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81. Mafarism Among The Tungus

The fate of mafarism amongst the Northern Tungus is very interesting. It has just begun its penetration and its forms are quite adapted to the Tungus complex. As amongst the Manchus, it has originated chiefly as a result of an alien influence, — in the particular case of the Birarchen, that of the Dahurs. Amongst the Birarchen, the Dahur mafas enjoy the good fame of being great masters of their art who may compete with the native shamans. From time to time they are invited by the Tungus for dealing with the cases analogous to those observed amongst the Manchus. However, since the Tungus are not in the same economic position as the Manchus, they cannot have them as frequently as the Manchus do. At the same time, some Tungus try to learn this art by imitation of the alien pattern. I have met a few Tungus Birarchen who had already mastered a part of this art. All of them knew a great number of prayers composed for neutralizing various spirits of the group dona burkan. They also knew clan prayers of different clans, generally they were better equipped for praying in their own clan and for outsiders. Yet, some of them knew details of various sacrifices to the spirits. They were sometimes called in difficult cases of sickness by the people who did not belong to their own clan, but as to remuneration for this work none was paid, but there were rewards in different forms, namely, «service for service among friends» or just by recognition of their great talent and growing personal influence. Some of these Tungus have learnt various methods of divination which they had gathered from various sources, — from the Dahurs, Chinese, Russians, -as for instance divination with omoplate, rifle, burning incense sticks coins, chopsticks, and many other methods which could be gathered locally from competent people. Some of these people already knew a great number of methods of calling spirits into special placings and expelling them afterwards; manipulations with bam'i and other methods were usually repudiated by the Tungus on the ground of their immorality and possible harm to the people. However, in so far as I know, perhaps with one exception, none of them applied methods of pure and simple deception and juggling. Still although they were familiar with the Tungus medical art, none of them could treat with Chinese medicines and «pulse». So that the specialists who existed at my time were not yet specialized and equipped with all of the mafa’s art and were what may be called «amateurs and beginners». As a psychological condition it may be pointed out that they did not believe in the shaman's power; they actually criticized the shamans and called them «backward people» as opposed to the people with a «modern trend of ideas» expressed in mafarism. Most of them were decidedly reluctant to speak seriously about the shamans and shamanism, and they pretended not to know how one can manage the spirits without the shaman's assistance. Another trait of interest is that most of them were not absolutely certain of the efficiency of mafarism alone, and they gave it more potential value than the professional mafas. i.e. they were more sincere in this matter than the real mafas. I was very persistently asked by many of them about the effectiveness of mafarism and the sincerity of Manchu mafar'i; they frequently confided in me their suspicions as to deceptions generally practiced by the mafas. On the other hand, the same people wanted to believe in mafarism and they repudiated shamanism.

For giving a concrete instance of a mafa beginner, I shall describe a Birarchen whom I knew intimately and whom I saw in different situations. This man was over thirty five years old, constitutionally rather strong, married and the father of several children. All his life he had stayed in the village (Chelu), where he had a piece of land worked by Chinese hired labour, a house of Chinese type, some cows, horses and from time to time some pigs, most of which were kept for sacrifices. He did not practice hunting, postponing under various pretexts the hunting trip in the mountains. But he was rather keen on various incidental sources of income, e.g. incidental transportation of goods and people, restoration of a Chinese woman who had run away from her husband [454], and so on. In his habits, he was rather sober, he was not addicted to drinking, gambling with cards and running after women. He distinguished himself under the Manchus and was appointed bosko (one of two amongst this group) to assist the Manchu chief of the group. Under the «republican system» he did not lose his position (a paid position) [455]. He was on friendly terms with the local Chinese shopkeepers, also incidental visitors from Dahur villages where he had several personal friends, being connected with all of these people by some business about which he avoided speaking. He spoke the Dahur language fluently, and knew some Chinese and a little Russian. As a personality, he was not like other Tungus, even from a physical point of view as well as to manners. One could not feel very sure of him and the Tungus were always complaining about him pointing out instances of his non-Tungus-behaviour, e.g. the case with the Chinese woman produced a very bad impression on all Tungus. Seemingly he was involved in a case of bad character in connexion with money belonging to other people. As to his mental power I could not say that he differed very much from other Tungus, but the trend of his ideas was quite different. While in the average case the Tungus like to face various «philosophical problems» concerning spirits, world, etc. his attention was directed to practical problems of increasing his prosperity. And at the time he was deeply interested in mafarism and largely practiced it when occasions were met with. I had some suspicion as to his direct assistance of a blind Dahur mafa who fooled the Tungus with the mafa-spirits, and various tricks. He did not believe in shamans, but did not dare to come into conflict with them because of fearing their revenge by their powerful, in his opinion, means.

