Shaman traditions

pp. 11-12 [Sagay ?] "horse sacrifice by the Altaic Turks to Bai U:lgo:n, the god of heaven"

p. 11

"the person who hold the head (bashtutkan-kishi) ... will accompany the animal’s soul on its heavenly journey. Then the shaman ... invites the helping spirits to enter the drum and assist him in his flight to heaven. Sitting on a goose shaped idol he imitates flying and the chasing of the horse’s soul (pura) and at the same time he neighs and cackles. After he has caught and smoked the horse’s soul, they kill the horse. ...

The next night, ... the shaman ...

p. 12

walks several times around the birch tree ... which has nine steps on it. He mounts higher and higher on the steps and ... he reports how difficult the journey it – again he invokes the goose spirit and meets the big black bird (karakus).

In the fifth heaven he hears a prediction which he mediates to those present,

in the sixth heaven he bows before the Moon,

in the seventh he greets the Sun and finally

in the ninth heaven (though more powerful shamans rise to the twelfth heaven) he meets Bai-U:lgo:n. ...

The shaman collapses and falls to the ground, helplessly stretched out."

p. 12 animal-species immolated, by tribe



Koryak, Yukaghir, Itelmen


Ob Ugrian


Finno-Ugrian of Volga area

cow & sheep

H^anti & Nanai of Amur region

cockerel & swine



Mongolic & Turkic


Manc^u & Korea


p. 13 types of shaman among the Nanay






officiating at memorial celebration for the dead


"capable of guiding the soul of the dead to the other world."

pp. 15-17 Samoyed of the Taymir paeninsula "shaman’s initiation dream"

p. 15

"he lay unconscious ... for three days ... . During this time he heard the voice ... which said to him, ‘The Lord of the Waters is goping to give you the gift of shamanship. Your shamanic name will be Huttari (Swimmer)!’ ... He came out and ascended a mountain. There he met a naked woman and started sucking at hear breast. the woman, who was ... Water-Mother, said to him, ‘You are my child, this is why I allow you to suck ... .

p. 16

...’ The husband of the Mother of Waters then gave him two helpers, an ermine and a mouse, to show him the way ... .

Reaching high place, his helpers showed him seven tents with the top torn. He entered the first and there ... the people ... tore out his heart and threw it in a pot. In the other tents he met ... the Lords of all ... shamans. ...

The initiate, still preceded by his helpers, arrived then at the world of the female shamans, who strengthened his voice and throat.

Then he was carried to the shores of the Nine Seas. {This may be Jaina (or perhaps Ajivika ?) cosmography.} In the middle of one of these there was an island and in the middle of the island a young poplar rose right to the sky. This was the tree of the Lord of the earth. Next to it were nine grasses, the ancestors of all the plants of the world. The tree was surrounded by seas {the Nine Seas ?}, and in all of these there was some bird swimming along with its young, several types of ducks, a swan, a hawk. The candidate visited all these seas. Some were salty, others so warm that he could not even approach their shores. After she had completed this circular tour {cf. tour by Skanda, circumambulating the ring-shaped continent Kraun~ca}, the initiate lifted his head and at the top of the tree saw people of various nations ... . ... It started flying around together with the birds of the sea ... .

The path there forked off in three directions and the Lord of the Tree ordered that he make three drums for himself which shall be watched by three women and he is to use each of the drums for a particular ceremony, one for the shamanic rituals over women in childbirth, the second for healing the sick and the last for finding the people lost in the snow. ...

The mouse and ermine, the two helpers then lead him up to a tall and round mountain. He noticed a cleft in front of him and entered a very bright cave covered by ice, and in the middle there ... saw two women who were naked but covered with fur, just like reindeer. Then he noticed that ... the light was coming from above, through a hole. One of the women informed him that she was pregnant, and was going to give birth to two reindeer. One is to be the sacrificial animal of the Dolgan and the Evenki, the other of the Tavgi. ... The other woman was also going to bear two reindeer, animals which will help man in all his labours ... . The cave had two

p. 17

openings, one facing South, the other North. The woman despatched a young reindeer through each of the openings in order that they should serve the people of the forest (the Dolgan and the Evenki). ...

