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121. Psychological Technique

Important elements of the shamanistic performance are those psychological conditions which can be generalized under the name of EXTASY. It affects not only the shaman, but also the audience and the persons who need this condition for their treatment. Extasy is reached by means of a gradual increase of emotion through the rhythmic music, the «dancing», and the contents of the text of the shaman's songs and the self-excitement. Emotion is needed for three purposes, namely: (1) as a means of producing a sympathetic audience for the shaman, who must not be discouraged by a lack of response or a negative reaction on the part of the audience, when he is bringing himself into extasy; (2) for inspiring faith in the performance on the part of the persons who need shamanizing for their treatment; and (3) for the audience itself which likes the state of extasy produced by the performance. As to the creation of a sympathetic audience, this question will be fully discussed in the chapter dealing with the shaman. Since in the greater part of all cases of shamanizing the essential of the performance is the influence on individuals, the audience is brought into a state of extasy which also influences and prepares the respective person for the conclusive act of the shaman's suggestion. For this reason the audience must be as numerous as possible, to form a crowd. Practically this aim is achieved by various means, some of which I shall now point out.

First of all, the aims of the performance, as for instance, the treatment of a sick member of the community, the driving off of a harmful spirit, etc. are by themselves of a nature to attract and concentrate the attention of the participants in the performance. It should be noted that in small Tungus communities the relations between the members are usually very friendly, so that a misfortune affecting one of them is likely to produce among all a sentiment of sorrow and a desire to help [627]. This feeling will be still stronger, when the members of the community are bound by blood relationship through the father or mother — the clan connection. If it is a case of managing spirits, for which the shaman is often called, the members of the community are also emotionally touched by the tact of being near to a harmful spirit, or even several spirits among the Tungus and Manchus these spirits are realities, so that emotive reactions are quite easy and natural. Therefore the persons who attend a performance are not psychologically indifferent, but are emotionally prepared to be influenced. The beginning of a performance, when the shaman prepares himself for introducing a spirit, the audience at once in a state of expectation of further increase of emotion. The rhythmic music and singing and later the dancing of the shaman gradually involve every participant more and more in a collective action. When the audience begins to repeat refrains together with the assistants, only those who are detective fail to join the chorus. The tempo of action increases, the shaman with a spirit is no more an ordinary man or relative, but is a «placing» for the spirit; the spirit acts together with the audience, and this is felt by everyone of the audience. The state of many participants is now near to that of the shaman himself, and only a strong belief in that in the presence of the shaman the spirit may enter only into the shaman, detains the participants from being «possessed» in mass by the spirit. This is a very important condition of shamanizing, which, however, does not reduce the mass susceptibility to the suggestion, hallucinations and unconscious acts produced in a state of mass extasy. The shaman, both consciously and unconsciously, may maintain this state of the audience When he feels that the audience is with him and follows him, he becomes still more active, which effect is, in its turn, transmitted to the audience.

After the shamanizing, when the members of the audience recollect the various moments of the performance, their great psychophysiological emotion and the hallucinations of sight and hearing, they have a deep satisfaction, incomparatively greater than that from the emotions produced by theatrical and musical performances, literature and general artistic phenomena of the European complex, because in shamanizing the audience consists at the same time of actors and participants. This is a very important condition of shamanizing and this component of the complex is one of the reasons justifying the maintaining of shamanistic practices I shall revert to this question.

The person to be treated by shamanizing is greatly influenced when the audience begins to feel the extasy, for he or she is the object of the shamanizing in the technique of the performance, the role of the audience in preparing the sick person is great, and there is also the direct influence of the shaman on the sick person. Besides the methods equally effective on the audience and the sick person, the shaman uses a series of special methods. These are, for instance, drumming and singing at only a short distance from the patient, continuous massaging of different parts of the body, stupefaction with smoke (laedum palutrum, twigs of coniferous trees, Chinese incense, etc.), direct suggestion — an order given by the spirit who must not be disobeyed — and lastly, various forms of hypnotizing of the person who is being treated, In his or her half-asleep state, the effect or both, suggestion and hypnosis, being possible only when the sick person's will is no more active. In order to reach this state to convince the person that he or her must submit to the spirit (not to the shaman!), the shaman would use various methods, the principal of which is a demonstration of his personal power and that of his spirit during the performance.

In the descriptions of shamanistic performances met with in the ethnographical records those demonstrations are very often portrayed in a distorted form — as imposture and tricking of the audience. Such an approach (with the exception of cases when the shamans have become professionals, e.g. Chinese) is absolutely erroneous both from the point of view of the motives of the shamans and from that of technique.

As shown, the shamans, especially among the Manchus (under the Chinese influence, I suppose), use a great number of tricks for proving the presence of spirits. Such are e.g. all operations with fire. As a matter of fact an inexperienced ordinary man cannot take into his mouth burning incense, as shown above, or step on a heap of burning charcoal, etc. without hurting himself. The shamans do it, sustaining sometimes only slight injuries which do not prevent them from going ahead with the performance. These facts are interpreted as due to the power of mastered spirits, and not to the shaman personally if he succeeds in these tricks, the audience and himself believe that the spirit is actually present. Since it is so, the patient is convinced of the shaman's power in almost all performances the shamans make divinations in some form The aim is the same — to convince the audience and the sick person of the spirit's and the shaman's power. I shall now give some instance. The shamans (though not all of them) may often say what the persons present at the performance are thinking or doing in many cases this is very simple, the thoughts of persons who have been for a long time under the shaman's influence and with whom he has been since long acquainted being easily guessed by him, and when the audience is in extasy, the shamans guess may be simply explained as the result of a suggestion on his part. But there are cases which are not as simple as that. For instance, a shaman accused a young man present at the performance of having eaten a kidney of a sacrificial animal. Nobody could suspect that the shaman would know who had done it. (I think in this particular case he could not have seen it, for he had been busy with other things.) However, it may be supposed that he was able to know who of the young men present could have committed such an act and thus to formulate his accusation accordingly The shaman ordered the man to give back the kidney, which was immediately vomited into the drum. The shaman's suggestion to vomit was perfectly convincing for the audience, for no other of them could have done it.

