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98. Facts Observed

The evidences for showing the secondary origin of shamanism are the testimony of the Tungus and the Manchus; the historic tracing of elements constituting shamanism; the indirect indications found in the present distribution of the elements and in the complex of shamanism; and the terminology. After this analysis I shall have to show the possible ways of the formation of shamanism and possible impulses for its appearance.

According to the Manchus, the beginning of shamanism ought to be referred to the beginning of the eleventh century, namely 1033 A.D., when one named chuxa jangin (Jang'in), literally «soldiers' commander», appeared, who left his spirits vochko to spread over three provinces — those of Mukden, Kirin, and Saxalan (Heilungkiang). The Manchus assert that this datum is found in the «Chinese books». However, they could not show me the passages. There is no doubt that the Manchus' association of the inauguration of shamanism with a definite person and at a definite historical moment, confirmed by reference to the Chinese source, evidently known to the Chinese annalists, must not be accepted as the date at which shamanism made its appearance.

The first shaman, chuxa jangin, is at present a vochko, and a spirit recognized by all Manchus. The Manchus say: «during the Kin Dynasty there was a war between the Manchus (ancestors!) and Chinese. The Chinese Emperor took hold of chuxa jangin and ordered him to be beheaded. So he was. But even beheaded the shaman did not fall down, and the Chinese Emperor called him vochko». He has also been incorporated into the list of dona burkan by the Birarchen (vide supra) as a special Birarchen spirit. However, some Manchus assert that shamanism actually came into vogue still later, namely, together with the establishment of the Manchu Dynasty, while prior to that the Manchus had only p'oyun vochko, and shamanism appeared only during the Ming Dynasty.

At the beginning of the twelfth century, as has been shown, (vide supra) the term «shaman» is mentioned by the Chinese as a Nuichen term for «sorcerer», which they did not recognize as their own term sha-men, both of which have originated from the common source sramana. However, it is not certain from the Chinese text what kind of «sorcerer» was meant.

According to the Birarchen, the first shaman among them was a Dahur and, according to most of them, he lived at a recent time. However, some Birarchen suppose that the first shaman was a Goldi (xejen), from whom shamanism was adopted by the Dahurs and later by the Birarchen. Another opinion is that they had no shamans at all until the seven (spirits which may be mastered and introduced) appeared from the Mongols, and the first shaman was either a Dahur or a Manchu.

The most categoric statement is made by the Reindeer Tungus of Manchuria who assert that they received shamanism before their coming to Manchuria (first half of the last century, cf. SONT. pp. 67-71) from the subjects of the bogdo kan — i.e. the Emperor of China — who might have been either the Dahurs and Solons or the Manchus. As a matter of fact, the shamanism of Tungus neighbours — the Kumarchen and Shingan groups — is quite different.

The Reindeer Tungus of Transbaikalia were not able to tell me anything about the «origin» of their shamanism, but they did indicate that there are shamans among their neighbours. The lack of a definite statement regarding the beginning of shamanism is not sufficient for asserting that these groups have no notion as to the beginning of shamanism. I admit that during my investigations among these groups I perhaps did not meet with Tungus who were interested in the historic background of shamanism. Individual interest differs even among the Tungus, — some of them may be interested in history (establishment of facts), others in literature (folktales}. This remark holds good for the groups of Kumarchen and Khingan Tungus. I was able to record only a remark among the Shingan Tungus pointing to the similarity of their own shamans with lamas, but whether it was meant in the sense of functional similarity or of common origin, I cannot say; an informer of the Mankova Tungus pointed to the similarity between the Buriat shamans and Tungus shamans.

