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136. Wars Between The Shamans

One of the interesting aspects of the shaman's psychology is the waging of wars among the shamans, it should be noted that not all shamans do it, but only those who are regarded by the Tungus as «bad-natured persons». This personal condition will be discussed later, but I shall now give details regarding the «wars» for they may help us in the understanding of the psychology of the shamans and their relations with the spirits.

The essential of the «war» consists in the mental influence of the shaman who wishes to harm directly another shaman, or his spirits. In the Tungus dialects they are called bulong [675] (Ner. Barg.), bulen (Bir. Kum), — the «war» in general; and k'imun (Bir.) which literally means, — «hostility, wickedness» etc. [k'imun (Manchu Writ.)] with a series of derivatives.

According to the Reindeer Tungus of Transbaikalia and the Tungus of Manchuria, the «wars» among the shamans are very common, but I have not been told so by the Manchus who entirely deny the existence of «wars». The Tungus are inclined to ascribe the wars to the hostility of the shamans of alien ethnical units, which is a very interesting fact as reflecting ethnical psychology.

The battles in a form of competition in art and murder usually take place at night — in dreams — but battles and murder may also occur in a wakening state. I give here some descriptions, in translation, made by the Barguzin Tungus.

«One night the shaman was hunting on the salt marsh (1); sitting there, he saw in the night some glittering fire. As soon as he noticed it he pulled out his knife. The fire descended lower. Then he remained sitting quietly. Thereafter he returned home reported the happening and said: 'So Sangyuni (2) has come! Keep quiet and let me fall asleep.' Then he fell asleep and became a shaman (3); while he was sleeping, he began to follow the aggressor-shaman and reached Sangyuni's wigwam. Sagyuni was sitting at the entrance, he sat down and to scold Sannyuni: 'You see, I nearly caught you when you were asleep. You are a bad man. Why did you go in the form of fire?' Sangyuni was sitting silent with his head hang down. When the shaman ceased to speak, Sangyuni told him: 'From now on I shall never do so.'»

(1). A special form of hunting on salt-marshes grounds which are visited by the cervines at night time. The hunter sits sometimes for hours, and waits for the animals.

(2). Sangyuni is the name of another Tungus shaman.

(3). «has become a shaman» means that the shaman assumed one of the spirits' forms which permitted him to travel a long way.

Here is another story picturing the war between the Barguzin Tungus and the Yakut shamans.

«There was a great shaman. He had a junior brother. The shaman saw a great Yakut shaman who, in the form of a cloud, was coming straight towards them. Then he said to his brother: «Well, what shall we do?»

«I do not know. Do what you want!»

«Then I shall go!»

He went on in the form of a cloud, rose up above the Yakut shaman, thrice shot him 'with thunder' and killed him. He returned. Some time later the Yakut shaman arrived again in the form of a still larger cloud....» and so on.

Among the Birarchen the wars between the shamans may originate on the ground of competition, also on the ground of hostility between the clans. These Tungus have a great fear of the fighting shamans, for reasons which will be clear later on, and they recognize them by the following signs: a fighting shaman never lifts up his arms which he keeps near his body, protecting with the arms the holes, made on the sides of the costume, through which the common shaman's spirit may enter into the shaman. The reasons of the competition may arise, for instance, in case a shaman fails to treat a sick person, while another shaman is successful; the first one may try to avenge himself. He may assume the form [oboleran (Bir. Xum.), cf. ubalambi (Manchu Writ.)] of different animals and things, in order to approach the second shaman and in this form to attack him. A story was told me of two shamans who changed themselves into a bear and a tiger, fighting in the presence of people, while they were physically separated by a great distance from each other. One of these great fighters might turn into «a cart with horses», which was considered as an especially powerful means of hiding one's self. In fighting, all means are considered to be good, as long as they can be effective.

