Panel 1:


Chair: Alban von Stockhausen

Sacred Landscapes of the Shamanistic Funeral Chants in Philippine Highlands

Stanyukovich, Maria V.

Chair, Dept. of Australia, Oceania and Indonesia, Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera), Russian Academy of Science

The Yattuka Ifugao chants sung at funerals and second burials, recorded by the author during her fieldwork since 1995, demonstrate a general similarity in melody, poetic structure and shared poetic language with other hudhud epic genres, well- known after 2001 UNESCO nomination.
However, the shamanistic nature of those chants results in a completely different system of toponymy. The chanters literally trace the path of the soul of the dead from the household where the ritual is performed to a place where it falls down from the rock into a river that will bring her to the Kadungayan – the abode of the dead (Stanyukovich1998, 2003, 2013). Dealing first with real local micro geography, the soloist, helped by chorus, leads the soul of the deceased from one hamlet to another, replacing the ordinary names with coded metaphorical substitutes. Once the singer brings the soul outside the well-known local geography, the chant leaps through less known (and important) territory towards Nambawang, a poetic ritual name for a real place of confluence of rivers in Lamut municipality– and then leaves the soul float downstream to mythological Kadungayan.

The huge pressure of Christianization, experienced by the Philippine highlanders, undermined the position of a shamans and epic singers in the rapidly changing society. Interestingly enough, the importance of cultural landscapes for the prestige and economics of the country, largely connected with another UNESCO nomination in Ifugao province (Banaue rice terraces, 1995), forms a demand for ancestral knowledge that brings out new value to the old practices.

 Landscapes of Terror: Conflicts, Shamans and Sacred Sites

Tacey, Ivan

Université Lumière Lyon 2, France

This paper examines the articulations between the Batek Tanum’s history as victims of extreme violence, the topography of their sacred sites, and the roles of their shamans’ in conflicts. The Tanum people, former hunter-gatherers of Peninsula Malaysia, have suffered as victims of extreme violence in much of their history. Although direct violence has decreased in recent decades, since the 1970s they have witnessed the environmental destruction of their formerly-forested landscapes, and since the 1990s they have suffered from structural violence associated with aggressive state-backed assimilation, development, and Islamization campaigns. The religious geography of the Batek Tanum includes a multitude of sacred sites located at prominent topographic features. Sacred sites compress local history, myth, and emotional trauma, function as interfaces between the visible and invisible worlds. They are not closed, coherent places, rather nodes within a landscape of terror: a perpetually unravelling text which connects history, myth, past, present, and future, in complex assemblages. Historically, shamans have been the masters of this sacred but violent landscape. They have acted as protectors of their people during conflicts with aggressive outsiders, and as intermediaries between the physical world and the invisible world, which they traverse during soul journeys to combat dangerous soul devouring beings, recuperate stolen Batek souls, and

[re]build damaged underlying structures of the cosmos.

 The Realm of the Dead: Images of Heterotopia in Eastern Nepal

Gaenszle, Martin

Professor, University of Vienna

Among the Kiranti groups in eastern Nepal the psychopompic guidance of the dead to an „other place“ (heterotopia) is a crucial part of the funeral rites. Shamans and priests perform various kinds of ritual journeys, in particular in the context of healing, but the verbal procession to the land of the dead stands out as a paradigmatic one. This kind of journey has been documented among many different Kiranti groups, but the location and description of this land of the dead varies. In several cases the funeral rites involve the priest’s verbal procession down to the place of origin, the place where „all the waters dry up“down in the plains – beyond the national borders. In this paper I will look at the imageries and concepts underlying this unique place, which is a far-away but „real“ geographic space, a netherworld in a different land beyond the everyday world, yet a place from which the ancestors continue to exert their power in the here and now. These traditional notions also play a certain role in contemporary debates about federal statehood and the demands for autonomy.

Sacred Sites in Motion and Emotion: Shamanic Summer Solstice Ceremonies in Sakha Republic and Northern California

Balzer, Marjorie Mandelstam

Professor, Georgetown University

Since 1986, when I first did fieldwork in Russia’s Far East, Sakha village hosts have proudly shown off sacred parks where annual summer solstice ceremonies (yhyakh) occur. I have seen the ceremonies, led by “white shaman” prayer givers, grow in complexity and exuberance since 1992, when the Sakha Republic declared June 21-2 an official national holiday. Recent ceremonial grounds sometimes include areas set aside for shamanic healers and prophets. The history of yhyakh settings is diverse, since some were used in the tsarist period for ceremonies that have retained impressive continuity, some were chosen in the Soviet period, and some became sacred only after the Soviet Union collapsed. Prominent consecrated-with-ceremony posts (sergei) and entry gates mark their territories as sacred. Often the parks are the most beautiful of local lands, sometimes wooded, mostly meadows by a river, near a given village. Sometimes in larger towns, the sites for the ceremonies are multi-use hippodromes or sports stadiums. But usually the sites are dedicated to yhyakh, including the extensive grounds, filled with sculptures and traditional-style buildings, called Three Birches, surrounded by water and woods near the republic capital. In 2014, members of the Sakha diaspora, together with Sakha spiritual leaders from Siberia, created a new ceremonial ground with 5 sergei overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and consecrated it with a summer solstice ceremony. This paper analyses the significance of the ceremonial grounds and their symbols for nation-building and identity sustenance.