In reply to the question: how far folklore, as defined by me, can be used as an evidence of the origin and character of shamanism, I should say that, in general, this kind of evidence is rather unreliable, but it may be used as a corroborative argument. The stories concerning the «first shaman», which at the same time may be stories of the origin of shamanism, usually rich in imaginative elements showing the great power of shamans, are of no interest for the present discussion. However, among the Goldi and Orochi, there are several variants of a story, apparently of local origin, which explains the institution of shamans for the release of souls, i.e. their transportation to the other, lower world. The same story usually includes the myth of three suns which-burned Earth and that of a brother and a sister from whom men originated [516]. Indeed, in the Tungus and Manchu complexes the release of the souls of dead people is a very important function; but only among the Goldi and groups influenced by them the shaman plays such an important part in this process. We have seen that churial and expediting of the soul may be done, among the described Tungus and Manchus, without the assistance of a shaman. The latter is required only in the cases when the soul cannot reach the other world, i.e. in «abnormal» cases. As evidence of the origin of shamanism the above quoted stories offer no historic light. However, it does not mean that the groups, which have the above indicated stories that refer the origin of shamans to the period when immortality of man existed, have no other ideas as to the origin of shamanism. As will be shown later on, the folktales are usually mere fictions to the Tungus groups, as novels are to the Europeans [517].

The opinions of the Manchus, Birarchen and Reindeer Tungus of Manchuria are not based on «folk-lore»; these groups themselves consider their statements as historical facts, and so they may be further considered. No contradiction is seen in the Birarchen indication of two sources — Goldi and Dahurs, for, as 1 have shown, the Birarchen have been composed of two groups - one which lived side by side with the Goldi on the lower course of the Amur and another one which undoubtedly was long ago in contact with the Dahurs. The Birarchen indication of spirits appropriated from the Mongols is interesting, for it chiefly means the group burkan, doubtless of Mongol origin.

In the descriptions of spirits we have already met with the fact that a great number of them may be very easily connected with those of other ethnical groups; many of them are considered by the Tungus as spirits received, at different historical moments, from their neighbours. In fact, the term burkan, referred to a great number of spirits, is a Mongol term, being only a modification of «Buddha» and when among the Tungus Buddha is mastered the term applied is that which is used for shaman's spirits in general, i.e. sVvV, which does not seem to be of a Tungus origin.

The complex malu, which according to some Tungus of Manchuria was received from various neighbours, contains some manifestations which are certainly not Tungus, e.g. mangi with nine heads. Such complexes as j'iaci, n'angn'ang, lamalaichen, have preserved their non-Tungus names. In the Goldi shamanistic complex we meet with seon puchiku [518], which is the Manchu fuchixi, i.e. Buddha [519]; the nine-headed mangi plays a very important role; the whole group dusxu is borrowed from the Chinese [520]. The Manchu -spirits vochko include a great number of non-Manchu spirits, but the chief spirits among them are souls of the shamans, in which respect the Manchu system differs from that of the Tungus of Manchuria and the Goldi. The Orochi have the same nine-headed magi, and according to L. Nadarov, the Orochi of the region of the Iman and Bikin rivers (tributaries of the Ussuri) simply call the shamans «la-ma» [521]. Indeed, the facts which connect Buddhism with the system of spirits used by the shamans among the Tungus may be multiplied, but I believe that the above given are sufficient to show that, in so far as the spirits are concerned, a great number of them are Buddhistic spirits,- or those which were recently borrowed from their neighbours directly or through the intermediary groups, such as the Manchus and the Dahurs [522].

The analysis of shamanistic paraphernalia gives us a new series of facts pointing to an intimate connection between Buddhism and shamanism. However, for the present I shall not treat this question in detail, for it will be treated in a special chapter. I shall now only indicate some elements. Among all groups the brass mirror, widely used in Lamaism as one of the indispensable components of the altar, is an element without which shamanizing is impossible. So that when there is no costume, the shaman can perform with the mirror alone, while when there is no mirror or its substitute [523], no performance is possible. In all Tungus dialects and in Manchu it is designated by the same term, namely, toli (Bir. Kum. Khin.), tal (Nerc.), tolo (Nerc. Barg.), toli (Goldi, Olcha) (Manchu Writ. Sp.) which is connected with the Mongol toli||toli, also the Buriat toli (Podg.) and the Dahur tol (Poppe), toli (Ivan.). Mirrors can bo either «found in the earth» or received from the shamans-predecessors or bought from the Mongols, who receive them from China and Tibet. The animals represented on the back of the mirror are interpreted by all groups according to their own imagination and knowledge. Among the Tungus of Manchuria the shamans use a hear-dress on the front side of which there are five images of Buddha. Buddha's images are sometimes replaced by ornaments (flowers of Chinese style). The swastica and Christian cross are widely used by all shamans. The boa-constrictor and various snakes are symbolized in the shaman's costume, although unknown (boa-constrictor), or are of no importance (snakes) in this region. These symbols are evidently not a local invention and yet they are neither a Mongol one. The Manchu shamans have a series of weapons and instruments familiar to Buddhism, as it is practiced, and the pictures of some spirits show a correct reproduction of the costumes of Buddhist priests.

