Popular Religion and Shamanism, Part II : "Shamanism"







Mongol Shaman Initiation Rites

Guo Shuyun



Shamanism of the Tungusic

Meng Huiying



Daba Beliefs ...

Song Zhaolin




9. (pp. 353-74) Guo Shuyun : "Mongol Shaman Initiation Rites : Eastern Inner Mongolia".

p. 353 initiation rite

"The Mongolian shaman initiation rites, commonly known as ... the "rite of crossing barriers," certifies new shamans by having them pass through magical tests."

p. 353, fn. 1 "In Mongolian, a male shaman is a bo: and a female shaman an udgan."

p. 355 date, ritual objects, animals

"The nine barriers ritual, usually held on the ninth day of the ninth month on the lunar calendar, is ver grand. A that time, twelve master shamans who have already passed the test must participate in the ritual.

Before the initiation ritual is held ..., various sorts of ritual objects must be prepared, such as a pan for heating oil (... you guo) and a knife-ladder (... dao ti).

The ceremony requires nine ... animals : a cow, a horse, goat, sheep, pig, chicken, donkey, mule, and camel."

pp. 355-6 the 9 barriers which Horc^in Mongol shamans must pass








"scooping objects from a frying pan. After the pan is made boiling hot, the candidate pulls from it ... objects."




"running through fire. ... The barrier-crossers must jump nine times in each fire with their bare feet."




"the branding iron. The candidate must either bite or lick the iron nine times."




"stepping on plowshares."



Tu:mu:r s^ubtulna

"rubbing the hot chain. After an iron chain is made red-hot, the candidate runs his hand back and forth on it."




"rolling on needles. Eighty-one needles are put on a felt rug, pointing upward."



Hutug s^ingen

"swallowing knives. A pair of chopsticks is placed ... on the stomach, and a fodder knife is lain down ... . The knife is struck nine times with an iron hammer".



Yisun dabaa ges^egne

"ascending the knife ladder. The ladder has nine steps, bound with fodder knives."



Jad s^ingen

"swallowing swords. A sword is placed on the stomach, and a hammer is used to strike it."

p. 356 Jalaid Banner (Inner Mongolia) version of the 9 Barriers is nearly identical; but with "going through a circle of knives" instead of "ascending the knife ladder".

p. 356 the 9 barriers for other Mongol tribes

tests, according to B. Shobu

tests, according to Seyin, 1998, p. 66

pp. 355-6 Horc^in

1. fodder-knife

3. fodder-knife

7 or 8.

2. sword

5. iild (sword)


3. red-tassel lance

4. jad (spear)


4. awl

7. awl


5. sliding on iron

6. hus^uu (ploughshare)


6. branding-iron

9. flatiron


7. tigre-tooth

8. hutgan (dagger)


8. whip

2. whip


9. chopsticks

1. chopsticks


{"sliding on iron" would refer to the oil on one’s heel while stepping on a ploughshare (on p. 373)}

pp. 359-60 how a particular woman became a shamaness

p. 359

"she dreamed that an old man wearing a long robe and riding a peacock descended into her yard. He made her ride with him ... . In the dream the old man told her not to tell anyone about this. ...

{The god riding a divine peafowl may be Skanda/Guha.}


In the dreams, an old man told her that she must follow him and become a shaman; otherwise all of her family would die. ... .

p. 360

... she had visions of the Monkey King in ... Xiyouji (Journey to the West) when he stole the fan made from banana leaves and crossed Flame Mountain. ... she ... immediately felt the space around her open up. Her whole body became light [weightless] ..., and her head felt as if it were floating. ... the spirits sent [to her] another message through a dream : if she did not become a shaman, she would be tortured. ... There a junior shaman from her childhood home ... examined her and told her that she must become a shaman. [As for the senior shaman who afterward consecrated her,] his name came to her through a vision."

p. 373 "Daba" (‘Passing the Test’) Caerimony

"a hole is dug in the ground, and a red-hot iron ploughshare is placed in the hole. The shaman dips his heels into oil, then steps on the plowshare.

