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83. Psychic And Mental Troubles

It is impossible definitely to say how frequent are cases of insanity amongst the Tungus. The reason is not only that no statistical observations have been carried out, but also that the number of Tungus population is very small. In fact, the Tungus groups here discussed, as shown in SONT, rarely exceed two thousands of individuals. True, the Manchus of Aigun district are more numerous, but still they are not more than some twenty thousand people. In these conditions statistical observations confined to such a limited population cannot be convincing. There is one more condition to be pointed out, namely, in the conditions of Tungus life the insane individuals are not isolated nor especially protected and thus they perish soon after loss of their ability of taking care of themselves. The destruction of such individuals occurs even probably much earlier than the evident signs of insanity make their appearance which would imply isolation of the individual affected. The life of the Tungus, threatened at every moment by the natural agents and wild animals, requires a special vigilance which may be within power of absolutely normal persons only. Accidents which may eliminate the insane individuals are frequent, but it is very risky to diagnose causes of accidents if one bases oneself on the Tungus statements. In fact, the same accident may be due (1) to the coincidence of circumstances independent on the individual; (2) to the self-suggestion, as will be shown, very common amongst the Tungus and which cannot be regarded as a condition of insanity; and (3) to a real insanity. It is very likely that in all three cases the Tungus explanation of the accident will be the same, — the interference of the spirits. However, in some cases the Tungus and Manchus distinguish three classes of accidents. In the first class the accident would be ascribed to the carelessness of the man who did not foresee the possibility of an accident; in the second class it would be ascribed to the influence of spirits and in the third class to the abnormal condition of the man. So we now approach the Tungus and Manchu ideas as to the insanity.

I have found various theories in circulation. For instance, some forms of insanity by the Manchus are ascribed to the penetration of water (after drinking) into the liver, whence a great excitability of the individual, and «shadowing» of the heart may occur.

The conception of insanity may be also understood from the «gnoseological» theories professed by some Manchus. As shown, according to the general opinion amongst the Manchus, the Manchus gun'imb'i — «think» — with their heart (gun'in), which is a physical organ and at the same time its function is emotionally perceived as «thought», «idea», «emotion», etc. The head has nothing to do with the «mind». The cases of insanity, according to the Manchus, are more frequent amongst the intelligent but hot tempered individuals. It is explained as «shadowing of the heart», — gun'in bur'imb'i, — while normal man has a «clear heart». Occurrence of a sudden insanity preceded by a condition of excitement and «psychic instability» is explained as due to the «shadowing of the heart» (which is a quite realistic and so to say materialistic shadowing) with something, the nature of which is not clear. From this conception it is evident that the Manchus, at least some of them, have a quite realistic theory as to some cases of insanity, although the part of heart and its «shadowing» cannot be accepted as corresponding to the reality. It may be here noted that the emotional perception of «shadowing» is quite admissible and that the conception of heart as an organ of thinking process is quite positivistic for the thought in its emotional manifestation is perceived by the heart [462]. In some cases this shadowing functionally is thus connected with the liver, but the occurrence of «shadowing», in so far as I could find, may be due to other conditions as well. The Manchus admit possibility of medical treatment of these cases. This may be classified as a physiological theory of insanity. This theory does not include all possible cases of insanity. A group of cases is explained by the theory which postulates the soul to be a complex of three balanced elements (vide supra 43. Human Soul et seq.).

Insanity may occur in case a spirit (xutu, vide supra 45. Groups of Spirits) introduces itself in the absence of one of components of the soul (fojengo). The treatment is very difficult because the shaman must call out the spirit, send it off, and to call back the soul.

However, the spirits may use the human body as «placing» and introduce themselves even in the presence of all components of the soul. So the individual would be «possessed» by these spirits. This is a very common occurrence: when the individual was sick, the spirits were promised to have a special shrine (m'ao), and the promise was not fulfilled. Since the Manchus widely practice cheating of spirits, as the spirits do with the Manchus, these occurrences are common. The spirit, usually one of fuch'k'i or mafa, enters the body which begins to tremble and scream. Then the spirit through the mouth of the individual expresses its desire of having a special, and promised, shrine. The treatment is not difficult, — to build up the shrine [463].

Amongst the Tungus I have recorded no theories regarding insanity, except that of the spirits which produce trouble. Again the basis of this theory is the idea of the triple structure of the soul and possibility of using human body as «placing» by the spirits.

The violent insane people in Bir. and Kum. are called xodu ~kodu; [cf. Dahur (Poppe) xodo», — «a fool» (? S. Sh.)] and geren, corresponding to gara (Ner) which are equivalent to xodu ~kodu [also gani (Nerc. Barg.) [cf. Buriat Podg.) gani, — ibid; gan (Dahur, Poppe), — «mad», gani (Mong. Kow.) «etre en fureur, s'emporter», etc.]. However, in Bir. we have a verb «to become insane» — geren, which, in spite of similarity with the above be a metathesic form of the Mongol ganirana; and in Mank. koira, a loan-word from the Buriat k’eira. These terms are usually referred to people who are violently insane. The insanity may be explained or not. In case it is not explained by spirits, it is accepted as a matter of fact.

