Volume 10 Numbers 1 & 2 (Spring/Autumn 2002)


Ake Hultkrantz (Stockholm): Mihály Hoppál Is Sixty

Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer (Georgetown University): Shamans Across Space, Time and Language Barriers

Using legends, epics and oral histories culled from fieldwork in the Sakha Republic, this essay reviews cases of significant Tungus (Even and Evenki) – Yakut (Sakha) interaction, and mutual Tungusic-Sakha shamanic influences. Written in honor of Mihály Hoppál’s work on Inner Asia, it contributes to general arguments concerning the "impure" and complex legacies of cultural traditions, and to specific discussions of the multiple roles of Tungus-Manchurian and Turkic peoples in the history of Asia.

BILL BRUNTON (Fargo, North Dakota): Kootenai Divination

The Kootenai Indians of North America are briefly characterized culturally and geographically. Their spiritual practices are briefly described, with a conclusion that they are in a general way, shamanic in nature. Divination as seen as a central aspect of their shamanic work that has been a factor in their secret and self-reliant adaptive autonomy. Finally, their precarious cultural position vis a vis the larger Euroamerican cultural context is attributed to a continuous presence of ethnocentrism.

RUTH-INGE HEINZE (Berkeley): Symbols and Signs, Myths and Archetypes: A Cross-cultural Survey of the Serpent

Symbols and signs, myths and archetypes are used crossculturally to express the ineffable and we know that archetypes, for example, rise from the unconscious culturally conditioned. This leads to situations where symbolic expressions may be interpreted differently in different cultures. When we, in folklore, use symbolic languages, we should be warned to ascertain how we will be understood crossculturally. I selected the archetype of the "serpent" to demonstrate that an archetype can opens new doors of perception in completely different ways.

KEITH HOWARD (London): Shaman Music, Drumming, and Into the ‘New Age’

Music, the most plastic of arts, offers itself to various interpretations. Practitioners and scholars agree that music has affective impact. Some would claim affect stems from the inherent power of sound; others that it relies on cultural understanding and association. Our contemporary post-modern condition allows myriad contrasting interpretations to stand, sometimes juxtaposed, sometimes in conflict. We seek to understand otherness in music, yet we strive to make otherness familiar by adding harmonic, melodic or rhythmic sameness rooted in Western culture. We explore the unusual to find elements that can provide novel intensity to what our culture has regularised within a normative musical canon.

WOLFGANG G. JILEK and LOUISE JILEK-AALL (Vancouver, B.C.): Shamanic Beliefs, Practices, and Messianic Movements Among the Hmong People of Southeast Asia

This article is based on original data collected by the authors among Laotian Hmong hilltribes people in refugee camps in Thailand 1988–89 and among Hmong villagers in Laos. An introduction summarizes historical sources on the Hmong who after centuries of rebellion against oppression by Imperial Chinese authorities migrated to Southeast Asia in the 19th century, and their involvement in the civil wars of Indochina after World War II which eventually led to a mass exodus of Laotian Hmong to Thailand where the authors encountered them in refugee camps. Described are the therapeutic and spiritual practices of shamans among the Hmong people who tenaciously adhered to their ancient culture also in the refugee camps; their origin myth of shamanic healing and their traditions of supernatural powers determining health, illness and death; traditional indications for, and types of, shamanic intervention; the calling and qualification of shamanic practitioners and the paraphernalia they use. Further reported are the personal stories of a shaman and a shamaness, and a pioneering venture of integrating shamanic ritual in modern drug addiction treatment. Summarized are reports of historical messianic movements among the Hmong that motivated their resistance to oppression in the past, showing the inspiring role played by shamanic prophet leaders with visionary revelations of the imminent coming of a mythic Hmong Redeemer. The most recent messianic movement among the Laotian Hmong is presented: a clandestine cult movement under charismatic shamanic leaders with prophesies of ethnic redemption; its militant units welded together by sacred vows and secret magic rituals, communicating through an "ancient" script taught by Hmong priest-teachers at syncretistic Hmong temples in the refugee camps. This shamanic-inspired Hmong movement is paradigmatic of the universal phenomenon of messianic-millenarian movements of oppressed indigenous peoples. The article is illustrated with photographs by the authors.

LAUREL KENDALL (New York): An Old Shaman in a Tile-Roofed House

This is the story of two encounters with an old shaman in the city of Seoul. On the first occasion, the setting of a decrepit old house enhances the shaman’s self-image as the last bearer of distinctive oral and ritual traditions. Four years later, the house has been replaced by a modern "traditional" dwelling and the shaman is seen to be a self-conscious performer for students of folklore. The moral of the tale is in the ability of shamans and spirits to adapt to a changing landscape, even when adaptation means claiming the mantle of "authenticity."

DANIEL KISTER (Seoul): The Shaman’s Gift

The shamanic gift is commonly seen as consisting of unusual parapsychological powers. But a Korean shaman’s gift to her community consists mainly in the wonder of her life as one chosen by the gods and in the life-enhancing effect that her rites have on believer’s lives through the aid of more ordinary powers that she shares with other psycho-therapists and artists. Rites of family healing, village rites, and rites for the dead exemplify her psychological and artistic powers.

PETER KNECHT (Nagoya): Mountains Are Not Just Mountains

In the Japanese folk imagination, mountains are often conceived as representing a mysterious world: the abode of divine and other spirits. In some cases their physical features are interpreted as being concrete representations of paradise or of the various sections of hell. Mountains are therefore perceived as a world apart, safe to approach by the common people only after certain ritual measures had been taken. However, they are also seen as the world where persons who function as mediums between the world of spirits and that of humans can establish their first contact with their guiding spirits and then strengthen their relationships with these spirits during repeated visits while they remain active.

DIANA RIBOLI (Athens): Trances of Initiation, Incorporation and Movement: Three Different Typologies of the Shamanic Trance

The common definition of a shamanic trance does not in fact represent one sole phenomenon. Only the physical and exterior manifestations of trances experienced by shamans have traits in common, but their meanings are very different. The author presents some reflections on three different typologies of trance, with detailed examples from research carried out by the latter from 1990 and 1996 into the Chepang in Southern-Central Nepal.

GIOVANNI STARY (Venice): A Bibliographical Review on the Occasion of the 40th "Birthday" of Nishanology

News and Notes

MIHÁLY HOPPÁL (Budapest) and KIRA VAN DEUSEN (Vancouver) Conference on Musical Ethnography of the Manchu-Tunguz Peoples, Yakutsk, August 17-23, 2000
EVA JANE NEUMANN FRIDMAN (Harvard University, Cambridge, MA): Minutes of the General Assembly of the ISSR, Held at Viljandi Cultural College, Viljandi, Estonia, August 16, 2001