Tuva & H^akass shamanism

pp. 16-22 Tuva shamanism




[Tuva shamaness] " "I dreamed I saw a clear sun. Suddenly there was thunder and lightning, the sun was split in two. On the crack was a bloody red river. Black rain began to fall, it was black night. Then silver rain came down and washed the sun. The sun became bright again. Soon a bad head of government will end." Three days later came news of the illness which led to Stalin’s death."


"Shamans conducted blessings at sacred springs ... . They blessed a goat, which could then only be milked by one woman and not touched by men. The goat cared for the patient’s health."

"tel yiash, where two kinds of trees grow from one root {graft?}, especially sacred if they are larch and fir."


"People often tell about how shamans find their mirrors. ... Usually in the past a new shaman would find one in an old river bed or ravine. The mirror might be flying in the air, obliging the shaman to sing to make it come to earth ... . ...


Mirrors ... when shamans died ... simply disappeared, presumably to reappear to shamans of later generations".

"A truly great storyteller begins to see visions ... of the characters and the stories. Sometimes it happens that a storyteller must become a shaman. ... You call the spirits of the stories often enough and at last they force you."


"the great shaman ... from the Sat clan ... found his mirror flying in the air and sang it down to the ground. ... At dawn and dusk the mirror ... circles and flies over the rocks. It comes down to earth and rises gently, giving off golden rays."


[Tuvan divination-pebbles] "each of the forty-one pebbles should be gathered from a different river or stream. The pebbles contain information from the land of their origin, as well as from the mountain that is the source of the river and the water that connected the mountain and the place where the shaman found the stone."


"all shamans raise the stones to their brow before beginning." {cf. stone embedded in forehead of To`rr and of Maya god GII}

p. 110 [Tuvan shaman’s costume] "Some of the shamans’ regalia was considered to be their armour; certain pendants permitted them to change into animals and other parts gave them the ability to see and communicate with spirits of the other world and with the souls of the living and the dead. ... Some plaits on the costume were called snakes (chylan) but were also understood as birds feathers ... . During their rituals shamans drew on the bowstring of an imaginary bow and shot arrows, hitting ... the spirit of disease ... . The arrow’s flight was symbolized by the tinkling of a bell".

pp. 31-40 H^akass shamanism




[shamaness] "One female shaman ... sang in a changed voice, leaping about the fire and giving voice to the animals she met in the various layers of heaven. She caught her spirit helpers in her drum ... . She too fell into a trance after the ceremony. This is interesting in relation to contemporary researchers’ interest in the shaman’s state of consciousness during the journey".


[shaman] "He got his to:ster (shamanic spirits) ... . He named them so they would not run away. ...


Ada ... had a certain quality of light about him, an unusual light blue. ... "There are five trees," he said. {5 trees in Paradise, in Gospel according to Thomas} ["Ada was a higher shaman who lived somewhere in the cosmic realms, whom [the apprentice shaman] was instructed to meet in his dreams." (p. 183, n. 2:25)] ...


He described crossing a narrow thread and going through a place in the sea where rocks clashed together. He met a dog with big ears and at last he went into a cave. There he found the child’s soul and brought it back. ...

Seven girl and nine boy spirits served [this shaman]. The eldest girl showed him where to feed the fire as he went around."

["a cup made from the round, hard, black growth on a birch tree."] "he ... threw the cup . ... If the cup fell right side up, it was a good sign. If it fell upside down it meant he must do it again. {cf. Bon practice of throwing divination-dice again and again until the sought-for combination is arrived at} The khut was held inside."


"El’bekchi {cf. Skt. name /Bagc^i/}} is a person who affects the weather using a fan. This word is related to the Tuvan El’bichi, which describes a female shaman who works with a fan instead of a drum. ... The fanning makes her helping spirits appear, and then the shaman[ess] can see and even influence the future. Fanning is similar to the practice of some shamans who used only the drumstick, without the drum. ... the drumstick acts as a whip driving the drum, which the shaman describes as a horse or other riding animal."