In the clan dunankan there was a bad-natured man. One day he put in a small cup of brandy of another shaman, of the clan chakchir, a spirit (seveng) in the form of a very small fish. The chakchir shaman noticed it and, without showing it, he began to sip the brandy very carefully. However, being drunk, he swallowed the fish. Then he became «like mad» and very soon died. The same shaman made many other shamans of other clans perish. The man of dunankan who reported these cases to me was always very careful with his own clan shaman and did not invite him for shamanizing.

Another shaman, whom I knew rather well, during a long time, was carrying on a continuous «war» with a Kumarchen shaman. During this war she lost all her family, all horses as well, so she had to leave for another region (the Sumbira River), where, after having become blind, she gave up her shamanizing.

Among the Reindeer Tungus of Manchurian, who came in the beginning of the last century to Manchuria, the shamans were continuously fighting among themselves and with the Kumarchen shamans. Such shamans were called bulangtka. The last shaman (whose brother and sister-in-law were alive and told me all details of the case and the glorious life o their relative), who died in 1912, was mutilated (always from a distance) by his Kumarchen enemy who «turned aside his head», and he lived so the greater part of his life.

The fighting shamans are especially dangerous for other shamans whom (their souls) they catch on their way back from the lower world. Nobody likes them, for they always produce various tricks for hiding themselves (their souls) from other shamans. Once a Birarchen was going together with a shaman. A bear approached them, and the man wanted to kill it immediately. However, the shaman stopped him from doing it, for he said the bear was himself, i.e. his soul was inside the bear. As stated before, the shamans may assume various forms, so that it is impossible to recognize them, one may involuntarily harm them and thus create hostility, both among the shamans and the spirits. When the shamans are fighting, they establish a real system of spies — various animals to look after the enemy shaman who cannot guess in which animal the other shaman enters. The most inoffensive bird or insect may be used as a placing by such a shaman. The shamans who know how to assume various forms may well be informed as to all movements of their enemies without themselves being noticed.

The people, even clansmen, are afraid to call on such fighting shamans for assistance. The chief reason is this: these shamans have a great number of enemies, and when they come to a family for shamanizing they leave a road (vide supra) which will be used by the spirits; the latter may mix up with the clan (not shamanistic) spirits, being acquainted with them; if the spirit (shaman) fights, then the spirits of his more artful enemy may take over his road and attack the clan spirits and the people visited by the unfortunate shaman.

The fighting shamans among the Birarchen are usually using their dona seveng) — the foreign spirits. Therefore the shamans who use too many dona spirits are likely to be fighting shamans, it should here be noted that they are not elected by the clan. The fighting between the shamans is especially dangerous for children of whose souls the shamans are taking care. Among the Birarchen in one case a shaman, who had taken a child's soul, began to fight. He was defeated and the child fell badly ill. This was discovered by another shaman who reported it to the child's father. The latter decided to beat the shaman who caused the trouble. The case was discussed by the clansmen who decided

to leave the case without interference, for the shaman himself suffered from the spirits, — «this was spirits' business». The origin of lamalaichen seveng is also connected with the shamanistic wars. A shaman sent his spirit which turned over the canoe in which another shaman was sitting. The latter was drowned. The spirit of this shaman remained among the people, became sever) and since that time is known as lamalaichen seveng.

The hostile shamans (spirits) use bows and arrows (immaterial). When a man or an animal is struck by an arrow, the latter leaves a wound looking like that produced by a bullet. The animals usually perish immediately; human beings are sick during three or four days and may die. There is no possibility of curing these wounds. Sometimes all (domesticated) animals are killed in this way, then members of the family are killed and finally all members of the same clan are killed. The unfortunate shaman, instead of defending his clansmen and being shot himself, is not hit but turns aside the arrow and immediately shoots his own arrow at the first person seen, as it would be in a case of olonism (cf. supra). The chief trouble is that the shamans usually do not confess that they are fighting so that only by observing them and by seeing the effects of their fighting, one can arrive at this conclusion.

