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64. Communications With The Spirits By Means Of Language

Under this heading various methods of coming into contact with the spirits by means of language. As the basis of these relations with the spirit, the Tungus and Manchus have several hypotheses, cf. which the principal are: the spirits understand human speech; the spirits react on speech nearly in the same manner as it is with the human beings; some spirits do not understand common speech and must be addressed in a special language.

When the Tungus and Manchus want to communicate with the spirits they call the spirit by its common name or by a special, honorific name, or merely in any other form of calling its attention. If the spirit is already placed in a placing the task is simplified, for the spirit is supposed to see and hear the man speaking and to understand that the words are addressed to it. The list of terms with which the spirits are impersonally addressed comprises terms used for senior relative… such as «father», «mother». «grandfather», «grandmother», «ancestor» etc. which express the idea of submission; the Manchus use a richer vocabulary comprising also flattering adjectives and titles. There would follow an expression of the essential of request. Amongst the Tungus, a short address usually is a free expression of desire but it is formalized into rigid formulae amongst the Manchus who amongst the Manchus who use, e.g. elxe taif'in («the peace»), xutur'i («the happiness»), etc. just preceded by the name of the spirit, and repeat them almost automatically. A little more extensive formulae but not less rigid are found to be numerous in the material of rites practiced by the Imperial Family of Tai — Tsing [400]. Every Manchu clan has such formulae which, it may be supposed, have been made in imitation of the Imperial court.

It is different with the long addresses on various occasions which cannot be foreseen by the people, but even in this case there may be again distinguished formalized addresses and free improvisations, the latter being more and more substituted by the formulae.

When a Tungus of Transbaikalia addresses himself to the spirits he would mention the spirit to which he turns his words and then he would proceed to the exposition of the matter. All of his address will be a free improvisation in the section dealing with the exposition of the matter, but the enumeration and naming of spirits would be formal, for all Tungus more or less have the same complexes of spirits and they must naturally remember them in definite words. The Tungus of Manchuria will do the same if they are not too strongly influenced by the Dahurs and Manchus. Every Tungus can easily make an address which is not formalized. However, lately amongst the Tungus of Manchuria there appeared a new type of prayers called buach'in and borrowed, in so far as method is concerned, from their neighbours, — the Dahurs and Manchus. It consists of a formal address to the spirits and their enumeration, formal exposition of the request with the substitution of the names of the persons or clans which address their request, and a formalistic conclusion. According to the present ideas, accepted by far all Tungus, the spirits would be more attentive, if the formulae are exactly reproduced. Thus, the form as such has great influence on the issue of the address. It is not surprising that the buach'in contain a certain number of Dahur terms and expressions rather difficult for understanding even by those Tungus who carry out the performance. It may be here noted that amongst these Tungus the form of formalized prayer — buach'in — has made its appearance as result of reaction against the shamanism which, as will be shown, may sometimes become a real burden for those who practise it. Since the Dahurs were successful in managing their spirits with this method, the Tungus have adopted the same practice. Nearly in the same position are now found the shamans who memorize expressions and titling of the spirits and thus formalize at least the first address to the spirits and their first address to the people gathered in the name of spirits. However, such a formalism is possible only within the limits of well known facts, while when the shaman has to deal with special cases of troubles, which imply his being called by the people, he must become improvisator, and so the shamans are.

