Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": A SIBERIAN FUNERARY CEREMONY

THE SHAMAN GUIDES THE SOUL TO THE UNDERWORLD


The Goldi have two funerary ceremonies: the nimgan, which takes place seven days or even longer (two months) after the death, and the kazatauri, the great ceremony celebrated some time after the former and at the end of which the soul is conducted to the underworld. During the nimgan the shaman enters the dead person's house with his drum, searches for the soul, captures it, and makes it enter a sort of cushion (fanya). The banquet follows, participated in by all the relatives and friends of the dead person present in the fanya; the shaman offers the latter brandy. The kazatauri begins in the same way. The shaman dons his costume, takes his drum, and goes to search for the soul in the vicinity of the yurt. During all this time he dances and recounts the difficulties of the road to the underworld. Finally he captures the soul and brings it into the house, where he makes it enter the fanya. The banquet continues late into the night, and the food that is left over is thrown into the fire by the shaman. The women bring a bed into the yurt, the shaman puts the fanya in it, covers it with a blanket, and tells the dead person to sleep. He then lies down in the yurt and goes to sleep himself.

The following day he again dons his costume and wakes the deceased by drumming. Another banquet follows and at night (for the ceremony May continue for several days) he puts the fanya to bed again and covers it up. Finally one morning the shaman begins his song and, addressing the deceased, advises him to eat well but to drink sparingly, for the journey to the underworld is extremely difficult for the drunken person. At sunset preparations for the departure are made. The shaman sings, dances, and daubs his face with soot. He invokes his helping spirits and begs them to guide him and the dead man in the beyond. lie leaves the yurt for a few minutes and climbs a notched tree that has been set up in readiness; from here he sees the road to the under
world. (He has, in fact, climbed the World Tree and is at the summit of the world.) At the same time he sees many other things: plentiful snow, successful hunting and fishing, and so on.

Returning to the yurt, he summons two powerful tutelary spirits to help him; butchu, a kind of one- legged monster with a human face and feathers, and hoori, a long-necked bird. Without the help of these two spirits, the shaman could not come back from the underworld; he makes the most difficult part of the return journey sitting on the hoori's back.

After shamanizing until he is exhausted, lie sits down, facing the west, on a board that represents a Siberian sled. The fanya, containing the dead person's soul, and a basket of food are set beside him. The shaman asks the spirits to harness the dogs to the sled and for a 'servant' to keep him company during the journey. A few moments later he 'sets off' for the land of the dead.

The songs he intones and the words he exchanges with the ''servant' make it possible to follow his route. At first the road is easy, but the difficulties increase as the land of the dead is approached. A great river bars the way, and only a good shaman can get his team and sled across to the other bank. Some time later, he sees signs of human activity, footprints, ashes, bits of wood-the village of the dead is not far away. Now, indeed, dogs are heard barking at no great distance, the smoke from the yurts is seen, the first reindeer appear. The shaman and the deceased have reached the underworld. At once the dead gather and ask the shaman to tell them his name and that of the newcomer. The shaman is careful not to give his real name; he searches through the crowd of spirits for the dose relatives of the soul he is conducting, so that he may entrust it to them. Having done so, he hastens to return to earth and, arriving, gives a long account of all that he has seen in the land of the dead and the impressions of the dead man whom he escorted. He brings each of the audience greetings from their dead relatives and even distributes little gifts from them. At the close of the ceremony the shaman throws the fanya into the fire. The strict obligations of the living to the dead are now terminated.


M. Eliade, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, trans. Willard Trask (New York: Bollingen Series LXXVI), Pp. 210-12, being a summary of Uno Harva, Die religiosen Vorstellungen der attaischen Vo1ke (Helsinki, 1938), PP. 334-45

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