Then the initiate arrived in a great desert place and in the distance he noticed a large mountain. After three days’ {the three days during which he lay unconscious} walking he came quite close to it. He entered through a cleft and found a naked man who was working with bellows. Above the fire he saw a cauldron as large as half the earth. The man saw him and picked him up with his enormous tongs. ... Then the man cut his head off, chopped his body into little bits and threw the whole lot in the cauldron. Thus he cooked the body for three years. The naked man had three anvils and he hammered the initiate’s head on the third – this was the one for forging the best shamans. Then he threw the head in one of the three pots standing there, the one in which the water was the coldest. ... After this the blacksmith fished out his bones which were swimming in a river. {fishlike ? cf. Kic^e` (in Popol Vuh) twins resuscitated in river as fishes} He assembled them and covered them in flesh. He counted them and informed the initiate that there are three extra bones which means that he needs to acquire three shamanic costumes for himself. He ... showed him how he could read letters even when he cannot see what is in them. {an ability of jnun (according to A Search in Secret India)} He gave him new eyes, ... his ‘soul’s’ eyes. He pierced his ears {cf. piercing of ears of voluntary slaves in Torah} and thus made him able to hear the talk of plants."

pp. 25-26 Samoyed of the Kanin paeninsula – "how ... Samoyed becomes shaman."

p. 25

"All shamans ... begin their career with fabricating idols for themselves with whom they are talking and to whom they are giving orders. These idols have the shapes of quadruped animals or, sometimes, of a serpent. Shaman candidates traditionally kill animals, tear out their heart and eat it in hope of getting a better understanding of the language of these animals and the idols representing them. ... The candidates while chewing juniper berries and buds jump over the fire several times. ... In addition to juniper berries the candidates frequently eat fly agaric ... to make themselves more open to contacts with spirits. ... Those who were in the shaman business all had long hair.

p. 26

... there were many great shamans ... who were able to take whatever shape they wanted. They could fly in the air, they could swim under the water or fly over the clouds with the speed of thought if it was necessary ... . ... The greatest shamans were even able to see and hear to a great distance as far as a day’s journey."

p. 27-32 Nenets shamanism




[Forest Nenets] "use of fly agaric (Amanita muscaria)" among the Forest Nenets – "only those were allowed to eat dried toadstool who knew the original locality of the plant, since only these people were able to see the spirit of fly agaric in trance. The usual dose for getting in trance was two and a half heads of toadstools. Having eaten this dose the shaman was able to see the spirits of fly agaric in human shape and began to chase them. In the end they got into total darkness where the spirits disclosed what the shaman wanted to know. After he reached a light spot in the other world while in trance, the shaman found a post with seven holes and seven threads. After the spirits of fly agaric were tied to this post by the shaman, ... he woke up. ...

He was holding a four sided stick – symbol of the pole of the world – with seven X-shaped carvings on the upper end of it in his hand".


"the shaman is ... "singing over" the soul of the dead ... with two songs.

The aim of the first song is to find out the causes of the death ... .

The performance of the second "singing over" lasts a day in summertime and two days in winter. The first day is ... about the various phases of his journey to the domain of the dead, while he is telling his way back from there in a song on the second day. {Is 2nd day, the telling of the return-journey, omitted in summertime because there is danger then that evil spirits (encountered during the return-journey) might, if mentioned, follow the shaman back into the world of the living in order to wreak havoc there?} On his way to the land of the dead the shaman has to cross three rivers while carrying the soul of the dead until he reaches a waterway with the help of the yorra-bird. On the other side of this waterway there is a land where the dead are "living" as if in this world while becoming younger and younger. {[likewise in Eskimo belief,] the dead become increasingly younger in their world} ... Before the boat carrying the dead relatives would reach the shore, the shaman leaves the dead and departs in a hurry in order not to be caught by them. Then he is returning to this world by another route. On his way back he follows a river upstream and having


got to its source he reaches this world where he throws the shadow of the dead into the fire".


[Tundra Nenets in Yamal paeninsula] "burying the dead in a prone position"


[Nenets] "After death good shamans move to the moon together with their wifes [wives] ... where there is a permanent warm climate and illness is unknown".


"only those may become shamans (tadyibye) whom the spirits (tadyebco) have previously selected. ... being a shaman is a heavy burden which is forced upon the candidate by his helping spirits ... . ... the young shaman who does not have a drum yet uses his belt for a drum when invoking his helping spirits. A shaman ... only after seven years is allowed to make his own drum under the tutelage of his master. ... A candidate is considered a rightful well-trained member of the profession only after ten years’ training and then he can have pendants [on his drum]".


[the 3 categories of shamans :] (1st) "widutana ‘traveller; who is capable of travelling to the Upper World’. Shamans belonging to this category ... are the most powerful shamans and have also a second drum. ... They were ... fortune-tellers. When soothsaying they looked at the blade of a knife, since knives were believed to be the gathering place for spirits. Unlike other shamans a widutana has also a cloak as part of his paraphernalia".

