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77. Clan-Spirits

The methods of influencing these spirits are:

a. their localization in the placings especially made;

b. regular sacrifices with a more or less stabilized ritual and prayers;

c. various methods for comforting spirits.

Every Tungus of Manchuria, except the Reindeer Tungus, has to deal with the clan spirits, which as shown are not particularly benevolent nor malevolent so long as they are properly managed. For being so they must have permanent placings which have already been described. The placings are taken out when the Tungus believe the spirits of being malevolent or when they want to receive from them some assistance, e.g. in going through family difficulties, in carrying on hunting, and the like.

Not every family of a clan must have placings for clan spirits. As shown they are made when the malevolent activity of the spirits is suspected, or to prevent it, so that some families may have no placings at all. The care of spirits in the form of sacrifices and prayers is usually taken by the oldest representatives of the branch of a clan, but when the placings are handed over to junior members the latter take care and responsibility of managing them. In this way functions of clan-prayer are transmitted to juniors.

The possessing of placings for clan spirits presents some troubles too, for there must be reserved a special horse — ongun — for carrying placings (cf. supra) and yet the presence of placings may be also responsible for frequent visits of the spirits. As a matter of fact, many Tungus prefer to have no placings at all, and those of them, who have placings, are always busy with the problem of managing spirits.

The rituals of sacrifice differ in clans and in spirits, as well as in spirits' roads, even as practiced by individuals, which depends on the particular cases. From time to time, usually not less than once a year, the spirits receive their sacrifice and are formally offered prayers. For this purpose special placings may be made of wood, usually of somewhat larger size, for the malu burkan and others, as it has been shown in Chapter XVI. Permanent placings are taken out from boxes or covers, hung up and the ritual arranged. However, in all cases some «food» or incense must be given, and there must be expressed in words the purpose and qualification of the sacrifice. Usually the Birarchen and Kumarchen use one of the wild animals killed in hunting, but there are no regulations as to the kind of sacrificial animal.

The malu burkan always requires fresh blood, with which the placings, purposely made, are smeared. The placings are located as has been shown (cf. supra) by pairs of males and females. For jiachi burkan placings are located in a different manner; in the middle there are put the sun, the moon and two venuses on the left eight an’akan and on the right nine an’akan. The contents of prayers depend on the immediate impulse of making sacrifice, and more or less stabilized text of prayer. As to the first, there may be sickness of clansmen, or members of the family carrying placings, lack of «hunting luck», economic depression due to various causes which remain beyond the understanding, selection and establishment of an ongun and the like.

The following specimen is a short prayer (buachin) used in the Malakul clan of Birarchen, when a new ongun is given.

«I attach a horse-messenger (for so-and-so spirit), I bring forth the colour (i.e. the horse). I fasten the bridle to the post erected for the spirit (of so-and-so colour). I was thinking to tell the spirit of the hair (i.e. the horse), to accept the hair which I have brought. I now obligingly give a messenger-horse to be accepted, of a pure colour, for riding on the long tail, for going on the mane, for sitting like birds on the ribbons attached to the horse, for being accepted, for matching the colour. Having smoked with incense, 1 sacrifice (the horse) to you (so-and-so spirit).»

Amongst the Kumarchen and Khingan Tungus the managing of clan spirits in main lines does not differ from that observed amongst the Birarchen. There are minor variations which are due to the fact that the Birarchen keep themselves busier than other groups with the clan burkan, while amongst the Kumarchen the ancestors are a more harmful group, and amongst the Khingan Tungus more attention is attracted by the spirits like Bamacha, Tudukan and others which are not clan spirits. Yet, among the Reindeer Tungus of Manchuria with the loss of the old complex and its partial substitution with that of Christianity, the clan spirits, — malu, — do not now receive any special attention. In so far as I could gather from inquiring of old people, the rites and prayer were different as compared with those of the Tungus of Manchuria The practices amongst the Reindeer Tungus of Transbaikalia are again different. The chief difference consists in the fact that the care of spirits belonging to the clan is not that of the common people, but that of the shamans. The common people when suspecting a malevolent activity of the clan spirits, especially those of ancestral type, usually make a small sacrifice without any complex rites nor prayers. The placings consisting chiefly of bada are lifted and shaken, a few words are uttered expressing the cause of the attention to them, and the blood is again and again smeared. The shaking of placings is a very typical method which I do not know amongst other groups.

