Shamans in Asia, 1-2.






"Aspects of Shamanism"



"The Shaman among the Chinese Reindeer-Evenki"



"Shamanism in Bangla Des`"



"Hmon Shaman’s Se’ance"



"Korean Shamanistic Performance"



"Miyako Theology"



"Liminal Experiences of Miyako Shamans"



pp. 1-30 – Peter Knecht : "Aspects of Shamanism".

pp. 9, 16-17 shamanhood on Asiatic mainland




"Buryat hunters of the Taiga west of Lake Baikal": "These hunters see the shaman as being the mediator between themselves and the spirit of the forest that provides them with game to eat. The shaman, who is understood to be married to this spirit, is believed to enact through sexually symbolic performances mutually beneficial exchange in which both partners are guaranteed ... – game for the humans and human souls for the spirit of the forest."


"a shaman may often be approached by people seeking advice on such problems as

how to make sure that a business develops well,

who would make a good spouse, or

what the reason might be for continued and inexplicable misfortunes in their families. ...

A shaman of Changchun, China, ... said that ... a shaman ... is able to advise people ... because he or she has consulted a tutelary spirit about the case and secured its advice. The answer that the shaman gives the client is, therefore, ... the tutelary spirit’s view. The shaman is simply the one who transmits the message to the client."


"among the Tungus, ... the shaman is needed when it comes to dealing with souls in relation to the other world because, if common people call a soul from the other world, it may not be able to return there again. The shaman, however, can send souls to the other world, control them there, and at times bring them back to this world ... . Bringing spirits back, however, is a most difficult endeavor, which is done either to revive a corpse or to transfer the soul into a permanent "placing ... for further care" ([Shirokogoroff 1935], 320)."

Shirokogoroff 1935 = S. M. Shirokogoroff : Psychomental Complex of the Tungus.

pp. 11-12, 17-18, 20, 24 shamanhood on Japanese islands




"In Japan, ... the blind women known by the general term itako usually have chosen their profession ... on the suggestion of their families, who mant to make sure that these women will be able to support themselves."

"In Okinawa, it is ... for someone to want to become a shaman (yuta), ... somebody decides to learn the trade and become a narai yuta, "an apprentice yuta."


"Once a person has become resigned to the fate of being a shaman, he or she may wander from one sacred place to another in order to find out what spirit is calling (Okinawan), or

the shaman-to-be may go into the mountains in order to engage in ascetic training (e.g, standing under a waterfall {this is likewise the S^uar rite for shamanic initiation}) ... until the spirit finally reveals itself (Japan)."


"An itako ... can be asked to perform kuchiyose, a ritual to summon a person’s spirit. ... the itako may be asked to call up the spirit of a living person in order to learn of the person’s whereabouts.


... the itako never attempts to have the spirit remain in some material "placing" in this world. Nor does the itako directly manage spirits in the other world by having them settled there properly."


"In Okinawa, ... the majority of yuta are women, but there are also male yuta. To become a yuta, one is to be called by a spirit".


"A yuta may have had a yuta among her ancestors".


pp. 31-50 – F. George Heyne : "Social Significance of the Shaman among the Chinese Reindeer-Evenki". [great Amur Bend in Manchuria]

pp. 32-33, 45 social calamities ensuing from the death of a shaman


calamities & misfortune


[in an Evenki clan] "after the death of a shaman, the spirits of a group become loose ... . Adults fall into a nervous state ...; a state ... spreads ... of hysteria. ... misfortunes of many kinds increase."


[among the Chinese Reindeer-Evenki] After the demise of "the shamaness ..., the group was now left without protection against the spirits and experienced a catastrophic period without a shaman. The spiritual safeguards the deceased shaman[ess] had erected while alive broke down; abnormal states of mind became frequent; ... misfortunes increased".


[Evenki] "Those researchers who write that at the death of a shaman the spirits become liberated and empowered to cause great misfortune, are correct."


