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126. Various Mechanism Maintaining Shamanism

The complex function of shamanism, as a self-regulating mechanism of the psychomental equilibrium, is not realized by the Manchus and Tungus. Through a long process of adaptation the complex has been formed without its principal function being understood.

Since it is perceived by the ethnical groups from the performances, we may now ask question as to the conditions, which might assure the existence of shamanism as a complex, in so far as they depend on the psychology of groups. I now leave aside the problem of the conditions which influence the existence of shamanism in a contrary sense, to which question I shall revert in the conclusive sections of the present part.

There are four conditions maintaining the existence of shamanism: (1) the practical effects upon the patient and clansmen, in so far as psychic instability is cured; (2) the social side of shamanism; (3) the «emotional» and particularly the aesthetic side of the performance; and (4) the learning of new things.

The curative power of shamanism has already been discussed, so I need not go into details. A great number of observations made by the Manchus and Tungus is quite convincing — the interference of the shamans is effective, both in cases of individual troubles and in those of mass troubles. When the shamans fail to cure, this is not always ascribed to the deficiency of shamanism and the shamans, but to special spirits, which cannot be fought by the shamans. So the positive effects on shamanism and the practical utility of the performances is the first, and perhaps the most important, condition for the preservation of shamanism.

There is also a social side in shamanism which becomes a condition for its preservation. In fact, the performances present excellent occasions for gatherings of clansmen and other people. I have shown that the Tungus, as well as the Manchus, are sociable in their habits — they like to meet and to eat in groups. However, there is an important difference between the clan interest in the performances and that of outsiders. We have seen that psychic instability may easily occur among the clansmen, many of whom may be affected. The clan must decide either to influence the shaman, in case the shaman is able to master the new spirits, or subdue the clan spirits, should these become obedient. A performance carried out on behalf of the whole clan naturally becomes a social act which requires the assistance and presence, when possible, of all members of the clan. Thus, a performance of this kind would be one of the important factors for the maintaining of the unity of the clan, and since the groups here described are sociable, they would appreciate performances as a good way to satisfy their social feelings and to maintain the unity of the clan, for as we have seen, a great number of spirits are regarded as clan spirits. A shaman who can guess his clansmen s desire to have a gathering and who would propose it in due time would be much more appreciated, than a shaman who needs guiding on the part of the clan. An able shaman, i.e. one who can grasp the frame of mind of his clansmen, may become a very influential member and may be even loved by his clansmen, as a center of the social life of the clan.

However, even when the shaman does not deal with the clan spirits in the gatherings for performance, outsiders and clansmen have a good occasion for satisfying their feeling of sociability. As we have seen from the description of performances, every individual becomes an actor, a participant, in this collective act; during the performance, he or she will have and will preserve afterwards the feeling that he or she is a member of a group of similar people who may act in mass, who may receive new moral support in their struggle for life and may consider other participants of the performance as people who may come to their help as members of the same community. Practically, the Tungus live does not offer many occasions for such gatherings — the wedding ceremonies, which are relatively rare, owing to the scantiness of the population of the Tungus groups, or which are still rarer — the commercial gatherings for the annual fairs, so that shamanizing is perhaps the only social performance which is rather frequent. When there is a gathering, almost every one goes to the performance, as to the weddings and yearly fairs. Indeed, the performances being liked as a pretext for social gatherings, shamanism is, in general, socially approved.

From the description of performances we have be seen that the audience is so affected in its emotions that a real mass-extasy may easily occur. Apparently this emotional condition leaves a certain pleasant remembrance; those who had this experience usually want to repeat it again and again. From the emotional point of view the feeling of nearness of the spirits, although mastered and artfully managed by the shaman, also produces an effect of great attractiveness on the participants. Indeed, this emotion is stronger than that produced by a simple theatrical performance or the reading of novels, for the spirits, in the eyes of participants, are realities, and sometimes very dangerous realities. Fearlessness of the shaman who is handling the spirits also produces its emotional effect. It is evident that the shamans who can produce such effects are considered as good shamans and the shamanism, as the source of such emotions, is accepted, approved and supported.

The aesthetic emotions produced by the shamanistic performances are also great. From the description of the technique of performances we have seen that they contain very varied music, as well as some «dancing». The musical side especially has reached a great development in the combination of various sources of sounds, including singing by the shaman and the chorus, with various tempos, rhythms, and even rich tunes. Sometimes, the performance sounds like an orchestral symphony of great complexity. Indeed, this music responds to the musical understanding of the Tungus, and it seems to be attractive only to those who have a certain ability of musical perception. The shamanistic performances include no arias, ariosos, or cavatinas of Italian complex; they include no romance and other forms, of which the European musical complexes (I mean here the musical complex for the general public!) consist. In fact, when the tunes and forms are too different, the music cannot produce an aesthetic effect, it cannot be understood [639]. We cannot now say how the music is understood when perceived. If it is understood, it is appreciated, if it is not understood, it is not appreciated and is rejected under any handy pretext. How such an understanding may be reached is a different question, but for a great number of people understanding of music, especially of alien music, is out of question [640]. The Tungus, when listening to shamanistic music, are accustomed to the musical instruments used, which they understand, together with their own tunes, all of which, during the performance, produce in them the greatest emotional tension. The emotion here is still greater than that of simple listeners, for many of those present are not only audience but also performers. Only those who have themselves tried to produce collective music can understand how the emotion of a listener differs from that of a performer. The Tungus, at least most of them, know it, and they like to be performers. In a lesser degree the same can be stated in reference to the «dancing» performed by the shamans and the participant (rarely), the «dancing» being much poorer than the music, owing to technical difficulties. However, the rhythm or the movements, the change of the steps, etc. also produce a certain effect.