A shamaness "healed eye diseases with her tongue. She would lick a cataract with the tip of her tongue to take it away. Not only human eyes but also the eyes of cattle."


[plant-magic] "Talk to it, asking permission to work with it. The plant may have other plans. ... A knowledgeable person can tell which tree or plant relates to a person or to an organ, and asks that plant to help. Then thank the tree ..., ask forgiveness for coming onto its territory. ... Always speak to the area ... ."

"a musical-instrument maker in Khakassia, told me that he knew a person who listened to plants that told him how to find someone who was lost. He also knew of a woman who learned how to find her lost cow by listening to a stone. This is similar to the way shamans get information from the forty-one pebbles ... they can listen carefully and get information about the weather."


[mountain-spirits] "there are two kinds of mountain beings : tag eezi, the actual mountain spirits; and tag kizi, mountain people. The latter are human beings from an earlier civilization. ... They may be either our size or very large ... .


... In turn tag eezi are also of two kinds : some are light and others dark."


"Every child’s soul is connected to a tree. If you cut that tree down, the child will die. {cf. Kemetian Tale of the 2 Brethren} ... And ... the clan trees ... must not be touched." ["Every clan and family has a tree. Some clans and families may have the same tree. A person should not marry into a family that has the same tree." (p. 183, n. 2:35)]

p. 183, n. 2:36 ["the earth in the form of a woman’s body."] "In one Tuvan tale a woman who had been abused by her husband wills with her dying breath that her bones will turn into rocks, her eyes into lakes, her braids into the trunks of larch trees, and her blood vessels into rivers."

43-51 spiritual geography




"Each layer of cloud forms a world, inhabited by different spirits and deities." {likewise Hindu & Hawai>an}


"worlds in the mythology of the Teleut, Khakassia’s neighbors to the southwest ..., include a world of imagination {"imaginal world", which is S.ufi} and a world of pure truth {also S.ufi}, each peopled by deities".


"life and warmth in the south, death in the north". ["North is the direction of ... night, the end of life, old age, the bottom of the world, the land of the dead, and the female half of the yurt" (184, fn. 3:3).]


"Upper-world deities being good luck and the blessings of good weather. They include the ancient Ulgen and Kudai, ... ducks who created the world by diving to bring up mud from the bottom of the sea. One of the ducks turned into the sky god Ulgen". {bringing up mud from underwater for re-makings of the world would denote particular kalpa-s, such as the Varaha kalpa when Varaha brought up the mud}


"each person has a Chayaan spirit who lives on the ninth layer of heaven and may come down to us in the form of inspiration."


"the sacred Tuvan mountain Khaiyrakan is associated with the bear deity, who comes from the upper world."


"When the dragon wags into tail, lightning can be seen ... . ... The dragon’s fleas suck blood and vomit it through the mouth. {inasmuch as Christ is a serpent (according to Gospel of Ioannes), is fleas’ vomit the source of the "blood of Christ"?} ... with their mouths ... the horse kills the dragon flea ... .


... In summer the dragon dwells in the sky {heavenly Christ}, and in winter it sleeps under the earth, where it remains for the duration of the winter." {hence the expression "sleep in Christ"}


"The land of the dead, located under the earth, is described as ... the opposite of the way it is here – our summer is their winter {opposite hemisphaire}, things are upside down {also opposite hemisphaire}. What is broken here is whole there and vice versa. The houses ... have square corners ..., which ... attract lower world spirits."

"Metals are associated with the lower world ... . The master there is Erlik-khan, who ... is reputed to have been the first blacksmith, creating evil spirits from iron."


"The Khakass say that the water spirit (sug eezi) looks like a naked woman combing her golden hair with a golden comb. If you find the comb, it is very good luck."