(2nd) "janyangi tadyibye ‘shaman belonging to the earth’. They ... are in contact with spirits under the ground. They usually shamanize at night in the light of fire. They are ... involved in finding lost reindeers and assist at childbirth as well."

(3rd) "sambana shamans who performed burial rites. Members of this group were able to invite the soul of the dead for


a "talk" when the soul would tell the cause of death (especially in the case of a sudden death) and would send a message to the relatives through the shaman. The rites performed by this category of shaman were always held at night without drumming when the shaman would contact the spirits through singing." "it was the task of a sambana shaman to accompany syidyangk ‘soul of the dead’ in Nenets to the land of the dead ... . The rite should be performed two years after the person had died. The introductory phase of the rite is a purifying ceremony ... enumerating ... the inhabitants of the land of nga, the Underworld, insects and beetles, ... whose shape the God of the Underworld can put on in order to make it possible for himself to enter the body of a sleeping person through the mouth".


[personal deity :] "Every Nenets has his own nga {‘otherworld’ : one’s own personal dream-world?} as he has his own num {‘deity’ : one’s own guardian-spirit?}, too. ... Some succeeded to blow up nga a cosmic monster".


[cosmology :] "Heaven is a living being and so is Time. {[Astika] god Kala ‘Time’} Heaven has a spine, nuw pud ‘Milky Way’ at the end of which there stands num’s hut ... . num has seven sons, siqiw nuw ngacyo and the smallest, xoexeq nyu ‘child of protecting spirit’, nuw nyu ‘celestial child’ follows the same route [galaxy] when he comes down to help people.

Heaven consists of seven sacred lands whose lords are the deities of heaven :

num ‘Heaven’,

xoeh ‘Thunder’,

yiba-syey ‘Heart of Warm’,

ngerm-syey ‘Heart of Cold’,

numkimboy ‘Starry’,

poe-mal ‘Mountainous Land’ and

jaw-mal ‘Ocean-Land’."

"the axis of heaven does ... run ... from southeast to northwest, i.e. converging to the axis of sunrise [in winter]-sunset [in summer] and parallel with the imaginary bridge between num to ‘Heavenly lake’ and the Isle of Vaygach."


[shaman’s costume :] "the head-dress is ... nuw nyangi ‘belonging to Heaven’,

his gown ... jer nyangi ‘belonging to the Middle World’ and

his boots ... ngilad nyangi ‘belonging to the Underworld’".

p. 27 [both Nenets & Ob-Ugrian] "the domain of the dead is to be found over a large waterway where the soul of the dead is getting younger and younger until it moves into a newborn baby and starts a new life in this world".

pp. 41-47 Tuva [= Soyot = Urianh^ai = Tofa = Todz^an = Darh^at (p. 39)] shamanism




[shaman’s staves (rods) :] "shamanesses were only entitled to the staff. ...

The shaman with the staff has no other instrument. ... On the other hand, there are some who never had a staff, they were given the drum right at the beginning. It was an old shaman who chose an experienced woodcarver for the task of preparing the shaman staff ... . While the candidate was lying ... in bed, helplessly, the old shaman ... took to the woods and chose a suitable birch tree. He tied a white ribbon on the selected tree and ... asked the birch tree to consent to becoming the staff of the shaman-candidate. ...

There were two-, three-, five- and seven- or even nine-headed staffs. Underneath the heads, on a curved metal rod, three, seven, or nine conic metal pieces were hung." (TShS, pp. 238-9)


At the conclusion of a se’ance, "the shamaness fainted ... and then she became completely rigid. She ... was lying rigidly".


"whistling or throat singing" : "While preparing for a shamanic ritual, the shaman has to throat-sing a sygyt peice (sygyt means ‘whistling’) The ... essence of sygyt lies in the possibility for a shaman, with the sole helf of a sygyt, to urgently call his Spirit-helpers. When the Spirit-helpers do not come immediately, the shaman imitates the sounds of domestic and wild animals and did so with great skill. If they still do not appear, a shaman imitates an oriole’s singing."

TShS = V. Dio`szegi : Tracing Shamans in Siberia. Oosterhut : Anthropological Publications, 1968.

pp. 72-78 Buryat shamaness




"The shamanic capability is caaled utha, and tu:ndu:khte is the name of the power that enables you to ... see into the future and to heal and to exhort evil".


"(The toli is a round bronze mirror. ...) ... I get my energy from the toli."


[shamanic costume :] "Usually all shamans have their own colour – the colour is chosen for them from up above".


[3rd eye :] "I often say that I see the illnesses in people, that I see their future. This is the sort of thing that is called "having a third eye."


... a shaman is a seer – they see a person’s past and present, how that person feels in relation to their work and colleagues, how they feel at home in their family, how their family lives, and they can see people’s future."