Such a man was one of influential promoters of new ideas of mafarism and he was quite successful in his propaganda [456]. Since there was no Dahur mafa and he himself was already familiar with the methods of mafarism, he was often invited by his Tungus friends to interfere with the spirits' activity. He received no direct remuneration for it.

From the general characteristics of this man, who was fatally going to become a mafa, it may be seen that he was already in conflict with the Tungus complex; he was not very honest from the Tungus point of view, his stimulus in life was personal success in the sense of increase of his own wealth and weight of his social position and he was not as laborious as other members of his community.

Other candidates for mafarism amongst this group were not so definitely hostile to the Tungus complex, but all of them were slightly in conflict with it, although they did enjoy a certain esteem and they inspired a certain fear to their co-villagers.

Amongst these Tungus, as well as amongst the Kumarchen, for the specialists of this type no special term exists. They are described as people who «know prayers» (buachin saren), so that the emphasis is put on their knowledge to manage only certain spirits.

Important spirits with which these specialists are dealing are dona burkan, i.e. the spirits which remain beyond the clan competence and which at present are only incidentally mastered by the shamans; the souls of various origin, from living people, especially shamans' souls and dead people, especially those who were not buried; and various other spirits of little importance.

Amongst the spirits, the first place is occupied by ain'i burkan (vide supra) which is now held responsible for a great number of diseases and is connected with the conditions which are new for the Tungus, of living in villages. After finding out which manifestation of this spirit causes the trouble special steps for neutralizing the spirit are made. The first step is always the same, — making of three pictures (they may be bought) corresponding to three groups of manifestations and «roads,» and putting in front of them of Chinese stick incense, — three sticks in front of every picture. If after three days there is no change in the condition of the sick person, a sacrifice of a cock must be given according to a complex ritual. For some manifestations it may be a boiled cock, collected fresh blood; a great number of sticks of incense which are put in a southeastern direction from the suffering person. Some others require different sacrifices shown in the prayers below. Wooden placings are made on this occasion: there may be three combinations according to the roads and there may be special placings for particular manifestations of the spirit. The performer sings a prayer, usually consisting of two parts, namely, invitation to the spirit to come into the placings and invitation to accept the sacrifice accompanied by a formal ritual pointing to the sacrifice. The last part is concluded by an invitation to leave the person affected and to go back to a «nice place.»

I. PRAYER (buachin) TO THE SPIRIT AI, manifestation or'ebor'i which consists of nine girls and nine boys (1). Anthropomorphic placings are made of wood.

A. Invitation.

«Ai spirit, I pray southwards, I kneel and bow down to you. Having lit pure incense, I pray to the lower (2) (manifestations): listen to this. Having erected a post I worshipped good (3) spirit and the pure spirit's place in South. Listen to this: me, poor one, I insistently pray. Listen to me, speaking poor man. I insistently pray: don't dress your ears neglectfully: don't listen to gossips (4); listen just as (I pray). Love us as beloved children. Children have no money (5), no luck: add money and luck. Listen to what I sing, me, stupid like wood, stupid as this: raise up (sick people) from the bed, raise up the head from the pillow. Take back the vapour (6); carry on your back; clean as you clean hemp (7); help to get better your stupid children».

