Not Quite Shamans



Mischievous Souls



Joking in the Reception of Outlanders



Anecdotes & Joke-Songs



Speaking "Lies"



Shamanic Humor I



From Praying to Playing






A Play-World



Shamanic Humor II



The Truth of "Lies"



Humor as Incognito Shamanism


pp. 239-40 vocabulary-items























spirit or talisman














custom, tradition


male shaman


shamanic curing


Cap. 5.0-5.3



Joking in the Reception of Visitors


pp. 183-4 a folk truly inscrutable to outsiders

p. 183

""These people joke about everything, so it is imposssible to know when they are telling the truth ["u:nen"] and when they are telling a lie ["hudal"]." These were the words of a young man from Ulaanbaatar".

p. 184

""I just can't get ... around their minds ["uhaan u:l hureh"] ," ... a Halh man ... complained".

pp. 183-4 instances of joking assertions (about the S^is^ged) by a tribal Darhad male leader to an urban visitor from the capital city ( Ulaanbaatar)

p. 183

"You must watch out while you are in the Darhad lands. The wilderness is full of restless {homeless wandring ghosts of the dead} souls and hungry bears. Shamans are abundant. ... In fact, I am myself a shaman!" ...

p. 184

"I gather that you are going to sleep at [an out-of-doors site]. You'd better watch out for that place. It is full of cho:tgo:r ["demons"]. People avoid going there after dark. Once, a guy ... in the middle of the night ... his horse ... its head was being dragged to the side. When he saw that ... happening to his dog, he understood that a water demon must be present. Humans can't see them, but animals can. Why, you don't have a dog with you? Oh, I must lend you one of mine for the night. Cho:tgo:r are dangerous; they eat people's souls!"

p. 185 nature of Darhad shamanic-style jokery

"representing ... aspects of the shamanic cosmos, joking, play, and irony are constitutive of it. ... For in a context of shamanism ..., the displacements inherent in humor become ... shamanic practice and shamanic agency. ...

In fact, the preferred manner of talking about shamanism in ... Ulaan-Uul often seemed to be through joking. ... In many ways, this "shamanic humor" (as I call it here) is the ultimate mode of shamanism ... . As we are about to see, this ... must be understood both in the general sense ... of the black side of Darhad people, and in the more narrow sense that joking performs a certain job in the shamanic cosmos, in that it instigates particular effects. In ... community ... joking has acquired shamanic efficacy in its own right, and studying it ... tells ... something about the revival of shamanism in northern Mongolia".

{In Finland, a shamaness may describe "jokingly" ("EShT") her own shamanizing.}{Furthermore, "joking" is "commonplace" ("BSL", p. 805b) during possession of a medium by a Nath ('refuge') spirit in Burma.}

"EShT" = "Encountering a Shamanic Tradition ... in Finland".

"BSL" = "Burmese Spirit Lords and Their Mediums". In :- Mariko Namba Walter & Eva Jane Neumann Friedman (edd.) : Shamanism : an Encyclopedia of World ... Practices ... . ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, 2004. pp. 803 sq.



Anecdotes & Joke-Songs


p. 186 anecdotal nature of Darhad jokery

"I was told, a proper onigoo ['anecdote'] always builds on a true (u:nen) and concrete (bodit) event, which may well be delivered in a detailed (mariin) and hyperbolic (hetru:u:legei) fashion, but cannot contain any purely fictitious (zohiomol) or untrue (hudal) content.

... the concept of jokes in the Euro-American sense does not exist among Darhads; only anecdotes do -- humorous narratives based on real events. ... While jokes ... are built up to facilitate ... a specific point in their narration (the punch line), the typical onigoo ... is delivered with the aim of eliciting a continuous trickle of mirth throughout its narration."

pp. 187-8 joke songs (s^og du) / mocking songs (hos^in du)

p. 187

"Joke songs are used as entertainment on festive occasions such as weddings ..., and the lunar New Year. ... Most Darhad joke songs consist of two verses {stanzas}, each four lines {verses} long,

with alliteration as the dominant principle of composition."

{/homeopropheron/, in Old English, Old Norse, Old High German, Old Saxon, Old Irish, Finnish, and Somali poe:sy}

p. 188

"In fact, new Darhad joke songs ... seldom seem to be composed anymore; people instead tend to reproduce the existing repertoire, often by seeking explicit guidance in Tsemged's books, which include detailed explanations of the songs' origins in local lore."

p. 188, fn. 4

"Still, the joke song tradition was apparently thriving in the Bayan-Zu:rh district south of the Shishged during the late 1990s ..., just as it is alive and well in the Renchinlhu:mbe district, too".

pp. 188-9 song-traditions

p. 188

"In the Mongolian version of this folklorization process, the so-called song tradition of each tribe seems to have played a major role (Bulag 1998, 27-41). ...

p. 189

The outcome of all this ... is that the joke songs -- along with shamanism -- became emblematic of Darhad culture."

