SHAMAN

Volume 11 Numbers 1 & 2 (Spring/Autumn 2002)

 

Articles

WALTHER HEISSIG (Rheinböllen): Some Remarks on a Khortsin Shaman

Recently published parallel versions of Inner Mongolian shamanic texts make it possible to tell whether the shaman is repeating the same formulaic phraseology in each of his many performances. The study of these texts shows that the Khortsin shaman uses fixed formulas for the beginning of certain parts, but to these he adds other parts born of the moment and of the circumstances of the performance.

 

AKE HULTKRANTZ (Stockholm): Thoughts on Drugs in Eurasian Shamanism

In this article some examples are highlighted in order to illustrate how common references to drugs are in the northern shamanism of Europe and Asia.

 

MERETE DEMANT JAKOBSEN (Oxford): Researcher or Searcher: Studying Shamanic Behaviour in the New Millenium

The division between the researcher and the researched in studies of shamanic behaviour is becoming blurred in the beginning of the new millennium. Western researchers, who themselves are searching for a new spirituality, find in the fascinating and “tangible” spirit world of the traditional shaman an answer to the holistic and ecological quest of urban dwellers. Whereas in the past missionaries, explorers and scientists all acknowledged their own cultures’ belief systems, today some Western researchers are in the words of Nietsche “cramming themselves with the religions of others” and are not only undertaking research but becoming apprentices while performing it.

 

ULLA JOHANSEN (Köln): Shamanistic Philosophy: Soul – A Changing Concept in Tyva

The original title of Mihály Hoppál’s recent book on shamanism in Hungarian runs “Shamans: Souls and Symbols” (Sámánok: Lelkek és jelképek). Here he not only makes a rhythmic pun but indicates that different symbols and a concept of what European tradition calls “soul” are basic for the shamanistic complex. In his opinions he represents the present state of research (e.g. Hamayon 1990: 329). I shall dwell on the second of these two fundamental elements-the belief in souls in Tyva, a region in which he has carried through fieldwork in many years. However, neither “soul” nor “Tyva” are clear-cut scientific concepts.

 

HYUN-KEY KIM HOGARTH (Canterbury): Inspiration or Instruction? Shaman-training Institutes in Contemporary Korea

This paper addresses the question of whether anybody can attain shamanhood. The author seeks an answer in contemporary Korean society, where shamanism has persisted despite the recent industrialization and great advancement in science and technology. In this age of information, when knowledge can easily be acquired through instruction, can anyone learn to become a shaman? Her field experiences suggest that spirit descent, an integral part of Korean shamanism, is a reflection of the shaman’s psyche, and closely linked to his/her volition. Her findings also suggest that only those with a certain inherent predisposition are able to experience it. She therefore concludes that despite the emergence of shaman-training institutes in Korea in recent years, inspiration, not instruction, is of the essence in shamanhood.

 

GREGORY G. MASKARINEC (Honolulu): Dispelling Dullness

Trance, spirit possession, and soul travel often define shamans, characteristics that also distinguish the shamans of Western Nepal, whose ceremonies and oral texts make frequent and elaborate references to such thoroughly shamanic aspects of their practice. In contrast, a ceremony performed to treat yal, a specific form of madness, is marked, both ritually and textually, by the absence of such exotic attributes. Yal may be glossed as an inhibiting disconnectedness from the surrounding everyday world, of losing sight of the purpose of one’s daily life. For cases of yal, the shaman’s cure emphasizes entirely ordinary activity, the creation and re-creation of ordinariness. The chief insight that the recital offers is that “being ordinary” takes work. One is not ordinary as some innate virtue, not through an ingenuous normalcy. Being ordinary, no less than being extraordinary, is the practical consequence of sustained, consistent, deliberate, and relentless working at doing “being ordinary.”

 

DANIEL C. NOEL (Carpinteria, CA): Neuroshamanology in the Ice-Age Caves: A Case of Methodological Promise and Modern Projection

This essay describes and seeks to assess an approach to the interpretation of shamanism put forward recently by cognitive archaeologists who employ neuropsychological research to infer the shamanic auspices of indigenous pictographs and, in turn, Upper Paleolithic cave paintings. My focus is primarily on the work of David Lewis-Williams and Jean Clottes, drawing on their writing and on their presentations at a conference in 2001. Their methodology is found to be a worthwhile adjunct to other approaches, but one which is, as yet, prone to assorted projections and claims to exclusivity that require correcting. I call instead for a methodological pluralism that is mindful of postmodernist concerns and inclusive of aesthetic and humanistic as well as scientific considerations.

 

MICHAEL OPPITZ (Zürich): A Drum in the Min Shan Mountains

This article focuses on a particular shamanic instrument, the bu drum as used by the faith healers shüpi of the Qiang, an ancient ethnic group living in the Sino-Tibetan mountain regions of NW Sichuan. Its functions are described, its various forms depicted and its origin stories told. The outstanding morphological feature of the Qiang shaman’s drum is a wooden frame covered only on one side with a membrane, while the handle is hanging suspended inside the frame to be grasped from the open side of the hoop. As such the bu drum of the Qiang connects Siberian and some Himalayan forms of the shamans’ most important instrument, equally characterized as the one-sided frame drum. The Qiang drum may thus be called a missing link between North and South Asian shamanic paraphernalia.

 

ANNA-LEENA SIIKALA (Helsinki) and OLEG ULYASHEV (Syktyvkar): Landscape of Spirits: Holy Places and Changing Rituals of the Northern Khanty

This fieldwork-based article examines religious traditions of the Khanty in the rapidly changing Northern Ob’ area. In 2001, the authors documented holy places of men and women in Shuryshkary and recorded several rituals conducted in them. Alongside private rituals leaning on tradition there are new forms of public shamanic performances which-although based on traditional knowledge-are a part of tendencies to express and strengthen ethnic culture. This article aims to clarify how the holy places representing traditional culture mark the Khantys’ everyday environment and how the rituals held in them help to recreate the Khanty understanding of the world in a changing cultural situation.

 

KIRA VAN DEUSEN (Vancouver): Khakassian Mountain Spirit and Snake Lore

This article examines the central roles mountain spirits and snakes play in Khakassian legends and shamanic culture. In both historic and contemporary tales mountain spirits initiate shamanic artists, give information, accompany the souls of the dead and give people wealth which is often problematical. Snakes are more often connected with images of creation, and with gifts of language.

 

Book Reviews

Ake Hultkrantz. Soul and Native Americans (by Vilmos Voigt)