Shamanism in Eurasia, 5

[/j/ is transcription, as in German, for consonant pronounced as English /y/ (except in transcription of Mongolian)]


pp. 319- 324 W. Heisig : "Shaman Myth and Clan Epic".

pp. 320-322 Mongol tribal origin-myths of clans






"heaven answered the prayer of the childless Shamaness [Asuyiqan udaGan] by the birth of the children ... out of the foam of the sea. While two of these boys were reared by bulls and became the ancestors of the [clans] Bulagat and Ekhirit, the third clan of the Moridoi stems from the marriage of the third boy with a swan-maiden."



ancestor was "Bo:h nojon of Loussan-Chan (Lord of Sorcery or Lord of Dragons)"



"Duwa sokhor’s ["the Blind" (p. 322)] sons were these, Tonoi doGsin and Emneg erke."


"Bo:o: Khan or Shamn-Khan ... sees on a lake 501 Swans, of which he catches with a net and kills all except one which has a red head. This bird takes on a human form and becomes a beautiful girl, claiming to be a daughter of Hormusta [= Ohrmazd/AhuraMazda]. ... After the Swan maiden has given birth to a son, she puts the infant into a wooden cradle ... under the branches of a cypress; then she flies up to heaven. ... The child is kept alive by drops of lifewater which fall the branches of a tree. ["The motiv of feeding an exposed infant with water of immortality (Rasayana) dropping from the branches of the world-tree, found ... in epic of ... the famous Yirensei’ (p. 322) {According to Hesiodos, the folk of the golden age of Kronos "lived ... eating ... honey that dripped from the trees" (GM 5.b)}] A little owl guards the orphan. ... the boy ... becomes the chieftain of the Coros-Clan of the O:lo:t ... He is given the name Ulintai because of an owl (mong. uGuli ~ uuli) has helped save his life."



"the [earlier] wife of Bo:o: Khan curses ... Bo:o: Khan ... Upon her curse, the mountain called Eriyen qabirGa shakes and grumbles and the earthquake only when Bo:o: Khan cries out imploringly "Bogda, Bogda" – "Holy, holy"." {Cf. the "Holy of Holies" at the mountain of S.iyo^n}

GM = Robert Graves : The Greek Myths. 1955.


p. 344-352 E. Taube : "South Siberian and Central Asian Hero Tales".


[Tuvan] Bo:gen Sagan Tolay, etc.

[comparisons with non-Tuvan]


(pp. 345-6) "the new-born hero, lying in his cradle with a piece of birch-tree toot in his mouth, is put into a hollow tree."

(p. 346) [Khanty (Ostyak)] "the hollow ghost-tree, on which ... the Torun-bird ... has its nest. Having swallowed a child’s soul, the spirit-birds lay an egg, peck it open and put the young ones into their iron cradles, standing below the holy birch-tree".


"Bum-tree "on which the crow builds its nest""

{cf. [Skt.] /BHUMi/ ‘the earth’}


"larch-tree, on which the mythical bird Khan Khereti has its nest with its young ones, whom the hero guarded from being killed by a snake, thus gaining the bird’s assistance."

{cf. the nest-tree of the [Sumerian] mythic mother-bird, whose hatchlings were guarded from a snake by the hero Ed-anak ([Akkadian] Etana), who therefore who rewarded by the bird’s carrying him toward heaven.}


"in Tuvan folktales ...can be ... a flying white camel, which may be compared with

a flying white reindeer in a Yakut tradition about the way of becoming a shaman."


"a young man becomes a shaman if a female spirit fell in love with him."

{cf. Goldi}


"three crippled men (one without arms, a second without legs, the third without eyes) call an upper-world princess to cure them. They are together swallowed by a Dshelbege (an evil female spirit, having come three times to their yurt) and brought out anew – healthy, complete".


"hero ... is laid by his younger sister inside a rock (which shuts and opens at her will) ..."

{"Merlin followed Nimue to Cornwall, where she imprisoned him beneath a huge rock." (LSM4)}


O:tgek Dzuman :- "Here the aged father of three sons provides the youngest, the only one who spent the last three days of his father’s life with him at the grave ... with horse, weapons and dress" -- "the sequence is the same : first of all the horse is to be found, and only after this is the garment handed over."

