Panel 10


Chair: Takako Yamada

Place and Conflict History in Kavalan Ritual Healing (Taiwan)

Pi-chen Liu

Associate Research Fellow, Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan

This paper examines contemporary forms of human experience, in particular how sense of place is (re)constructed by the means of “physical” illness during the transmission of conflict history with others. By viewing the genealogy of a contemporary marginal group’s subject, with the Kavalan of Taiwan as a case study, we will explore the dynamics of agency when an individual traverses different societies. These processes include competition and conflict with outsiders (Austronesian neighbours, Han, Japanese and Westerners), such as the imposition of discourses and practices of “political civilization”, reform of morality, force of State authority and the changes of the economic capital market and the arrival of Western medicine and Christianity.
In the village of PatoRogan healing by Kavalan shaman (mtiu) is still common. When the individual feels they face a physical-crisis/life-crisis, or are perhaps in a conflict situation and he/she feels they need to change or protest by leaving behind a certain state, a shaman (mtiu) has to be sought. The mtiu first uses certain techniques to carry out divination subli, then diagnoses the “cause of illness”. On this basis, the shaman decides the corresponding people, time, place, things and reactions needed to heal the patient. During this process, the ancient places of headhunting and enemy’s dwellings become the cause of the illness. An individual then carefully establishes symbolic exchange relationships with the spirits of others through the ritual, trying to alleviate antagonism and conflict. Ritual healing (paspi) creates an opportunity and a mechanism for contemporary Kavalan to come back to their conflict history of settlement and, at the same time, gives the body different cultural meaning to its meaning in Western medicine, becoming a means of constructing self, group and local identity.

Social Tensions and the Translocal Proliferation of a Shamanic Anti-sociality in North Asia

Zorbas, Konstantinos

Assistant Professor, Shandong University, China

In this presentation, I shall focus on a paradox which is embedded in the legal scaffolding of shamanism in the Russian Republic of Tuva, Siberia. With the introduction of the Republic’s Law on Freedom of Conscience and of Religious Organizations (in effect since 1996), shamanism is accorded constitutional protection as a “traditional confession” which is represented by Societies of Shamans practising variant forms of this religion in Tuva; a reversal of earlier, Soviet jurisprudence with its offensive against ritual practices of shamans. Drawing on encounters with revivalist shamans of all sorts, as well as with victims of sorcery assault in a Shamans’ Society in Kyzyl (the capital city of Tuva), I shall examine how legal definitions of “sacredness” have been pushed to their limits by various social actors engaged in the work of reviving “culture”. Focusing on consultations of dealing with social tensions and sorcery animosities (from a shaman’s caseload), I shall document a revival of local concepts related to occult violence. While curse accusations are on the rise among an insecure urban population in Tuva, revival (officially speaking) seems to have declined. This leads us to consider the unintended consequences of religiosity in post-Soviet Siberia, as these emerge in kinds of violence (e.g. curse afflictions) beyond the State’s jurisdiction.

Humanitarian Medical Services and Shamanistic Practices

Vidalaki, Mania

Clinical psychologist, Evaggelismos Hospital, Athens; Doctors Without Borders

Diseases, epidemics, malnutrition, natural disasters. People ask for help from the local healer or in the hospital or both, depending on their perception about the cause of their problem.
Humanitarian aid of NGOs provides health services, raises awareness and informs the population about the symptoms of diseases to help them cope with these. However, can they ignore the fact that a lot of people are seeking help from traditional healers? Can they accept this different perception of illness and therapy? Is there any possibility of coexistence and communication?
The attitude of traditional healers and NGOs can be cautious, aggressive or competitive, which is probably mutual. This causes an additional problem to the population: It increases ambivalence and guilt. Who must they choose? Will they be punished for their choice? Whom to trust for their treatment?
We will refer to different incidents from our working experience in Congo and in the Philippines.

A Shamanic Origin “Ritual Drama” and its Sacred Space in East-Central Europe under Threat of the Changes of the 21th Century

Mátéffy, Attila

The purpose of the paper is to present how a Hungarian diaspora, the Csángó community (in the romanian region of Moldavia) conserved traditional elements that originate from shamanism till this day and incorporated them into the Christian belief system. Mother Mary appears in their ritualised communal visions practiced at dawn in the course of the Pentecost indulgence at Csíksomlyó (Şumuleu Ciuc, Harghita County, Romania), the site of the indulgence, to where pilgrims from different Csángó Hungarian villages of Romania come on foot. Some informants confess to have experienced this vision while having climbed up on a tree. Here the figure of Mother Mary can be interpreted as a present-day manifestation of the primaeval shamanic ancestress.
The centuries old shamanic origin rite survived despite the ethnic (Romanian – Hungarian) conflicts, although threatened by the frequent harassments of the Romanian authorities. After the fall of the Communism in 1989 the spaces of ethnic conflicts partially changed, but the pre-Christian/Christian rite faces new obstacles with the prying of journalists, attendance of neopagan groups and pilgrimage tourism. The paper tries to contribute to conflict transformation by unfolding causes and working out proposals for solution. Without approaching the neopagan adherents, journalists pursuing their investigation or Romanian nationals with mistrust it makes an attempt to formulate methods to protect the sacred landscape of the indulgence site and the rites rooted in shamanism of an ethnic group with a number of archaic attributes.

Transforming Conflicts in Times of Political and Religious Turnings-Points: On the road with Pythia: Re-thinking Shaman´s Power in the Bible – study of texts about two female soothsayers

Wilhelmi, Barbara

As proven by historical evidence in general and by the survival of shamanic complexes in particular, it seems to be evident that shamans are masters in transforming conflicts and in employing conversions. In this context, two biblical texts will be in the focus of an analysis; these are 1 Samuel 28 and Acts 16 about two female soothsayers. Each of these prophesying women lived in times of cultural, political and religious change. The exegetic analysis leads to the fact that the process of editing texts over a long period determined differences concerning the intended statement about mantic practice. Their stories contain management and transformation of conflicts: Overtaking of local shamanic traditions or, on the contrary, distinction and disengagement. Both of these biblical texts are connected in different ways to the delphic tradition.
In Acts 16:16-18 a nameless woman had been possessed by a certain Ghost “Python” in Philippi bordering Asia and Europe – not too far from Delphi. The story could be dated back at the end of the First Century CE, when Plutarch had been employed and joined the service in Delphi – the renaissance of the sacred location and landscape. One may wonder why this passage proved to be of more significance than the story about the first Christian person in Europe: Lydia, a purple seller. The reason may be that Paul, in that way performed like a powerful shaman. He was able to command the ghost (Python) to vanish.  Evidently a political and religious conflict seems to be transformed and integrated.
The story (1 Samuel 28:3-25) focuses on a woman as a diviner, referring to a certain landscape probably near a source or sanctuary (Ain-dor). This woman of Endor lived around 1000 BC in Ancient Israel during the period of transition from a clan society to a society of small states.The woman of Endor had been able to practise necromancy. I conclude that we are dealing with a special appointment, which bears shamanic traits in many respects.
The exegetic analysis leads to the fact, that the process of editing texts over a long period determined differences concerning the intended statement about mantic practice – either assimilation, absorbing or rejection, isolation.