"The middle world is ... inhabited by the great earth goddess, called


Umai in many Turkic languages ["In some Turkic languages Umai means placenta or womb." (p. 184, n. 3:11)] and Chir Su in Khakass ... . ... In the Khakass pantheon a related goddess called Ymai lives in the heavens and sends the souls of children to earth."


"the Khakass word yzykh (Tuvan ydyk) ... has a range of meanings, including the sacred in general and animals that are set aside as protectors or healers, not to be slaughtered or worked."


"The milk lake Su:t-kho:l ... is high on the sacred mountain Su:mber-ula {Sumeru}, which exists only in myth. The Tuvan Su:t-kho:l is high on a mountain in the west."

"women ... go to caves to pray for fertility. Caves were Umai’s home in the mountain, connecting her to life under the earth."

p. 59 [Sunduki mountain] "A stone trunk can be seen at the top of one mountain. It has two internal divisions – one contains the water of life and the other the water of death."

pp. 54-55 multiple souls

p. 54 H^akass soul

p. 55 Tuva soul


"khut as the life force that comes into the body at birth from the milk lake. (The word also means embryo.) ... Whole clans and peoples have their own khut.

"Kut [cf. "the Korean word Kut, shamanic ritual" (p. 185, n. 3:18)] is the life force,


The su:r soul is connected to the physical body, staying with the bones even after death.


{cf. "bone-soul" of many South American Indian tribes}

Tyn is the breath ... . When tyn leaves the body it stayed attached by a thread ... .

tyn is the animating force of the body,

{"silver thread" / "silver cord" of the aitheric body}

Chula is the astral body or "fire of the eyes," which may leave the body at night and wander around as a shiny figure. (Also called kharakh ody, it brings back information from its journeys.)

chula can leave the body and may be seen by others, and

{cf. pabid ("eye-soul") of the Tenetehara}

... a human being has seven khut souls, which may be lost or stolen one by one, and ... when all are gone, the person dies ... .


Sagys is a person’s reason, which stays near the family for forty days after death.


Su:ne is the soul of a dead person, which stays one year on earth and then becomes a spirit called u:zu:t in another world.

su:nezin is the soul that is left after death and can turn into an evil spirit".


Sus is a sun’s ray that carries the child’s soul.


{cf. the "solar-soul-rays" in Hindu yoga}

In addition, a shaman has another soul called myrg’yra, located in the clan tree. ...

Every clan (seok or so:o:k) has a soul located in a certain kind of tree. It is forbidden for clan members to cut that tree or make things from the wood."


p. 64 "Threads are emanations of the soul, which keep human beings connected to this world while journeying to another".

p. 128 " "spiritual birthmarks," called menge in Tuvan" are ""threads," ... which can be arranged in a magic square with three on each side. ... The nine-part grid is also the basis of reading the forty-one pebbles."

p. 55 hair

"Women always cover their heads when ascending a mountain. ... the hair contains an erotic force that will tempt the mountain spirits to abduct the woman."

A live person always braids the hair by carrying the strands under, but for the dead they bring them under.

Hair contains the soul (khut) of the clan. One must not lose it or throw any away. Hair that has been cut off is saved and placed in the person’s grave. This protects the soul."

pp. 55-56 bodily ornaments as shields (armor) for protection of souls



its site



"to protect the tyn soul,

Khakass women cover the area of the lungs with

a pog’o, a ritual shield that is usually decorated with beadwork designs. ...


[p. 55] Syn is

a place at the top [p. 56] of the head, an area of truth.

... women tie a scarf around to protect this area and


the spiritual third eye

located in the middle of the forehead."

"Men wear a headband".

pp. 58-60 H^akass divine spirit-beings




"Mountain spirits are ... are part of the geography itself, but ... they appear in human form. They are larger than people, often dressed in grand ... old fashioned clothing. They have no eyebrows. ... there are both yellow and black mountain spirits. The yellow is helpful and the black harmful." {cf. yellow world & black world, mentioned by Carlos Castan~eda}


"The Altai believe that children (their sus soul) are sent to earth by Umai along the sun’s rays".