(p. 347) [Yakut "ceremony of equipping the shaman with all his paraphernalia":-] "And first the shaman’s drum ["representing his mount"] is made and then his costume."


"the hero (and his adversary as well) is sometimes accompanied by two dogs"

(p. 348) [Yakut] "the shaman had two dogs as invisible helpers"


"The hero descends to the lower world to a couple of snakes, whose young he had safeguarded in the middle world. They presented him a small box, equipping him on his return to earth with welfare and wealth, and with a beautiful all-knowing wife, his "destiny" (-person)."

(p. 348) [Australian shamanism] "These two snakes – male and female -- ... beget children germs [unborn souls], some of which enter the shaman’s soul, thus increasing his mental power." {cf. [Kemetian legend of] the box obtained by the hero PTH.-NFR-K3 from the serpent which returned to life after being cut into pieces (EM, p. 145)}

LSM4 = Lugodoc’s summary of Thomas Malory : Le Morte d'Arthur, book 4.

EM = Wallis Budge : Egyptian Magic.


pp. 353-373 S. I. Vajns^tejn : "Shamanism in Tuva".


worlds & their spirits


"three worlds : the Upper World (Heaven), the Lower World (Bright), and the terrestrial, earthly, or in other words, Subterranean (Dark) World.

Kurbustu (Kurbustu-khan) rules the Upper World, while the Dark World is ruled by Erlik (Erlik-Lovun-Khan). Man lives in the Lower World, while the souls of the dead go to the Subterranean World."


"the terrestrial world" : "The ezis – the spirits looking over the mountains, passes, lakes, springs, the hearth and trees – were especially revered.

... the spirits of the mountains and passes had the greatest power. ... The mountain spirits could help ... the hunter ... They were able to guide his hand to shoot an animal, or make him miss etc."


"The Lower World hosted numerous evil spirits – aza, puk, albys and shulbus. ... the evil spirits aza and puk could turn into animals, fish or birds flying into the Upper World, if they wished to."


"shulbus could be of any sex. It was horrible looking with one eye and a copper nose, belching forth fire from the mouth, etc. ...

Albis is ... a ... woman that could seem a beauty to men or become a man to a woman, if she wished so. ... quite often through sexual intercourse, albis made persons deranged. This derangement was called albistar (to become insane or go crazy).

... the aza and puk spirits could not live outside the man for a long period of time. Once moving into him, they stimulated hard diseases, and if the man died the evil spirit moved into somebody else."



Eren and their doll-figurines


"A special group of good spirits (erens), regarded by shamans as their assistants, ... was composed of the spirits of demised ancestors, including the ancestor spirits of the shaman, whose receptacles were anthropomorphic images.

Another group is represented by the spirits of individual animals, fish and birds ... – the bear, the sable, snakes, the hare, the falcon, the owl, the eagle, the swan, the duck, the cuckoo, the taimen and others ...

Mostly wood, felt and metal were used to make eren image.

Finally, after the shaman’s special sanctifying rites, some live animals (the horse, the goat, the ram, and in eastern Tuva the reindeer) could be also considered as erens."


The bear (adig-eren) who drove off evil spirits from the dwelling was regarded as the most powerful zoomorphic shamanist eren. At its image (receptacle) [there] served wooden ... figures of the bear with patches of bear skin and ... fastened to them, ... a dried out bear paw with claws.


The snake-eren (c^ilan-eren) was also highly valued ... Its image were made of new felt, covered with red or less frequently brown cloth. As a rule, the mouth was open ... and a copper horn ... sewn to its head." {cf. [Tsalagi (Cherokee)] "two-horned snake" (HHS) – "the Uktena is a great snake ... with horns on its head" (U&U)}


"The hare eren (aq-eren) or white eren ... cured leg joint ailments, relieved stomach pains etc. Its receptacle was either thin strips of hair skin, knotted at the top, or a grass-stuffed hare."


"Also widespread was the cult of a protectress spirit called emelgelc^i-eren ... The western Tuvinians usually made images of it out of a copper plate with etchings of a woman’s figure with sex attributes. In central Tuva it was also often represented as cloth dolls [embellished with] sewn on felt. Almost every family had eme[l]gelc^i-erens, carefully looked after and fed at the meals. They were inherited by women and sometimes went into [her] grave with the dead woman. ...