I shall not give evidence of common elements found in the performances and ideas, as for instance, the change of the world, the organization of the world, the way to the lower world and the various spirits which are borrowed by the Tungus and Manchus from the Buddhists and Lamaists, for these elements might be borrowed independently of Buddhism. I shall even leave without discussion the fundamental psychological conditions and the behaviour, for these may still be contested.

Beginning with the term «shaman», and following the analysis of spirits and other elements, we always discover the same situation, namely, that Buddhism has some intimate connection with shamanism. However, the difference between Buddhism and Lamaism, on the one hand, and the variations of shamanism, on the other hand, are so essential, that the latter cannot be regarded as direct modifications of the former, or even as their «caricature», according to the expression of Vasiliev [524]. The prevailing ideas of the last century tended to discover a direct «relationship» and «kinship» between cultural phenomena. Diffusion of cultural phenomena was usually understood as a simple transplantation of complexes. In addition to the subsequent ethnographical complexes were supposed to be intimately related by the connection of evolution of primary forms. These methodological premises necessarily produced their effect upon the solution of the problem Buddhism-Shamanism, although in the works of the earliest writers on the subject, as Hyacinth, Palladius, Vasiliev, who possessed a great insight into many observed phenomena, Buddhism was suspected to be at least partly responsible for the existence of shamanism. In the works of a great number of writers who followed them elements of distinction tending to prove theoretical presumptions regarding primitivity and evolution were chiefly emphasized and accepted as postulates, and no attention was paid to Buddhism as a possible source of influence. True, in the writings of some authors there was the tendency to show that shamanism was not so «barbarous» as it was pictured, and that it was identified with «priests-hood». Ch. de Harlez wrote «c'est un ministre du culte, all caractere grave, all maintien solennel, etc.» (op cit., p. 26). This author, as well as all others who shared his opinion, rejected «disgusting features of shamanism» and concentrated their attention on the saman of the Imperial Court who was not «shaman» at all, but a real priest and minister of a new religion recently created by the Manchus from pieces of their own old complex, Buddhism, and the Chinese complex, and perhaps, if not probably, for political use to impress the Chinese, and at the same time to cement the Manchua together as an ethnical unit. Generally speaking, this attitude was common among those authors who wanted to make alien complexes «decently looking», to bring them nearer to their own, to bridge the gulf between the existing complexes, but who at the same time formally preserved the idea of such a gulf. It should be noted that in the attempts to solve the problem of the «origin» of shamanism, as well as to find the etymology of the word «shaman», the failure of the investigators chiefly depended on their being impressed.by general conceptions and theories and guided by their desire to prove or disprove some propositions which were actually needed for the strengthening and supporting of the stability of their own complex. To this question in its general setting I shall revert at another place, where the «science» will be treated as an ethnographical phenomenon. However, at present it is much easier to treat the problem of shamanism than it was before. First of all, we do not need to presume that the complex of shamanism «evolved» from a more «primitive» complex; secondly, we do not need to suppose that it is «more primitive [525], on the ground that its philosophical contents are not so much elaborated as those of the theoretical Buddhism of philosophers, thirdly, we know that the complex of shamanism may appear without Buddhism being wholly transplanted; fourthly, we know that the similarity of complexes may be created owing to a continuous diffusion of elements and their partial or complete integration in a new ethnical milieu; fifthly, we know that similarity of some elements may be due to a similarity of conditions underlying the complexes; sixthly, we know that in different ethnical milieus the same complex may have different adaptive functions; seventhly, we know the limits of possible inferences which can be made from the historic sequence of complexes and elements-which form complexes; eighthly, we know that an old complex may be readapted to the new elements; ninthly, we know that the tempo of diffusion, adaptation, and adoption of elements and complexes is not the same for all elements and in all ethnical milieus. Although the above indicated methodological propositions are now well known, they are very often omitted in practical problems of analysis of ethnographical complexes. So, before proceeding to a further step in the treatment of the problem of shamanism, I want to recall these propositions to the mind of my readers.

