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92. Forms Of Psychosis And Units Affected

I shall now give a description of how a psychosis may spread and affect units. The best case for such demonstration is the case when the spirits of a clan lose their master, the shaman.

We have seen that it is believed that there are spirits which introduce themselves into the persons. It is also believed that these spirits can be mastered by one of the men of the clan. When the spirits have no master, they begin to harm the people by introducing themselves into the clansmen. From the experience of former generations the effects of the self-introduction of spirits, as described in the preceding chapter, are known. If there is an active shaman master who is governing the spirits that introduce themselves into the clansmen, they may easily be revoked by him; but if he is no more active, e.g. because of physical disability, sickness, etc., or if he dies, the spirits cannot be expelled. In such a case we have a quite definite idea of the conditions in which the spirits may become harmful, of what happens when they are harmful, and how they may be controlled. In this way the whole operation with the spirits and mass psychosis is an elaborate ethnographical complex, gradually worked out and well balanced.

In case the spirits are free, either because of the shaman's death or because of his abstaining from actual control of the spirits, they begin to enter the clansmen and to produce various harmful acts. So, for instance, a man who is an excellent hunter would not be able to kill animals, because the spirits would lift up, or turn down or aside the gun at the moment of shooting. His family and other people, depending on his hunting, would have no more food supply from this source. As soon as other clansmen learn of the case, the same may happen with other members and so all of them would be convinced that the spirits want something and that by impeding the hunting they wish to attract the attention of the clansmen to themselves. Other manifestations of the same complex spirit, or some other spirit may enter the young people of the clan.

Some of the young men would lose normal sleep, would sit on their beds, speak and sing in a half asleep state and thus would not have the necessary rest; their thoughts would be concentrated upon the spirits that haunt them; they would be distracted, and absent-minded; they would neglect or miss their duties in the family work and would gradually be disabled altogether. Some other clansmen might «run away into the rocks or forests» where they would remain for days without food and even some of them would perish. Others, who are inclined to «olonism», might become dangerous during momentary uncontrolled states: they might throw various utensils, burning wood or hot water, on those supposed to induce reflexes; they might even use weapons, like knives, axes and rifles and so the most harmless and amusing olong may become kodu. Other clansmen would have «nervous attacks» at the moments of great responsibility, e.g. during the crossing of rivers, keeping in their arms children, handling hot water and fire. Accident after accident would follow and several persons might perish altogether. This would be a case of a real mass psychosis which might put the clan into a state of complete social and economic paralysis threatening the very existence of the clan.

As a matter of fact, in such cases there will be no disturbing factors, but the idea that the spirits are «free» and the whole condition of the unit will be merely a complex ethnographical phenomenon following a certain pattern. It may be stopped at any moment, if there is a man or a woman who can «take control of the spirits». This may be done at the very beginning of the mass psychosis, or when the psychosis attains great dimensions.

I have been told that sometimes a clan may be affected for a long period, when it is impossible to find a «master» for the spirits and the latter cannot be expelled. In such a case a clan may gradually lose its ability to control psychic life and the members, one after another, may perish. Indeed, the perishing will not be caused by accidents only, but the members, being exhausted by a certain kind of spirits, would perish of infectious diseases (other kinds of spirits), undernourishment, etc. Other clans of the unit may interfere with the case, but they may not be always successful in their attempt.

The above described case is not characteristic of the clans alone. In fact, if the spirits, which produce harm, are clan spirits, only clansmen will be affected, but if the spirits are not clan spirits, the whole ethnical or regional unit may be affected by a condition analogous to that of the clan psychosis.