[black energy :] "When a shaman heals someone that means that he or she purges the person or the family or the dynasty – they eliminate ... black energy. They eliminate something that ordinary people cannot even see. Shamans can see it and feel it and clear it up. ... Either from the person or from their family and sometimes you have to purify even the whole home."


[initiation into shamanhood of shamaness-initiate:] "I turned to my master, I went to his house and he instantly asked me which dynasty I was from and why I was not helping people. ... Then ... – I instantly had to prepare for the rites and ceremonies even if I had not wanted to."

pp. 82-84 Buryat male shaman




"When you address the gods with a request at one of these rituals, you take out the lightning stone. This is a kind of greenish grey blue stone which we take out each year and then ... we put it into the cauldron which holds the ... sacred drink ... . This is ... made sacred by the heavenly stone – it is only drunk by men. ... It [heavenly stone] looks like the point of a lance, with a pointed end and a rhomboid shape."


"When my soul flew over to the other world I became chewed all over. All shamans go through his phase in their own way. ... I fell into a trance but I could feel everything. As I lay there, a part of my soul, a kind of block, became detached from me. My body was lying down, I could even see it. I could see my arm and the suddenly I felt that the ceiling vanished, I began to grow until I was a giant. My body was just growing and growing until I could reach the sky. {cf. TASTE 75 (sec. 14)} ... And still I carried on growing and then I heard some sort of sound just like a bubble when it flies up through the water {this is a metaphor for emergent thought, in Transcendental Meditation} and pops. ... I was inside a bubble like that and going up and up inside it. Then I saw another bubble come [and conversed with its human personality]. ... So we carried on flying upwards. It seems that up there in the upper world there are ... only sounds and a wonderful lulling rocking state – a state of grace.


... We flew on. {cf. description by Carlos Castan~eda of flying through the air within a bubble} Finally we reached a mossy spot ... . I, the bubble, flew there and burst into thousands and thousands of tiny bubbles and became hidden amidst the moss. I had to enter the moss. And there inside the moss they began to chew my body. The moss was chewing it. ... And when it was finished chewing it was expecting a thousand answers to a thousand and thousand questions – whether guilty or innocent, whether good or evil, whether benevolent or ill intentioned, and other similar questions.

When all that was over, it spat me out and I started flying back. And when I flew back, ... my soul returned to my body on top of my head! A single piece of hair on my head was as huge as this city of Ulan-Ude ... . ... It was very hard to get back into my body. It hurt very much. My soul got out very easily but its return caused great pain. ...


Later on my soul left my body two or three more times but those times were much easier. ... I used my mirror to shine ... the rays of the sun that shone on my clothes. [I encountered] evil spirits who have neither eyes nor nose nor mouth {cf. [Daoist deity] Hun-Dun} but are just grey and black. But in the meantime the sun had set, the spirits gained strength and they began to pursue me. I fled, ... and then I got on a horse and on the horse I flew straight up there to the sun." {cf. approach to the sun in Radha-Soami / Ruh.ani-Satsangh / Eckankar dreams}

TASTE 75 = sec. 14 "I became larger than the whole earth quite quickly and had the wonderful experience of being able to look at the earth from being all round it. That is, I could see all sides of it at once in spite of its being spherical. This is obviously a little difficult to explain but it was just a question of my whole consciousness being around the earth and so able to see all parts of it with that consciousness. I didn't stop there, I got bigger and bigger and incorporated the moon. This was yet another strange experience ... . From there I expanded through the planets of the whole solar system ... . Then came our whole galaxy and, as I was ... expanding faster and faster, I had soon enveloped many other galaxies."

pp. 85-88 another Buryat shamaness, the female "president of the Society for the revival of Buryat Religious Traditions, the Khese Khengerek"




"Our gods god about on horseback, on blue horse, heavenly blue horses. {these are the Daoist blue dragon-horses} ...

There are 77 blacksmiths."


on the __ night of the moon,

the __ __it


river-fish nalim see


hounds see


the Abze (shaman dynasty) pray to


the darhat pray [to]


"There are shamans ... there are nine degrees altogether ...

there are shamans who can ... tell the future."

"I see dreams and I hear voices (yasnolishanie – Russian for the ability to hear the voice of heavenly beings) I know that the gods are talking about."


"The shamans have said that they don’t mind being photographed by strangers. But not from the front." {cf. Eastern orthodox priests’ keeping their back toward the congregation during eucharist-mass}

Miha`ly Hoppa`l : Shaman Traditions in Transition. Budapest : International Society for Shamanic Research, 2000.