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87. Self-Introduction Of Spirits

Self-introduction of spirits into the persons awake or asleep is a common phenomenon among the Tungus. Indeed, in both cases the self-introduction of spirits is based upon the firm conviction of the Tungus that (1) the spirits exist; (2) the spirit may enter the body; (3) the spirit may act when introduced. If this complex prerequisite does not exist no introduction of spirit is possible. It is clear that the theory of spirits, as has been shown, is not created by insane persons, but is discovered after a minute observation of facts, verified and experimentally proved. It may be erroneous from our point of view, but it is perfectly logical and sound, if the fundamental postulate is admitted. With the further deepening of the same idea and its adaptation to any individual situation, it may easily become not only an explanation of the phenomena of psychic life, but also a justification of certain psychic conditions. Since the theory is adopted, since it may justify individual behaviour, it may assume a new function, i.e. the introducing of certain psychic conditions which may be pleasant to those who have them.

The maintaining of internal functional tension needed for the adaptation to the changing milieu, — either varying primary milieu or varying secondary milieu, — is not easy and it requires a permanent effort of the will power. When the individual loses his ability of self-control this must be justified by something, for the social milieu accepts no breaking, without any reason, of the «functioning order». The theory of spirits gives both an explanation of this condition and its justification: such a breaking of acting order is possible, for there are spirits and it occurs because the spirits want it. Such an explanation and justification are accepted by the society, and the self-introduction of spirits comes into the ethnographical complex as one of its important components. Like any other complex, it is gradually created in the ethnical unit. The hysterical person knows from the observation of similar cases and hearsay that the person must perform certain acts. These acts are, for instance, singing of certain tunes (rhythmed), uttering of certain words (in a known language), sitting on the ground or bed, covering of the face with one's own hair, etc. In such a state the person may completely relax, weep and loudly express himself (within a certain limit), either directly or as porte parole of the spirit. As a matter of fact the spirits usually express things which cannot be expressed before the seniors, or before the children, and the most secret desires may be expressed without any personal consequence, e.g. a young person holding a spirit may require personal attention to herself or himself in the form of a sacrifice, prayer, etc.; he or she may express sexual desire with indication of the person desired, which can be done directly or in symbols, without being blamed for it etc. After such a relaxation calmness and satisfaction are restored for a while. Yet, physically it is not tiresome, — no physical effort being made nor is any harm done to the organism.

It should be noted that such a condition usually occurs at the hours of darkness when the self-concentration is easier and the external world does not disturb the actor. This is one of reasons why the subjects in day light usually close eyes or cover them with dishevelled hair. However, they are usually very attentive to what is going on around them and occasionally they may slightly open an eye to see the effect of their behaviour. Such a fact is not likely to occur, when the person is alone, or when there is nobody to observe, e.g. only small children or only very old people and no neighbours are near by. Still less is the chance of this occurrence during travelling or in any other responsible and difficult situation. However, it may occur even in these conditions, but other favourable conditions must be present, such as a gathering of people, or as a form of conscious or unconscious protest against the hardship caused by other persons. In all this situation the spirits will be held responsible by the person affected and by the witnesses.

Unfavourable conditions for such an occurrence are serious illness, advanced pregnancy, various other conditions that keep the mind busy with other worries, or some other distractions, e.g. social gatherings, etc. which require particular attention.

These comparatively simple forms of relaxation from self-control, and from that of the society, may attain great complexity. For instance, the most common form is «running away into the forest». The person may run comparatively far and re-main in a «wild state», sitting among rocks. It happens commonly that they climb up a tree, or thrust themselves between the near-standing trees or branches of a tree, assuring themselves and other people that they cannot liberate themselves, but they often return home without the help but somewhat ashamed. If they do not return they are discovered (as has been shown, a Tungus may easily be found by his foot prints and other signs!), which sometimes takes several days in unfavourable conditions of weather, e.g. running away before a heavy rain, or a snow-fall. The «running away» usually occurs during the seasons when there is no great danger for the person to remain even several days without food and fire. I have not heard of very dangerous occurrences, although they were admitted as possible by the Tungus. Indeed, the «bringing home» consists in admonition, promise to fulfil the request, etc. finally by taking home by force. Such occurrences are more common with females than with males. In very rare cases the people may be left to their fate.

The «running away» and «bringing home» may assume still more complex forms when several elements are combined, but this does not change the essential character of the condition. It may also be pointed out that the «arch» is not usually observed, as well as other typical features of classical hysteria.

The most interesting point is that the forms are not very varied. I have mentioned (1) hiding from light; (2) crying and singing; (3) sitting on the ground or bed; (4) running away; (6) hiding in rocks; (6) climbing on trees; (7) thrusting oneself between the trees and branches. These forms are repeated by hundreds of people affected in the same sequence of performances. Indeed, there are minor individual variations, e.g. if there are no trees, no rocks to be hidden in, if the person is too fat for climbing up, etc. some substitutes for completing the situation may be introduced [491]. These methods are repeated from generation to generation, transmitted by tradition, and there can be little change in the performance, for the person might be suspected of not being affected by such and such a spirit.