Bulag 1998 = Uradyn E. Bulag : Nationalism and Hybridity in Mongolia. Oxford : Clarendon Pr.



Speaking "Lies"


p. 191 mystification by means of playful joking

"It is quite striking how often Darhad occult specialists, when conveying their shamanic knowledge, do so in a joking manner. ... More precisely, this joking among specialists keeps other people mystified about two things : (1) the esoteric knowledge ... (that is, shamanism ...), and (2) the "layered" constitution of specialists' minds. In that sense, joking emerges as a distinct technology ... which, as a prevalent mode of occult communication, plays a vital role in the reproduction of the specialists' authority. Indeed ... Ulaan-Uul's occult specialists could often be heard talking about shamanic matters by adopting this playful "way of speaking" (Hymes 1974) rather than, say, a more symbolic one."

Hymes 1974 = David Hymes : "Ways of Speaking". In :- Richard Bauman & Joel Sherzer (edd.) : Explorations in the Ethnography of Speaking. Cambridge Univ Pr. pp. 433-52.

{The authority in occult affairs would appeared to have devolved upon a joking modality simply because all persons who take mysticism solemnly have been eliminated by a process of dissuation similar to the more drastic scheme operating amongst the C^ukc^i ("FPE&Ch", p. 63), where the overly-seriously tend to commit suicide (with much social encouragement to do so) in their youth (simply because a serious-minded temperament is deemed to befit its exponents for immediate arrival into solemn-Heaven upon their committing of suicide), leaving alive (or in the Darhad case, leaving persuaded) solely the jokester-devotees of joke-deities to continuate (and to reproduce in their disciples) that metaphysics of mysticism -- for, though joke-devotees can expect eventually to arrive into the joke-Heaven, is it acccepted that a much longer interlude of demonstrating in the land-of-the-living the occult power of jokery, is required for them suitably to earn a post-mortem admittance into the specific Heaven allocated for them (viz., joke-Heaven). [written July 12 2015]} {So, a theology based on joke-deities hath resulted in the serious-and-solemn brand of mystics all taking their departure (via suicide) from this world, leaving this world in increasingly praeponderant control by joke-deities along with their jokester-devotees, with each joke-deity's becoming a "God of This World" -- the identical result as with the "God of This World" being termed "the Devil" in the New Testament (2EK 4:4) [with consequences historically deduced by the Markionites of Pontos, who asserted that because the Devil is in absolute authority over the material world, the Christian god in disgust remaineth far away hence; and if ever an emissary of the Christian god (such as, Iesous Khristos) ever dareth to venture into this material world, that emissary is promptly crucified so as to warn the Christian god not to dare to interfere with this world] : the Devil often being described as a "Joker" ("DL"; "ST"; "PCJD"; etc.).

"FPE&Ch" = Rane Willerslev & Olga Ulturgasheva : "Fabricating Persons among the Eveny & C^ukc^i". In :- Marc Brightman, Vanessa Elisa Grotti, & Olga Ulturgasheva (edd.) : Animism in Rainforest and Tundra : Personhood, Animals, Plants and Things in Contemporary Amazonia and Siberia. Berghahn Bks, Oxford, 2012.

2EK = 2nd Epistole to the Korinthioi 4:4.

"DL" = "Devil Lyrics".

"SP" = "Spanish Train".

"PCJD" = "Poker Card Joker Devil".

pp. 191-2, 194 peril in unwitting hunting a female roebuck spirit-possessed by a divinity

p. 191

"Female roebuck are very dangerous to hunt. You need to know how to distinguish between those with a master {"ezentei"] and those without one. If

p. 192

you happen to kill one with an ezen, ... The ezen may become angry and cause trouble for you and your family! ... Mungarad Taiga is full of ongod.

Watch out if the roebuck stares back at you. ... It means that it {viz., its ezed, acting from within it} is cursing you! ...

p. 194

You'd better visit a shaman now! Perhaps the roebuck cursed you! Don't sleep with your wife."

p. 194 factors in construction of irony

"According to the classical (Aristotelian) definition, to speak ironically is to say the opposite of what one means : the speaker "figuratively" means the opposite of what he "literally" says (Barbe 1995, 62). But ... this definition ... neglects what linguists {rhetoricians} refer to as the pragmatic context of utterances, which often must be taken into account in order to identify ironic intent : ... the conversational implications, the relationship between the listener and speaker, and so on (Barbe 1995, 24-59 ...)."

"so-called radically pragmatic approaches play down the distinction between the figurative and the literal and focus on the propositional attitude of ironic utterances : the speaker's attitude ... and his interlocutor's ability (and wish) to detect this attitude (Barbe 1995, 73-92). According to this analysis, then, the interpretive task ... was ... to detect ... intentions ... .

His [the shaman's] ironic attitude made it impossible {inscrutable} to decide whether he was "using" or "mentioning" ... the shamanic spirits ... (Barbe 1995, 45-51; Clark and Gerrig 1984; Sperber and Wilson 1981, 315)."

