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79. Specialists

In the previous chapters I have already — mentioned, besides the p'oyun saman, the existence of specialists who may and sometimes must deal with some cases of spirits' activity and generally with the defense of men against sickness, death and various forms of misfortune affecting individual life and that of groups. In these groups I do not now include the shamans for the following considerations. First of all, the shamanism forms a complex by itself which must be treated separately; second, other forms of dealing with the spirits hive been partly created under the influence of a reaction against the shamanism for which, as will be shown, there are very serious reasons; third, other forms are not so elaborate as the shamanism, and they are subject to great variations, in the degree of specialization and differentiation among different ethnical groups. I do not now need to bring evidence for supporting my approach to shamanism as a special complex, — this can be seen from the description of special shamanistic spirits and a brief characterization of methods to deal with these spirits. But conditions which are responsible for a negative reaction on the shamanism, and consequently, for creation of a new form and new methods for dealing with the spirits ought to be pointed out.

It is believed that the shamans in dealing with the spirits sometimes become instruments of the spirits and as instruments they may be used against the people by the malevolent spirits. Yet, as will be shown, the shamans fight between themselves causing by this a great harm to the people, and if shamans have bad personal character, they may be very dangerous for the people, even of the same clan or group. Owing to these conditions, many Tungus and Manchus are inclined to avoid shamans' intervention and generally prefer to keep themselves away from the shamans. Since such a negative reaction on shamanism has appeared amongst the groups, especially Manchus and Tungus of Manchuria, new hypotheses have also made their appearance. These hypotheses are of two orders, namely, (1) there are spirits which cannot be mastered by the shamans and who are responsible for various troubles which had been formerly dealt by the shamans; and (2) there are other methods of neutralizing spirits and even of turning them to be benevolent towards the individuals and groups. As soon as these two hypotheses had been recognized, it was not difficult to elaborate a new system of spirits and methods in compensation of a great decrease of shamans' protective activity. Indeed, it ought to be pointed out that an increase of spirits' activity, even with a maintaining of the former limits of shamans' activity, might also happen but, as a matter of observation confirmed by the Tungus, it may be said that the shamanism has somewhat decreased. To this question I shall return again, but what is now stated will suffice for demonstration of the conditions under which the introduction of new forms was possible. In connection with this it will be timely to point out that the interethnical pressure in the form of cultural borrowings regarding spirits did act along the same line, In fact the introduction of Christianity and Buddhism, as well as other systems, greatly contributed to an appearance of alien cultural complexes as whole.

Indeed, even in the earlier period there were people who might deal with the spirits or who might influence them, at least people who might predict the future, decipher dreams, and treat certain diseases, but in so far as facts are available, in the Tungus soil there were created no specialists and in the Tungus conditions no such profession could be created, which is quite evident from the description of the Tungus social organization and history of Tungus groups. It was different among the ancestors of the Manchus, as for instance Nuichen, who were under a strong Chinese influence and whose social organization might permit having a great variety of professional groups. The same is true of their neighbours, the Dahurs who were connected with the political organization known as Great Liao Dynasty, and at present they have and earlier they used to have, a social and economic organization which permitted some specialization. In fact, ethnically these are the sources of influence, over the Tungus groups here treated, which are responsible for appearance of some new forms of specialization among the Northern Tungus.

After these remarks I shall proceed to a description of kinds of specialists found among the Northern Tungus groups and Manchus.

Existence of wizards and medicine men, in the conditions of Tungus life was possible but these specialists were not differentiated into a professional group. Among all Tungus groups it is now recognized that there are persons endowed with a special ability to know the future, to interpret strange dreams etc. They are called ichan (RTM.) derived from the stem ich, — «to see», — met with in other dialects in a sense close to this. Such persons are consulted as competent people whose opinion may be useful. In their deciphering of dreams they use their own experience and that of previous generations. Actually they are keepers of the common tradition. As shown, in some cases, their interpretation of dreams may correspond to the future expectations (vide supra). On the other hand, keepers of tradition regarding medical art applied at least to surgical cases and simple cases of therapeutic treatment with medicines, — mineral and non-mineral, — always existed. Such people are not styled by any special term except «wise», «old», etc. in the sense of personal wisdom and experience. They are met with among all groups and they are not considered a group apart. But in so far as simple dealing with the spirits is concerned, as we have seen, it required no creation nor differentiation of a special group of professional or semi-professional priests with exception of the Manchus, among whom this group has made its appearance probably at a late time as may be seen from the recent source of borrowing, — the Ritualism of the Imperial Court in Peking.

Among the Tungus of Manchuria, especially the Birarchen, there are specialists [449] who pray to the spirits and carry out complex rites of sacrifice to various spirits of the group burkan, particularly dona burkan. The dialects of these groups have no special term for these specialists. When the Tungus are asked what kind of people are these specialists, they answer: mafa adali, i.e. «like mafa» of the Dahurs described below. In fact, the Birarchen and Kumarchen frequently observed Dahur performers-mafa, whose art of praying and giving ritual sacrifice did impress these Tungus by the novelty of methods, their complexity and in some cases their evident effectiveness. It was quite natural on the part of the Tungus to have observed them, to have learnt the methods which, shall I add, are rather simple, and to have applied them in analogous cases. It was not only natural, but it was advisable to have used the Dahur methods for the spirits were dona, and particularly of Dahur origin. However, the Tungus were not blindly imitating the Dahurs, — they composed their own prayers in Tungus and adapted the ritual to their own complex. Both prayers and ritual as compared with the Dahur pattern, are now somewhat simplified. The simplification has especially affected that aspect of mafa performance in which the Dahurs use powers unknown to the Tungus. Observation of the Dahurs has been supported by that of the Manchu practice of axa mafa methods and of Chinese specialists occasionally met with in the Tungus territory. Then in Tungus eyes these methods have received especial importance. However, the new practice has called into life a new group of people who might thus enjoy a special position amongst their own people, quite honorable and equaling that of the former «wise elders» and that of foreign, — Dahur, Manchu and Chinese, - specialists. It may be here noted that in spite of a special position the Tungus specialists receive no reward, nor remuneration for their trouble in carrying out complex rites and they do it for the pleasure of serving the people and for the honour bestowed upon them by their co-villagers in the form of some extra drink, invitations to eat together, etc. But drink and food motives are not essential. The specialists of the foreign groups are in a different position, for their profession may support them in their simple mode of life making them quite free of troubles and hard work and at the same time giving them sufficient security in the sense of permanent source of income.

449. I have not seen them amongst the Khingan Tungus, but I have been told that these specialists exist amongst the Kumarchen and Mergen groups.

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