"When a clan or group lacked a shaman, the spirits grew dissatisfied and sent sickness and other misfortune. Only if somebody could be found who was prepared and suitable to accept the heavy task of a shaman would the group return to a normal state. Or such reasons, the Chinese Reindeer-Evenki always tried to have a shaman among them ... . Once such a person was found, the men and women of the community participated enthusiastically and with great interest in the preparation of the shaman’s outfit in order to share in making that person become a future guardian."

pp. 35-36 onset of shamanhood




[Evenki] "After the spirits had taken possession of a shaman candidate for the first time, he was left undisturbed for a while. He ... then ... would sometimes try to shamanize. During this period the members of his community would give him special care ... because they knew that the spirits of the deceased shaman were the reasons for his ...behavior. This phase ... constituted something of a trial period. The, as a general rule, one evening or night ... the candidate would shiver like a shaman, jump around, and gnash his teeth. After that he would begin shamanizing."


[Evenki] "a new shaman who was to "gather" the liberated spirits of the deceased shaman could not appear later than nine years after the death of the former shaman, because otherwise many people would have to suffer from the spirits."


[Chinese Reindeer-Evenki] candidate shamaness : "in a dream she received her predecessor’s tutelary spirit, who then transmitted to her the aptitude to become a shaman[ess] ... . ... The decisive moment came after she had spent two week in the deep forest, where she lived without fire and food while conversing with the spirits."

pp. 37-38 the Evenki shaman’s costume & instruments




"For his practice the shaman needed a special outfit consisting of a costume, a headdress (derboki) ["On top of the headdress were antlers of the red deer made out of iron" (p. 48, n. 5).], and a drum with drumstick. ... For outsiders if was generally dangerous to touch the costume, and even a shamaness would not touch the localizations of spirits attached to it during menstruation"


"It was the duty of the clan ... to make the new shaman’s paraphernalia. ... The parts of the costume made of leather ... were sewn by women, if possible by those who were already beyond the climacteric. ... Wooden parts were made by able carvers, and metallic parts by blacksmiths."


"In the making of a drum and drumstick, "each step of the process was solemnly executed following the instructions of the shaman, who, for his part, received his instructions from the spirit that initiated him. ... When the dull sound of the drum carried the Evenki shaman away with it, the drum became his mount to the otherworld, depending on what animals had provided the drum’s membrane according to the will of the spirits. The drumstick was the whip. ... The Chinese Reindeer-Evenki preferred the hide of a two-year-old Isjubr deer or of an elk because it would give a better sound" as drum’s membrane.

pp. 39-40, 42 otherworld-journey; ordination; mastery of spirits


abilities of shaman


"The soul of the candidate traveled into the otherworld. There it was killed and cut into pieces by the spirits. In the process the young shaman experienced his being made into a skeleton. The spirits consumed his flesh and afterwards reassembled his bones. he was revived".


"a person’s becoming a shaman among the Chinese Reindeer-Evenki was ... under the guidance of his spiritual master, performed during three summers a kamlan>e at which he [the master] called the spirits to a meeting of several clans. After the [novice] shaman had come to know all the spirits called by his master, had successfully passed trials and sometimes painful tests, ... a last solemn ceremony took place as a kind of "ordination" conducted by the master. {But inasmuch as a Christian priest’s ordination may be performed only by a bishop, the Evenki spiritual master must be the aequivalent to a bishop, and the new shaman being made by him as his aequal must be likewise the aequivalent to a bishop; so that consecration of a bishop (and not mere ordination of a priest) is the appropriate model.} ... With this ceremony the shaman was fully acknowledged by his group. From this time on he conducted all spiritual activities independently ... .

At the outset of his career the young shaman of the Chinese Reindeer-Evenki had to master five or six spirits; at its end he was expected to master all of them, either directly or with the help of other spirits. ... spirits were subservient to him. These spirits did not have the quality of tutelary spirits, for the shaman was their master. But he was obliged to look after them with sacrifices and treat them well.


