Last of the S^or shamans [on upper Kondom & Mrassu rivers (p. 5)]

[on orthography : /j/ is pronounced as in German; /y/ when a vowel is as German umlauted /u:/]

pp. 6, 33-39 rattle & drum

p. 6; also on p. 33

"a drum ... which looked like a sieve with one side covered in leather. On the hollow side a wooden rod was attached that ran vertically through the centre. ... Both ends [of the wooden rod through the drum] were triple-sided. Perpendicular to the wooden handle an iron rod is fixed on each side of which hang five hollow iron flinders. This rod runs horizontally, not through the middle but off centre and therefore is not held in the hand. The rattle is ... re-sewn in hare skin and decorated in ribbons and strings."

p. 34

"before making the drum the ‘orba’ – ‘rattle’ was made. ... A branch of meadow-sweet (tamylga) was taken, wrapped in a cloth and sewn with hemp thread or horse hair in a piece of white hare skin. The tail-piece of an ‘ak-kiik’, (Northern deer) was sewn to the head scarf ... . members of the clan tied ribbons to one end of the

p. 35

‘orba’ and a leather loop to the other end which the kam put his hand through ... . ...

The sacred mountain Pistag (Mustag) would convey to the kam whether Ul’gen had given permission for a drum to be made ..., and it would also be specified how the drum should be made and from which specific materials. For example, the instructions may be : beside a particular river, close to a particular stone grows a willow. From this tree the drum hoop should be made;

in a particular place (given in detail) a bird cherry grows from which the drum’s outer hoop should be made. ... Pistag would also determine (communicate to the kam) who should make the hoop.

It was also dictated which birch should be used for the handle; where the birch grew; which images should be executed on it and what should be used to draw them, such as the fine bones of a hazel-grouse.

It was also conveyed who should make the iron rod with the hangings."

p. 36

"The image of the drum’s che ezi (master spirit) ‘tor-oz’ was carved out at both ends of the rod with bronze shining nails knocked in, serving as eyes. ... The

p. 37

number of hangings, called ‘sunmyr’ or ‘kylkysh’, usually corresponded to the number of the kam’s spirit-helpers. ... The function of the ‘sunmyr’ (hangings) is to guard the spirit-helpers from the evil spirits ‘aina’."

p. 38

"In addition to the celestial images the kam’s spirit-helpers were also drawn in the upper section. ... This part of the drum also carried images of the mythical animal ‘bura’ who served as the kam’s ‘steed’ on his journeys to Ul’gen. ...

In the lower half of the drum skin, images of the drum rattle ‘orba’, spirit che ezi, and a spirit firing an arrow at evil spirits were drawn. ... the mythical animal ‘Ker-Bos’, and spirits in the form of repitles, frogs, snake and lizard were also included in this section."

"Once the drum was finished it had to be brought to life. ... In bringing the drum to life, the animal whose skin had been used in the making was also brought to life. ... After this stage the drum became a sacred object which could be used by the kam alone."

p. 39

"ritual of ‘bringing the drum to life’ " : "The men present each gave ... a strip of material or coloured ‘chalaba’ ... and attached them to the iron bar of the drum. First nine strips were attached signifying the nine ‘tos’, the mountain che ezi that are passed on the road to Ul’gen. The strips symbolise clothes for the ‘tos’, the kam’s helpers. ... Nine wedges are chopped out of each birch signifying the nine steps to Ul’gen through the nine mountains. The birch is the ladder the kam uses to climb up into the ninth sky. ... Several ‘terbish’, flat boxes similar in shape to a deep tray, are also made from birch bark. ... ‘Tertpek’, small bread buns, are boiled {dumplings} and placed in the ‘terbish’ (trays). ...


At the first kamlanie, Ul’gen communicates to the kam how many times in his life he must change his drum and in how many years’ time."

pp. 12-13 cosmology

p. 12

(1st) Ortinda C^eri (Middle World) "is flat and the Pistag/Mustag Mountain stands at its centre. ... Pistag (pis/mis – ice) is the centre, the navel of the earth – ‘cherdin kingigi’. {cf. [Sumerian] /KI-eNGI/} At the foot of the mountain lies a lake in which the strong, old fish ‘Ker palyk’ abides. They say that when ‘Ker palyk’ moves, the earth trembles."

