§ Широкогоровы §
toggle menu

60. Placings For Spirits

I use the term «placing for spirits» for the following reasons. The Tungus idea of spirit is that the latter possesses such properties that it may be located, embodied in a certain physical body. The spirit must be «placed» and when it is placed the Tungus may deal with it. As a matter of fact, the idea has been received by me from a Tungus — Birarchen — who explained to me the function of «placings» in the following words. When I asked him what the reason was of making wooden and other placings for spirits, he replied to me by a question: «How may the spirit know where is its place (oron)?» and he continued by another question: «If you invite somebody would not you show your guest place where he might sit?» Therefore there must be made for the spirit a special place — seat which would be recognised by the spirit, and which would not be used by other spirits. So that, the idea of place — seat for spirits is quite clear and simple for the Tungus mind. In my earlier work in Russian [372] I used the term vmest'ilische, which may be translated in English «receptacle», «depository». However, these terms are not good, so that in other works in English I used alternatively «placing» and «loculus». Since the Tungus «place» their spirits, I now prefer the technical term «placing» which in my eyes gives a better starter. I abstain from using the term «idol», «fetish» etc. frequently met with in ethnographical publications, for these terms have quite different meanings. The Tungus placings as such have nothing «supernatural», nor «sacred»; even they are not symbols of spirits, nor their images. Moreover, usually they are not considered as a product of art [373]. They may be destroyed, substituted by other placings; even jokes about them are allowed. However, it is possible and admissible only on the condition if there is no spirit located, «placed» at that moment. This term is better than any other, for as previously shown, animals, people, and all natural phenomena, such as rocks, trees, etc. may become placings as well. From the Tungus point of view there will be no difference as to the function of these placings and those made purposely. Although the conception of «placing» is quite clear in the Tungus mind, the Tungus dialects and Manchu possess no special generic terms for all «placings», but they possess different terms covering different groups of placings.

Amongst the Tungus of Transbaikalia the placings carried on by the people together with other belongings are usually called burkan (cf. supra Section 48). Amongst the Tungus of Manchuria and Mankova they are usually called savak'i (phonetic and semantic variations vide supra) [374] and special placings for shamanizing to the lower world amongst the Transbaikalian Tungus and RTM are called seva (cf. supra). Placings which are made of wood may be called moma, i.e. wooden, or wood, e.g. moma (Nerc. Khin.) momate (Bir. Kum.); placings made of metals may be called according to the material used. However, this practice is not common [375]. Yet. there is a special term for placings made of straw for calling in and sending off the souls of dead people and generally when dealing with the lower world: bam'i (Bir. Kum.) bom'i (Mank.) [376]. There is one more general term for placings, namely, an'ikan (also an'akan) (RTM. Bir. Kum.) [377] used for shamanizing, particularly to the upper world, or for dealing on the upper roads. Other terms may be those referred to the particular spirits, e.g. malu, kangan, jol, etc. or the general manifestations as bojo («man»), deyi («bird») etc. or to the form of placing, as bada (Nerc. Barg.) («the face») corresponding to deregde (Bir. Kum.), etc.

From these facts it is evident that we cannot put as the basis of classification of placings for spirits their terms in Tungus dialects. Indeed, the placings may be classified according to the spirits for which they are reserved, but, as seen, such a classification will be good for the classification of spirits and not their placings for the same placing may sometimes be used for different spirits and vice versa, — different placings may be used for the same spirit.

The size greatly depends on the mode of life and individuality of possessors of placings. Generally, amongst the groups which live in a settled manner the size of placings may be larger, and temporary placings, which are thrown away after the performance, are usually larger than permanent ones. The shape is closely connected with the kind of spirits, but at the same time the same shape of placing may be used for different spirits. The material is also subject to great variations, — placings for the same spirits may be made of wood, brass or straw and yet reduced to a picture. Such a variety of form, size, shape, material, etc. depends on the fact that the placings for spirits are not «idols», nor «icons». The process of selecting form etc. may depend on individual association or it may be received through tradition. In fact, we have seen that placings for ajelga amongst the Birarchen are usually made of two dried hillocks. It is so because for the first time the spirit happened to be placed in a hillock. However, if there is no hillock, the Birarchen make a wooden anthropomorphic placing. Since the spirit is once called and enters the placing, it may always know that the particular form of placing is reserved to it and it will not refuse to enter it when called again. The difficult moment is to call and «place» a spirit for the first time. The spirits, for a long time known amongst the Tungus, may have nearly the same form of placing amongst all Tungus groups to whom the spirits are known. The Tungus also know that the spirits would come when called into a placing of a definite form. Instead of carrying out doubtful experiments with calling these spirits into a placing of a new form, they would prefer to follow the experience of previous generations and that of other ethnical groups. On the other hand, there are conditions which are responsible for the change of form of placings. Here I want especially to mention forgetfulness, adaptation to the existing complex, adaptation to the material and individual creation, also fashions.