B. Sacrifice is given.

Meeting for a blood sacrifice is fixed. Smear yourself with blood; take the blood sausages; eat soup, taste lungs take kidneys; taste liver. Protect against the vapour (6). The long sacrificial vessel (? (8)), the round sacrificial vessel put in a row, I serve sacrifice which consists of internal organs. I have erected a post for sacrifice and a platform. I leave the sacrificial blood to flow out. Listen: accept as it is. Listen in the heights (9). Go to joso place, go to b'irg'e place.» (10)

II. PRAYER (buachin) TO THE SPIRIT AI, manifestation tulilangi (bongi, torg'etan, tor'eltan (11)).

I pray the spirit Ai. I attract attention without any news; I talk nonsense; I pray without any business (12). Still listen, Ai spirit. I have erected a post for talking nonsense. Such as I am, I am asking for luck. Ai spirit comes out. Such as I am, I see you exactly as you are. A meeting is fixed to meet this (sacrifice). Having made a messenger I have asked, so that listen (to me). Give what I am requesting. Having dressed up your ears be indulgent to one who is bowing. Raise up from pillow; raise up from the sleeping rug, raise up from the bed. To this I have made (you) to listen. Come surely, without failure, to meet. What living people do know? Direct yourself, govern yourself. Go to the place b'irg'e «fly to the heights.»

1. Details concerning manifestations of this complex spirit vide supra. Here I use term Ai because it is so found in the text. However, the Tungus usually call this spirit Ain'i.

2. In the text the term «manifestations» is omitted. «Lower» is understood as «lower manifestation», i.e. manifestation of low roads.

3. «Good spirit» is a flattery.

4. Mentioning of «gossips» is rather unusual in the Tungus complex. Cf. supra Ch. XVI, Section 73, the second prayer, footnote.

5. Mentioning of «money» is an innovation, indeed.

6. «Vapour» is «immaterial substance» of diseases.

7. This comparison with «hemp» is, of course, of a non-Northern Tungus origin.

8. A word following «vessel» could not be understood.

9. «Heights» in which the spirits remain.

10. Joso, etc. and b'irg'e are those places where spirits live.

11. Details concerning this group of manifestation, vide supra.

12. All this passage is a self-humiliation.

* * *

Here I give a case of specialists' intervention in absence of shaman. A small boy of five or six years old fell sick: he had headache, vomiting and apparently, high fever. The father hesitated and undecided whether to use some medicines or not. An old man — specialist in this matter and husband of the old blind female shaman — proposed to find out the cause of sickness and treat it. First, he carried out divination with the rifle method; he then declared the trouble was produced by the greatest clan seven (vide supra) which was dissatisfied at being without a master (at that time the clan dunankan had no shaman!) and was going from one clansman to another clansman producing sickness of the children. Therefore the spirits must have a sacrifice which should consist of a pig and a goose, given to the night road manifestations and midday road manifestations respectively. During three days prior to the sacrifice, the family must pray to the spirit. Then there were made two dragons of wood and two bam’i of straw for night road and nine an'akan and nine birds of wood for midday road. All of them were put together about one hundred metres South-West from the house, were prayed over and given sacrifice. The child recovered, and everybody was convinced that the old man was right in his diagnosis.

This case is interesting for it shows how the specialists may take functions of shamans in their absence, and how the shamanistic methods are incorporated into a new competing complex.