The Manchus went still further in the matter of formalizing their addresses to the spirits. Every clan has its own formulae when the prayer is addressed to the clan spirits, to the spirits of heaven (abka enduri); every shaman has his own formulae when dealing with the spirits (vochko), and especially when making to them a general sacrifice; every Manchu addresses himself in a similar manner to the spirits fuchk'i and mafa which do not differ in clans. In imitation of the Imperial Family the Manchus have recorded names of spirits and rituals called in Mamchu cholo b'itxe and koli b'itxe, — i.e. «the book of the list of names» and «the book of rites», — so that no change of the established rites and words is formally allowed, for a spirit cannot respond to the appeal and request, if there should he a change of names and rites. It is very interesting that the fact of written records of the ritualistic side of dealing with the spirit in many a clan has resulted in the loss of means of communication with the spirits when the written documents were lost during the Boxer troubles in Aigun District [401]. No restoration from memory of the old written records could be immediately done and owing to this many a clan has now no longer possibility of communicating with their spirits. So the whole performance consists only of repeated bowings, kneelings, and a few words such as elxe tajf'in and xutur'i. However, the Manchus are rather sceptical as to the effectiveness of such incomplete performances and if they continue them they do it only by fear: The spirits may become very harmful if there is even no ritualism, though imperfect. On the other hand, the idea that the rites must be in conformity with the old formulae detains them from trying to create a new rite. This is an interesting instance of how written language may be responsible for the loss of the complex. The shamans following the good example of the clan priests (p'oyun samari) have also recorded their cholo and koli. which has also resulted in the further formalization of performances possible. According to the Manchu idea of this function, there are specialists who can deal, by means of prayers and rites strictly formalized, with the spirits of non — clannish origin and at the same time of non — shamanistic origin, such as fuch'k'i and mafa which can be managed without shaman's assistance. Although I have seen no written records of their «prayers» and «rites», I have heard that they do exist as a professional secret amongst the mafari (vide infra Section 80) which is only natural.

An important source of formalisation of rites was Emperor Chi'en — Lungs idea to preserve the old practices which by his time already began to have been lost by the Manchus who fell under a strong Chinese influence in Peking. In the preface he pointed out that in his clan (g'joro) there was practised strictness in reference to the wording of prayers (jon'i forobure g'isun be jojongo obumb'i) and that formerly the shamans (evidently. p'oyun saman) used to know the language from childhood and thus proper ways of dealing with the spirits. It is evident, that at Chi'en — Lungs time (enthronement 1736, death 1799) the rites needed both corrections and artificial preservation because of loss of language. So that the formalization of Manchu ritual did not occur on the genuine Manchu soil, but it was implied by the disintegration of the old Manchu complex. In fact, by his time the Imperial Family was already under a strong Chinese influence and what is found in the book of rites (manjusai vechere medere kooli bitxe) is not an exact picture of the original Manchu complex. Yet, the Manchus who were not yet so far sinised followed the authority of their Emperor and as a pattern adopted his above mentioned manual of rites, other similar books as well, while the great shamans at least partly preserved the original complex. As a whole the complex of clan rites amongst the Manchus does not look — genuine Manchu institution. This Manchu influence was supported by the Chinese influence which was not also in favour of free improvisation.

Other groups of Manchuria, such as the Dahurs, in this respect were under a double influence, — the Manchu — Chinese formalism and Mongol Lamaistic complex. The latter is also inclined to a stubborn formalization, so amongst the lamas of Mongolia the formulae occupy an important place in the complex. The Dahurs and Manchus, especially the first ones, in their turn influenced the Tungus of Manchuria who at present although preserve the original type of ritualism, have also included many formalistic elements into their complex of dealing with the spirits.

The language understood by the spirits naturally corresponds to the ideas of the Tungus as to the spirits. We have already seen that many spirits are not of a Tungus origin and as such they are not likely to understand Tungus language. In such a case the Tungus would rather use a foreign language known to the spirit. Such one may be Mongol, Manchu, Chinese, Russian, Dahur, Yakut, which depends on the source of borrowing and Tungus ideas about it. If the language of the spirit is unknown, the Tungus may use just a few words which are supposed to be understood by the spirits and which actually may not be words of the language of the ethnical group from which the spirit is supposed to be received. Such words may become absolutely «meaning — less» and in the eyes of observers who are not familiar with the mechanism of ethnographical variations they may be interpreted as «magic». In such a position are found those Manchus who have received some spirits (e.g. k'ilin vochko, cf. supra) from the Tungus and instead of speaking to them in Manchu they try to utter some Tungus (evenk'i) words which in fact are mere refrains of Tungus songs and prayers, such as, jaga - ja, etc. On the other hand the Tungus, who do not know the Manchu language but who at the same time must deal with the Manchu spirits, sometimes use isolated Manchu words. The same is done by the Manchus and Tungus when they have to deal with the Chinese spirits, and the Chinese shamans also use isolated Tungus and Manchu words for the same purpose.