(2nd) Aina C^eri (Evil World = Underworld) "is the realm of Erlik and his helpers, the evil spirits ‘aina’ who are capable of stealing a person’s spirit – ‘kut’."

(3rd) Ulgen C^eri (Ulgen’s World = Heavenly World) : "In the realm of Ulgen there are nine skies.

pp. 12-14


name of sky



pp. 12-13


(p. 13) kes^kan

(p. 12) ‘yellow sky’

(p. 12) "realm of lightning which is said to be the whip of Ulgen’s white horse" – (p. 13) Samc^i {cf. [Skt.] /san~ci/} "lives with his wife and children in the middle of the sky".



kok kur

‘blue belt’

"blue part of rainbow – ‘tegri chelize’."



kizil kur

‘red belt’

"red part of the rainbow"



kir kur

‘grey belt’

"grey part of the rainbow" {!}




{violet ?}

"part of the rainbow"



kizil tegri

‘red sky’

"It is here in the red sky that red women are said to live".




"realm of the moon and stars." {naks.atra-s}




"realm of the sun"

pp. 13-14



(p. 13) "rings around the sun and moon." – (p. 14) "where the body of the deceased never decays"

pp. 14-15 cosmogony

p. 14

"the higher deity ‘Kudai-Ul’gen’ ... created three skies.

In the lower sky he placed his son Paktan-Pugra.

In the middle sky he placed the spirit Keikush and

in the upper sky he lived with his wife Chaashin (according to another version she is ‘Solton’). ...

Ul’gen’s younger brother Erlik ... fixed the mountains on the earth. The most beautiful of these was ‘Sogra’ mountain. Erlik rose to the top of the mountain and there created the birds ... . ...

Ul’gen set about creating man and as he did not know how to create man’s soul he set out in search of it. ... Seeing that dog had no fur {hairless hounds exist in Mexico & in the Sandwich Islands} Erlik said : "... I shall give your body fur." ...

p. 15

Erlik ... picked a hollow angelica stem, a ‘kobrak’ from which he made a tube. He walked up to man and placed the tube into his mouth. Then, he blew man’s soul into his body. When a person dies ... Erlik takes the soul back, which after death is referred to as ‘uzut’. ...

Erlik ... pleaded with Ul’gen to relinquish him ... the mere spot of ground where the end of Ul’gen’s staff rested. {the Quechua planet Saturn-god Haucha, who similarly to Erlik is responsible for "pestilence ... had a staff" (SAC, p. 464b).} Ul’gen agreed but as soon as he raised his staff from the ground all kinds of vermin, snakes and insects began to climb out of the hole onto the Earth’s surface. Erlik climbed down into the hole where he lives to this day, under the ground."

SAC = "South American Cultures". In :- Exploring Ancient Skies. Birkha:user, 2005. pp. 463-472.

pp. 15-19 souls

p. 15

[incarnation of the soul :] "Ul’gen sends it to the earth as a sunbeam or a falling star {re-incarnating human soul as meteor is rN~in-ma doctrine} and there it obtains material form. The soul may also come to Earth in the form of a ‘bud-child’ hanging like a leaf from the branch of a sacred birch-tree. {cf. Muslim doctrine of leaves of the divine tree determining fates of humans} These ‘buds’ are blown onto the earth by the kam (shaman). ... The period in a person’s life which occurs in the womb ... is ... the time when a connection is made with the female, sky deity ‘Umai’. {[Astika] goddess /UMA/} ...

p. 16

The soul separates itself from the human body during sleep and takes the form of a small flame {this is the astral-body} wandering from place to place and returning to the body when a person wakes. The Shortsi believe that the nostrils serve as the soul’s entry and exit point. {thus, are breathing exercises in yoga a mechanism for influencing one’s dream-world?} They say that if one places a piece of coal {ember, glede} just in front of the nose the soul double ... won’t awaken until ... ." {so, is the ember brought toward one’s face by the s`rap (YS^<YH 6:6) indicatory of domination of another state of consciousness (dreamless sleep?) by the winged serpent?}

p. 17

kut-soul : "A person’s health depends on ‘kut’ ... ‘kut’ can be dragged into the lower world by the evil spirits ‘aina’. Kut ... [is] absent during sleep (which is ... when ‘kut’ is journeying) ... . In times of fear or great surprise but sits in the back of the mouth. ... If ‘aina’ eat kut this causes the person’s death. ... Of the deceased it is said; ... ‘the aina ate his kut’."