The question is this: are the persons fully conscious or not of what they do? I think this question can be answered by saying in a sense that they are conscious but they do not want to be so, and after and before the performance they do not act «logically», i.e. going from fact to fact, making slow inferences, acting step by step, etc., but they act quasi-unconsciously. In this condition, if they wish, they can forget everything, but their forgetful-ness is not «sincere» for the next time they may introduce corrections into the performance if the latter was not «correct», and they do remember, when necessary, all details, even in a «normal» state.

Another aspect of the same practice is the social side. Society does not disapprove the persons affected, but special attention is paid to them, for such persons are remarkable, they are marked by a trait of distinction. When the person is affected, members of the community are interested in the person, speak about the person, ask for information, etc. In this case the situation is still more favourable for maintenance of this practice than in the case of olonism, — the person is connected with the spirits, and is not only a «performer». Yet, these persons may become important members of the community, as persons through whom spirits may speak; at last, as will be shown, the shamans come out of this group. This fact is important, for the persons who may be affected are attracted by the special social position which results from the fact of their being visited by spirits.

However, if «the running away fits» become too frequent, they may create a condition of social invalidity, — the person affected cannot work and cannot be relied upon when travelling and in daily routine work. The situation becomes especially serious when the subject is a young mother with several children, or an important man (working man) of the economic unit (family). The Tungus would regard such a person as normal, but as one affected by the spirits, and special measures would be taken in order to liberate the person from the spirits' visits. The shamans are playing an important part in this matter. Practical methods will be discussed later.

From the observation of facts it may be inferred that the greatest part of all men and women may be affected by this condition, perhaps women more than men. However, there are some special conditions too. Firstly, children are never and old persons are rarely affected. The most favourable age is the one soon after puberty. This fact can be used for an etiological observation. It ought to be pointed out that not only these ages are favourable, but persons of older ages may also be affected. Secondly, the persons who have no heavy responsibility in carrying out daily routine work are more free, and therefore, in the case of such an occurrence, they may be left to be affected by the spirits, as persons of secondary importance while in the case of important members of the family serious measures to expel the spirits are taken as soon as possible. Third, there exists a theory that the spirits would look for young persons among whom they may find a «master», — the shaman. So that the frequency of occurrences of these conditions in young persons is greater because of the social position of these persons and because of the existing theory. In some cases a great majority of the young people may be affected and so this condition may become a mass phenomenon. Such occurrences happen usually, if there is no shaman (vide infra Chapter XXI). In this aspect the phenomenon is such that it cannot be treated as a condition particularly due to the individual predisposition of «abnormal» order, for the observation of the Tungus does not reveal that the majority of them are «abnormal». I am also reluctant to look for an explanation of these cases in the psychological conditions characteristic of the ages when an essential change in the system of the glands of internal secretion, particularly sexual glands, may become a disturbing factor, for the period of life during which the persons may be affected does not correspond to the ages when such changes occur. Lastly, this condition can be easily cured either by social pressure — disapproval — or by the individual treatment by the shaman.

Description above given points to the fact that this condition is imposed by two fundamental characters; namely, the ethnographic nature of the complex in its elements and theoretical presumption of the spirits' activity. On the other hand, it cannot be correlated with an «abnormal» psychic state of the persons affected, but as has been shown, it may be regarded as a recognized form of relaxation, at least for a time, both individual-psychic and social. However, if the affected person begins to practise «fits» too often, he or she may become invalid as a member of the community. In this aspect there is no other possibility as that of regarding this phenomenon as a socially «ab-normal» and due to the lack of psychic adaptation. As to the mass phenomenon, it has another function; namely, the selection of capable persons for a certain social function (shaman) which may have an «abnormal» appearance without being so socially and individually - psychically. It is true that it is very «clumsy» and may appear «abnormal» in the eyes of those observers who are accustomed to a different ethnographical complex, e.g. such as the European complex. Owing to the above described character of this condition and within the limits when it does not disturb the functioning of the society, it is absolutely «normal» [492]. Indeed, when it is combined with other conditions, such as «olonism» (which is not frequent, because the majority of persons are affected prior to the time when olonism occurs) and the classical form of hysteria, it may become harmful, as a «syndrome» of conditions, quite inoffensive when observed alone, but badly disabling the affected persons when combined.

491. Among the groups living in villages, such as Manchus, the person affected is very likely to climb up to the beams of the grain house, et. Among the Europeans faute de mieux stole rooms, cold attics, even toilet rooms, etc. are used, the public places being watched by the police. Among the steppe dwellers, the persons affected run about in the open, till day-break.

492. I am prepared for the possibility that my point of view will not be easily accepted by some ethnographers, but I cannot avoid pointing out that these cases cannot be covered by «hysteria» which is very often only the reaction of the observer to an alien complex, when other ethnical groups are observed.

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