Although speaking in a foreign language to the spirits of foreign origin is always preferable, the Tungus, the Manchus as well, who have often to deal with these spirits, gradually begin to use their own language. So that it may be formulated that together with the increase of Tungus familiarity with the alien spirits, the latter begin to understand Tungus language. This is not understood by the Tungus, but they silently recognize that the Tungus spirits understand the Tungus language and since a spirit would remain with the Tungus for a long time it would become Tungus spirit (e.g. malu burkan, vide supra) and thus it can understand Tungus. It may be pointed out that buga (vide supra), according to the Tungus, is common to all peoples and it can understand all human beings which ever language they would use in praying it. On the other hand, in reference to some spirits the Tungus are positively convinced that a special language is needed. In such a position are all spirits which have been recently introduced amongst the Tungus and all those which have not yet spread their influence over the Tungus.

Yet, when the Tungus and Manchus do not know how to address a spirit they may use the language of gestures, as they would do when speaking to foreigners who cannot understand them, but who can understand gestures. This language of gestures may grow into a special complex of ceremonial bowing, kneeling, hand gestures, face gestures, - e.g. opening and closing of the mouth, eyes etc. — in the Tungus eyes sufficient for communicating with the spirits. Such are forms of language used when dealing with many foreign spirits, as well as in the case when the prayer is always the same, e.g. in the case of prayer to buya, and in the case when the wording of a formalized prayer is forgotten. So that there are different causes for the existence of gesture language used instead of word language (sounding starters). Therefore, the fact of lacking of prayers and oral address to the spirits does not mean that the spirit is of an alien origin.

It is very commonly observed that the prayer begins with some foreign wording and further continues in the spoken dialect of the speaker. In such a case it is supposed that the spirit better responds to the foreign call, but it can understand the language. Yet, sometimes the prayer is pronounced without being believed to be understood. In this case the Tungus would act as the mother would do with her baby or a Tungus would do when speaking to the animals which are not always supposed to understand man's speech word by word but only a general attitude of the speaker. At last, the speaking to the spirit may be a form of actual monologuing, so to a listener it may appear incoherent in its construction and choice of expressions.

In the above lines I have shown that the prayers sometimes cannot be understood at all even by those who make them and still much less by the investigators, without being at the same time conventional «magics».

It may be pointed out that the language (spoken) of prayers therefore includes on the one hand, a certain number of petrified expressions and words no more used in the current language, — for the fear that spirits cannot understand new words, — and on the other hand, a great number of alien words and expressions, sometimes even formulae, which have been borrowed as a special language good for foreign.spirits. Owing to this the language of prayers must be looked at as a special language containing both very old elements and very recent loan — elements which again make an analysis of the text rather difficult. In addition to this it may be also indicated that in prayers the Tungus use a certain number of suffixes, sometimes even doublets with the same function, which are used for making prayers more rhythmic and «nice», also at the same time different from the common speech.

As to the structure of addresses, the address may be made in the form of ordinary speech and in a rhythmic and rhymed forms. The problem of rhythms and rhymes will be discussed elsewhere, — in the work devoted to the folklore and language. The address made in prosaic form, which is simply pronounced and not sung, as a rule has no definite structure except that required by logic, while the addresses rhythmed and especially rhymed have quite a definite form. Usually they would begin with a refrain twice repeated: then the strophes consisting of a limited number of syllables are separated by the same or abbreviated refrain. In the pathetic parts of the address the strophes may become very short.