Amongst the Tungus of Manchuria the spirits of the wife's clan are not, at least in some cases, of lesser importance than that of the clan. We have already seen that these spirits may be extremely harmful both for the women, who bring them to the foreign clan, and for the outsiders as well, who may be easily affected by them through the women, e.g. in the case of contact with the things ak'ipcu. In most cases eye troubles are ascribed to these spirits; yet they may mix up with other spirits and in this way produce great confusion of all relations between the spirits and men. This imposes, first of all, a very good knowledge of the spirits' character and methods of managing peculiar to the clans. The precautions taken in dealing with the women, who do not belong to the family, in many a case may be justified by the fact of common infectious diseases. Indeed, in many a case these spirits cannot be held responsible, but the attention is turned to them. In so far as psychic stability of women is concerned these spirits are of special importance for in many cases a prayer and sacrifice may bring an essential alleviation to the women suffering from an instability. As to the art of managing them, it is the husband's duty. Regularly or according to the needs he would perform sacrifices and prayers, and take some special measures, as shown in the case of the man who burned the eyes of the placing, with a hot iron which was done because these spirits were not of his own clan [444]. We have seen that the placings are made almost exclusively in the cases when there is suspicion as to the spirits' activity. Signs of activity are, for instance, sickness of the wife, and children, «nervousness» of the wife, nostalgia, irritability, or merely uneasiness. As soon as the spirits have their placing they may be satisfied with sacrifice and prayer, and the psychic condition of the woman may improve. When the sickness is over and the woman is not liable to troubles, then the placing may remain untouched for a long time. At last, they may be dismissed altogether by sending them down the river with the current. The reason why the Tungus practice this is that the presence of placings itself is not reassuring at all, the spirits are attracted by the placings and when attracted they may harm the people. So the issue of a complete dismissal of spirits is common, especially when the woman is getting old, i.e. when the occurrence of «psychic» instability, after menopause, is rarer than during the sexually active period.

In the performance of sacrifice the Tungus of Manchuria use the same placings which are handed down by the woman. Naturally since they are, during the sacrifice, smeared with blood, and are not particularly protected against dust, smoke and moisture, they become «old», i.e. dirty and covered with grease, dried blood, smoke and dust. This is especially true when the placings are transmitted from the woman to her daughter and later to the granddaughters.

Address-prayers to the najil burkan are subject to great variations. They may be confined to a short mentioning of the kind of sacrifice and name of the burkan, or may attain the dimensions of a prayer as shown in the example here given.

Here is a prayer addressed to the spirits of Chakchir clan by a man of clan Maakegir (makagir).

«I pray najil burkan. Foreign (1) people, you have come to foreigners. Cakcir people have come to the Maakagir people and I worship you as I worship God. Worshipping you, I periodically give sacrifice (and «prayers). Married couple magi, married couple moma, married couple koltongde, married couple chichul, married couple doldi. I pray all of you together. Having made a birch-bark box for spirits, I am worshipping every month. Look after (9) the side-places of yours (3). Najil burkan continue to be as usual towards one who is kneeling (and worshipping). Since you have come to the foreigners, continue to improve (everything). I knew some of your children, and living people. Me, fool and stupid one, I speak being mixed with grass and wood. Stupid like wood (branches of a tree) I ask beloved (spirits) to maintain the peace to clan, to protect from misfortune, oppose infectious maladies. Listen as I am going to ask. Continue as before. We put forward everything which is prepared. We gently approach what is prepared. So. listen, understand as I am going to ask. I am constantly asking to love (us?), to go to (4) and to remain in law. [Then the spirit has gone].»

1. Angnaki of the text is referred to the people of other clans with whom marriage is not prohibited. Cf. SONT.

2. More exactly: «do not leave to be occupied by other spirits.»

3. The side place in the wigwam is occupied by the wife and her husband.

4. Jaksor is a special place where the spirits remain. Cf. supra

Among the Reindeer Tungus of Transbaikalia and Manchuria I have found no such a complex system of managing the wife's clan spirits. As shown, the complex najil burkan is not perhaps of a purely Tungus origin, but it might be borrowed by the Birarchen from the Dahurs. In fact, the Kumarchen in reference to the same complex of spirits use another term, — kangan, — a it seems to be also true of the Reindeer Tungus of Transbaikalia who use mok'il. In so far as I know, the rites and prayers are much less complex amongst the Reindeer Tungus than amongst the Birarchen.

444. Trachoma and gonorrhea of eyes may be supposed to be of common occurrence amongst the Tungus who are in contact with other groups. Etiology of some cases of eye trouble ascribed to najil burkan cholpon («Venus») manifestations are undoubtedly of this order.

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