Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": A YUKAGIR SHAMANISTIC SEANCE

FROM NORTHEASTERN SIBERIA


The shaman sits down on the ground and, after drumming for a long time, invokes his tutelary spirits, imitating the voices of animals. 'My fore-father, my ancestors, stand near by me. In order to help me, stand near me, my girl spirits. . . .' He begins drumming again and, rising with the help of his assistant, goes to the door and breathes deeply, in order to swallow the souls of his ancestors and other spirits that he has summoned. 'The soul of the patient, it seems, has travelled along the road to the Kingdom of Shadows,' the spirits of the ancestors announce through the shaman's voice. The patient's relatives encourage him: 'Be strong, strength do not spare!' The shaman drops his drum and lies face down on the reindeer skin; he remains motionless, the sign that he has left his body and is journeying in the beyond. He has descended into the Kingdom of Shadows 'through the drum as through a lake.' For a long time he does not stir and all those present patiently wait for him to wake. His return is indicated by a few motions. Two girls massage his legs, and, now completely restored to himself, he replaces the soul in the patient's body. He then goes to the door and dismisses his helping spirits.

At the end of such a seance the shaman gave Jochelson the particulars of his ecstatic journey. Accompanied by his helping spirits, he had followed the road that leads to the Kingdom of Shadows. He came to a little house and found a dog that began to bark. An old woman, who guarded the road, came out of the house and asked him if he had come for ever or for a short time. The shaman did not answer her; instead, he addressed his spirits: 'Do not listen to the old woman's words, walk on without stopping.' Soon they came to a stream. There was a boat, and on the other bank the shaman saw tents and men. Still accompanied by his spirits, he entered the boat and crossed the stream. He met the souls of the patient's dead relatives, and entering their tent, found the patient's soul there too. As the relatives refused to give it to him, he had to take it by force. To carry it safely back to the earth, he inhaled the patient's soul and stuffed his ears to prevent it from escaping.


-M. Eliade, Shamanism, op. Cit., Pp. 247-8; summarizing Waldemar Jochelson, The Yukaghiri and the Yukaghirize Tungus (Leiden and New York, 1924-6) pp. 196-9

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