"the sun is female ... but ... the moon is seen as male. During the day the sun is always in the sky, just as a woman is almost always in the yurt. But at night the moon is not always visible, just as the man may often be away from home".

pp. 60-62 Tuva divine spirit-beings




[female albys] "the albys ... looks like a woman with long hair. But she has no back {likewise the Eskimo sun-goddess}; all her innards are visible from behind. She lives in sandy, rock places and has a beautiful singing voice that attracts people." {likewise the Seirenes}


[male albys] "An albys can also appear as a horseman whose beautiful singing enchants a woman.


The albys can enter a person and ... that person ... then likes to go to an isolated place where the first meeting with the albys took place and see or play an instrument. ... Often such a person ... becomes a shaman, called albystan khamnaan kham".


[s^ulbus (masc.), s^ulbu (fem.)] "A shulbus can be male or female and can appear to members of the opposite sex. A shulbus has one eye in the middle of its forehead {a spirit having an eye in the middle of its forehead is described by Carlos Castan~eda} and a big brass nose, and kills people outdoors, especially far from home. They live in mountains and caves and approach people with offers of help.


The aza are spirits of illness. They ... take human or animal forms. Aza sometimes appear as a blue light that sings beautiful songs. ... They might take one of the three souls of a person who has ... been frightened on the road and who has not been taken to see a shaman ... . They live around graves ... . Sometimes at the moment of death a person might turn into an aza.


The buk ... can turn into many kinds of animals, such as a ... sable ... or camel. Evening twilight is their time. They bring people bad sleep and cause animals to get lost. ...


Albasty sometimes live with hunters and feed them from their long breasts, which they throw over their shoulders. They also feed the hunters meet from their own ribs, and can turn in a bear ... or cuckoo.


The chetker ... can only be seen by ... a shaman or a clairvoyant. The soul of a dead person can turn into chet if the funeral ceremonies are not properly observed."

pp. 185-186, n. 3:27 eeren idols of helping-spirits, used only by shamans (not by layfolk)


__ eeren

spirit of __




"headaches" & "paralysis"

"A secret sign of connection between heaven and earth."




"It helps ... for kamlanie and to converse with other spirits."




"It helps in making precise diagnoses and in finding ... means of healing."



"It is striped."

"It tells ... when to carry out the ceremony, ... and how the illness will turn out."




"The heavenly tribes Khoorlar and Azarlar sent down a great shaman in the form of a bear."



"Spirit glow"

"One who has it travels the earth and heavenly planets."


Deer edi

"a heavenly body" {meteor?}

"it consists of pieces of metal and stone fallen from heaven. {antient implements?} It is often found where lightning struck larch. It heals insanity."




"It serve as a scout ... in all three worlds".




"At night it drives out carriers of disease."




"It defeats evil spirits of earth and water."




"A powerful protector from enemy shamans."




"It contains the personal ... shamanic succession."




"The menacing power of the shaman."




"joyful algysh, lofty and celebratory voices"



"butterfly / moth"

"It helps find the lost soul of a sick person."

p. 64 [legend] O:sku:s-ool (‘Orphan-boy’) ate gophers and mice.

p. 186, n. 3:27 eeren (created by shamans to cure a specific ailment) for layfolk

__ eeren


illnesses cured by it, etc.


"red horse"

"above the waist"



"below the waist, rheumatism, bladder infection"

S^yvar dayak

"foreleg of a horse"

"arms and sometimes legs"

Sulde C^alamazy


"in every yurt, ... it protects the entrance"



"It protects the soul of every baby. Its algysh sounds like a lullaby."

Aldyn bozaga

"golden pillow at the door"

"It functions to keep good in and bad out. ... the New Year."

H^unnug Ala-C^elbiis^

"striped fan"

"temporary weakness from bright sun and positions of the moon."


"winged spirit"

"It protects the mistress of the yurt from evil spirits, looks after the behaviour of young children".