Such occurrences, according to the Tungus description, are frequent when the spirits come from outside, i.e. from other ethnical units and are not vet mastered. Personally I have not observed such cases, but theoretically they are possible. Let us suppose that the Tungus should discover a new spirit, such as for example ajelga. This spirit may harm the people who are living or visiting this locality, regardless of their belonging to other clans. However, some clans may master this spirit, as has happened in one of the Birarchen clans (vide supra), and the spirit will no more harm those clansmen, so long as there is a «master». But, the people who belong to other clans are liable to suffer from ajelga. In a great number of cases of appearance of such a new spirit, the condition does not become known at once, but only gradually, and when it is mastered in a clan, its activity is eliminated. So the function of self-protection of the ethnical unit is performed by the hypothesis that almost all spirits which produce psychoses can be mastered in the clan. However, there are some spirits, especially alien spirits, which cannot be mastered at all and therefore other methods of fighting them are elaborated; e.g. neutralization of the spirits' activity with the help of clan spirits, and particularly with the help of shamans. In such a case the «treatment» will not be an automatic one, but will be carried out in all individual cases. The situation is greatly complicated by the fact that some spirits, according to the Tungus theories, can by no means be expelled and neutralized. Still more the situation is complicated by the fact that not all spirits are known. In fact, there are some infectious diseases, such as influenza, perhaps typhus paratyphus. etc., which are symbolized as spirits, which cannot be fought by the ordinary methods, - i.e. mastering and expelling. On the other hand, the psychic condition of mass psychosis, in some cases, may be wrongly understood as one caused by the same spirits, or more exactly, as unknown manifestations of these spirits, so that the shamans may abstain from intervention, and the psychosis may produce the most harmful effects. This is especially common with the new alien spirits which are not yet carefully studied, and which may be supplied with powers lacking in the original alien complex. Such was the case with some Russian and Chinese spirits, when they became first known among the Tungus and the Tungus did not know from direct sources all peculiarities of these spirits. However, with the course of time, and with a familiarization with the spirits, additional theories are usually elaborated and the potential mass psychoses are eliminated.

Indeed, the cases when spirits affect small territorial units, especially villages, are much more frequent, owing to the fact that the villagers are living in close contact and new spirits easily penetrate. In principle it does not differ from the effect upon ethnical units, and this is also true in reference to the practical methods of fighting new spirits.

I have just pointed out that in fighting new spirits great help comes from the idea that most of the spirits are confined to the clans and that they may be mastered within the clans. Indeed, this attitude is not without foundation in so far as the facts support it. In the description of spirits we have seen that the psycho-mental peculiarities of the clans do exist and they may be symbolised in special spirits. The nature of these peculiarities is twofold; namely, to some extent they may be «inherited» conditions and may be formed as a functional cultural complex, -«a social characters The Tungus themselves are conscious of the fact of heredity, which I have demonstrated in the case of peculiar sexual behaviour continued during several generations (SONT, p. 323), inherited sexual peculiarities and in the case of affective behaviour apparently typical of some lines in a clan, e.g. in the Dunankan clan of the Birarchen, a line which was affected by various troubles of psychic order. Perhaps the difference in clan characters partly inherited, may also be seen in the case of the Bajagir and Kaltagir clans of the Khingan Tungus (SONT, pp. 343-344). If we add clan tradition to the inherited characters, it will be clear that the Tungus may form the idea that some spirits are confined to the clans. We can now also support this idea by the fact that, as soon as the clans exist and the members of a clan are more familiar with their own complex and they freely communicate with one another, there is formed a special milieu, — a clan (group of families) milieu, — in which the members are psychomentally connected to a much greater extent than the same persons may be connected with other members of the same ethnical unit. If now we remember that the Tungus social system, in a great number of cases, is still based upon the dual — clan organisation, bound by cross-cousin marriage, the idea of specific clan spirits, very often similar in the two matrimonially connected clans, may be as correct as the idea of special psychomental complexes preserved and transmitted from generation to generation in the ethnical units. This idea is natural for the Tungus psychomental complex and the Tungus accept it: we have seen that some spirits cannot affect the Tungus.

It is thus evident that the clan organization in the matter of mass psychosis is of the greatest importance, not only because the Tungus believe that the spirits may affect a clan as a whole, but also because the clan is the carrier of inherited psychomental predispositions, for certain psychoses, and is the place where-the cultural complex is preserved. From this point of view the conditions of Tungus groups among which the clan organization is in a state of decline are more susceptible of being affected by alien spirits. This does not exclude the smaller groups within the unit, in which the mass psychosis may easily be fought. Therefore one of the phenomena of ethnical decline is not only disintegration of the social organization, but also general liability to the mass psychoses. In such a state those Tungus groups are found which are encountered in the process of the reorganization of their social system, especially in Siberia, and partly in Manchuria. As a matter of fact, all these phenomena of disintegration are correlated to such a degree that one cannot see where the cause is and where the effect. On the other hand, if there is a general loss of belief in the harmful spirits, the dispersion of the clan organization may facilitate the process of losing harmful beliefs, for the clan is the unit where these beliefs are preserved and practised. It should be noted that from this description of the units in which mass psychoses may occur it is also evident how erroneous an introduction of the conception of special «religious» units can be, as it is done by some authors.

The mass psychosis confined to the clans, to the territorial and ethnical units, may originate and be fought within the same units. Among the Tungus the most important place in this respect belongs to the clans. An exceptional condition, when the spirits and psychoses are beyond the clans, is found chiefly, if not exclusively, among groups which are found in a state of cultural and social disintegration.

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