Shamanic Solitudes [Kulunge Rai in northeastern Nepal]

pp. 11, 13 myth; souls of the dead; witches; trembling


"myths (mundhum N, riddum Kr) ...

of Minangali, the First Human Being ...

cultural hero Khokcilip and his wife Welim, to whom the "discovery" of agriculture is ascribed, as well as the building of the first mythical dwelling ...

Tunilu who, following the teachings of the mythical Lizard, first ... tasted of death."


"It is in the forest, indeed, that the souls of the group’s dead reside, in an enormous rock. And it is toward this remote nad inaccessible place that the Kulunge Rai officiants ... accompany the souls of the dead, so as to separate them definitively from the world of the living."


"the shaman (jha~kri, dhami N; mop, selewa Kr) is ... Dealing solely with pathologies caused by ... the deliberate magical action of witches (boksi N, sanime wakanme Kr) or wizards (bokso N, sanipa wakampa Kr)".


"The "trembling" (kamnu N), that pervades the shaman’s body during the execution of the ritual".

pp. 17-19 neophyte’s spirit-guides




" "spirit-guides" (gurudeuta N)."


"the neophyte’s own oneiric life" : "the spirits who have called him ... show themselves to impart their first secret instructions concerning the ritual office that the neophyte must assume. The youth’s dreams reveal the places, objects, dances, gestures, movements and mantric formulas with which he must necessarily become familiar".


" "self-made" shamans" : "The entire corpus of knowledge will, in such a case, be transmitted directly by the spirits during nocturnal dreams which ... continue for a period of some years."

pp. 20-21 goddess Laladum {= goddess Lalita}




"a fascinating – and completely naked – girl, with the stature of a ten[-] or twelve-year old, Laladum is represented with long, thick, unkempt hair falling to the ground. The shrill timbre and melodious tone of her voice are the goddess’s most distinctive characteristics ... . Laladum’s feet are turned wholly backwards. {In the LALiTHa "feet are turned backwards."("BY")} ...


Laladum – sometimes described as a single entity, and elsewhere as a series of entities, disseminated in various regions of the wild world – wanders through the forest sounding the ritual cymbal (thal N) and shamanic drum (d.hyanro N, remsivi meriker Kr) made of gold."

"BY" =

p. 21 shamans of the forest

"ban jha~kri (N) or ban jha~krini (N) – the "shamans of the wood" – male and female respectively" : "the you is obliged to leave his village and dwell in the forest. Here takes place the encounter with the "shaman of the woods" and his wife, often described as naked beings completely covered with hair. The teaching usually takes place in the dwelling of the two "shamans", meaning inside a grotto, or rocky ravine, described as places of light, rich in jewels, gold and precious stones."

pp. 23-24 god Molu




Molu "reached youna, the place that is the "source of all rivers", the place where the sun rises."


When Molu is able to smell a human "stink", that human must "fall seriously ill."

p. 28 birth of the first living beings

"Ninamridum ... as mother of the main vegetable and animal species ..., thanks to her union with a celestial deity -- identified with the planet Jupiter [--], gave birth to ...

thorny plants,

the umbilical cord and placenta,


the tiger,

the bear,

the monkey,

the deer,

the wild boar, and, lastly,

the First Man."

pp. 30, 32 locations of spirits; control of trembling by neophyte shaman




"the dwelling of the spirits themselves, scattered through the various regions of the cosmos, become the points of reference. ... The spirits arrive from specific locations. The neophyte contacts them by "going" to their dwellings."


"one of the main functions of shamanic training is learning to control the trembling caused by the entering, or presence, of the spirits in the shaman’s body."

pp. 42-43 shrine; vestments; hot iron; odor of health

p. 42

"the officiant ... starts to set up the shrine of his own "spirit-guides" and put on the ritual costume.

p. 43

... the shaman starts to lick a red-hot iron that had been left to heat among the glowing coals".

"Smelling a garment signifies obtaining information about a person’s health."

pp. 44-46, 48 gan~ja (has`is`/marijuana); itinerary of soul of Jha~kri




"Gathered directly in the forest areas ... according to precise ritual rules, ga~ja has, according to shamans,


the ability to increase the officiant’s sensitivity ... to perceive more distinctly and clearly the contours of the invisible entities that intervene in the rite."

"once the "life breaths" have been gathered in the hearth, the shaman is free to begin his journey through space." Thence he goeth successively to :

"the inner area of the dwelling set aside for the ritual,"

"the place where the ritual drum is placed."

"through the main door of the dwelling,

the verandah and

the domestic courtyard."


"the chicken run,

the pig sty,

the banana grove,"

"the main path leading out of the village."

"the springs where water is drawn and

the expanses of tilled fields",

"the Hongu Kholo... river,"

"several ... villages",

"the source of the River Hongu, to the north".

"sources of rivers located in eastern Nepal, including that of the great River Arun."


"the peak of Mount Silucha, one of the most sacred places ... in close relation with the sacred lakes of Salpa, which are located close to its summit."

"other mountain lakes : this is Pa~c Pokhari, the region of the Five Lakes, inhabited by a specific class of "snake-spirits" – the Pa~cpand.ab Nag-nageni."

"the small village of Tengpoche,"

"the peak of Mount Everest (Sagaramatha N, Samparacho Burikacho Kr)".

pp. 48-49 miming; ko; interrogation

p. 48

[some pantomime accompanying the journey of pp. 45-46]

"Imitating the gestures of working at a mortar, ...

he mimics a chicken scratching the ground and

a pig rooting in the midden. ...

