Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": MYSTICAL MARRIAGE OF A SIBERIAN SHAMAN


The Goldi clearly distinguish between the tutelary spirit (ayami), which chooses the shaman, and the helping spirits (syven), which are subordinate to it and are granted to the shaman by the ayami itself. According to Sternberg the Goldi explain the relations between the shaman and his ayami by a complex sexual emotion. Here is the report of a Goldi shaman.

Once I was asleep on my sick-bed, when a spirit approached me. It was a very beautiful woman. Her figure was very slight, she was no more than half an arshin (71 cm.) tall. Her face and attire were quite as those of one of our Gold women. Her hair fell down to her shoulders in short black tresses. Other shamans say they have had the vision of a woman with one half of her face black, and the other half red. She said: 'I am the "ayami" of your ancestors, the Shamans. I taught them shamaning. Now I am going to teach you. The old shamans have died off, and there is no one to heal people. You are to become a shaman.'

Next she said: 'I love you, I have no husband now, you will be my husband and I shall be a wife unto you. I shall give you assistant spirits. You are to heal with their aid, and I shall teach and help you myself. Food will come to us from the people.'

I felt dismayed and tried to resist. Then she said, 'If you will not obey me, so much the worse for you. I shall kill you.'

She has been coming to me ever since, and I sleep with her as with my own wife, but we have no children. She lives quite by herself without any relatives in a hut, on a mountain, but she often changes her abode. . . . Sometimes she comes under the aspect of an old woman, and sometimes under that of a wolf, so she is terrible to look at. Sometimes she comes as a winged tiger. I mount it and she takes me to show me different countries. I have seen mountains, where only old men and women live, and Villages, where you see nothing but young people, men and women: they look like Golds and speak Goldish, sometimes those people are turned into tigers.

Now my ayami does not come to me as frequently as before. Formerly, when teaching me, she used to come every night.'She has given me three assistants-the 'jarga' (the panther), the 'doonto (the bear) and the 'amba' (the tiger). They come to me in my dreams, and appear whenever I summon them while shamaning. If one of them refuses to come, the 'ayami' makes them obey, but, they say, there are some who do not obey even the 'ayami.' When I am shamaning, the .ayami' and the assistant spirits are possessing me; whether big or small, they penetrate me, as smoke or vapour would. When the 'ayami' is within me, it is she who speaks through my mouth, and she does everything herself. When I am eating the 'sukdu' (the offerings) and drinking pig's blood (the blood of pigs is drunk by shamans alone, lay people are forbidden to touch it), it is not I who eat and drink, it is my 'ayami' alone.


M. Eliade, Shamanism, op. cit., PP. 72-3, quoting Leo Stemberg, 'Divine Election in Primitive Religion' (1924), PP. 476 ff. cf.. Shamanism, PP. 42l ff., for autobiographies of South-Indian Savara shamans and shamanesses, whose marriages to spirits are in striking parallel to the documents collected by Stemberg

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