Under the present conditions of life the Tungus are often separated for long months from their clansmen. Not all of them are familiar with all details concerning spirits, and they do not always perfectly remember the form of placings, — which I know from direct observation of facts, — but it may always happen that they would need to call the spirits. In such a case they would make the placing according to perhaps imperfect remembrance. Should they succeed in calling in the spirit which would «place» itself, the new variety of placing might be adopted by the family and thus transmitted to the succeeding generations. If the new form happens to be «better» from the practical point of view, it may be easily imitated by other groups (families, and later clans, ethnical groups, etc.). Some placings, as for instance kagan of the najil burkan (women's malu burkan), are sometimes thrown away or sent off with the river's current. Between the destruction and restoration of the placings kangan, there may sometimes elapse more than a generation, which period is sufficient for forgetting some details, as to the form, shape and material. Amongst the Khingan Tungus after the owner's death all placings may be thrown away, and they would be restored only when urgently needed.

The adaptation to the existing complex is a very important condition. In fact, the number of spirits, as shown, is subject to variation, therefore the placings must be also adapted. If a Tungus meets with a placing used, for instance, amongst the Goldi who are living in settled villages he would not be able to reproduce an exact copy of this placing for they often are too heavy for carrying on reindeer back, on horse back, or on his own back. Therefore they are reduced and some details may disappear altogether. In fact, some placings, which are similar as to their form and which are reserved for the same spirits, amongst the Goldi attain the size of several feet, while they are found reduced to a few centimetres amongst the Tungus who have adopted nomadism. In the same group the size also is subject to variations. For instance, amongst the Birarchen the size of the placing of the malu complex varies within a range in which the smallest placing would be ten times smaller than the largest one. A Birarchen woman might not sometimes want to have them of large size and so her husband would make them very small. The largest placings for spirits are observed amongst the Udehe and Oroci of the Maritime Gov. who live in a half — settled manner, the smallest being observed among the Tungus of Manchuria, and especially among the Birarchen. However, it ought to be pointed out that temporary placings, as for instance, for ajelga may attain very large size. Yet, the temporary placings amongst the Reindeer Tungus of Transbaikalia (e.g. the Barguzin) sometimes are large. Once I observed an anthropomorphic placing over forty centimetres high.

The material may be greatly responsible for the form and size. In Transbaikalia the placing for malu — the manifestation bada («face») — is made of iron and rarely brass. The form naturally is flat, the design consists of the perforations and points made with a sharp stamp. The general appearance of this placing is quite different from the wooden «face» — deregde — of the same complex observed amongst the Birarchen. When the placing for Bainacha is cut on a trunk of a standing tree it is naturally large, but when this cannot be done, a piece of wood with a few cuts may suffice as placing. Amongst the Manchus and Tungus the placings made of straw or dry grass are common for spirits of lower world, — ancestors, — and for carrying the souls of dead people. The size of these placings, — usually man — like and dog — like figurines, — is larger than that of those made of wood and they are much heavier. The Tungus of Manchuria call them «fat man». The placings made of metals like silver and gold, — such ones are very rare, — would be, of course, very small.

The pictures are usually made by the specialists of non — Tungus origin. They are usually made on paper pasted on a piece of silk or other tissues. They are mere reproduction of Buddhistic and Taoistic pictures amongst the Tungus who are in contact with the Manchus, Mongols and Chinese. Naturally they are made according to the existing patterns. However, I have seen some pictures, e.g. amongst the Birarchen, which were made on special order and represented spirits, at least their number and sex, required by the Tungus complex; the images were usually stylized in Chinese way. Amongst the Manchus there is a special form of pictures, — n'uryan (Manchu Sp.) (corr. nirugan, Manchu Writ.), — which represent shamanistic spirits in a typical manner of Chinese iconography. However, these pictures cannot be regarded as typical placings for spirits.