516. Cf. P. F. Simkevich Materials, etc. and I. A. Lopatin Goldi, pp. 237-238 in reference to the Goldi; cf. P. Margaritov, Orochi p. 29. Among the Orochi it is presumed that the shaman existed before the first death of a man -that of his son — occured.

517. Indeed, the lack of historic data in the works of the authors here quoted may be due to the fact that these authors did not carefully inquire into the «actual» origin, but were seeking in the folklore for an explanation which would better agree with the conception of shamanism as of a primitive religion — a conception prevailing among the ethnographers of the old school. In fact, the answers that I received as to the origin of shamanism. Most probably such answers would even not be recorded, as it is done with numerous absurd answers which every investigator obtains during his work, especially when his knowledge of the language is defective. In fact, the questions as to the «first shaman» figured in all written and unwritten instructions. The more the «origin» was fantastic the more authentic ist was believed to have been. By pointing out the conditions under which investigators are working, I do not wish to say that all groups possess historical data concerning their shamanism. Since the historical facts which may interest us are not always cognized by the ethnical groups, and since the groups in question usually have no written records, the chance to get «historical facts» about shamanism is not very great, especially if the introduction of shamanism took place several centuries ago, was gradual, and was not marked by any particularly strikinh facts to be easily memorized and associated. Yet, we also meet with secondary explanations of the origin of shamanism, such as that, for instance, which asserts that the first shaman was the «devil». Indeed, this association is that of the Russian complex.

518. Cf. I. A. Lopatin, op. cit. p. 212, and P. P. Simkevich op. cit. p. 53 (?).

519. I do not mention the Goldi verb pud (V) (W. Grube-Maksimovich «schamanieren», which comes from the Manchu fudeshembi referred to a definite action of «bringing out» [cf. Manchu fudembi] the spirits (very uncertainly translated by I. Zaxarov), and which is not connected with Buddha, whence the Manchus produced their fuch'k'i.

520. I. A. Lopatin, op. cit. pp. 228. He points out that it was received through the Manchus. One of his illustrations represents a n'urxan, a picture of spirits evidently made on paper or silk. Such pictures are called in Manchu n'urgan. In I. A. Lopatin's work an interesting statement is found; namely, Saint Mary and Jesus Christ are also called by the Goldi seon, but it is not clear whether we have here a specific term or a generalized one.

521. In making this question from I. Nadarov, S. Brailovskij (cf. op. cit. p. 181) says that he could not verify this statement.

522. The presence of alien spirits has sometimes been interrupted as due in the disintegration of ahamnism under the influence of Lamaism, and Christianity. Such was the opinion of the old evolutionistic scholl which postulated great age and primitivity of shamanism. However, an analysis of the spirits shows clearly that in the Tungus and Manchu complexes the spirits, being borrowed from left and right, are still undergoing a process of assimilation and adaptation, and of integration into the existing complex which is still a living shamanism.

523. This may happen, if the Tungus cannot find one. However, the substitutes are not considered as good as the original.

524. Quoted by B. Laufer, Shaman.

525. In a special paper devoted to the «problem» of burkan. As in the case of «shaman» his aim was to disprove a connection between «burkhan» and «Buddha», and in this was to support the idea of a great antiquity of the shamanistic form of «religion». The ideas of W. Schott were directed to prove the reality of what may be called «altaic complex».

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