Shamanism – critical concepts, 3-4

alternative name for tribes [writing /j/, as in German and the International Phonetic Assn., for /i^/ = /y/ (as pronounced in English)]

















3. "Shamanism in general".

etymology [of /s^aman/, a mere Mongolian mispronunciation of Manc^u /saman/ -- p. 64]

p. 62 Nerc^., Bir., H^in., Mank.

Lam (Kirensk, Vilui)


p. 63 Barg., RTM., Amur

Goldi, Oroc^i






[initial /h- / x-/ must derive from */s/, as doth /h-/ (spiritus asper) in Classical Hellenic]

{cf. Bodish /sems/ ‘mind’ and Samskr.ta /syam/ ‘to consider’, or else /saman/ ‘conciliation’}

other indigenous Altaic terms





bu:ga: / bo:ga: / buge



Mongol udagan; Buriat odogon / udaGan; Yakut udoGan



Turk kam



Manc^u e`j^en, Bir. e`j^an, Kum. & RTM. oj^an, Nerc^. oj^on, H^in. odi^in

‘master’ [controller] (scil., of spirits) [ "According to the Tungus and Manchu ..., the master must take care of the spirits, feed them and handle them, when he wants to introduce them into himself." (pp. 65-66 )]

{/ej^en / oj^an/ may be related to <ibri^ />as^nah/, derived by Strong (H&AD 823) from /yas^en/ ‘asleep’ (3463), <arabi^ /wasin/ ‘sleepy, drowsy’, /sina/ ‘slumber, nap’ (DMWA)}

H&AD = Strong : Hebrew & Aramaic Dictionary of Bible Words.

DMWA = Cowan : A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic.





"paraphernalia ... absolutely indispensable ... among the Tungus was a toli, a Chinese brass mirror with pendants, and a drum."


"Among the Manchus the costume itself is rather simple, while among the Barguzin Tungus and the Nerc^insk Tungus of Transbaikalia it is very complicated; among the latter a shaman cannot go into the lower world without a complete "harness", ... while among the Manchus a shaman may have only a special headdress ..."

p. 72 futility of blama-ism

"The reason why Lamaism cannot be used is that

the spirits are not mastered by the lamas and

it distinguishes between benevolent and malevolent spirits, while

the Tungus are sceptical as to the potential benevolence of spirits and

at the same time the believe that the most malevolent of them can be mastered,

and in this way they solve the problem of the "good-evil" complex."


4. "The shaman".

p. 95 [laghima (miraculous lightness)]

"the Manchus assert that when during the performance the shaman steps on the person lying on the ground, the shaman is felt to be very light."

"An old woman, I saw one day among the Birarc^en, could not lift it [shamanic costume] up and was literally unable to move, when the costume was put on her. However, when the spirit entered her, she moved with ease and tremendous speed.

In another case I observed a shaman of eighty-six years ...; he was so weak that he could not move without being supported ... The costume was extremely heavy ... and the old man, when dressed, lay on the ground until the spirits came in. Then there was a sudden transformation : he jumped and danced like a youth ..."

p. 96 other praeternatural physiologic effects

"One of the shamans (the Birarc^en) told me that each time when the spirit enters he feels very hot and there is a loud noise in his ears, he is unable to understand himself and cannot remember what the spirit says. This feeling of heat is seemingly a general phenomenon, for I myself felt the shamans to be much hotter during the performance (before their swiftly moving dance).

Among other curious phenomena the case of "sudden pregnancy" is to be noted. The assistance shaman is asked to "examine" the abdomen of the shaman; when the spirit leaves the female shaman, the abdomen assumes its former shape."

"The operation with hot iron ... produces only a slight effect – on the next morning the hands are red, but not burnt."

pp. 96-97 sudden death whilst shamanizing


sudden death


"The Tungus say that during the shamanizing, especially when the shaman goes to the lower world, the death of the shaman may suddenly occur. ...

The Tungus explain that the shaman dies because his soul cannot return ..., being stopped on the way by other spirits ...

Therefore special measures must be taken for calling back the soul, by all possible means.


For this reason the shamanizing to the lower world is very rarely performed."


"Among the Reindeer Tungus of Transbaikalia this form of shamanizing is believed to be so dangerous that there are very few shamans who perform it, and only once in three years or so."

regularity of, & abstentions from, performing




"The shamans say that before a performance, when none has been carried out for a long time, they feel "heaviness in the heart and head" which may grow into a feeling of discomfort and even pain. Yet, on the next day, they feel themselves "light and pleasant" ..."


