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75. Sacrifices And Prayers To The Ancestors Among The Tungus

We have seen that the spirits of the lower world, — buni, who are not spirits which accidentally remain from the dead people, but who are near relatives and ancestors of the people now living, — from time to time make their appearance in this world and constantly preserve their connexion with it. They may cause sickness and may interfere with the hunting (economical activity) of the living people. When the Tungus observe some evidence of the activity of buni, sacrifices if possible and requests are made to the buni in order to persuade them to leave the people alone and even to help living people in their activities-.

The sacrifice consists of some animal freshly killed on hunting or slaughtered for this purpose, the blood and meat of which are given to the spirits-ancestors. Amongst the Reindeer Tungus the animal is reindeer, while amongst the groups which have no reindeer, the place may be taken by the animals hunted, preferentially roe-deer; and amongst those living in contact with other groups, by sheep bought, e.g. from the Mongols, (Buriats), by pigs amongst the groups living in contact with the swine breeders, as, for instance, some Tungus of Manchuria.

The animal is slaughtered according to a different method than that described in the previous sections and works. The blood, collected in a special receptacle, may be given in its fresh form or sausages may be prepared. Amongst the Tungus of Manchuria the blood is given in a special plate of canoe-like form called mongoro, also used for meat and liver, and the latter are given without being cooked at all however, the blood and meat must not be salted nor generally spiced. The meat must be boiled and never roasted.

Also placing must be made for the ancestors, as shown in Chapter XVI, which are «fed» with the sacrifice; and after the ceremony, the remains of the sacrifice are thrown in a northwestern direction. Practically the greatest part of the animal slaughtered is eaten by the people present. Here I give, as an example, two prayers recorded amongst the Tungus of Manchuria, the Birarchen of Dunankan and Malakul clans (vide SONT, Index, p. 407). The translation given is not a free translation and at the same time it is not made word by word. The prayer of this type is called bunildu, — «to the dead-people world» and «to pray» is rendered by a derivative from bunildu.


«Shadow-people, climbing

On the edges of mountain ridges,

Trotting along the rugged stony way,

Soundlessly talking along the shadowy way of ancient grandfathers',

Looking forward at the dusky way,

Droning in the nine tombs, -

There will be no lie.

Sit down with the legs under yourselves on the side places in the wigwam,

Listen, elders from the world of dead,

Carefully listen to your man from the lower world who is speaking and who has made the fat straw placing (for you).

Do you understand who is speaking?

Whatever accept from your stupid child (who is) from the place covered with wormwood (1).

Who is soiling himself in the ashes, mentally weak, stupid like wood, who understands nothing.

Take nicely the trip which is exposed, take without hostility, accept (it) (through) the fat straw placing;

Eat the blood, eat the soup, take up the liver.

I lift up the meat on the sacrificial plate (in the form of a canoe) on which I have put (meat) like a mountain and heaped it like a faggot.

Give hunting luck (both ill and good).

Anything ready being taken, your stupid children, believe (me) will be thankful.

Look for the black dog, trot along the rugged stony way,

Cover with the net-bag (2) (and)

Go ahead!

The stupid people will wonder: so much you expect from their neighbour.

You will badly meet (shoot) stupid people;

You will beat stupid people.» (3)


«I will offer sacrifice to the people from the world of dead.

Who are sitting with their legs under themselves on the side places in the wigwam (4).

In the twilight of evening

Fat placing I plaited of straw, put on the black dog led by the rein in hand.

In the evening twilight I erected a post for spirits.

Climb on all four along the dry grass covering the tent.

Sit with the leg under yourselves with the family people,

Gather together with your children.

Go back! Don't turn back again

Trot along the rugged stony way; go along the way of dead people, don't turn back.

I prayed old grandfathers, I offered sacrifice to the ancient early ancestors.»

1. Mentioning of «wormwood» as place, where the living people are found, means that they live in the places left by the previous generations; in Manchuria the old sites of settlements and even that of Tungus camps, when deserted, are often covered with wormwood.

2. Mentioning of «net-bag» is not clear. A net-bag made of thongs is an important accommodation for travelling, — the kettle is put in it. The Tungus do not their travelling without verifying whether the net-bag with implements is at the due place. However, no net-bag is now figured among the things used for performance of sacrifice, but only during the burial.

3. The meaning of last passage is that neighbours of the man who gives sacrifice may try to intrigue against him, saying that the sacrifice was insufficient.

4. «Side places» in the wigwam are reserved for ordinary guests.