p. 18

"When a person dies their kut leaves the body through the eyes and becomes ‘Surun’. The ‘surun eezi’ soul ... wanders close to the home of the deceased or to those places where a person spent a great deal of time during their life. This ‘wandering’ may last up to a year

p. 19

or more after death. ... the kam accompanies the ‘surun’ (departed soul) into the land of the dead along the downward flow of a nearby river ... . At his stage the soul aspect is referred to as ‘uzut’. ... A year after death the uzut should leave for the realm of the deceased in the underworld ... . ... During the ‘kamlanie’ (ritual) the ... uzut may communicate to the kam, who among the relatives will live long and who will fall ill or soon pass away".

pp. 18, 23-27, 53-54 deities

p. 18

" ‘Cher tegrize’ is an earth spirit;

‘Pashka tegri’ is a ‘foreign’ spirit;

‘Ejhik kormuze’ is an invisible door spirit;

‘Aalchi’ is a vagrant spirit;

‘Uzun-kormes’ is a long invisible spirit;

‘Ejhik ainazi’ is a door spirit and

‘Chebel nebe’ is a bad spirit.

The last two ... can consume the spirit not only of man but of cattle also. ...

These spirits have been seen in the from of a tiny flame and have been heard dragging a soul along with them as they go."

p. 23

"The Shor also revere the water spirit as a powerful che ezi which is said to appear their in the form or a black horned animal or as a naked woman with long, golden hair. {cf. golden hair of [Norse] goddess Si`f} ... The catch also depended on the water che ezi, ‘sug eezi’ which dwelt in the reaches of the river (koonu)."

pp. 26-27

"digging a place near the hearth to hide a child’s umbilical chord (ymai) wrapped in birch bark. The word ‘ymai’ was given both to the umbilical chord and navel and also to the deity who acted as the protector of newborn children.

p. 27

... births as the battle between an ‘aina’ (evil spirit) who stands at the pregnant mother’s feet trying to steal the child’s ‘kut-soul’ and the ezi ‘umai’ who stands at her head trying to pull the ‘kut’ towards her to save it." "In worship of ‘Umai’, the Shortsi prepared bows and arrows for boys and spindles for girls as protective amulets. These were attached to the cradle and regularly ‘fed’ with ... cedar nuts or ‘shalyg’ (dried meat)."

p. 50

A shamaness "believes the Fire spirit to be extremely powerful and able to draw out worms and lizards (i.e. the dark spirits of the Underworld)".

p. 53

"the mountain che ezi and spirits have ears which open up in the spring, i.e. they begin to hear in the spring. ... In the autumn their ears close and they hear nothing

p. 54

again until the following spring. ... As a result, the kam also hear more in the spring. ... Kam hear what is happening in the other worlds with their ‘moon ears’ and then re-tell what they have heard to those present."


A shamaness had "spoken with the spirits of Karatag mountain (situated in the vicinity of Ust’Kabypza village)" : "the mountain spirits are at Mustag in the winter returning to Karatag in April. Her spirits never sleep, are similar to people in outward appearance, although somewhat smaller".

pp. 29-30 how a person would become a kam (‘shaman’)

p. 29

"the future kam would begin communicating with the spirits. The spirits would come to him or her in dreams and delirium. A kam would visit the shaman[-]to[-]be and begin teaching them ... . ... The first communication takes place with the fire spirit ‘ot eezi’, then with the mountain spirit Pistag (Mustag) and then with Erlik".

[initiation to become a kam, conducted by a spirit (in a dream) :] The initiate saw the spirit who "took him into the taiga and dragged him through the water.

p. 30

... and then something began to press down on him ... . The spirit persuaded [the initiate] to become a kam and told him of the worlds above and below the ground. The spirit promised to help him."

pp. 30-32, 50, 52 shamans’ spirit-helpers

p. 30

"Spirit helpers are divided into two categories. The first are ‘tos’, the ancestral spirits ... who were themselves previously kam. The second are those serving

p. 31

spirits which the kam summons through the drum beat in the kamlanie ritual."