"... the abstaining from performance during the menstrual period, pregnancy and during a certain period after the delivery."

p. 100 etymology of Goldi /ajami/

/ajami/ of which /mi^i/ is a sufix

in other Northern Tungus dialects /aya(n) / haja/

{with /haja/ (German or I.P.A. spelling for /haya/), cf. <ibri^ words, either /hayah/ ‘calamity’ or else /h.ay/ ‘life’, the latter often in the plural /h.ayyi^m/ ‘livelihood, lifetime’ (H/E-E/HD)}

H/E-E/HD = Dov Beb-Abba : Hebrew/English English/Hebrew Dictionary.

kinds of spirits




"Among the Tungus groups, ... the first spirit, which comes into the candidate and which later on is used for taking control over other spirits, comes sometimes very rarely during the shaman’s life and perhaps even only once in his lifetime. ... Among the Kumarc^en such a spirit is usually called ogdina seven, i.e. the greatest shamanic spirit." {cf. /mGiDDo^N/ ‘rendezvous’ (H&AD 4023)}


"Birarc^en ... shamans begin by possessing a complex malu ... The female shamans in the beginning usually have only the animal manifestations of this complex, namely, a lizard, a snake and a turtle which are simple manifestations used for hiding and travelling to distant places (an exterioration of soul ...)."


"The shaman knows that these spirits may have various desires in accordance with their particular character; he knows that there are

bad-natured, wicked spirits,

spirits which are not to be trusted, even for a moment :

spirits which may be trusted;

there are spirits anxious to have benefits from their work with the shaman, and

spirits which are not very greedy."


"If the shaman shows a "weak heart" by serving sacrifices too frequently, the spirits may form the idea that the shaman is afraid of them and they will not work for him, but will require more and more sacrifices. ...

There are spirits which must be kept in strong hands and even they must be "badly treated" by the shaman {cf. Catholics threatening their own personal image of saints, in order to terrify the saints into granting them favors}; as long as the shaman manifests no fear, he is safe, but if the spirits see him weakening they may attack him immediately or may leave him alone so he will be attacked by other spirits."

[The reason why the H^ingan shamaness’s "female spirit ... would never come again" (p. 102) may be suggested in that "Her device with twenty-six marks of spirits ... was supplied with carved female genitalia and breast." (p. 122, n. 18) Here, the # 26 may be metonymy for 260 [cf. the Aztec tonalpohualli] – the 260th degree is "In Winter People are Cutting Ice from a Pond" (DW, p. 260), likely indicating a praemonition of the impending fate of shamans in the Soviet Union.]

DW = Lynda Hill : 360 Degrees of Wisdom. 1995.

the nature of spirits




"the Tungus do not represent these spirits as anthropomorphic beings, but they are figured, in the Tungus mind, as immaterial (in the Tungus sense) "beings", which are satisfied with an immateriality of sacrifice, human actions, etc."


"The shaman must offer from time to time a sacrifice to his spirits; if he does it too frequently, they may disobey; if he neglects them, they may harm him, avenge themselves."


"In order to neutralize a harmful activity of spirits, the shaman may make spirits fight among themselves ..."

p. 107 sacrifices by a shaman to his spirits

"Among the Reindeer Tungus of Transbaikalia a sacrifice is offered, when the shaman feels that it should be done. So it may be delayed for several years.

Among the Tungus of Manchuria the sacrifice, consisting of various animals (the more, the better), is given periodically, no less often than once every three years.

In main lines it is the same as the first shamanizing of the shaman who calls in, one after another, all spirits mastered by him, to show that he possesses them. The shaman addresses to the spirits the request that they remain near him. After the performance the shaman climbs up to the turn, where he remains for a while. ...

During a shaman’s life he may offer up to six periodical sacrifices. There is no difference between the sacrifice carried out by the clan shaman (mokun`i) {chaplain} and a free shaman.

Among the Manchus this ... ritual is carried out on the second day of the first moon of the Chinese calendar. ... The performance begins at eight o’clock in the evening.

For calling in the spirits the shaman goes out into the yard and returns. The assistant must recognize which spirit is introduced."





"a shaman ... may assume the form [oboleran (Bir. Kum.), cf. ubalambi (Manchu Writ.)] of different animals".


"When the shamans are fighting, they establish a real system of spies – various animals -- ... into which animal the ... shaman enters. The most inoffensive bird or insect may be used as a placing by such a shaman. The shamans who know how to assume various forms may well be informed as to all movements of their enemies without themselves being noticed. ...

The fighting shamans among the Birarc^en are usually using their dona se`ve`n – the foreign spirits."


Andrei A. Znamenski : Shamanism. RoutledgeCurzon, London, 2004. 3 Vols.

Vol. I, pp. 61-123 [= extracts from :- Sergei Shirokogoroff : Psychomental Complex of the Tungus. London : Kegan Paul, 1935.]

pp. 61-82 = 3. "Shamanism in general". [PsCT, pp. 268-276, 285-287.]

pp. 83-123 = 4. "The shaman". [PsCT, pp. 358-376.]