Losing Ground, Moving forward: Hyolmo Shamanism and the Negotiation over Space, Landscape and Ritual

Torri, Davide

Cluster of Excellence Asia and Europe in a Global Context, HCTS, Karl Jaspers Centre, University of Heidelberg

Narratives related to the rivalry between lamas and shamans are very common throughout the Himalayas and the Hyolmo are no exception to this. The rule seems, generally, to be the establishment of a unified spiritual field originating from a division of religious labour characterized by opposition and complementarity at the same time. The resulting (asymmetric) religious field is not fixed once and for all: its boundaries are constantly shifting due to practical needs of the people and, to a larger extent, they are also tied to discourses about ethnic identity and “traditional” heritage. In the wider context of the Nepalese minorities’ ethnic revival, Hyolmo Buddhist identity stays at the forefront, pushing shamanism into a more and more peripheral position, both spatially and ideologically. With this paper I want to highlight shamanic strategies of coping with change, while striving not only to survive, but to keep and expand their role over the landscape and ritual as well.

Place-making and the Doing of Sacredness in Contemporary South Korean Shamanic Practice

Kendall, Laurel

Professor, American Museum of Natural History

A shamanic encounter with place, the shaman as a receptor and transmitter of unseen forces or energies encountered in place, this is a recurrent theme in the literature on shamanic practice; the shaman engages with “nature” as manifest in the landscape, a particular mountain, boulder, tree, or body of water. But practice is also place-making, an engagement with, even a transformation of space that involves the mapping of sacredness in the first instance and different degrees of material engagement in and with the space in the second—from garlanding trees and rocks to constructing and furnishing temples, to setting out offerings, carefully chosen and carefully deployed. In this presentation, I will consider shamanic engagements with the materiality of space and place as an emergent phenomenon, reshaped both by shamanic practice and in relation to changing circumstances, political climates, developmental priorities, and the commoditized production of sacred goods and services. My subjects are Korean shamans (mansin) who engage the sacred in two primary spatial locations. Mansin make pilgrimages to mountains, which some describe as an act of “recharging their batteries,” an enhancement of their capacity to gain a pure flow of inspiration from the gods who have chosen to operate through the shaman’s body. Mansin engage their own gods on a daily basis through the painted images installed in their shrines, sites through which deities transmit a clear flow of inspiration (or not). Neither the mountain nor the image in the shrine is a fixed entity. Mountains are affected by development schemes, roads, the proliferation of private vehicles, and the expansion of shrines as a service industry in South Korea. The production and installation of painted images in shrines is affected both by changing patterns of production and distribution and by changing protocols within the Korean shaman world.

Constructing sacred space: The location of the rites for a shaman’s initiation or promotion

Knecht, Peter

Nagoya, Japan

The paper is to focus on two different kinds of rites for the shaman: One is a rite for the initiation of a candidate as shaman, the other a rite of promotion for an already established shaman. The purpose of the paper is to show how the space for these rituals is constructed as sacred space. To this purpose attention is given to two important features, to the arrangement of trees and their function and to the use made of the tent (ger) specially established for the occasion.

For the initiation rite a structure of birch trees is raised at the center of the area, where the rite is conducted. The area is cordoned off by means of threads, but no ritual is performed to mark the space as sacred. At the promotion ritual a group of trees is erected in front of the tent, but more important is the structure of trees in the ger’s center. In both cases the function of the trees is combined with that of the ger. At an initiation the ger is where the candidate’s becoming a shaman begins, while its climax happens at the outside trees. At the promotion rite the climax is reached at the tree in the ger which here is the sacred center. That the sacred space is not disturbed, the shaman sacrifices a black goat the night before this climactic rite.

Ritual Relations of Iu-Mien Refugee Shamans to the Spirits of the Land

MacDonald, Jeffry L.

Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, Portland, OR

Since arriving from Laos in Oregon in 1978, the Iu-Mien refugee community’s shamans or spirit masters have continued to hold an annual sipv deic bungh or “managing the land spirits” ceremony in the late winter/early spring. Unlike most Southeast Asian hill tribes which have only oral spiritual traditions, the Mien have a 700-year legacy of practicing their own form of ritual Taoism based on Chinese literacy and an extensive number of Chinese character sacred and ritual texts. This paper explores how Mien refugee spirit masters have adapted their form of literate shamanism using these sacred texts to engage and control outdoor and land spirits on a new continent. As part of their cultural capacity as transmigrants to engage with a dominant society wherever they live, the ceremony provides protection not only for their own community but also non-Mien. For one Sunday morning each year, Mien spirit masters transform a picnic area in a Portland city park into a sacred space to negotiate good health and an accident-free year with spirits that control accidents, harmony, and disease. Unlike most Mien ceremonies that involve indoor clan ancestral spirits, the land spirit ceremony is the only one held exclusively outdoors and is tied closely to Mien group identity and cultural survival in the face of acculturation and Christian conversion. Though often approached by curious Portlanders on their early morning walks in the park, few learn or understand the transforming significance of the spiritual legacy that the Iu-Mien have given to Oregonians.