In so far as I could find out, amongst the Tungus of Manchuria prayers are not of the same contents in different groups, clans, and even individuals. Among the Tungus of Transbaikalia I found no prayers of this type, and I was told that the prayers as a ritualistically established method of dealing with the spirits did not exist. In so far as I observed, this sacrifice is given by the shaman during a special performance. Essential differences exist between the Tungus and Manchu prayers. First of all, the Manchu spirits are individually distinct spirits, while amongst the Tungus they are treated en bloc which depends on the conception of ancestral spirits. Second, the Manchu prayers are deprived of vivid picture colours, while in Tungus prayers they occupy an important place in the text which depends on the general type of Manchu formalistic attitude in the matter of spirits. Third, the Tungus prayers do not include enumeration of details regarding health of clansmen and others, while the Manchu prayers are free from the request of «hunting luck». Yet in the whole ritual there are also great differences. For instance, the autumnal sacrifice amongst the Manchus is always correlated with the sacrifice to the spirit of heaven, while amongst the Tungus it is not so; the placings for spirits are entirely different, — the ribbons amongst the Manchus, and anthropomorphic placing with a dog amongst the Tungus; the sacrificial process is very short amongst the Tungus and very long amongst the Manchus; the Tungus spirits are all of night-lower road, while those of the Manchus include both evening and day roads. The above shown differences may suffice for showing that there are no essential similarities between the two complexes, except one, namely, both the Tungus and the Manchus have a complex of ancestors. Some elements found in the Birarchen complex as essential ones are not unknown amongst the Manchus, but they are not included in the complex of ancestral ceremonies. Here I have particularly in view the complex of returning Manchu spirits from the pucheye gurun («dead world») and sent back with the help of straw placings on the dog's back, commonly used amongst the Manchu when pucheye joyon (dead road) is held responsible for the troubles. This element remains common amongst the Birarchen and Manchus, but amongst the Manchus it has a different function.

There is no regular periodical sacrifice amongst the Birarchen, but they offer sacrifice as soon as there are signs of harmful activity of the spirits. However, the sacrifices are not very frequent. A Birarchen family would not offer sacrifice more than once a year, but usually less often than this. The harmful signs are, for instance, the lack of luck in hunting. In this case the Birarchen suppose that the s'irkul is proceeding ahead of the hunter and frighten the animals which run away. These may be either remote ancestors or very recently deceased clansmen. A sacrifice may be sufficient for neutralizing harmful activity of the deceased people of the clan. In one case, for instance, a man being a good hunter, could not get any animal during two months, while his associates in hunting were successful; the man made two anthropomorphic placings and a dog, and gave some roe-deer meat; after this he was very successful in hunting.

These spirits may also cause sickness which, according to the Birarchen, happens very rarely. The same method, — a sacrifice, — may help in this case, as well. The prayers used on this occasion are the same as shown above. Amongst the Kumarchen I have observed a bad case of their activity. An old man was affected by them with eczema from which he suffered for several years. Also, they destroyed two horses. He could not say which of the relatives was responsible for all these misfortunes, whether father, mother, or some of brothers. Then he decided to make a sacrifice of a young roe-deer, just killed. The bam'i was about sixty centimetres high made of rotten wood with a rat face on which with charcoal there were marked the eyes, mouth, nose, and eyebrows. The body was covered with twisted dry grass, as well as were arms and the legs with two toes feet. The bam'i with a small stick in its hand was put near a birch-tree, and a fire made near by. The mouth and hands of the bam'i were smeared with the fresh blood, the bowels of the animal were hung upon the arms. Then, boiled meat and some tobacco were put on the burning charcoal and the smoke produced thereby was directed to the placing, for the spirits would easier assimilate a sacrifice in the form of smoke. A short address in which various known relatives were mentioned was followed by singing gajamei. When this was over, the old man put his own hat on the bam'i's head and extinguished the fire [433]. It may be pointed out that the boiled meat was burnt in smoke, which is not allowed amongst the Birarchen. Nearly the same methods are used amongst the Khingan Tungus. However, there may be incidental including of locally borrowed elements. In so far as I know amongst the Reindeer Tungus of Transbaikalia and Manchuria there is no regular sacrifice to the ancestors, as it has been just described. Perhaps it is due to a recent influence of the Orthodox Church which had taken the duty of looking after the dead peoples' souls. However, in the past it was perhaps not so. In fact, the shamans are now dealing with these spirits during their performances (vide infra) and the placings for souls (spirits) of dead people are carefully looked after by the family members. It is very likely that from time to time they are «fed» as it is observed amongst the Tungus of Manchuria. Yet, the spirits known under the name of ojan are seemingly connected with the spirits produced from the souls of dead people (cf. supra).

Under the Manchu influence and in a direct imitation of the Manchus, the Tungus groups of Manchuria were on their way to introduce the Manchu complex. In my work SONT I have shown that the clan organization amongst them had also been influenced by the Manchus, so that lately there was used a new practice of keeping records of clan members in the form of a written list, the new term for «clan» — mokun — and there were regular meetings and election of the chief mokunda. Together with the introduction of these new institutions there was also introduced an animal sacrifice. Instead of ribbons and other similar placings used amongst the Manchus, the Birarchen used the list of clan members in front of which the sacrifice was exposed. The sacrifice consisted of pigs, from which it may be supposed that the Tungus considered these spirits (ancestors) as having night road and thus the Manchu complex was significantly modified and adapted to the Tungus conceptions. After the downfall of the Manchu Dynasty in China, the animal sacrifice was given up together with the Manchu clan (mokun) organization.

433. The fire was extinguished because the ancestors do not like it. Actually it was done because of the dry weather of the season when the fire may easily spread by burning dry grass and afterwards the forest.

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