... he secured the help of his spirits, but they did not necessarily protect him".

pp. 40-41, 43, 49 duties; repelling sickness-spirits; principal duties


accomplishment of shaman


"The most important social duties of the Reindeer-Evenki shaman were :

1. Conducting religious ... seasonal ... celebrations ...;

2. ... influencing otherworldly powers in order to ward off misfortune ...;

3. Supplicating the spirits (masters of animals) responsible for success in the hunt;


4. Divining and predicting the future;

5. Curing of sickness;

6. Guiding the souls of the deceased into the realm of the dead."


"As soon as a shaman was present, the spirits were no longer free to act at will, they how had to reckon with the possibility of being overcome and chased out by a shaman of great power and knowledge. As a result, they preferred to retreat from their human victims, and as a consequence, cases of sickness decreased."


"at a wedding a se’ance would be held to divine the future of the couple, or

at the beginning of the main hunting season the shaman would ask for game".

49, n. 12

"Among the Tungus, too, the shaman becomes active at the beginning of the hunt.

... in the thinking of the Yukagir the spirits first have to catch the ‘shadows’ of those animals that later will really be caught by the hunter."

pp. 42-44 psychopomp; kamlan>e se`ance




"the patient would die according to the will of the spirits. When that happened it became the task of the shaman to guide the soul of the deceased into the land of the souls (buno ...), because only he knew the road to that land. Quite often the shaman had first to search for the soul, which would be wandering aimlessly somewhere in the universe. ... By doing so ... the soul need not aimllessly wander about and fall prey to some evil spirits but could reach its final destination as the result of the safe guidance of a powerful shaman."


"The sacrificial deer killed during the kamlan>e for the dead became the mount (i.e., the soul of the reindeer) of the deceased on his trip to the land of the dead. Part of the victim’s neat was ... consumed by those present, the shaman included. ... Those human beings whose souls had to remain on earth and could not reach the land of the


dead because of some adverse circumstance, such as the lack of a shaman, were most unfortunate. ... At a later kamlan>e held in honor of the deceased during the summer meeting season of the clans, the deceased could transmit his advice and wishes to his survivors through the mouth of the shaman." ["The Chinese Reindeer-Evenki believed that another relative (member of the clan) would die if they did not succeed in answering the needs and wishes of the dead." (p. 49, n. 11)]


"Most often a kamlan>e began at night under a full moon. ... all participants in the spiritual performance appeared in order to be present when the male assistants (jar>i ...) would solemnly clothe the shaman. Participation in the kamlan>eby the audience meant that they joined as a choir in the singing of the shaman’s songs (jar or jara ...)."


[se’ance by shamaness of the Chinese Reindeer-Evenki] "she suddenly hit her head with the drum ... . The echo of the drum’s sound, ... made a frightening impression ... . ... Suddenly she jumped from her left foot on to the right; with each passing minute her movements grew increasingly fast and abrupt. ... Now she hopped on the spot, now she moved in a strange dance around the fire, all the time frantically beating the drum. With wild guttural sound she called the spirits. ... When they saw this, many Evenki, too, ... jumped up from their places and roared wildly along with the shamaness".

pp. 45-46 inconveniences to shamaness; no remuneration; reverence for shaman

p. 45

"At certain times (e.g., during menstruation and after giving birth) the magic powers of a female shaman were diminished. ... For this reason great shamanesses of the Chinese Reindeer-Evenki were mostly without children."


"The shaman of the Chinese Reindeer-Evenki did not receive remuneration for his performances and activities, except for small gifts of ... food. The shaman’s task required an entirely altruistic behavior and did not generate any material advantage."

p. 46

"People knew of the shaman’s power and were happy and grateful ... . Dealings of the Chinese Reindeer-Evenki with their shaman were usually characterized by politeness and friendliness, but also by reverence and respect".

p. 47 biography of shamaness

"she has been active among her people since the 1950s. [She] had taken over the spirits of her predecessor[ess]. She is now, as [her praedecessoress] had been until her death, the only genuine shamaness among the Reindeer-Evenki of northeast China. ... [The shamaness] experienced her calling when she was only sixteen years old. After that the spirits made her become a shamaness. At that time she became ... the disciple of a powerful shaman of the neighboring Kumarc^en ... on the upper reaches of the Kumara river".


Clark Chilson & Peter Knecht : Shamans in Asia. RoutledgeCurzon, London, 2003.