One of the common and important operations practiced by these specialists is that with bam'i- Bam'i is a placing made of straw or of birch-bark and it may be used for different kinds of spirits and souls. The operations described below can be carried out by anyone who believes n the effectiveness of the proceedings, and who knows the ritual. The essential of this operation consists in preparing a bam’i, calling into it the spirit or soul and shooting it with a rifle. That the spirit is really placed in the bam’i is confirmed, for instance, by the fact (observed amongst the Goldi) that bam'i is moving when it is put into the paper lantern lighted with the stick-incense, for the shadow made by bam'i on the paper screen is moving [457]. When the bam'i begins to move then it may be shot. Another confirmation is found in observation of facts; namely, after shooting bam'i the people are often relieved of their trouble, and if it were a soul of living people, the latter may have injuries, exactly in the places as the bam’i was damaged by the shot (details vide supra). One of the cases is that the hunter cannot hit the animals with his rifle, — it becomes too heavy. Then the specialist may arrange the following operation: the rifle is kept in hand and man must try to lift it up with one hand In the meantime there are recited the names of all spirits one by one, — all s'irkul, all burkan, all seven. When one arrives at the name of the spirit making rifle heavy, the latter suddenly becomes light and it can be easily lifted up by one hand. In this way the spirit is discovered. Indeed, the psychological mechanism of this operation is evident. Then bam'i and a dog are made of straw (dry grass). The man who promises a good sacrifice prays the spirit to come in. In the meantime some shooting powder is put under the bam'i and when the spirit is supposed to have entered the placing the man sets fire to the powder and bam'i is exploded. In the case the trouble-maker is a shaman, they put bam'i under a heavy stone, and the shaman would be sick until the bam'i is rotten. However, the shaman may be relieved of his sickness, if the man who performs the operation with bam’i gives sacrifice to the shaman's seven. As a matter of fact there are hundreds of methods for manipulation with bam'i, — personal imagination and invention play very important part in the creation of new forms [458]. Pictures and photographs, may be also used instead of bam'i. These are still better for the soul may easily recognize its placing.

However, in some eases the Tungus recognize that none of the above described methods may be effective, so they abstain from calling man buachin saren specialist who knows prayers -and they make no bam’i. These are chiefly cases of hopeless diseases and situations in which the existing hypotheses of spirits are not needed. For instance, if a man should cut his hand sinews, he would know that nobody can help him; if the rifle is worn out, they would not use any «magics», for it is clear, — the rifle is too old; if a disease is too far advanced, the specialists may refuse to attend, even if the disease were caused by a spirit [459].

I shall now leave the methods of managing, neutralizing and fighting spirits for the facts here brought forth may suffice as illustration of a general description of conditions which called to existence the mafarism and its Tungus modification and which underlie the propagation of new methods and together with them, alien influence. I should consider it useless furthermore to overload the present chapter with more facts which will be a simple repetition of the facts here already presented.

454. The husband of this woman asked the Tungus to find his wife for which a remuneration was to be given. No one wanted to accept this proposition which according to the Tungus code would he regarded as shameful, but the person in question accepted it.

455. Description of conditions of this administrative system, vide SONT pp. 112-115.

456. One of reasons in favour of mafarism was that the shamanism began at that time to be persecuted by the Chinese new republican authorities which, however, did not oppose mafarism.

457. Principle of Chinese «moving shadows».

458. I have made several suggestions to the Tungus as to the new methods of dealing with bam'i, e.g. to influence them with strong chemicals, such as sulphuric acid, and for attracting souls by using combination of photographic pictures, phonographic records, and written down words pronounced by the person whose soul ought to be called. They were recognized by the Birarchen as probably quite effective and worthy of experiments. Here it may he pointed out that my second suggestion resulted from the objection made to me by a Nerchinsk Tungus when I was carrying amongst them my investigations. In prevision of this obstacle I had to clear up my way by explaining my real intentions which were not to use «voice», «images» and other records against the people. When the Tungus had become more familiar with me and found that I was not «bad hearted» man they had no fear of giving themselves up to me.

459. A child nine years old was sick because of ain’i burkan and it was treated as usual. When the child became very weak the parents called a shaman, who although he carried out his work did not succeed. Then a specialist was called, but he refused to go and explained to me that it was too late, — »here even a shaman cannot help». On this occasion I had enumeration of cases which he would not attend.

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