"Kam begin their kamlanie by making offerings to ... the spirit of fire ... : Mother-fire with thirty tongues!"

p. 32

"shamans believe that their spirits live in the nine rungs leading to Ul’gen. The stronger spirits dwell higher up and the weaker lower down.

Spirit-helpers could also represent ... reptiles, frogs, lizards and snakes".

"As a rule a shaman would have five, seven or nine spirit-helpers, ‘toster’."

p. 50

"Of her spirit helpers she said : My spirits tread the clouds whereas I walk the road. ... She gathers her spirit helpers with the help of a ‘hard tula’ – ‘kazyr tula’. (... a tula ... to which pieces of squirrel or chipmunk skin are attached.) The spirits come from under the earth from the Samchyk rocks and uncle Kamchyk."

p. 52

"the shaman always gives a yawn.

Khakass kam [who always give the yawn at the conclusion of a kamlanie] say that in this way they gather back their spirit-helpers.

The Shor [male] kam ... did the opposite, yawning before the kamlanie which suggests that he gathers his spirit helpers externally to himself whereas [the female Shor kam] releases her spirits and then retrieves them." {cf. [Hellenic] /chaos/ ‘yawn’} {yawning at the conclusion of the kamlanie would allude to the kam’s emerging out the dream-realm; yawning at the outset might suggest the spirit-helpers’ emergence out of the dream-realm}

p. 56

A shaman "calls his spirit-helpers Ugalchy, which means ‘listeners’."

p. 58

A shaman hath "spirit-helpers whom he called ‘karolchuktar’ or ‘toster’ : "I draw my spirits from the mountains. ... There are spirit-helpers in the sky and under the ground even. ... When my spirits have overcome an evil spirit they turn it into a snake ... ." ...

The kam addresses his spirit-helpers ‘oolkystarym’, (literally meaning ‘my boys and girls’). He gathers his spirit-helpers from Mother-fire and having collected them up he sets out with them in search of the lost soul. They look in the rivers, among the fish, in the mountains and even search the earth from the skies. Finally, when the kam has found the soul he blows it into the patient through their ears. ... At the end of the kamlanie when he had found the soul he stood up in order to blow it into the patient’s ears."

p. 63

"The kam sees her spirit-helpers in the form of thirty-nine horses which she drives with her lash".

pp. 17, 38, 40, 48, 51-53 spirit-journey by shaman

p. 17

" ‘Tin bura’ [/tin/ ‘breath’] was the name given to the animal the kam chose to carry him on his shamanic journeying and whose skin was wrapped around the drum."

p. 38

"the kam’s birch reaches high up into the clouds and there connects with two parallel, silk threads leading to the heavenly spheres as if the kam climbs up the birch and threads on his journeying".

p. 40

["journey to Ul’gen" :] "He describes his journey through

the Golden Lake (Lake Teletskoe) and

the Golden Comb (Atyn mergen range).

On the way he visits the mountain che ezi (master spirit) along the Mrass

and at the Ust’-Kabyrza, Azyr, Kichik-Gelen, Taiga, Ulug-Gelen and Shakchak villages.

He visits the first che ezi ‘ot eezi’ and ...

he is beginning to approach Ul’gen (Upper World deity) and

moving through the first and then subsequent levels of the sky. ...

The last mountain to be passed is Shakchak, after which after which the kam begins his journey through the sky.

The final animal tracks to be noted by him are those of the ‘sable’."

p. 48

"The shaman’s journey takes place on the mental plane with the assistance of the spirit-helpers."

p. 51

During kamlanie, the kam-shamaness must "enter the spirit world. To do so she must cross ... the sacred (light, white) boundary ... . {This "white" is evidently the region (within the dream-world) within which everything is white (in contrast to the region, within the dream-world, wherein things are of diverse colors); the region of white can be seen from the region of coloreds, and a decision can be made as to whether to walk across into it.} Opening ... and entering the sacred, white boundary is an essential ... . ... Having crossed the boundary the kam can proceed further. Approaching ‘Eski churt’, ... she addresses the magnificent sacred birch tree. ...

p. 52

[{In the dream-realm} there are encountered (successively) :]

the Samchyk rocks,

sacred boundary,

copper fly,

copper breast,

Khan Ojhakai,

six[-] and seven-eyed horsefly,

Cheles (invisible) fly and

uncle Kamchyk."