Introduction of pictures as placings for spirits has produced great changes; namely, the placings have lost their plasticity and form, and they have been formalized to become almost mere symbols of placing. In the same way the introduction of tissues, — borrowed from the Mongols, an imitation of Mongol ongon with zoomorphic and anthropomorphic applications made of tissues, leather, and metals with some ornamentation, — is responsible for reduction of size of placings, loss of expressiveness and plasticity. Still more simplifications were introduced amongst the Manchus, who began to use ribbons of different size and colour as placings for their spirits. Naturally, they become much like simple «symbols».

The individual tastes in the matter of choice of form and material play their important role in the final appearance of placings. Indeed, a good wood — carver who pays attention to details would make a placing accurately reproducing the original type; but he may also add some particular traits unknown in other specimens, e.g. more details or some ornamental elements. This may also influence the size of placings [378]. In fact, I have often observed that some Tungus are inclined to make large placings while the others would prefer small placings. If they should make unusually large or small placings they would point out it by saying: «Look how large (or small) are these placings!» One can see that they would like to have approval of their deviation from the idea of the usual size of placings.

When placings of different periods are compared one may notice that they may differ as to the form and size. For instance, the great grandmothers of the present Tungus women of Barguzin group preferred small size of bada made of brass, while at the present time much larger size is preferred, the maximum length being four and even five times larger. Amongst the Birarchen, as I have already pointed out, the size of kangan at the present time is much smaller than it was three or four generations ago. If these people are asked why the size is different, they give the explanation, e.g. referring to the convenience of carrying placings, or they would say: «The large size is better» or «The small size is better». The same is true of the form and ornamentation which are subject to the variations in time. There is no doubt that the variations of this type are due to the fashions which spread among Tungus groups like any other fashions in dress, language, etc. They may be due either to the alien influences or to the local spontaneous variations.

From the above remarks it is evident that the form, size and details in placings for the same spirits are subject to great variations, and for these reasons their identification presents great difficulties, it even sometimes becomes absolutely impossible. Yet, one cannot sometimes say: which spirit is supposed to be introduced into a placing of a certain form and shape for the same type of placing may be used for different spirits, even within the same ethnical unit.

* * *

ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE PLACINGS. Generally the placings are considered by the Tungus for their material value, also as remembrance of former possessors, and whether they may be used by the spirits or not also whether the spirits are found there, or not. The metals being rare among the Tungus, the metallic placings, as such, are of a certain value, to the Tungus. The same is true of pictures which are brought from the Chinese and Dahurs. In a lesser degree it may be referred to the silk placings. Yet if the Tungus must spend a long time for carving wooden placings, they may also have value as such. Still more will be valued costumes used by the shamans, shrines (among the Manchus), skins of rare or large animals, etc. Therefore the Tungus attitude in preserving placings is conditioned at first hand by the consideration of their value, as goods.

The second condition, — the remembrance of former possessors, — is of importance, too. The placings are sometimes transmitted from one generation to another and the owners connect with them the former possessors, as a kind of reliquiae. Therefore, one rather often meets with the placings transmitted for generations and the Tungus would remember various details as to the former owners.

It is different when the placings may be occupied by the spirits. The Tungus would be very careful with these placings, fearing to disturb them, sometimes even to approach them. It ought to be pointed out that in this case they behave in such a manner not towards the placings but towards the spirits. Let us now consider the case of a malevolent spirit which may temporarily have introduced itself into the placing. The attitude of the Tungus may be different; namely, if the spirit may be sent off with the expectation of its final leaving, the Tungus would introduce the spirit in the placing and throw it away, and the spirit together with it. If the spirit from time to time should want to have food, the placing would be kept ready in order, by means of sacrifice, to neutralize the spirit's activity. Yet, if the placing itself might be attractive for the malevolent spirits and if the Tungus suppose that other spirits would not introduce themselves into the placings, and if at the same time the malevolent spirits may harm the people by introducing themselves into the placings (including men), it is very likely that the placings would be thrown away. Let us now picture a case when the spirits are benevolent and neutral, but occasionally useful. There may be different solutions as to the keeping of placings. First of all, if there are placings for the benevolent spirits the latter being left without regular food may become harmful, therefore they must be «fed», which would result in constant care of spirits and placings. Since the Tungus can sometimes rely upon themselves, they do not need any special assistance on the part of spirits, so the placings will be very likely thrown away. I do not need to enumerate many other combinations all of which would result in three attitudes: special care of placings, which may be due both to the fear and to the desire to have spirits near by; indifferent attitude; and desire to throw away the placing again for different reasons, — to rid themselves of spirits, to eliminate the possibility of spirits' coming back etc.