"there fell down from heaven certain golden works of art, a plough ..., but the gold caught fire on his approach ; so with the second ; the third brother quenched the fire" (B, p. 237; cited from Herodotos 4:5 – HBR, p. 26).

As soon as he sets his foot down, smoke and fire belch out. ...

{cf. smoking-mirror-footed [Aztec god] Tezcatli-poca}

B = Rendel Harris : Boanerges. Cambridge U Pr, 1913. http://www.archive.org/stream/boanerges00harruoft/boanerges00harruoft_djvu.txt

HBR = Leonard Arthur Magnus. :The Heroic Ballads of Russia. London & NY, 1921. http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/leonard-arthur-magnus/the-heroic-ballads-of-russia-ala/page-4-the-heroic-ballads-of-russia-ala.shtml


10. (pp. 375-422) Meng Huiying : "Characteristics of Shamanism of the Tungusic-Speaking People[s]".

p. 382 legend of the S^i shaman

"the first shaman of the Manchu ... Shi clan" :

"the Shi clan shaman became a black carp in order to cross a river. The Ao clan shaman sat on his spirit drum and crossed the river.

As a result, one turned over his drum and the other was stabbed by a golden fork.

Before the Shi shaman died he told his wife to put his corpse on the bank of the ... Songhua River, and ... that after forty-nine days he would be resurrected. ... Instead, the Ao family set his corpse aflame ... . At that time, the vulture spirit, the eagle spirit, and the [ghost of?] the Shi shaman all came to try to extinguish the fire. After three days and nights, ... each spirit returned to ... Changbai Mountain to recuperate. After the Shi shaman underwent the test of the burning flames, he became invincible. He then became a ray of golden light and he too ascended Changbai Mountain.

After twenty years ..., he returned to his clan in order to choose the next shaman."

{This would refer to the return of a ghost to possess, and speak through, a spirit-medium.}

p. 383 functions of a shaman

"Ordinarily, the shaman was the clan doctor, prophet, and conflict manager.

The shaman also drove away {appeased} spirits that sought to menace the lives of individuals and the community {because those individuals or the community had been remiss in ritual obligations to those spirits}.

The shaman would indicate the location of good hunting ground. When the available game proved scarce it was up to the shaman to find why."

p. 384 categories of victims for whom rites are performed

"among ... Manchu ..., ... sacrifices were held for

those who had had fallen ill due to communicable diseases,

animals that suffered from epidemic diseases,

fish and game [that] had been injured".

p. 384 how the rite is performed by the Oroqen

"each individual clan within the hala decides on the place where participants will be stationed according to the direction in which wild pheasants fly when released. Branches are fashioned into curtains to make rooms, a spirit tree is set up, and an entrance made of pine branches is erected. ... The head of the clan addresses all of the spirits and explains the reason for the sacrifice. The shaman then recites songs to the spirits."

p. 385 s^an-de [Chinese form of the name] : the Ewenki funebrial caerimony for a dead shaman

"When a shaman dies, another shaman must be invited to do a trance-dance to lead the way for the spirit. The corpse ... must be placed in a sitting position. ... The shaman’s corpse must also be lifted out of a hole cut in the western side of a yurt. Often a pile of rocks are [is] used as a grave marker on top of which a willow branch canopy is erected. This is often covered by a white cloth or felt. ... The period of mourning usually lasted for ninety days. ... A year after the death of an important shaman, a clan-wide sacrifice is held to ensure that the shaman’s spirit continues to protect the clan."

p. 386 terms for wu-s^i [Chinese word] ‘shaman’ in various Altaic languages






bo: (male shaman)


udgan (shamaness)





Tatar & Kazah^


p. 388 Manc^u cosmogony

"the water bore forth the sky goddess ... Abukahehe.

A crack in her lower body bore the earth goddess ... Banamuhehe;

a crack in her upper body bore the brightness goddess ... Woleduohehe.

Woleduhehe [sic] used Abukahehe’s eyes to make the sun, moon, and seven stars."

p. 388 Ewenki cosmogony

"the ancestral spirit ... Aojiaole was killed by thunder.

