Volume 17 Numbers 1 & 2 (Spring/Autumn 2009)


ANN FIENUP-RIORDAN with Translations by ALICE REARDEN and MARIE MEADE (Anchorage, AK): Tumaralria's Drum

The following pages discuss the choice by contemporary Yup'ik elders to showcase a 100-year-old shaman drum in a national exhibition of their way of life. Elders' interpretation of the toothy cavity on the drum's handle is compared to their understanding of similar objects in other nineteenth-century museum collections, many also associated with shamanism. Drums like Tumaralria's played an essential role in shamanic enactments of power in southwest Alaska. Today these shaman drums are not rejected or hidden but given a prominent place in public statements and displays, telling us as much about the present as the past.

GUO SHUYUN (Dalian, China) Analysis of the Grandfather God of the Manchu Shi Clan

The Manchu Sikteri Clan (Chinese Shi) in Jiutai City of Jilin Province is one of only a few Manchu families in modern China that still maintain traditional shamanic rituals, and its system of shamanist gods has very distinct characteristics. The gods of this system include three kinds: high gods (including the Grandfather God and Manni Gods), wild animal gods, and household gods. The present article attempts to define clearly the Grandfather God of the Manchu Sikteri Clan, and it then examines three related areas: the criteria for establishing this god, the pedigree of the god, and the three forms of communication employed by the god.

F. GEORG HEYNE (Bielefeld, Germany): Among Taiga Hunters and Shamans: Reminiscences Concerning my Friend, the Scholar of Manchuria, Anatolii Makarovich Kaigorodov (1927-1998)

This commemorative article introduces the person as well as the work of the scholar Anatolii Makarovich Kaigorodov. It uses Kaigorodov's accounts of his personal experiences with the Reindeer Evenki of the Great Hinggan (Northeast China). He was the son of a family of Russian emigrants in the Three River Region that had longstanding trading relations with the Reindeer Evenki hunters of the taiga. The article discusses the cultural significance of the trading relationships between the two ethnic groups, relationships that were based on mutual trust and friendship characterized by the term andak (friend, partner). Furthermore, it is an account of the unique opportunity Kaigorodov had to witness the life of the Evenki hunters, because he was the godchild of their most revered shamaness of the first half of the last century. As such he became an intimate witness of the daily life as well as of the religious/shamanic world of the Evenki hunters.

PETER KNECHT (Nagoya, Japan): A Long Road to Becoming a Shaman: A Ryukyu Shaman's Autobiography

The article is based on the personal account of a Ryukyu shaman about her experiences of how she became a shaman. Her story is of particular interest because it is the reflective account of a shaman about her social as well as spiritual experiences and not an ethnographic report produced by a researcher. The first part gives the itinerary of her life and shows how the itinerary is shaped by her reflections at its various stages. The second part reflects on the validity of clear cut distinctions in the use of such terms as "priestess" (noro) and "shaman" (yuta) based on the shaman's own statements. This is possible because the shaman herself discusses her experiences and her status in the light of current scholarly discourse.

JAMES K. MCNELEY (Diné College, Tsaile, AZ): Athapaskan, Ket, and Chinese Concepts of a Wind Vital Core of Human Life: A Family Resemblance?

This is a comparative study of conceptions of "wind" as being the vital core of life in the traditional belief systems of the Athapaskans of North America, the Ket people of Central Siberia and people of China. Some striking similarities between the attributes of the "wind" concepts in these belief systems are reviewed. The similarities are hypothesized to be derived from a shared ancient belief in "wind" as the vital core or activating principal of life together with linguistic and cultural affinities and the cultural or logical implications of the belief in wind as the vital core of human life.

RICHARD NOLL (DeSales University, USA) and KUN SHI (The Ohio State University, USA): The Last Shaman of the Oroqen People of Northeast China

This paper provides background information about shamanism of the Tungus-speaking peoples in northeast China, particularly the Oroqen. It describes in detail the life and healing practices of the last Oroqen shaman Chuonnsauan (Meng Jin Fu) who lived just south of the Amur River. The paper may be the most extensive documentation of the last Oroqen shaman in China.

DÁVID SOMFAI KARA, MIHÁLY HOPPÁL and JÁNOS SIPOS (Budapest): A Revitalized Daur Shamanic Ritual from Northeast China

In September 2007 two Hungarian ethnologists, Mihály Hoppál and Dávid Somfai Kara, were invited to attend a Daur shamanic ritual. The ominaan ritual was conducted by Sechengua, a famous Daur shaman from Nantun (Hölön-Buir, Inner Mongolia, China), and her students. The ritual lasted for two days, and during that time the people made sacrifices to Tengger, God of Heaven, spirits of ancestors and other spirits. After the ritual Sechengua gave us an interview in which she explained how she had become a shaman and why she had decided to revitalize the ominaan ritual among the Daur of Hailar. We recorded the beginning of her invocation song and tried to analyze it. Sechengua told us about her shamanic ability (ojoor) and that she had inherited it from the legendary Laa saman, who was her great grandfather. In the article we attempt to shed more light on the meaning of some emic terms of Daur shamanism: ojoor, barkan, and onggoor, as well as on interethnic relations of the Daur with the local Tungus and Mongol ethnic minorities. We also discuss the way in which Sechengua widens the frame of shamanic traditions and clan rituals.

GIOVANNI STARY (University of Venice): The Manchu Imperial Shamanic Complex Tangse

Tangse, a Chinese loanword meaning 'hall', is the general Manchu designation of the temple complex where the Manchu imperial clan Aisin Gioro celebrated its shamanic rites to Heaven and the protective spirits. Such tangse existed in all capitals of the Manchu khanate and the Qing empire, and its rites (which were codified in 1747 by the Qianlong Emperor under the title Manjusai wecere metere kooli bithe) are well known and had already been translated into French in 1887. Some questions, however, remained unresolved or were misinterpreted: the present paper offers a new interpretation and describes the various sites where imperial tangse existed.

ANDREI ZNAMENSKI (University of Memphis): Quest for Primal Knowledge: Mircea Eliade, Traditionalism, and "Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy"

The paper is an attempt to answer a question about what might have prompted Mircea Eliade, who never considered himself an expert on shamanism and tribal peoples, to write his classic text Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. It is suggested that for Eliade with his mindset, which was heavily affected by the philosophy of traditionalism, it was a logical step to enter the field of shamanism studies. An intellectual and cultural movement in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s with numerous links to esotericism, traditionalism fostered quests for "archaic" roots and an authentic primal tradition. The paper also discusses how humanities and social science scholars responded to his book and how Eliade's vision of shamanism as a cross-cultural primal religion inspired numerous spiritual seekers in the West in the 1960s and the 1970s.

Book Review

ANDREI A. ZNAMENSKI. The Beauty of the Primitive. Shamanism and the Western Imagination. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. 2007. (Vilmos Voigt)