly sent away by destroying its symbolic representation."

pp. 81-2 dreams : of bird-spirit; about sandan-tree

p. 81

"After the initiating call, a small bird-spirit appears in dream to the neophyte shaman and leads him to the choice and manufacturing of ritual instruments and objects."

p. 82

Used for rin-drum are "only sandan (N) trees. In these trees the roots touch the leaves. {Sandan tree (Danielli oliveri) is promoter of rice-growth ("AOE&E").} {Using some "rice and bean paste", by means of "sandan trees" a woman "ascends to heaven." ("ThPJF", p. 7)} There is one bird and the bird finds the tree. ...

All this takes place in a dream. Among the Magars, the dreams are induced by a bayu [dangerous wind-spiri in Nepai], among us by a bird. After the dream, during the daytime, the student cuts the tree".

"AOE&E" = http://www.cinram.umn.edu/afta2005/pdf/Kimball.PDF [pdf]

"ThPJF" = Alsace Yen : "Thematic-Patterns in Japanese Folktales". http://nirc.nanzan-u.ac.jp/publications/afs/pdf/a270.pdf [pdf]

pp. 82-3 gendre of one-sided drum; enlivenment of that drum

p. 82

"In Nepal most shamans, of different ethnic groups, use ma[i]nly double-sided leather drums, In particular Tamangs ... think one side of the drum to be

p. 83

feminine and the other masculin[e]. For Chepangs instead the drum is only masculin[e] and so doesn’t need a second leather side."


"As the pande woman explained ... : ...

When the ring is made, we re-live[n] it, We call the goat soul and we three cooperate in order to treat the sickness. These three are : leather, wood and me."

p. 84 divine banana-garden; human imitation of this garden in altar

"All main Chepang godheads ... live in patal. ... The gods who live down {below}, have a banana garden".

"The altar is arranged with great care, starting with young banana plants".

pp. 85-6 depiction of Yama & of Yami; attraction of actual spirits to that depiction




"the representation of Yama raja. This godhead is designed as an anthropomorph[o]us bird with red, black and white lines. These lines can be doubled during a subsequent session in order to represent Yama raja and Yama rani [Yami rani] together (his sister and wife ...)."


"Attracted ..., all evil spirits come and ‘sit on the drawing’, as shamans explain it. That is why the drawing must be quickly after[wards] destroyed, treading on it with rapid steps of dance until [its] complete disappearing."

p. 87 goddess Indran.i

"To Chepangs Indrani is a dangerous goddess, who appears as a rainbow. Indrani ... lives in patal and, during raining seasons, may cause madness to men, with fainting, shiver and foam at the mouth. {This is epilepsy.} ...

Later they explained ... that Indrani has a higher temperature than the fire. As soon as the drawing is completed, Indrani rises from patal and the pande has to bear a terribly high temperature. The shaman should grab the rainbow goddess, shake and pull her, in order to remove her from the patient[’s] soul." {This manoeuvre is intended to cure cases of epilepsy.}


pp. 89-95 Takako Yamada : "The Ladakhi Shaman as Performer of Oneness with Local Gods".{actually, a temporary ousting of shaman’s soul by deity; which is different from in nature from any manner of "oneness"}

p. 89 possession by deity

"among the Ladakhi it is considered a necessary qualification for a shaman (lha-ba for male / lha-mo for female) to be possessed by a local god or lha ... . Major activities of the shaman are to cure diseases, to divine luck, and to exorcise evil spirits. The shaman, possessed by lha and in the capacity of the god, performs a seance for these purposes."

p. 90 types of lha

"in the sutra of bsangs, i.e., bsangs brugan gyi cho ga nyis pa kun sel, which is recited at the purification rite, sixty kinds of lha are described, such as

the god of the kitchen (living room),

the god of the house,

the god of the oven,

the god of the field,

the god of the horse,

the god who make food and property abundant, and

the god of the village. (Irimoto 1989:313-317)."

{All these kinds (such as, oven-deity and town-deity) are Chinese (Confucianist) rather than Bauddha in nature. This is in accord with the fact that Vajra-yana deities generally are of Taoist provenience.}

"Among these lha, yul-lha (the village god), who is concerned with and guards the welfare of the whole village, is usually relied on by the shaman."

Irimoto 1989 = Takashi Irimoto : "The Concept of Lha among the Ladakhi". J OF INDOLOGY & BUDDHIST STUDIES 4:305-24.

p. 90 ritual objects held in the hands by a shaman(ess) "during a seance"

held in the __ hand

is the __


"a small drum, daru {[Skt.] d.amaru}, shaped like an hourglass"


"a bell, dril-bu"

pp. 90-1 other paraphernalia of the shaman




"A knife after being made red hot {designated /flimani koku/ in Togo}, is used for the ritual treatment of skin diseases caused by the klu spirit (Naga)."


The other important part of a shaman’s paraphernalia is the costume :

the headdress, rigs-lnga with a bundle of silk string on each side;


a large brocade collar, stod-le;


a long brocade apron, smad-gyoks; and

a piece of cloth which covers the area around the mouth and head."


"Among these, the headdress in particular is a sign that the god lha is now acting through the shaman, lha-ba / lha-mo. Thereafter, the putting off of the rigs-lnga is the sign of de-possession."

p. 91 arrangement for the se’ance

"First, a shaman has to summon his/her particular local god to possess him/her. ... In fact the shaman generally get possessed by sniffing ... the juniper leaves. ...

