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139. Shaman's Social Relations

The social relations of a shaman are of two natures: firstly, relations established because of the spirits mastered by the shaman; and secondly, relations established by the shaman with his clients. As we have seen, the spirits are also of two natures — clan spirits and foreign spirits, according to which there may be two kinds of shamans: clan shamans and «out clan» shamans. However both kinds of shamans need recognition, which may be either obtained by a complicated ceremony of election, with a real trial and a real discussion of the candidates, or by the shaman himself owing to his successful practising of the shamanistic art.

There is a great difference between the formally recognized clan shamans and those recognized because of their personal ability; the shamans of the first group become an essential component of the clan functional organization, while the shamans of the second group are out-clan shamans, whose influence extends over a limited group of «foreign» spirits and a very limited group of personal clients.

In fact, the shaman, after having mastered the clan spirits, relieves thereby all members of his clan from the worry of being badly affected by the clan spirits, and is ready to lend at once his assistance to any clansman. His assistance will be effective and not difficult, for the spirits are mastered by him — small sacrifice, a prayer, and a conversation with a spirit will relieve the patient of his trouble. By this means a great number of cases of psychomental disturbances are almost automatically cured. Moreover, when the clan spirits, which are usually very powerful and well acquainted with the clansmen, are well looked after they may assist the shaman in his fighting with the out-clan spirits, not to speak of the complex cases when the clansmen's souls cannot normally reach the world of the dead («lower world») and when the shaman's assistance is simple and helpful, while that of an out-clan shaman may be even harmful, because of the mixing up of his spirits with those of the clan, which should always he avoided.

Thus from the functional point of view, the clan shaman acts as a safety valve and as a special clan officer in charge of the regulation of the psychic equilibrium among the clan members.

How close the connection is between a clan and its shaman, can be seen from the fact of the formation of new clans, as it is observed among the Tungus of Manchuria. I have treated this problem in SONT, where I have shown that the division of a clan is conditioned by the need of a smoothly functioning marriage complex. If there is an unfavourable sex-ratio in the two clans, or there is an important increase or a decrease of one of the clans (especially in a dual organization), a splitting of a populous clan is very likely. There are certain regulations as to the time required, but even after a declaration about the division to the spirit buga (SONT p. 204), the conclusion of marriages is not assured, until the two clan shamans divide their spirits. So a new clan must be formed and the shaman for the «junior» (nokun) clan must be separated from the old one. it is done in view of avoiding the mixing up of the clan spirits which, according to the theory, must be different. When this operation is carried out the women may be interchanged. It is interesting that the division of spirits and the appearance of candidates, powerful enough for mastering them, which may occur before the formal declaration to buga, is interpreted in the sense that the division can be carried out even before the expiration of the term previously fixed, i.e. usually four or five generations. I have observed several combinations of different types of relations. This fact is very interesting, because here the social organization is reflected in the relations between spirits and shamans. But the division of clans must not be regarded as an act of division of the spirits, and as a reflection of the relations created by the shamans — the clan division is much older than shamanism.

The obligation to assist the clansmen in need results from the special position of the shaman recognized by the clan. As a matter of fact, this requirement may cause the change of the shamanistic art into a simple formalistic performance. This does occur among the clans which are very populous, and the shaman must attend too many persons. Since the shamanizing lege artis requires extasy and thus a great effort on the part of the shaman and since the latter cannot do it very often, the shamanizing changes into a ritualistic formality and as such does not satisfy the people. Among the Manchus a great number of shamans are tending to become mere performers of rituals. L. Sternberg (op. cit.) relates that among the Goldi a shaman, very skilful in bringing souls to the lower world, was busy all the time with these performances and the Goldi were waiting for him for years before he could attend the people. Owing to this the clan shamans are sometimes superseded in their art by the dona (out-clan) shamans. There is moreover another condition in favour of the out-clan shamans, namely, in a great number of cases candidates for the shamanship, who sometimes are not inclined to shamanship, are forcibly prepared by the senior clansmen, while all out-clan shamans assume their functions, because that is their vocation, and they usually have spent much energy before obtaining the position of a «recognized» shaman.