"cult of the domestic hearth"


"Little dolls of clean white felt."

"Spirit of the part of the yurt separated by curtains for sleeping."



"it protects family members from unexpected attack by evil spirits from the four corners."

Olc^anyn Diin


"Spirit of catching squirrels."

spirits which are companions of humans




"Nymakh eezi is the epic muse, spirit of the story ..., and arg’i eezi is a spirit protector; a man has female ones and a woman has male. The spirit protector is like a lover."


[a bard died, and his cadaver was buried] "A ko:rigzhi (clairvoyant) said he saw [the bard’s] spirit protector riding towards the house on her horse, sitting backwards in the saddle. Her hair was loose down below her knees. She came into the yard, thinking he was still at home. She looked in at the window over the top of the curtain. ... She was also seen riding to the cemetery with her hair down below the stirrups."


"hunters would take along a storyteller, whose campfire tales attracted the spirits of the mountains. ... In turn the spirits sent many animals as a reward, and the teller received an equal share of the hunters’ take".


"A person hears his name pronounced. Perhaps he is in the taiga. Perhaps she is beside the spring. ... Crossing the river he hears an echo; hears it and sees nothing."


[autobiographical account of a vision at a mountain-pass nigh H^andykaty village, by author Kenin-Lopsan] "I saw a great golden stag coming toward us. His horns has twenty-eight branches [tines] ... . The golden stag flew toward the sunset behind the mountain, going higher and higher. On each of the twenty-eight branches bright balls or bubbles formed. They flew away and turned into stars."

p. 90 "spirit figures in Turkic literature have yellow hair – such as certain sun goddesses and the spirit-protector of Mt. Irt."

pp. 97-100 heroines in epics




"Unique to female hero[in]es is the ability to bring the dead to life, as the warrior[ess] Kang-kys does by singing over her father’s bones, connecting them with healing water and herbs, and leaping over his body on her horse".


the woman H^ys-h^an in Ai-Kuuc^in "decides to hide her beauty ... because she doesn’t want to attract evil demons. For this reason she wears a "life mask," and ... In Tuva tales, the wise Aldyn-dangyna is a golden princess ... who comes from the upper world in the form of a swan, like the daughter of Kurbustu-khan, or through being born in a plant ["As in the story, "Beiberiken and the Five Cows."" (p. 189, n. 4:30)]."


"The Khakass warrior[ess] heroine Ai-khuuchin’s parents were horses and her younger brother turns into a horse.

pp. 100-101 spirits of tales




"The white-bearded wise old man Aksal or Aksakal often helps and guides a hero and has the shaman’s ability to predict the future and determine the causes of things. He is related to the spirits of a given place".


"The bride’s sister, who was a karang-ko:rnu:r, a person who could see spirits, ... saw the spirits of the three stories ... . They were waiting eagerly, each hoping to be told first."

p. 112 singing overtones

"Tuvan kho:o:mei, or khai in Khakass, often called overtone or throat-singing in english. (Tuvan throat-singing is completely different from the Inuit sytle, which is performed by two people at once, standing close together. ...) The performer sings ... using overtones produced in the throat, chest, and vocal cavity. ... The result is two-part music, with melody and drone. ... Tuva kho:o:mei styles include








khovu kargyraazy,

kanzyp, and

despen barban. ...

Kho:o:mei is also described as the sound of boiling kasha and

kargyraa as the sound made by a mother camel who has lost her young.

Sygyt style is a whistling sound."

[Tuva] "The best way to learn kho:o:mei is to go to the mountains to a place where a river takes its source and listen ... ."

["Tibet overtone singing" :] "There is a particular exercise of going to the side of a loud waterfall and practicing".

pp. 113-125 musical instruments




"The bowed instruments, Tuvan igil and byzanchi and Khakass khomys and ykh, are also ideal for producing fundamental and overtone. ... These instruments are not used by shamans, but by Tuvan storytellers and singers, who also call spirits. (Khakass storytellers usually use the chatkhan, zither.) The strings are made ... of horsehair. ...