In the southern regions, the people also worshipped the ... agir eren. ... The eren represented two dolls – a man and a woman – with distinctive sexual features. ... The male idol was painted black and the female white. When burying the head of the family, the erens accompanied him into the grave."


U&U =



kham & albis-tar


"The shaman carried the title kham."


"As a general rule, the shaman inherited his gift from ancestors ...

However, there were shamans who ... were endowed by the Upper World. They were called celestial shamans (to:o:r-kham).

Still another variety of shamans is said to have gotten their skills from the evil spirits, in particular albis. These were black shamans (kara-kham). They were ... able to cure people by exorcising the spirits inflicting diseases". ...

However, none of ... retired or practicing shamans ... considered himself a shaman from the Heaven, or a shaman gifted by the evil spirits".


"Shamans themselves or their kin were unanimous in saying that before becoming a shaman the man had ... experienced sudden fits of albistar ... madness. ... To cure it, the sick invited a shaman. If he, after special rites, proclaimed that the spirits of the shaman ancestor had moved into the patient, the latter had to turn into a shaman.

... a shaman, invited to an albistar-ailing person, had said that the patient had been visited by the shaman’s spirit ancestors. The relatives made special attributes for him ... Customarily, those attributes were ritual clothings, a drum and a rattle; in Eastern Tuva, ... initially a ritual baton and, later on drums were made. The "enlivened" drum was used as a horse in the rites and the rites were called at hamnar – horse rites".


"There had been shamans who until their death had neither drum [n]or a rattle, sticking to jews harp ... there was a shaman and blacksmith ...To perform the rites he needed only a small iron jews harp (temir khomuz) with a handle etched with a small figure of horse." {This type of blacksmith-shaman may have been a genuine to:o:r-kham, inasmuch as not only is heaven made of iron (in Kemetian belief, due to meteorites), but also heaven is (Apokalupsis of Ioannes 14:2) the locality "of harpers harping with their harps".}


"rites of enlivening the drum" :- "After the drum had become "alive" ... and ever since was saddled ... to wander the spirits’ world."


"the basic source of most shamans’ livelihood were their own farms ... and this is confirmed by statistics that there were many poor shamans."



to exorcise evil spirits


"Both Western and eastern Tuvinians began their rituals at twilight. The shaman usually had an assistant, his wife or anyone present. Before the rites began the shaman put a ritual costume on ... and then dried the drum over the hearth. Then juniper was burnt. Usually the shaman ... seated himself in the dark corner of yurt behind the hearth, turning his back to the fire and [to] everybody [else] present {cf. the Eastern Orthodox priest turning his back to the congregation while performing the mass}, who sat to the left and right of the entrance. He then began to softly tap on the drum indicating that he had begun his travels on the horse-drum to the spirits. In doing so, and closing his eyes, he began to summon his assistant spirits ...


If a shaman was invited to cure somebody’s illness, upon summoning his assistant spirits he began to identify the causes of the illness, searching ... for the culprit spirits. It turned out, as a rule, that the sick man was invaded by the evil spirit. In that case the shaman either tried to persuade the spirit to leave the body, promising it anything it wished, or threatened it. ...

Having come to grips with the evil spirit, [the shaman] ...shot at the spirit with "iron arrows", accompanying each shot by hard beats on the drum. Despite all its dodgings the spirit was finally caught, killed and devoured."

"during the se’ance the shaman ran around the hearth, catching the evil spirits and stuffing them into his drum, which became so heavy that he could hardly hold them. He then rudely threw the caught spirits out of the tent."


"The rites were mostly concluded by fortune-telling involving the use of a rattle. The shaman threw the rattle towards the sick, and if it fell on [with] the concave side up, all present cried "treck", which signified the recovery.

Sometimes the shaman did his fortune-telling with a cup. ... a cup of tea was placed on the spine of the sacrificial horse, upon the shaman’s orders, and a relative of the sick thrice walked the horse around the dwelling "following" the sun. If the cup fell with its bottom turned down, the spectators exclaimed "treck", and if it fell otherwise it spelled a bad omen."