The attitude also greatly depends upon the prevailing ideas amongst the groups. For instance, the spirits are not uncritically accepted by the Tungus into their complexes, therefore among the Birarchen no attention will be paid to the icons already known amongst the Tungus being under the Russian influence, if they do not recognize «spirits which have come from the Russians» as powerful and sometimes dangerous. The Birarchen, and other Tungus groups as well, very often deny the foreign spirits' power over themselves, whence they do not at all consider foreign spirits and placings for these spirits.

Amongst the Tungus groups the females, especially during sexually active period, recognized by menstruation, are not allowed to touch placings for spirits and even to approach them, the chief reason being that the women themselves are bearers of their own clan spirits which may mix up with those of other clans, and that most of spirits do not like women's blood. However, the same is true of the men who do not belong to the family and who must not come into the contact with the women, especially when they have their clan spirits' placing [379]. In all cases when the Tungus do not know the purpose for which the placings have been made, they will not touch them for fear of disturbing and attracting to themselves spirits whom they do not know. It is not recommended to lose placings for burkan (amongst the Tungus of Manchuria), for if there is no place to come in, the spirit may settle in one of the clansmen. Since it is not always easy to know which of burkans may have introduced itself into the clansman, it will be necessary to shamanize which is, of course, a difficult and expensive undertaking. And then, after shamanizing it will be necessary again to make a new placing, and by a special sacrifice invite the spirit to leave the body of clansman and come into the placing. Thus, it is better to preserve placings and not to lose them. On the other hand, the women when growing old throw away their placings kagan, for their presence in old age is more harmful than beneficial and after the menopause the women do not so much suffer of their clan spirits. I know several cases of sending off placings in a small boat put in the current of the rivers.

From the above analysis it is evident that the placings as such have nothing to do with the Tungus attitude, but material and work spent on them, memories associated with them and especially spirits' activity connected with the placings are considered. A valueless placing may be of great importance for the Tungus, while a very expensive one may be thrown away if a malevolent spirit may be introduced there and sent off together with the placing. It is thus evident that in every particular case the observer of the Tungus must know exactly the function of the particular and individual placing, its value as goods, and the relationship which exists between the people, spirit and placing, before making up any judgement as to the Tungus attitude towards the placings.

372. Vide Essay, etc. 1919.

373. Exception must be made in reference to some Manchu «placings (vide supra).

374. In Negidal P. P. Schmidt gives the same word for «cross» used by the Orthodox Christians.

375. In Nerchinsk dialect golden placing are called golema [cf. gaoli (Bir.), gauli (Khin.), goll (Mank), goli (Ur. Castr.), — the «brass»^ cf. guili(n)\\yaoli, Mong. Rud, — Korea, brass cf. golima (Tit. Ang.) — «of brass». It is evident that «golden~brass» is according to the colour. Indeed, golden placings are rarely met with. I have not seen them, — they are mentioned in folklore.

376. No etymology in Tungus is found. Perhaps it is connected with Mongol stem bum met with in «earth», «place», «mound», «burial», etc. In fact, the vowel of the first syllable is not certain in Tungus, while Tungus bVm is always connected with «death complex».

377. Etymology vide supra.

378. It is a well known fact that the preference for very small size or very large size of all things is intimately connected with the psychomental complex of individuals, even in so far as it is conditioned by the system of the glands of internal secretion.

379. However, the rear or spirits does not keep away men from approaching women with sex intentions, which as I have shown (vide SONT, pp. 209 et seq.) is a common practice amongst the Tungus. In similar cases the Tungus males know the ways of neutralizing the danger coming from alien spirits. Yet, there is no doubt that in some cases at least the fear of spirits may act as a mechanism which restricts men in their sexual activity.

Электропочта shirokogorov@gmail.com
© 2009 - 2024