On the other hand, the attitude of the Tungus, and of the Manchus as well, towards the clan-shamans is always somewhat partial, the reason of which is the belief that such a person is needed for the clan (as I understand it, as a safety valve), and partiality of the clan is only one of the effects of a centripetal movement within the clan. The clansmen would always find an excuse if the shaman is not successful; so for instance, he might be said to be young, or too old, or the spirits might be suspected of being too lazy to work for their master, or some new unknown spirits might be suspected to be active. However, if the shaman shows no efficiency in his activity, which may be found out by the experienced elders, he may meet with the general disapproval of his clan and in some cases may arouse all clansmen against himself, as a dangerous and pernicious person for the clan. This is the case when the shaman manifests his «bad heart». The clan may come to the decision to destroy him with the help of other shamans, or at least to cast him out, which practically means nearly the same as capital punishment (cf. SONT p. 198). If the shaman is not appreciated by his clansmen, he also may give up his functions, but, as will be shown, this is not easy and almost impossible.

The Tungus (all groups, the Manchus included) recognize that the shamans are needed for the neutralization and the fighting of the clan spirits (other spirits as well!), and they believe that it would be much better to have no spirits, and consequently no shamans. So that if something were proposed which would eliminate the spirits, they would be ready to accept it. Together with it, the shamans would not be needed either. This attitude is not in favour of the shamans in general, but still it is far from creating a generally negative attitude towards the shamans. However, among all Tungus groups one may also meet with individuals who are hostile to the shamans in general, and according to them, the wrong emanates from the shamans themselves. Their voices become very strong, when the shaman is not supported by other clansmen. Such a movement greatly depends upon the penetration of distinct ethnographical complexes, which will be discussed with more details in the next chapter.

The shaman must face these neutral and hostile attitudes. The young shamans, are moreover bound by the social complex of junior-senior relations. In a great number of cases these relations put them in a difficult position for maintaining their own opinions which may not always be shared by the seniors. These difficulties are not so great when the shaman attains a certain age and the group of seniors becomes small. In this respect the shaman must adapt himself during all his life, for even being a senior he is bound by the will of the clan.

From the above remarks it is clear that the shaman does not become a authority, as magicians and priests do, but throughout his life he remains a clansmen whose steps are checked up by the opinion of critically behaving clansmen, the whole clan organization, and, as will later be shown, alien ethnical groups which spread their influence over the Tungus.

A great role in the stabilization of the shaman's position is played by his personal success. If the shaman successfully attends some clansmen, he is invited again, so his position is strengthened. As we have seen, after the performance the shaman leaves his «roads» which are all the time used by the spirits. So that between the shaman and his clients a peculiar connection, with the help of his spirits and a system of «roads», is firmly established. The influence of an out-clan shaman totally depends upon his person connections, while in the case of a clan shaman the same roads of clan spirits, though indirectly, connect the shaman with all other clansmen. A «road» left directly by a shaman greatly reinforces the personal connection between the shaman and his clansmen.

In Manchu such connection is expressed by a special term: the family (bo, bao, cf. SOM and SONT) attended by the shaman is jarun; so it is called jarumbo, and the shaman is called jarun saman. These relations are usually established from the childhood of the shaman's client, especially in the families which do not belong to the clan. If the shaman successfully treats a child of an age below ten years he leaves targa. The latter is a narrow strip of cloth (ribbons) attached to the shaman's head-dress. The usual colour for all shamans is red. In addition to a red strip, two more strips of different colours are given, e.g. yellow, blue, green, white, black etc. These strips are supplied with two round xongo (brass bells) and some fringes from the shamans headdress. These are conventional placings for the shaman's spirits which are supposed to distinguish them according to the combination of colours, as it is with the p'oyun vochko (vide supra).

Such a placing is attached to the back of the child's coat (not always, for the parents become neglectful if the child is in good health) and worn so up to the age of ten years. Naturally the carrier of targa must not visit tabooed houses, jatka bo (after a childbirth) and targa bo (during the diseases produced by ilxa mama: smallpox, chicken-pox, measles etc.), also those where people had recently died, for the shaman's spirit may «mix up» with these spirits. Besides targa the attended child may receive a brass mirror (toli), which must be preserved on semde (Manchu Sp.) [cf. sendexen (Manchu Writ.), according to I. Zaxarov, shen (Chinese «spirit») undexen (Manchu -«plank»)] — a shelf used for keeping placings for spirits — where the targa is also put after the age of ten years. It is called jarun saman'i semde, and is considered of as great an importance as p'oyun vochko. The person attended by a shaman must not seek assistance from other shamans, unless the shaman recommends it himself [678]. So that the shaman gradually forms around himself a group of permanent clients. Every first day and every fifteenth day of a new moon (month) the client must perform a ritual praying to the spirits of the shaman. Every year on the second day of the first moon (month) the client must attend (theoretically the client must come, even being at a distance of «one thousand li») the shaman's great annual sacrifice, as described before, and bring with him some wine, Chinese bread, candy and incense (meat is not required!) for the sacrifice.

