Volume 18 Numbers 1 & 2 (Spring/Autumn 2010)


ALEXANDRA A. KIM-MALONEY and DAVID R. YESNER (Anchorage, AK): “Traditional Belief and Healing Systems in a Changing World: An Interdisciplinary Approach”: The Ninth Conference of the ISSR, Held in Anchorage, Alaska, USA, May 27–31, 2009


BUMOCHIR DULAM (Ulaanbaatar): Degrees of Ritualization: Language Use in Mongolian Shamanic Ritual

Based on present shamanic societies, the article identifies types of Mongol shamanic chants and their characteristics and distinctions, where previously these have been understood as a single long chant uttered during shamanic rituals. Next, by developing the characteristics of the types of chants, an explanation is suggested for the opposing Euro-American theories of ritual. The article proposes that ritualization has four inseparable degrees, starting from everyday actions with full propositional and intentional characteristics and then progressively losing propositional force and intentionality through the degrees of ritualization until the highest nonintentional and nonpropositional degree is reached.

HU TAI-LI (Taipei, Taiwan): Chants and Healing Rituals of the Paiwan Shamans in Taiwan

The female shamans of the Austronesian Paiwan perform in a wide spectrum of individual and communal rituals. The Paiwan shamans are characterized by chanting (marada) while in a state of ecstasy. Chanting makes it possible for a shaman to meet ancestral spirits and to be possessed by them, so that she utters their words. The chants of Paiwan shamans from the southern Taiwanese village Kulalao consist of a basic structure as well as a fixed and ancient oral text. Shamans chant in more advanced and important rituals which are often combined with the killing and offering of pigs. The various stages of Paiwan Kulalao healing rituals, for example, reveal the causes of illness, exchanges between human beings and the spirits, and the essence and power of chants. Due to the strong effect of the Paiwan shamans' ritual chants on enhancing spiritual power to overcome illness and other evil influences for the individual and the village, Paiwan leaders of the noble class rely on shamans to maintain their authority and strive to maintain the tradition of shamans and their ritual chants.

HYUN-KEY KIM HOGARTH (The Royal Anthropological Institute, UK): The Korean Shamanistic Ritual and Psychoanalysis

It is interesting to note that uneducated Korean shamans (mudang) were applying the same principle as Freudian psychoanalysis long before its advent. This paper discusses similarities and differences between the techniques used by Freudian psychoanalysts and mudang, through comparing case studies of Freud's female patient and a mudang's female client. Mudangs' techniques differ from those of psychoanalysts who cure through one-to-one talking sessions in that their healing is carried out through impromptu public drama skilfully instigated by them, in which the repressed feelings are revealed and clarified. Being spontaneous and highly entertaining, their method can produce a dramatic success.

DANIEL A. KISTER (Beijing): Yi Shamanic Rites of Personal, Familial, and Social Healing

Chinese Yi families celebrate seasonal sacrificial healing rites which both engage the spirits and stimulate cathartic human activity through poetic chants and simple symbolic gestures. The family joins the officiant as the healing agents. Personal healing procedures reflect an awareness of empirical, psychological, social, and spiritual forces at work in the patient's condition and cure. They bolster self-assurance within one's family, spiritual culture, and natural surroundings. They take place within rites to purge the family of threats from other family's curses, imagined as an infectious threat and a quasi-material force to be fought. In line with Rene Girard's theory of sacrifice, the rites also purge society itself by deflecting violent tendencies onto scapegoat animals and an imagined spirit battle. Gods represented by “spirit branches” lead the battle. The rite may end by symbolically inviting family members to cleanse themselves of their own misunderstandings.