All Tungus greatly appreciate good artists-shamans. Those of them who possess good voices may be asked to sing, even without shamanizing, e.g. at a wedding ceremony among the Barguzin Tungus. A good artist-shaman would be more successful in reaching the aim of the performance, and he would be considered greater than a shaman whose aestheticism is inferior. Indeed, in a great number of cases the Tungus are not conscious of the fact, that aestheticism which produces emotions makes the audience and the patient more susceptible to the shaman's suggestion. However, apart from the practical effects of aesthetic emotion, the latter is attractive for the participants. The Tungus and Manchus who appreciate music do not miss shamanistic performances. The attractiveness of performances is still greater when the Tungus and Manchus have their part in the performance. Such persons may be found among all groups. I have observed some fervent shamanists, both males and females, who used to participate in all performances, all seemingly chiefly for aesthetic reasons. Thus the shamanistic performances are the only public and collective manifestations of musical and choreographic aestheticism, e.g. among the Manchus who have given up singing and dancing in a ring, still practised among some Tungus. This is the third important condition of maintaining shamanism as a complex.

The fourth reason for maintaining shamanism is that the audience receives very important information about the spirits' nature and activity, as well as about the methods by which the spirits may be fought. The performances, especially when there is a treatment of a difficult case, provide a rich source of new facts as to the phenomena or psychic order. Thus, the performances satisfy a natural inclination toward inquisitiveness, which, as I have shown, (vide SONT, Chapter VIII) is one of the essential traits of the Tungus character. The number of persons who may be interested in performances is still increased by those who, without being interested in learning and observing, are attracted as all those who may be called homines avidi rerum novarum, a mischievous modification of «gossipers».

It can be thus seen that different individual psychomental complexes are satisfied with the existence of shamanism: persons with utilitarian inclinations, in so far as the performance gives an alleviation in the case of psychomental disequilibrium; persons with strong feelings of sociability, in so far as performances cement the clans and other aggregations; persons with strong aesthetic feelings, in so far as the performances give them opportunity of experiencing these emotions; lastly, persons with strong inclination to inquisitiveness, in so far as every performance may give new facts. As a matter of fact, only a very small group of individuals are indifferent or give negative reactions on the performances. As will be shown, such persons are found, but their influence could never be strong among the Tungus and even among the Manchus, before an intensive process of ethnical disintegration had begun to shake the whole cultural complex of the Tungus groups.

Perhaps a more detailed analysis of shamanism may disclose some other conditions, which act as a mechanism for the maintenance of shamanism. But what has been discussed in this section is sufficient for showing that there are special conditions which are in a greater or smaller degree responsible for the maintenance of a continuous practice of shamanism. I regard them as a mechanism maintaining shamanism, and thus as a component of shamanism. They cannot be abstracted. These conditions were gradually created and have modified shamanism to make of it what it is. If the comparison may be allowed, these conditions may be compared to the complex of secondary phenomena preceding the act of fusion of the male and female cells for giving life to a new human being. The secondary phenomena, such as the feeling of «love», the external forms of courtship, the social institution of marriage, the wedding ceremony, etc. are mechanism of the complex of self-reproduction in definite conditions of human groups which possess certain forms of cultural and physical adaptation. Secondary elements cannot be abstracted, if we treat the problem within the human group. From the point of view of the selective process and adaptation of the Tungus groups shamanism is «acting» as a self-regulating function of the psychomental complex. This final function might remain unnoticed, and would still be possible, for there are secondary conditions which make it attractive for various reasons. These secondary conditions are responsible for maintaining the existence of shamanism, and at the same time they also constitute the complex function of shamanism. However, if there was no adaptive outcome from shamanism, it could not be maintained, for the simple reason that in the long run either a system of elements would be elaborated which would annihilate shamanism, or the ethnical units would be weakened and assimilated, and thus there would be no more bearers of this complex. However, before the last strong aggression of the Chinese and Russians, shamanism was evidently flourishing among the groups here discussed, and, as will be shown, the present disintegration of the Tungus (and Manchu) groups is conditioned by the interethnical pressure and evidently not by a lack of internal functional adaptation.

639. Cf. e.g. in The Oxford History of Music it is said that Moussorgsky's «style impresses the Western ear as barbarously ugly» (p. 321, Vol. VI, 1905). The fate of composers, such as von Beethoven, who dared introduce innovations and for long time us despised, till he was «understood», is the most interesting one from the ethnographical point of view.

640. The «ear» of a foreigner, before being accustomed to the Tungus music, cannot perceive more than a part of it, a few melodies of the whole complex. Cf. supra. There is even no technical possibility of recording. I think that only great composers, perfect analysts and skillful instrumentators could master this music.

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