In November or December, after the harvest, the shaman during his visit to all houses in the village receives from every jarumbo some supply cf. grain (millet, wheat, and others). Rich families give him up to a ton of grain, the poor ones less. All other houses which are not jarumbo give him not less than about fifteen kilograms. The collected grain may suffice to support the shaman during a year. It should be noted that different shamans usually do net meet in the same houses, and a shaman would not go into a house where there is another jarun saman. If a shaman enters the house in which a jarun saman is acting, the latter would know it immediately and would tell it through his assistant (jar'i). The performance consists in a short prayer to the spirits and especially apka endur'i.

The connection which is formed between the shaman and his clients among the Tungus of Manchuria is still stronger when the attended person is a child. In a great number of cases, as shown, the shaman takes the soul of the child (male or female) and keeps it up to a certain age, sometimes up to thirteen or fourteen years. The shaman takes under his protection that component of the threefold soul which returns into other people and animals. If he would take all three components the child would die. The shaman leaves with the child a bell and brass mirror, or something else from his costume. These are placings for the shaman's spirits while the soul is kept by the shaman. The placings are always kept in a special birch-bark box near the sleeping place of the child, and they must not be lost. If loss should occur, it must be immediately reported to the shaman who will take special measures for recovering the control of the absent spirits, together with the placings. In this function the shaman's spirit is actually a guardian spirit of the child. After the above indicated age the soul is revoked by the shaman, and the above mentioned things are returned to the shaman. Some complications may arise when the shaman dies before the time of the restoration of the soul. However, it is supposed that all spirits and naturally souls, become free after the shaman's death. If the soul of the shaman and his spirits, also the souls of children, are not captured by other spirits at the moment of the shaman's death, the child will not suffer any trouble. Therefore the Tungus abstain from having recourse to very old shamans, and naturally they do not ask for any help from «bad-hearted» shamans who during their fighting's with other shamans may be destroyed at any moment. When the shaman collects the souls of children he makes them greatly dependent upon himself, and thus a very strong connection between the shaman and his clients is formed. All of them want to preserve the shaman and to be on good terms with him. In case of trouble they form his own group of sympathisers, sometimes perhaps even against their own will.

Naturally the more numerous are his permanent clients from their childhood, the more influential is the shaman.

Besides this special service rendered by the shaman to the children, he accumulates a great number of adult clients who were relieved by him of their troubles and thus became natural friends of the shaman. The adult clients who are known to a shaman usually address themselves to the same shaman, so that the latter, after getting more acquainted with the psychology of the client, becomes indispensable to the client. In fact, in all cases when a renewing of suggestion is needed, the client hardly can peacefully live without his shaman's assistance.

Indeed, if the shaman is at the same time a popular shaman and a clan-shaman, and if he does not «fight», his influence upon the clan may become very great. However, owing to the strictness of the system of social organization, he will not become «chief» or «head» of the clan. As a matter of fact, a quite special psychomental condition of the shaman, as was shown in the preceding chapter, would not permit him to become such a «lead-er». although he may be very influential, even with the military leader of the Tungus, as it was e.g. with Mukteokan and other shamans who defended with their art their people against foreign aggression.

From these instances we may see that the personal influence of a shaman may extend far beyond his own clan, and it will be a case of individual success.

Whether the shaman is liked or not, whether he is «bad-hearted» or «good-hearted», he always assumes, with his art and individuality, a special social position, which imposes a certain ceremonialism in dealing with him. The shamans are not called by their personal names, even by the seniors; joking and teasing, which are common amongst the Tungus, cannot be used with the shamans; the shaman is usually treated as a «senior». Among some groups the term «shaman» is not used in addressing the shamans. Among the Reindeer Tungus of Transbaikalia they are called nordojar'ifk'i, which may mean «he who is praying » (nordojar'i, «to sing» etc.), or even oyovun (Ner. Barg.), — «the singer». Among the Manchus and Tungus of Manchuria the shaman may be called by the honourable term, — aka, ak'i, or even ejen, — «the master». Among the Reindeer Tungus of Transbaikalia the female shaman may be called by an alien term odakon (cf. supra).


678. The girls usually do not receive targa and toil