Miming a person carrying great jars of water on his shoulders ..., the shaman bears witness to his arrival at the springs".

p. 49

[on the peak of Mt. Everest of p. 48]

"drawing it along with one of the ritual wands ..., the shaman gathers ... the ko (Kr), a magical substance, invisible to the eyes of the profane ... . Ko, ... a viscous fluid, a luminescent, whitish, filamentary, sticky material, .. the very materialisation of "prosperity" ..., the ko is distributed by the shaman to all those present".

pp. 49-50 continuation of itinerary of soul of Jha~kri




"the peak where the Dudh Kosi rises,"


"the mountain close to the village of Pangboche."

"the confluence of the rivers Dudh Kosi and Hongu Kholo,"

"a whole series of villages",

"the River Rawa".

pp. 50-51 myth of 4 brethren : "Khambu, Limbu, Menho and Mertup"


4 brethren


"Mertup thus fixed a long bamboo pole in the ground and on top of it he placed a container full of water. At the same time, he captured a bird and hid it in the ground ... so that no one could see it. ...


These four brothers were the forefathers of the different groups of the Kirati family".

pp. 51-52 conclusion of itinerary of soul of Jha~kri




"place where clothes grew",

"the place where the water buffalo were born",

"where the cows first sprang forth",

[birthplace of] "gold".

Chasunponka Cehmpoksi {Chem-?}, "the place where the ancestors ... stayed to eat boiled rice",

"place w[h] ere the pigs were born",

‘birthplace of the chickens’,

"point where for the firsttime metal objects sprang forth",


"place from which the ancestral harvests came forth",

Nawama Dongama, the "point where the three brothers waded the River Sapta Kosi",

Minaponka Halkhumbu, the "place of origin of the ancestors".

pp. 55, 57 spirits which capture human souls; setting free those captured souls


capture & release of souls


"the "monkey-spirits" (bandar N, ronkheme Kr), who are ... descendents of Pupomechalongmecha, the Primordial Monkey who ... appears in the role of the elder brother of the First Man. ... the monkey-spirits may themselves cause a soul to leave the body of a chosen victim. ... At the right moment, all they have to do is ... passing rapidly behind his back, or ... marking a large boulder roll down a slope ... . ... Just enough for the soul to escape from the body ... . The spirits can now decide what to do with their prisoner ... . Not very different is the fate of souls captured by the other classes of invisible entities ... :

the bur.heni (N), spirits with the aspect of old women, or

the fearsome bhut-pret (chap Kr) ... the demons that originate from the souls of dead victims of an unhappy fate in the other world."


"a large symbolic diagram -- kind of cosmic map (pr.thibiko naksa N) made with colored powders – is traced on the ground ... . ... By means of a long cord, the patient, who is inside the house, is connected to the diagram. ... Once the invisible agent has been enticed out of the patient’s body and has been imprisoned in the drawing -- ... those attending, having taken up the trays, rush to deposit them at a crossroads. Thus, the highly voracious demons, ... find themselves ... far from their victim, lost and incapable of finding the right way back to the dwelling. The cord linking the patient to the device is cut."

pp. 59-60, 65-66 transportations by shaman : of vital force within a patient’s body; and, of souls of the dead




"the "vital force" (sir N, say Kr) ... is capable of movement. ... the vital force can fluctuate only between the head and the coccyx. ...


While the shaman travels in space, his patients’ vital force starts up. When the shaman "ascends" Everest, the vital force "rises" up the vertical column {spine}, until it reaches the head, its original location."


"Vital force, even when it is brought back to the patient’s head, ... can ... slip back down."


"the shaman reaches various places : Didikham-tielpilacham, the dwelling of the souls of babies who died just after birth.

"According to the type of death of which the deceased person was victim, the shaman will deposit the soul in one of these three different places. ... To stop the souls from returning, the officiant erects a series of barriers along the way".

Further on, he comes to Rotkotiel-dodikotiel, the dwelling of the souls of adults who have died a violent death.

Lastly he reaches Bayama-kayaptonkha, the farthest point westward, ... the "place where the sun sets", the dwelling of the souls of mothers who have died during childbirth."


pp. 62-63 myth of the origin of death




"the ancestors of the tribe did not really die. ... Merely by rubbing their body with plants or immerging it in water for a few moments, people returned to life at once.


One day, however, Tunilu met the Lizard. As soon as he saw her, ... he asked, ‘... Please teach them what they must do in order to die.’ ... the Lizard went to see god Paruhang in heaven, who was quite willing to grant mankind’s request. ... The Lizard then invited the men ..., entering the excavated cavity and leaving their body there. From this time on, funerary rites were officiated. These were needed to conduct the souls of the dead to their destination, and to stop them from returning amongst the living."

pp. 68-69 Sikari deities & their sub-categories




"Woodland entities, ... the Sikari are ... spirits that have a human appearance, dwelling in areas of dense and impenetrable forest. Without clothes and with wild hair, the "hunter-spirits" move either alone or in groups, always equipped with bows and arrows, which they use magically to strike their human victims. Cramps and twinges are the most typical signs showing that the spirits have not missed their target.

... the Sikari ... belong to ... different sub-classes ... . ...


Among the most important are


the Molu Sikari, or Sikari Kings,


the Rukh Sikari, who are tree-dwellers,


the Bhir-paharo Sikari of the rocks,


the Cha~go Sikari of the waterfalls and torrents,


the Jha~kri Sikari or Shaman- Sikari,


the Parbat Sikari of the hills,


the Himal Sikari that have chosen the high mountains ...,


the Mades-maidan Sikari, or Sikari of the plains,


the Bur.o Sikari or older Sikari,


the Andho Sikari who are blind, and


the Baulaha Sikari, meaning the mad Sikari."

Martino Nicolleti (transl. from the Italian by Ken Hurry) : Shamanic Solitudes : Ecstasy, Madness and Spirit Possession in the Nepal Hinalayas. Vajra Publ, Kathmandu, 2004.