PETER KNECHT (Nagoya, Japan): Initiation Rituals of Shamans and Folk Healers: Similarities and Dissimilarities (Inner Mongolia, Hulunbeir)

After the Cultural Revolution new shamans are coming forth every year. In their activities they become possessed by their ancestral spirits, the ongon, which were formally induced into them at their initiation ritual. Folk healers, too, claim that they can work successfully because they are assisted by an ongon, the spirit of a former healer in their family. Contemporary shamans perform initiation rituals similar to those for shamans also for healers. Healers, however, do not seem to need such an initiation. The article discusses similarities and dissimilarities in the two kinds of rituals in the light of a shaman's or healer's relation to the ongon.

DIANA RIBOLI (Panteio University, Athens, Greece): Gosts and Paracetamol: Batek and Jahai Shamanism in a Changing word

Shamanism and traditional beliefs of the Batek and Jahai (who belong to the Semang-Negrito groups of Peninsular Malaysia), although currently probably in decline in sedentary populations that have converted to Islam, are still extremely important for these cultures. This paper will attempt to examine the dichotomies and tensions between traditional beliefs and the Batek and Jahai healing system on the one hand, and the surrounding Muslim world, ever pressing for rapid modernization and assimilation of other cultures, on the other. These tensions and the dichotomy between “health and illness” appear to be expressed—in the different perceptions of the dominant culture and that of the indigenous groups—in terms of the opposition between “rainforest and city,” “pure and impure,” “identity and assimilation” and “nature and culture.”

GRANT J. RICH (University of Alaska Southeast, Juneau, Alaska, USA): Integrating Contemporary and Traditional Healing Practices in Belize

Belize, a “Caribbean nation in Central America,” became independent in 1981, though the Maya presence dates back thousands of years. This article examines the integration of traditional and contemporary healing practices in the Belize of modernity by focusing upon several illustrative examples from the Maya and from the Garifuna, an afro-indigenous group in Belize. A focus on allopathic approaches to psychological disorders in Belize further highlights issues regarding traditional and contemporary healing modalities. While often the traditional and modern systems work in isolation from each other, in parallel, thoughtful integration of healing modalities and mutual respect among practitioners offers substantial benefits.

EDWARD J. VAJDA (Western Washington University): Ket Shamanism

This article surveys what is known about traditional shamanism among the Ket people living in the Yenisei River area of central Siberia. It provides an overview of practices, beliefs, paraphernalia, and linguistic aspects of Ket shamanism. The article also outlines how Ket shamanism came to the attention of the outside world. It also describes the current state of shamanism among the Ket living in Turukhansk District, citing information gathered on the authors expedition to the Yenisei and Yelogui rivers in August–September 2008.

KYLE WARK (University of Alaska, Anchorage, USA): Tlingit and European Interactions along the Spiritual Front

This paper traces out some of the dominant themes in traditional Tlingit spirituality, including both shamanism and its polar opposite witchcraft, as well as some of the spiritual practices of lay people, the cosmological principles underlying Tlingit spirituality (such as reincarnation), and the spiritual meanings of social life. Of particular interest is how these beliefs were altered in the course of Tlingit exposure to Euro-American spirituality in the form of Christianity. Hence, the paper also addresses some of the factors effecting how Christianity was introduced into Tlingit territory, and especially how those factors changed during the Russian and American periods.

Field Report

DÁVID SOMFAI KARA and LÁSZLÓ KUNKOVÁCS (Budapest): Some Fieldwork Notes on Bashkir Folk Medicine

Book Reviews

GULNARA AITPAEVA (Chief Editor) Mazar Worship in Kyrgyzstan: Rituals and Practitioners in Talas (by Dávid Somfai Kara)
HARALD HAARMANN and JOAN MARLER. Introducing the Mythological Crescent. Ancient Beliefs and Imagery Connecting Eurasia with Anatolia (by Vilmos Voigt)
CLIVE TOLLEY. Shamanism in Norse Myth and Magic (by Vilmos Voigt)

Exhibition Review

Trommeln der Schamanen. Ausstellung im Völkerkundemuseum der Universität Zürich, Schweiz (by Mihály Hoppál)