The sound of the igil was calling the spirits of the story ... . ... a string khomys ... had the shape of a sacred swan, who is known as a communicator between the worlds, since it can fly to the upper world and dive under the water, like the heroine in "O:ku:s-ool and the Daughter of Kurbustu-khan." ...


The temir-khomus (Khakass demir-khomys) or jaw harp produces overtones in the player’s throat and mouth. ... [Its] various melodies and rhythms attract spirits and heal different parts of the body."


"The shaman’s most important instrument is the drum, called du:ngu:r in Tuvan, and tu:u:r in Khakass. ... Metal pieces hanging on the inside add to the sound. ... Goatskin makes the best drumheads ... . ... the drum can help a shaman find lost objects. ... In some cases a shaman’s drum has been heard after his death, beating a farewell. ...


Drumming is the only cure for a person who is mentally ill but whose soul is still in the body."

p. 120 [allegory of H^aiji the son of C^at-h^an] "The boy saw seven black people, each with one eye on the left side. They had no faces, just big mouths and two tusks."

p. 129 nature of time

["astrological calendar"] "the years in the order they came : the









human being,


crane, and


... about who was first. It seemed it would be the moose but then the mouse jumped over his head and arrived first." ["In a folk tale ... in the Amur region a frog beats a moose in a race by sitting on the moose’s head" (p. 190, n. 5:29).]

"In the upper world time stops on a point – it is very concentrated. Everything is now.

And in the lower world times goes backward – people are reborn and get younger."

pp. 132-151 language of shamanism




"Shamans and storytellers converse with spirits in the spirits’ own musical language. They have a much larger vocabulary than do ordinary people, a vocabulary that describes the vast worlds they encounter on their voyages".


"the animals come as guests to the hunters, giving their bodies to help human beings survive, with the understanding that people will in turn treat them with respect. Proper rituals ensure that the animal’s soul can return in a new body to enjoy another life on earth."


"The unique feature of a shaman is ... in the strength of the [spirit-]helpers they have there [in the other world] and thus the kinds of things they can accomplish."


"The ... algysh ["shamanic prayer or poem" (p. xxiii)] tells of the shaman’s search for the cause of the illness ... . Here the spirits find out whether the patient has committed sins that may have caused the illness or whether it comes from outside causes, such as sorcery or the action of spirits. ... The shaman then sends out helping spirits and delivers reports from those spirits on their return. An evil spirit may also speak through the shaman at this time about taking the soul."


A shamaness by her "ability to produce animal sounds proved her transformation into the animal. ... Sounds of specific animals can be used for specific purposes :

the raven curses ...;

the crow calls rain;

a wolf or an owl frightens people; and

the magpie uncovers a liar.

A shaman expresses

power through the bull and

ecstasy through the bear.

The sound of the cuckoo helps the singing voice".


"Shamanic verses relate the following about every spirit :

1) Where he lives and where he likes to rest;

2) What kind of horse he rides, what kind of whip


he uses to drive his horse, and from which sea his horse drinks;

3) What kind of bed he sleeps on and under what blanket;

4) What clothing and hat he wears;

5) What he protects and helps;

6) What sacrifices are made to him and what kinds of horses, cows, and sheep are dedicated to him;

7) Where he rides and where he reeds his horse."

p. 133 [legend] variegated-winged yellow-bodied fog-dragon was adversary of single-eyed yellow-winged fog-dragon.

p. 134 the variegated-winged dragon taught to a man the languages of 70 species of animals. {cf. Melampous, to whom 2 snakes taught the languages of the animals http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Melampus }

p. 198 websites

http://kiravan.com ("Shamans and Stories")

http://siberianshamanism.com ("Where the Eagles Fly")

Kira van Deusen : Singing Story, Healing Drum : Shamans and Storytellers of Turkic Siberia. McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal & Kingston, 2004.