The Tungus also distinguish forms of insanity which may be classified as idiocy, also some forms of harmless and not violent insane behaviour. The persons so affected are called balin, belchi borrowed from the Manchu beli, belen [464], which is equivalent to olong) (Bir.) [465].

In order to complete the picture of gradations of mental conditions I want to point out that the Tungus have other terms for mentally inferior people who are not abnormal. These terms are tana (Bir.), tanay(Mank.) tanak (Ur. Castr.) [cf. tenek (Buriat, Podg. Castr.) teneg (Dahur, Poppe); teneg (Mong. Kow.)] commonly used in the sense of «weak-minded», as opposed e.g. to «wisdom of spirits»; nantkun (Bir.) [cf. mentuxun (Manchu Writ.)] xulg'in [cf. xulx'i (Manchu Writ.) ] both of which are rarely used; modumocho (Bir.), — «stupid like wood» [cf. mocho (Manchu) — mentally dull, blunt (by birth) ]. I omit some other terms of which it is not clear whether they mean «stupid» or «abnormal» [466].

The above enumerated terms demonstrate that the Tungus possess several terms for distinction of «violent insanity», «idiocy and harmless insanity», «special condition- olong» (vide infra) and «mental inferiority». It must be pointed out that the Tungus may use a combination of these terms, as for instance, belchi kodu (Bir. Kum.) which designates a violent condition of olong). It is interesting to note that a great number of these terms used among the Northern Tungus are rather recently borrowed from powerful neighbours of the Tungus: the Mongol speaking groups and Manchus, quite analogous to the Greek-Latin terminology of a great number of European groups.

In accordance with the Tungus classification I shall now give a description of the conditions. According to the Tungus, the causes of violent insanity are not the same. It may be due to various causes symbolized in different spirits, and different forms of their activity. This has to be found out by the shaman and he may recognize whether the case is curable or hopeless. In fact the diagnosis can be wrong and there may be made several attempts at curing without any essential effect. It would be then inferred that the shaman failed to find out the actual cause, or he was not skilful in treating, or lastly that this was beyond the possibilities of the shaman. For instance, the violent insanity caused by the s'irkul, the local spirits ajelga and the like, can be cured, while that produced by a thunder stroke, and a whirl wind (these are spirits too) are usually regarded as incurable. During my travelling and living amongst the Tungus I have never observed cases of violent insanity.

The condition of balin-belchi not associated with kodu, i.e. harmless insanity, idiocy, etc. are not curable and they may be caused (according to the Birarchen) by some spirits. Some forms of kodu (violent insanity) may gradually change into that of balin. Yet, a great number of cases are considered as inborn condition. In this case the Tungus would say: the person was born in such a state. Inborn and acquired speechlessness are separated into a group called jaba (Kum. Bir.) [cf. Manchu Sp. jaba [467]; Mongol jawa Chinese jaba], imro/(Nerc.) [468]. However, the Tungus also use a general term for «idiocy», when it is an inborn condition, and they may say: «the subject is sick» when it is acquired. Speechlessness may be ascribed to the spirits' activity and to a physical defect, e.g. after a contusion. The Tungus would not use this term when speechlessness is associated with idiocy, unless the speechlessness as such is needed to be indicated.

The terms tana, nantkun, modumocho, etc. are not referred to persons psychically affected but only to those who are mentally inferior, unintelligent by birth, Yet, as we have seen, they are freely used for self-humiliation in prayers to the spirits.

I have separated the cases which are designated by the Tungus as olong. This is a condition frequently met with, — it is described below under the name of «olonism», — of which the Tungus are quite conscious. However, the Tungus designate by this term only those cases in which they see «uncontrolled imitation», while other cases of «hysteria arctica» are explained as due to the spirits' activity. When a person olong becomes violent the Tungus call the affected person kodu olong. As stated above, the Birarchen sometimes use balin-belchi, borrowed from the Manchus, instead of olong. The etymology of olong does not leave any doubt: cf. «verbs» olo (Bir.) — «to be suddenly frightened», olomb'i (Manchu Writ) — «to tremble from fear» [469]; olo(l) (Mank.) — «to jump aside» referred to a frightened horse; oh (Nerc.), — «to fall into misfortune» [470], etc. In all these translations we can see a common element, namely, «useless acts or effects produced under the influence of a sudden fear». Thence there are derivative verbs of the type of e.g. olondokon, — «to be affected by this condition olong» (Bir.). The Tungus idea of this condition is thus quite clear in the sense that the spirits are not considered responsible for it. I have been frequently told by the Tungus how the person may become olong) without any interference on the part of spirits, but this will be discussed later. However, it is different when olong) become violent, as it is, for instance, in the case of angna seven's activity.