The rite of gser-skyems is ... arrangement of an altar ... for ... religious ritual. A picture of his/her tutelary deity (yi-dam) ... is also placed on the altar."

pp. 92-4 procedure of the se’ance




"Invitation of Lha" : "Gradually the shaman starts to get the hiccups, sneezes, shrills ‘a! tsi tsi!’, or breathes hard. these are the signs of his/her becoming possessed by his/her own god, lha."


"Transformation of Shaman into God" {more exactly to be described as, temporary displacement/supplantment of human (shaman’s) soul by deity} : "After the shaman is completely possessed by lha, it is not the shaman but the lha himself/herself that that performs the seance to the end. Now the lha-bshad, the telling of the story of lha, and the gser-skyems, the ritual offering .... begin. ... Sometimes, the gser-skyems starts before the lha-bshad ... . ... However, in a shamanic seance it is the lha himself/herself that performs this offering ritual ... . Each lha must perform a special gser-skyems appropriate for himself/herself."


"Healing by Lha" : "Now the shaman is lha himself/herself {the shaman (shaman’s soul) is displaced from the body by the lha}, and starts to answer the requests of the patients one by one. the


lha who possesses the shaman firstly is his/her principal lha. The principal lha of a shaman is commonly a village god, yul-lha, of the village where he lives, and is identified and certificated by the rinpoche, a high spiritual incasrnate lama, or a senior shaman. Each lha has his/her own special power regarding a certain healing technique; then, if the help of another lha is needed, that lha is called in after an appropriate gser-skyems has been done for him/her. Thus, during the seance several gods come to possess the shaman in turn ... .

In this phase, the shaman (now lha himself/herself) demonstrates his/her divinity by talking in an uncommon fashion such as employing a tone of command, or an unusual turn of expression. ... Therefore, since it is often difficult for patients to understand the speech of a shaman, an attendant who translates and explains the shaman’s speech is needed for the seance. The shaman also replies to his/her patients authoritatively, harshly or affectionately, according to the gender of his/her god. Asking, ‘Understand?’ ... after the reply to a patient is one of the common characteristics in every shaman’s speeches."


"Healing techniques by Lha" : "four techniques are commonly used .. .

One is grib-lung, the removal of defilements. Using ... a pipe, he/she sucks ... . ... The point to be sucked depends on the illness and condition of the patient ... . ...


The second is kab-lung, the removal of a needle from the body of a patient. ... This technique is rarely applied to a human patient, but usually applied to ill cattle ... .


The third is me-sngags, or fire incantation. A knife is made red hot, then the shaman (lha) first shows his/her power by putting the red hot knife onto his/her tongue. Next, he/she holds the knife over the patient’s affected part ..., and spits there ... to expel from the patient’s body the malignant forces which cause the disease. ...


The fourth is mo, or divination by checking the pattern of rice grains scattered onto a small drum. People often come to request that the shaman performs {perform} a divination for a safe journey, or luck in business, or for lost cattle ... . After the requests of patients, the shaman ... reads the pattern of the scattered grains, and answers the patient, saying ..., ‘If you go in this direction, ten your object will be attained’. Generally, the answer of a shaman is only to suggest the direction".


"Sending-off of Lha" : "Finally, after replying to all the requests of those present, the shaman begins to recite ... for sending off the lha, and meanwhile he/she suddenly begins to hiccup or breath hard, and then takes off the headdress and lies on his/her face. ... Sometimes he/she beats himself/herself on the back with his/her fist ... to expel the god from his/her body."

p. 94 lack of memory of se’ance by spirit-medium

"all the shamans stressed that they did not remember what had happened during the seance. They said they learned what was going on only afterwards by talking with their attendant."


pp. 197-211 Ruth-Inge Heinze : "A Comparison of Singapore Chinese ... Shamanic Rituals".

pp. 204-5 general procedure for Taoist spirit-medium performance in Simhapur






"A black flag on the outside altar indicated that a spirit medium was present in the temple.


The medium, if a man, would wear yellow trousers and an apron-like cloth with the insignia of a deity.

If a woman, the medium would be clad in white".



"All participants took off their shoes and left them outside the temple. They would light incense sticks and put them in the urns on the different altars".



"The mediums would evoke the deity, ... while the clients waited".



"The mediums would begin to shiver and rolls their head. ... After some gulping sounds, their expressions would change. Speaking with a voice different from their normal voice, a deity would announce his/her arrival. Clients would



come up one by one, state their questions and listen eagerly to whatever the deity had to say".



"It was assumed that the deity was savoring ... the offerings. At times, mediums would consume ... fruit, rice, and several cups of tea. Fruit and rice would be taken home by the clients later on because it was believed that these fruit and rice carried the blessings of the deity." {cf. [Skt.] prasada}



"After all clients had received individual answers from the deity, the mediums would thank the deity and ask the sacred to return to heaven for the next call."

pp. 205, 208 further activities at the Taoist se’ance in Simhapur




"Instruction how to interpret the words of the deity and how to use the blessed water and charm paper were offered by the medium’s assistants."


"Singapore spirit mediums are shamans because they not only call spiritual entities into their bodies but also go on ‘magical flights’." {The "magical flights" occur during a dreamy state of mind.}


BIBLIOTHECA SHAMANISTICA, Vol. 1 = Tae-gon Kim & Miha`ly Hoppa`l (edd.) : Shamanism in Performing Arts. Akade`miai Kiado`, Budapest, 1995.

[2nd conference (1993) of the International Society for Shamanistic Research, in Budapest, Hungary]