{are mentions of "copper" divine beings indications that only the landscape, not the living beings, are white in the "white" region?}

p. 53

"when he [a kam] meets other kam’s spirits he tries to avoid them and not disturb them unnecessary. ‘There is one shamaness I know. It happens that we meet her but I leave her alone. I can recognize her by her smell. I see her. ...’ " {This is an instance of "mutual dreaming" (meeting in one’s dream another person who is likewise dreaming), of the type involving two dreamers of opposite gendres.}

p. 57

[spirit-journey by a kam-shamaness :] "The kam reaches the ‘Deserted Churt’ saying : ... now Anzass [mountain-peaks nigh sacred Pyzass river, mentioned by the other kam-shamaness (p. 52)] ... I will walk through her. ... here is Tabiltir [the name of a mythic spirit]. ... I wear nine coats of mail. ... I am robed in seven coats of mail." {7 suits of chain-mail, with 8 cloth robes with surrounding and separating them + an interior garment?}

p. 68


"The Deserted Chert"


"I have crossed seven passes,


Seven rivers I shall wade across, ...


Seven skies I shall pass, then I shall arrive ... . ...

p. 70


Don’t put up the seven boundaries ... . ...

p. 74


May the doors with six handles open.


... seven mountain passes I shall pass,


Seven rivers I have waded across, ...


Seven skies I shall pass before I arrive ... . ...

p. 77


Do not put up the seven (boundaries)".

pp. 20, 40-41 marriage of shaman to spirit

p. 20

"The mountain che ezi would take the form of a beautiful woman who ‘caught’ a man with the intention of making him her husband."

p. 40

"Once the drum is made the kam visits ... to court his drum. The drum spirit ezi should become his ‘wife’. The

p. 41

bride’s ‘mother’ and ‘father’ ... place the new drum close to them tying it to a ladies’ head scarf and receiving the kam’s relatives. Whilst the ‘father’ is being made offerings ... the kam ... steals the drum and flees the house. {bride-capture} Scandalous scenes are played out ... . ...

The drum ezi took the form of a girl, short in height, with a family of combs and necklaces ... . After the ‘courting’ the kam conducted ... his journey to Ul’gen. The higher deity would inspect the drum and convey the period of its use and how many more drums the kam would require during his life time. This ... was called ‘the wedding’."

pp. 41-42, 54, 62-63 shamans’ garb; shamans’ visitors’ garb

p. 41

"the kam wore a new, light coloured kaftan called a ‘shabur’ modestly decorated with ribbons."

p. 42

"shamanic clothing consists of ‘Shabur’, a white coarse linen material and a hat with feathers from the tail of an eagle owl.

... bunches of owl feathers were attached to the linen kaftan in which the kam conducted his ceremonies."

p. 54

A shaman "asks visitors who have come for help to cover their head and not to remove their shoes. In his opinion dark spirits cannot fall on his trail if the visitor is dressed in hat and shoes."

pp. 62-63

A shamaness "always covered her head with a light coloured head scarf. This is necessary she believes ‘for the spirits to be able to identify the person’s trail.’ "

pp. 45-46 kojhug (‘migrations’) = rites for souls of the dead, on lower Mrassu river


it the defunct were a __

then the shaman would conduct the rite holding a __






trowel (ozun)


p. 46

"Almost every ulus (village) had its ‘official’ diviners – ‘arbyshchi’. ... ‘arbyshchi’ ... used ... methods ... which included water, stones and pulse-reading. ... Having read the person’s pulse ... then ... she or he would describe the person’s character, the main events in their life and predict their near future."

p. 59

" ‘pulse-divination’, ‘kol tutkan’."

Alexander & Luba Arbachakov (translated from the Russian by Joanna Dobson) : The Last of the Shor Shamans. O Books (an imprint of John Hunt Publ Ltd), Winchester (Hants, UK), 2008. [pp. vi-vii are endorsements; with notice (p. vii) that the translating-process was "sponsored by Dream Change, Inc. and the Wilderness Wisdom Fund"; p. 91 Alexander & Luba are husband & wife, both Shor natives]