"In western Tuva, sacrifices to the mountain-dwelling spirits to cure the sick were called tailyan. ... If a horse was sacrificed, its skin, head, larynx, lungs and hoofs [hooves] were separated. Then the meat was fried on the platform, where a fire was kindled. The shaman put on[to] the skin three ochre lines forming a six-pointed "crux", symbolizing the animal. Then the mouth of the sacrificial animal was stuffed with grass ("the animal eats") and the head {cf. Jaina horse-head constellation} with the skin was hiked up to the pole".

pp. 361-362 paraphernalia of Eastern Tuvinian shamans




"The first attribute of the shaman ... was traditionally a birch baton which could be used in the rites without a drum.

The next step in the shaman’s growing power, evaluated by the master ..., was the acquisition of the drum with a rattle and attire made by the shaman’s kin. ... The tu:ngu:r (drum) was somewhat oval in shape with a wide rim fitted with wooden resonators. The wooden vertical handle positioned toward the inside had two slits, in the upper and lower parts. Superimposed on the handle was a slightly bend wooden cross-plank, to which they ... tied an iron arch called kudurga (tail holder). The drum was covered with the skin of a Siberian deer or elk."


"The rattle was made of horn, ... covered by bear skin."


"The headwear (khamnar bo:rt) was of three types. The first ... was a head band ... On it reindeer hair was used to embroid and symbolically depict the parts of the human body – the eyes, nose, mouth, ears ... Feathers of an owl or a wood-grouse were affixed to the upper edge of the band. {thus resembling a Great-Plains or a Nepalese shamanic feather-bonnet}

The second type of headwear was a kind of hat with a conelike ... crown, having at the top ... two or three feathers.

The third type was a round, closely fitting hat weaved [woven] of sinew. Salbak braids were sewn on to the lower part of all to conceal the shaman’s face during the rites. {this is also African}


The kujak kaftan was made of a single skin of a wild male deer. The pattern of a man’s skeleton was embroidered by reindeer hair on the caftan. On the back there was a long ribbon with an embroidered depiction of the backbone. Some shamans carried shoulder straps ... with two or three tufts of owl feathers stuck into them, or wore chest-bone-embroidered breastplates, called tiosh. They sewed manchak braids to the sleeves of the caftan or the upper part of the back. ... It also carried cloth images of snakes, skins of certain birds, e.g. duck or loon, or animals such as the squirrel, Siberian polecat etc."

"Special footwear called idiq was made of chamois from the hide of male reindeer. It was usually covered with a colored cloth ... embroidered with the drawings of the man’s foot."

pp. 362-363 paraphernalia of Western Tuvinian shamans




"These shamans had no baton ...

The drum was also called tu:ngu:r ... The drum was covered by adomestic goat’s skin, and in the mountainous areas bordering the steppes by ibex ... skin. The surface was ochre-coloured, and the inside was sometimes adorned with drawings depicting the animals whose skin had been used to make the drum. Some shamans, ... those living in the vicinity of the Altai


area, had drums with resonators. ... The cross-plank was made straighter ... As a rule, the handle had no vertical slits but carried carved images depicting the spirits of shaman’s predecessors represented by an anthropomorphic figure with a drum."


"The ritual headgear camnar bo:rt are usually cloth-covered leather ... bands, the upper edge of which was adorned with eagle or owl feathers. Sometimes braids were attached to the lower edge. There were several varieties of images on the headdresses :

ornamental compositions ... emboidered by coloured threads or compsed of kauri [cowry] shells sewn on c^ilan bazi – the snake head;

a schematically embroidered face;

one or more coloured disks (sometimes with an etching of a man) ...;

a relief representation of a man’s face ... made of metal or wood;

a relief representation of the skull ... made of metal or wood."


"The cut of the caftan, which was called khamnar to:n, resembled the East Tuvinian one. ... The shamans did not wear breastplates. The pendants on the ritual caftans -- cloth snakes, braids, bells, and other paraphernalia – were basically similar to those of Eastern Tuvinians. Often they sewed on felt images of the eren spirits ... to the caftan’s skirt".


FORUM 5 = Miha`ly Hoppa`l (ed.) : Shamanism in Eurasia. Edition Herodot, Go:ttingen, 1984. pp. 287-373 = "V. Shaman in Society".