The upper half {one-third (1/3)} of the ancestor’s body ascended into the sky and became the gray protective spirit Boorolgoohorharuul ... .

The middle of his body stayed on earth and became the protective spirit Shokoodaaral ...,

his lower body became nine dolbuul ..., nine pillars. ...

One can see that ... nine small people (five golden females and four silver males) are placed on top of a ... pillar."

pp. 389-90 the Hez^en tribe’s 3 supreme goddesses; Aimi


the Goddess __

controlleth matters of __

and her flag is __


of the 4 Seas

the water

blue or purple






Suyan (Huan)

earthly matters



"Stories of the husband-and-wife relationship between the shaman and his Aimi spirit, have long been preserved in the Hezhen narrative folk poems called imakan."

pp. 394-5 types of shamans






"Saman. They communicate with spirits and ghosts, and can invoke spirits for people, perform exorcisms, cure ailments, and request good fortune."



"aha mafa. ... Aha means "slave", as they are the servants of female spirits."



"fulilan. ... This sort of practitioner ... can only


recite prayers during the rituals that invoke spirits, and pray for a spirit’s protections or make request of the spirits."



"guides ... . They ... only recite prayers in the ritual for sending off the soul after a person dies. It is said that they can see everything the deceased does, and can personally see {conduct} the spirit to the nether world."



"balingleng are shamans who ... assist in divinations."



"jiali are the shaman’s helpers. ... they assist the sick person".

p. 399 the Xibe’s tribe’s principal goddess

"Mother ... Yisanzhu is a shared magical ancestor {ancestress} of Xibe shamans. She lives in ... the shaman’s yard ... . ... Each clan’s ancestral spirit ... is subordinate to Mother Yisanzhu ... . ... Mother Yisanzhu stands tall on the end of the blade ladder, surrounded by a host of spirits. ... The son "Eighteen kalun" ..., says that only by passing through eighteen difficult obstacles can the earthly shaman meet her ... and obtain the trance-dance method."

p. 403 legend of 3 female fae:ries and the ancestors of the Aisin Gioro clan of Manc^u

[quoted from the Veritable Records of the Tai-zu Wu Reign] "the were three fairies from heaven. The eldest was ... Engulun, the middle was ... Zhenggulun, and the youngest was ... Fogulun. One day, they were bathing in a pond. ... a divine magpie put a red fruit in its mouth and then upon the youngest sister’s clothes. ... she placed it in her mouth ..., and she became pregnant. Not long after that, Fogulun gave birth to a boy of unusual appearance who could talk when he was born. ... his mother gave him the surname Aisin Gioro, and the given name ... Bukuliyongshun, since he was born because of a red fruit".

pp. 420-1 Manc^u goddess Fere-Fodo-Omosi = Altaic goddess Oumay


the goddess


"Mother Fere fodo omosi" : "The ordinary people call her Fodo mama ... . ... . ... Fere omosi mama can be translated as "the grandmother of the children in the shrine." Fodo is the willow the shaman used when he danced for luck. So Fere fodo omosi mama means "the grandmother of children who pray for luck with the willow in the shrine." In the


... Manchu home ..., four main ... rituals are typically held; these are

to the ancestors,

and Heaven,

the changing of the threads,

and the one carrying the lamp.

The changing of the threads is for Fere fodo omosi mama.


It is well documented that, the Omosi mama is the equivalent of the goddess Omi or Oumay of the Altai people."



tribe’s name for goddess Oumay





















Xilin mama


"The Mongolians and Ewenki use Oumay to mean the womb ... . ...

The Nanajs say aomisong mama to mean a goddess in Heaven who supervises a clan tree on which clan children’s souls grow. ...

The Buryats ... call the placenta oumay;

the Kachins use this oumay as an amulet for babies."


RELIGIOUS STUDIES IN CONTEMPORARY CHINA COLLECTION, Vol. 1 = Ma Xisha & Meng Huiying (edd.) : Popular Religion and Shamanism. Brill, Leiden, 2011.