Barbe 1995 = Katherina Barbe : Irony in Context. Amsterdam : John Benjamin's Publ Co.

Clark & Gerrig 1984 = Herbert M. Clark & Richard J. Gerrig : "On the Pretence Theory of Irony". J OF EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY : GENERAL 113.1:121-6.

Sperber & Wilson 1981 = Dan Sperber & Deirdre Wilson : "Irony and the Use-Mention Distinction". In : Peter Cole (ed.) : Radical Pragmatics. NY : Academic Pr. pp. 295-318.

{Among the Yoruba, god Es^u is believed to take all assertions in the contrary of their litteral meaning; and therefore this god can, among them, be useful in satirical formulation of imprecations -- in much the same fashion as among the Darhad.} {Is it the custom of the Devil (S`, a deity to whom Es^u is regularly likened) to spare Christians from all distress simply because that Devil is under the mistaken impression that whenever Christians literally speak ill of that Devil, they are doing so with the secret intent to bless the Devil? If so, then it would indeed behoove anti-Christians to apprize the Devil otherwise about the actual intent of Christians! Such a veracious apprizement might be capable of destroying Christianity. [written July 14 2015]}



Shamanic Humor I


p. 195 ostensibly self-deprecating humor employed as political satire

{In the contexts of their expounding metaphysical factualities, Darhad shamans jokingly declare themselves to be uttering mendacities, such that} "this statement itself becomes part of the irony, so that a "bisociation" (to use Arthur Koestler's term [1964]) occurs between play and {a humorous feint at} lying. Thus, to cite Marike Finlay, "the first interpreation follows if the [phrase] 'I am lying' [is understood] according to a meta-linguistic level of enunciation; the second if we [understand] the phrase according to an object-level of enunciation. The choice ... is ... ambiguous" (1988, 235).

This in turn calls to mind Gregory Bateson's ... play frame. Play ... requires a "degree of meta-communication ... which carries the message 'this is play'" (2000, 179)."

"The ethnic stereotype of Darhads, we see again here, contains more than a glimmer of truth. The ... play frame, along with radically pragmatic ... irony, confirms the prevalent stereotype among Halh people that Darhad joking, and more more specifically ... the use of ironic mention, do indeed make the speaker's mind "layered" (davhar) {into language, meta-language, meta-meta-language, etc.}".

Koestler 1964 = Arthur Koestler : The Act of Creation. London : Arkana.

Finlay 1988 = Marike Finlay : The Romantic Irony of Semiotics. Berlin : Mouton de Gruyter.

Bateson 2000 = Gregory Bateson : Steps Toward an Ecology of Mind. San Francisco : Chandler Publ Co, 1972 . [reprinted 2000 Univ of Chicago Pr]

p. 195 Darhad characterization of their own figurative use of language

"Arguably the effect of ... {satirical} joking is to initiate a so-called sequential paradox {or rather, a quaestionality consisting of chain sequence of quaestion leading to quaestion leading to quaestion ...}, whereby ... ironical attitude sets in motion a{n indefinite} regress in the listener's search for the speaker's intention ... : "the ruling ... satisfies a criterion for ... false; that finding satisfies a criterion for finding it true; and so on ... (paraphrasing Honderich 1995, 643-44).

Many Darhads are themselves quite aware of this distinct "way of speaking" (Sherzer 1983) and its effects. ...

[quoted from a Darhad :] Darhads speak poetically. We use metaphors ["zu:irlel"] and alliteration ["tolgoi holboh"] a lot. We always joke in secret ["dalduur shoglogod"] {i.e., we leave any hearer wondring whether an apparent joke, i.e. an irony, was intended as such or not -- so that whether the intention be a joke or not, becometh accounted (among 'hearers', audientes as in Manikhaiism) a secret whose resolution must be known only to shamans}."

Honderich 1995 = Ted Honderich (ed.) : The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxord Univ Pr.

Sherzer 1983 = Joel Sherzer : Kuna Ways of Speaking. Austin : Univ of TX Pr.

{The reputedly paradoxical nature of things generally, i.e., the extreme ease wherewith their nature can be fundamentally misunderstood, may lead to disclosure of the more actual nature of things sounding so droll or grotesque to anyone who doth not already think in the disclosed terms, that they will thereby be induced into laughter -- the laughter being a joyous repraesentation of their being therewith (i.e., along with their having been praesented with a more accurate description of reality) released from the delusion which had been restraining their naturally inhaerent bliss. (This explanation would very nearly constitute a definition, i.e. meaningful description, of the more metaphysically momentous sort of humor -- whereas less-significant forms of humor would be described rather differently, in terms of mere word-play with puns or the like. But word-play with puns can be employed to fashion potential malediction-curses, which under appropriate circumstances take real effect, beginning perhaps even well into the future after they were originally devised.) [written July 28 2015]}


Morten Axel Pedersen : Not Quite Shamans : Spirit Worlds ... in Northern Mongolia. Cornell Univ Pr, Ithaca (NY), 2011.