The musical contents of the addresses is of importance, too. There are quite definite motives used for particular kinds of addresses, as for instance that of Birarchen address to the ancestors Gajamer, while there are also motives which may be used for prayers and addresses to different spirits. Let us remark that the motives after an analysis appear to be of various origin, as it is also with the spirits and rituals. So we meet with the Chinese elements, by side of Mongol motives. However, there have been recorded no Russian motives. Naturally when prayers are connected with definite motives they are more stabilised than in the case when the motives, rhythms and rhymes are not used for making definite forms to the prayers.

* * *

The CONTENTS of addresses to the spirits are naturally different. Here it ought to be pointed out that there must be distinguished ordinary prayers and shamanistic performances which besides the ordinary prayers addressed to the spirits at the beginning and at the end of performance, include the improvisation, sometimes conventionalized, of the shaman who is supposed to be speaking and singing, during the extasy, on the part of the spirit. Naturally, the subject of his speech and songs greatly depends on the case to be dealt with by the shaman. However, even in these cases of improvisation quite conventionalized forms are met with which are characteristic of some spirits. Such is the instance of the Manchu shaman when he recites for the first time the list of spirits and is supposed to possess the spirits speaking through him. Since the lists of spirits are more or less alike and since, as shown, they are sometimes recorded in a written form, they become accessible for the people and naturally formalised. The fact of recording lists of spirits has also another aspect, namely, the lists of spirits are becoming more alike, as the addresses to these spirits.

There may be distinguished different types of addresses to the spirits, which may be classified as follows.

1. Thanks expressed to the spirits for successful hunting and addressed to the spirit which sends (direct) the animals, e.g. bainacha,b'iyan endur'i, also spirits which may be held responsible for it as ojan, malu, and others. The short address usually consists of a short enumeration of the hunting spoil and conventional expression of thanks. The thanks are also expressed to the corresponding spirits for giving health to the people and domesticated animals. Such are included into the ceremonies of annual sacrifice amongst the Manchus and Tungus influenced by the Manchus and Mongols, also when diseases are over, particularly the smallpox, measles, etc. The expression of thanks is usually followed by a special prayer as to the continuing of favours.

2. Requests for sending animals, for good weather, — dry or rainy, in dependence on what is needed, — for good harvest, for increase of domesticated animals, for health of men and animals, for protection of life against malevolent spirits, for mercy from the malevolent spirits, for continuation of life, for fecundity and fertility of men and cattle, for wealth in general and happiness as it is found by the individuals or groups of individuals, the clan, village. The length of a prayer is variable: the formalized Manchu prayers are long, while those of the Tungus are much shorter, but at the same time they leave some room for improvisation.

3. Requests for help in the case of diseases, threatening of death, hostility of spirits, etc. in which there may be also included prayers — intrigues — directed for raising hostilities between the spirits.

4. Prayers to various spirits in view of neutralizing their malevolent activity or for gaining their sympathy. The addresses followed by sacrifice to the ancestors may be included into this group when there is no request or expression of thanks. This form of address is very common as a preventive measure. Their form is subject to variations, but usually they are formalized only in the case of address to the ancestors, for other spirits are influenced by these prayers only on specified occasions of troubles and therefore are composed ad hoc. Naturally, amongst all groups prayers to the ancestors are more or less formalised, but the greatest stabilization has been reached amongst the Manchus.

5. Invitation to accept a sacrifice which is addressed to all spirits and has more or less conventional form, for the address usually includes the name of the spirit, specification of the sacrifice and its purpose.

Indeed, the types of prayers and addresses are not rigid at all. A prayer may include all five types of address. So it is, for instance, in the addresses to the spirits at the annual sacrifice among the Manchus, when the spirits are thanked for the past favours, are prayed for assistance in professional works, and maintaining health, at the same time they may be neutralized by various methods and asked to accept the sacrifice.

400. Vide Ch. de Harlez, op. cit. and especially La religion et les ceremonies imperiales.

401. According to the communication of the Manchus. in the same position were found the Manchus of Tsitsihar district and even in Peking and other localities where the Manchus suffered loss of their home.

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