Here is another instance. At a performance two men were men were present who did not believe in the shamans power. The shaman took a coin from one of them and continued his performance. After a while he asked one of the sceptical men to open his hand and the man, to his great surprise, discovered the coin in his hand. Naturally, he, as well as the audience, were convinced of the great power of the shaman. The technique of the trick was probably as follows: the coin was handed to the man when he was unconscious of what he was doing and could not remember the fact of his taking the coin. As I shall later show, it is questionable, whether the shaman himself was absolutely conscious of his act.

The number of facts of this class is very great in different publications on shamanism among various ethnical groups. In a great number of cases observed by myself I did not find that the shamans were conscious of tricking their audience. However, such cases do occur, as will be shown in the next chapter.

SELF-SUGGESTION. SUGGESTION AND HYPNOTISM must be considered as the fundamental methods of shamanistic technique in the performances. In fact, a real extasy of the shaman, which may influence the audience, can occur only when the shaman himself is convinced of his possessing spirits. I do not minimize the effectiveness of the shaman's art and ritualism, but alone they are not sufficient for permitting the shaman to act as he does, and he must have a certain sincerity in influencing other people. Therefore, as a rule, the performance comprises several acts of a self-suggestive character. On the other hand, the aim of the shaman, e.g. in the treatment of a person or in sending off of a spirit that affects a numerous group of people (the clan), is to make the patient and the audience believe that he can do it.

It is achieved in the only possible way, namely, by convincing the patient and the audience, by means of demonstration in a series of proofs, as shown in the preceding lines, followed by an effective suggestion. The latter can be done in form of a direct order to the spirits, or to the sick person, or to the audience; or in the form of a hint understood by the persons present at the performance, or finally, perhaps, in the form of a telepathic action. The principal condition of success is the mastering of the will of the patient and the audience by various means (the latter, as will be shown, can be supposed to be practiced by the shamans) and especially by the performance itself. Therefore, bringing the patient and the audience into the state of extasy is not the aim, but a means for making a suggestion when needed, in such a state the audience becomes susceptible in the highest degree to hallucinations. I give here some facts in addition to those which were recorded by other travellers, especially V. Seroshevskij, W. Jochelson and W. Bogoras [628].

Among all groups the great shamans are believed to possess power of flying away (physically, with their bodies), remaining suspended in the air, and walking in the air. When the audience is in a state of extasy, it may clearly hear the spirits voices, the spirits steps, etc.; it may see the spirits (some of them) and per ceive peculiar smells produced by some spirits. In reality theoretically this is a physical impossibility, it cannot be proved experimentally, nor by the evidence of travellers who, being normal will not confirm these «facts». However, there is no need of it, because even in a mass hallucination the voices of non-believers would always be outweighed by those of the believers; for such a belief is needed by the ethnical units which practice shamanism.

I have been frequently told by the Tungus that they cannot see, hear or smell many things which are perceived by the shamans and by a great number of the participants (crowd) during the performances; but often the lack of perception of these phenomena was ascribed to personal defects: «I cannot see (hear or smell), because I am not physically fit for doing it (just as with people having defective eyes, ears and noses)». Thus, the theory adopted by the Tungus, namely, that these phenomena exist, is more influential on the Tungus mind and behaviour than a direct observation of facts, and the facts are rejected with the help of another hypothesis — physical defectiveness of those who do not perceive the phenomena.

Hypnotism is also widely used. We have seen from the description of performances that the persons who are being treated are sometimes brought into the state in which they are partially disabled in certain functions, during which state suggestion is much easier for the shaman. The technical methods of producing a hypnotic state have been already indicated. Indeed, as far as I could find out, the shamans do not realize that they are using hypnotic methods, for these methods have been gradually and empirically worked out and are concealed in the complex of the performance. According to the Tungus, these methods are due to the character of the spirits. Naturally, the same is true of all forms of self-suggestion and suggestion; the shamans do not act as do European medical doctors, practitioners, who, when using these methods, are perfectly conscious of their nature and effect [629]. Generally speaking, unconscious but effective methods used by the shamans is one of the distinct characters of shamanism. In a great number of cases, from the point of view of modern medicine, they cannot be understood, because European medicine itself is an ethnographical phenomenon, in act, to treat a certain complex in terms of another complex does not always lead to the understanding of the actual functions of the former complex.

627. This is, of course, a very important condition which may be understood only with a great effort by those who are living in large communities, in which the sickness and death of members do not produce any emotion, unless the persons may be personally affected by the sickness or death. There may exist only a hypocritical attitude, or an artificially created, almost hysterical sensitiveness as to the misfortune of the «neighbour». I point it out because the Tungus attitude may be erroneously explained as one typical of «primitive society», while actually it appears as a function of density of population and of centripetal movement.

628. It should be noted that some of the facts recorded as hallucinations were actually not such. Their pseudo-positivism did not permit them to distinguish some «strange cases» of acting in extasy from cases of simple hallucination.

629. Indeed, in the modern European medical art there are methods of this order, but they are not so understood by the patients and the doctors themselves. The assumed form is that of treatment with medicines which are not effective in the curative sense and may even be physiologically harmful, but when applied may empirically prove to he effective.

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