It may here be remarked that this habit of some shamans has created among some Tungus, e.g. some Tungus of the Birarchen and Kumarchen groups, a rather negative attitude towards the shamans in general. As far as possible the people like to avoid them. However, in many cases of fighting the cause resides in the shamans themselves, namely, good natured persons (shamans) do not fight and they will tell immediately if they are attacked by the shamans, so that measures may be taken against the fighting shamans.

* * *

The above given description of the wars among the shamans is in reality a description of disturbed psychomental conditions of the shamans. Undoubtedly, they suffer from the mania of persecution which may attain very extreme forms with a fatal issue for the shamans, who very often perish, according to the Tungus. The question as to the nature of the mass sickness of animals and human beings, with the symptom of small ulcers, like those produced by a bullet, and death occurring a few days after the ulceration I do not venture to answer. No suggestion as to the etiology of this disease, evidently infectious, is possible, for I myself have not observed these cases [676].

Another point of interest is that communication at a distance, the possibility of which we cannot deny, may he used by the shamans (bad natured persons) for a suggestive influence on other shamans, which gives them a strong weapon for the annihilation of other shamans.

In this condition of a shaman a progressive form of mania is very typical. It may also be stated, that one of the methods of getting rid of a persecuting shaman is to give up shamanizing altogether, which, according to the Tungus, is a good means to satisfy the ambition of the fighting shaman. Indeed, when the shaman cannot more control himself, which is an essential condition of extasy, he must avoid such a psychomental state in which the mania of persecution is liable to re-appear. It stated, that some shamans cannot do it, so they continue to shamanize till they perish because of continuous intrigues of the persecuting shaman.

The small detail of the case of the Birarchen shaman, who being drunk, swallowed a fish, is interesting, for it is indicative of the well known condition by which drunkard are affected — the chakchir shaman was surely the prey of alcoholism. I could not find out very much about him, but I have been told that during his life he rather often indulged in drinking large quantities of strong alcoholic liquors. But in this connection it should be noted that not all shamans suffer from alcoholism — the majority of them have shown themselves to be more moderate consumers of alcoholic drinks and some of them are entirely abstemious. From the above given series of cases we may also see that the Tungus are sometimes inclined to ascribe to the influence of the fighting shamans much more than they are able to do. For instance, the malady of the Reindeer Tungus shaman who suffered from disordered nerves («turned») was perhaps not due to his psychomental condition, but it was attributed to the Kumarchen shaman, as an explanation of an unknown disease. The same may be said of the case of epidemics.

The above said may be summarised as follows. The fighting of the shamans may have a realistic basis in the form of suggestion perhaps produced once, when the shamans meet, and later maintained by suggestion at a distance; the persecuted shaman may be affected by a mania which, to a certain extent, may be treated by means of self-control, i.e. by avoiding extasy; alcoholism is probably a favourable condition for this maniacal state, and other pathological conditions may also be suspected, at least in some cases, e.g. blindness after the fighting, «turned head» etc.; a great number of cases are quite undeservedly attributed to the fighting shamans (infectious diseases etc.), as an explanation of little known diseases. It must particularly be noted that the Tungus do their best to eliminate the possibility of this condition in the shaman, as it appears from the requirement of «good nature» (no symptom of schizophrenia), from the avoiding and isolating of fighting shamans who may influence other people etc.

As to the frequency of these cases, I have no exact data, but in my investigations I have met only with a few shamans who waged «wars», e.g. the blind shaman (Birarchen) and a Dahur shaman. As to other cases, they were uncertain. Considering the number of shamans observed, it may be thus supposed that this is a relatively rare occurrence among the shamans, but it does exist and, as it is suggested by other shamans, it may threaten the shaman's life. However, I must warn the reader that these facts do not present a general phenomenon of such psychoses among the shamans, but are rather exceptional and rare cases which confirm the idea of the functional side of shamanism, as I understand it.

675. Cf. bulan (Ur. Castr.), bulon etc. should be considered as a loan word, perhaps from the Mongol bulija — «to rob, to take by force» etc.

676. Perhaps, it is anthrax, which is not very common in Manchuria, and an epidemic infectious character of which is not noticed by these Tungus

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