I shall now give two examples of condition which are not considered by the Tungus as «abnormal» ones, but which would not be so regarded in an European milieu. Some other examples will be shown in the chapter dealing with the shamans.

1. A man about forty years old among the Barguzin Tungus being drunk was struck by thunder when sitting under a tree. He was ill during a certain time. Since that time he abstains from drinking wine, for, according to him, a certain connection existed between his being intoxicated and the thunder stroke. He can no more hunt. He lives on occasional work, e.g. guiding Russians, small transport business, etc. He is usually silent, avoiding to look in the speaker's eyes, his voice is unusually weak, but he is very fond of telling stories and greatly interested in shamanism. Sometimes his speech is inconsistent, as well as his stories. He was under my observation during four or five weeks every day. He is an invalid in the conditions of Tungus life. The Tungus avoid to provoke in him the condition further described as «olonism», but he is not olong, and generally is not considered as «insane», but just «a man who was struck by -thunder» and now possesses a certain queerness. In the European milieu he would be considered «abnormal», and most likely placed into an asylum.

2. Among the Nerchinsk Tungus a man over forty years old, being intoxicated with wine in the state of uncontrolled excitement killed a Russian. He was put into jail for eighteen months. Since that time he is afraid of drinking wine. He is seemingly «normal», but he does not hunt. Instead of that he has some cattle and horses on which he lives. From time to time he remains silent and absent-minded, so that he does not react on stimuli. He avoids Russians and Buriats, but he has a definite inclination to Buddhism.

* * *

The above given facts as to the Tungus conception of psycho-mental abnormalities may be summarized as follows. The Tungus and Manchus explain certain conditions as inborn ones which, as such, have nothing to do with the spirits; such are some cases of idiocy, speechlessness, feeble-mindedness etc. Another class of cases are those which are due to the «hysteria arctica» which, as will be shown, are explained by the Tungus usually as «bad habit» by which not only men, but also animals (horses) may be affected. The Manchus explain some cases of insanity as due to a physiological trouble of the heart and liver. The Manchus and Tungus explain the greatest part of serious psychomental troubles as due to the activity of spirits, and these troubles are classified and treated in accordance with the characters of the spirits and with the diagnosis. Yet, the last groups of cases may be dissected into two subgroups: namely, cases when the abnormal condition is due to the fact of an external influence of the spirits, which may take violent and harmless forms, and cases when the abnormal condition is due to the fact that spirits are using the human body as a placing, which may also produce violent and harmless forms.

It must be kept in mind that even in the cases when insanity is explained as due to the spirits, this explanation must not be taken as too much simplified, — a spirit is very often nothing but the specification of a pathological condition and some spirits do not take any concrete form except that of observed pathological manifestations. These spirits can never be approached by men, but may be influenced through other spirits.

462. «Positivistic» point of view amongst the Europeans tries to locate «thought» in special and particular sections of the brain, which is one of naive positivistic conceptions based upon various hypotheses the chief of which is abstraction of the brain. In this aspect the «positivistic» point of view is not far from that of the Manchus, who with a full right may speak of localization of the thinking process in the heart for they feel it.

463. A difficult case was reported to me by the Manchus: «There is a Chinese young girl in Shantung. She went into the kitchen garden to collect some vegetables (so-called Chinese cabbage — n'ong'in sog'i in Manchu). Then she suddenly lost her consciousness and fell on the ground. When she recovered she returned home, looking like not-human being. She sits like a Buddha, refuses food. Her mother asks her to eat, she replies:’I am endur'i» In this position she remained for six years. The people put in front «of her some sacrifices: mantou (bread), and stick incense. She «does not move, does not comb her hair, does not wash herself, but «remains clean and well combed. By sitting so, she is now covered «with dust (like Buddha). Twelve shamans shamanized, but nothing could do. They fear themselves. She speaks only once a year — on the new year day, when she asks for a m'ao for herself. The «shamans proposed to bury her, but the local authorities did not allow it. It is not certain whether this phenomenon is due to an endur'i xutu or even vochko. Therefore, the girl is not considered as insane».

464. The etymology of this word is interesting, for it points to the character of condition. Vide infra the same page.

465. I. Zaxarov translates: «stupid, tool, senseless, etc.» which is not quite correct, for it is referred to a special condition.

466. In most of the existing collections of these terms, the authors did not pay attention to the particular characters of the psychomental condition designated by various terms.

467. In Manchu Writ, another term is used; namely, xele, xelen aku which can be compared with xelegei, kelekei [xele + ugei\ of the Mongols and Buriats. The term is referred to the defect of speech only, including even minor defects. However, in Manchu Sp. this term is now superseded by jaba.

468. The etymology is not clear.

469. olomb'i seems to be incompletely translated by I. Zaxarov, the trembling is only one of external manifestations.

470. In fact this is a particular meaning of olo, which in this dialect must be wider.

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