How to Become a Shaman: Journey to the Shadow World

How to Become a Shaman: Journey to the Shadow World
How to Become a Shaman: Journey to the Shadow World

Quiet and gloomy in the plague. Only occasionally will a flame break out in the hearth. Its reflection will appear on the dark wall, and again everything will plunge into twilight. Outside the wall, the wind howls, and age-old trees creak under its gusts. And here it is quiet, as if time stood still. A sick young man is lying on deer skins, not far from the hearth. Beside him, on a reindeer skin, an old shaman sits motionless. The patient's relatives invited him from afar. If he does not help, then no one will help. The shaman looks straight ahead with unseeing eyes and hums something softly, lightly tapping the tambourine. Gradually the song grows louder, the old man's face comes to life, his eyes shine. So he gets up and starts to dance. His dance is becoming more energetic, the song is gaining strength. He seems to be talking to someone, convincing, ordering. The movements are faster and faster, the song is louder, the tambourine is hitting more and more often. A lot of time passes, and the shaman falls on the skin in exhaustion … The sick youth's eyelids tremble, he opens his eyes and sits down uncertainly.

Shaman and the Universe

Several years ago I went to the exhibition "Shaman and the Universe" at the Peter the Great St. Petersburg Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography. Simply put, in the Kunstkamera. Scientifically speaking, there were exhibits introducing visitors to shamanism as a cult phenomenon, historically formed on the basis of the worldview of the peoples of North and South Asia, the Arctic and Subarctic North, as well as America, North China, Africa, Australia, Oceania … complex paraphernalia, tambourines, colorful images of a multilevel Universe awakened imagination, invited to travel along mysterious shamanic paths to the Lower and Upper Worlds.

The inspection is over, but questions remain. And I decided to read special literature on the problem of shamanism. But, alas, all the works that fell into my hands illuminated shamanism exclusively from a materialistic position. However, thanks to them, I still managed to find out that “shaman” in translation from Tungus means “an excited, frenzied person”. "Shamans are almost always nervous, prone to seizures." - I read in the book - Religion in the history of the peoples of the world - S.A. Tokarev. “Many were hysterical, and some were literally half-crazy - (VG Bo-goraz - Chukchi”). Researcher of shamanism G.F. Ksenofontov calls this form of religion a cult of madness. But the same Ksenofontov says that a shaman differs from a nervous one in that he is not just possessed by a spirit, but enters into constant contact with it, can arbitrarily summon and release, force him to serve himself. It is these words that allow us to assume that the diagnosis given to shamans is insanity, hysteria, etc. - was a forced step for researchers. Perhaps it was thanks to such a stipulation that books about the religion of the northern peoples were able to see the light in the country of militant atheism.

Indeed, it is unlikely that all this ancient culture, expressed in fantastic rituals, decorated with complex and bizarre paraphernalia, reflected and enshrined in folklore, was only a figment of the inflamed imagination of a whole galaxy of the mentally ill, having its progenitor almost in the Neolithic.

Each shaman is the creator of his own reality, which is based on his visions.

Shamanic disease

But how did people become shamans? The shamanic gift, as a rule, passed through the generation - from grandfather to grandson. It was believed that the spirits themselves choose the future shaman when he is still in childhood. If a child was born - in a shirt,”or there was something unusual in his behavior or appearance, it was perceived as a sign: a shaman was born. As time went on, the "tagged" child fell ill with a shamanic disease, which lasted from three to seven years.The disease manifested itself in different ways: nervous seizures, convulsions, swallowing small objects, fainting, nightmares … It was believed that at such moments the soul of the future shaman was kidnapped and reborn.

And how did the relatives of the future shaman feel about the amazing gift of their son, grandson? They tried to protect the "tagged" child, resisted the spirits. The methods were different. For example, women covered a child who fell ill with a shamanic disease with their pants or stepped over him. Only this rarely helped …

The chosen one of the spirits had to pass a long-term test - an ordeal. In the eyes of those around him, at this time he lost his mind. In fact, according to his fellow tribesmen, his soul traveled along the roads of the Upper and Lower Worlds and, accompanied by a spirit-assistant, visited various deities, receiving wonderful gifts from them. Thanks to these gifts, the shaman had the right to subsequently turn to the donor deities with requests.

Spirits-blacksmiths forged his bones and heart, endowed him with "second" vision, thanks to which he saw what remained invisible to ordinary people, tempered his voice, which could be used to pronounce spells, made his ears sensitive. And each gift received from the spirits then found its symbolic display in a costume for rituals. The Turkic-speaking peoples of Southern Siberia call the shaman "kam". Hence, "kamlat" means - "shaman".

This amazing costume

Every detail of the shamanic costume is significant. For example, the fringe of a hat falling over the eyes means detachment from the everyday world, the opening of a "second" vision. The fringe on the costume itself symbolizes the paths and paths of the spirits; in addition, when the shaman whirls during the ritual, the fringe, spreading around like a fan, allows him to take up more space in space … The costume is based on images of mythological animals: a deer, a bird, a bear. The deer symbolizes the Upper World and the Sun, illustrating the myth of the heavenly hunt. From east to west, a bear chases a deer and overtakes him. The stag sun dies, but then rises again. The bird is a symbol of the Upper World and the soul. On a bird, the shaman can travel to the Lower World.

Putting on a suit, the shaman reincarnated in various animals that helped him to speak with the spirits. Help animals are depicted on the costume's pendants. The shaman's hat has a special thorn that can break ice clouds when climbing rapidly upward, the shoes are designed so as not to get stuck on the muddy road of the Lower World, the fringe on the hat will protect the face from clods of dirt that evil spirits will throw at it, the staff will help to hold on on the ice of a river that has risen, a rein tied to the back will not allow the shaman to fly away for good. By the way, the old Nganasans (Nganasans are a people in Siberia, - editor's note) claim that some strong shamans could fly up during the ritual, and quite high.

There are separate costumes for travel to both the Upper and Lower Worlds. And the tambourine … Striking it, the shaman awakens the whole world of spirits. In addition, the tambourine plays the role of a mount on which the shaman makes his fantastic journeys.

Each piece of the costume is multifunctional and, if necessary, changes its purpose.

It must be said that the shaman's vestments can weigh several tens of kilograms.

The main task of a shaman is to become a representative of people in the subtle world. Such a representative had to be able to negotiate with the spirits, and if necessary, then deceive them.

And, of course, great hopes were pinned on the shaman when treating a patient, but if healing did not take place, then he had to take the deceased to the afterlife.

And the shaman also had one duty. It turns out that in the Upper World, in the crown of the World Tree, children’s souls live like little birds. So, the shaman had to persuade the spirits to give these souls to him, and then instill them in future mothers - childless women who dream of offspring.

Myths are created by man

But what does the ritual process itself look like? The shaman sits on a special skin. He is still without a costume, the vestments will come later. In the meantime, he needs to enter a state of trance, to become a being of a different nature. Entering into a trance is facilitated by the burning of nine different herbs, the sound of a tambourine, bronze mirrors, in which you need to look, in some peoples - alcohol, drugs.

The shaman begins chanting, which should sound without interruption. Therefore, during the inhalation of the shaman, he is continued by the shaman, whose role is usually played by his wife. During large rituals, the song is picked up by all the people sitting in the tent. They, as it were, carry the shaman into the space of the subtle world with their voices. During the ritual, the song changes. It depends on what kind of spirit is to fulfill the will of the shaman.

Getting into the world of the dead, the shaman sees the shadows of some still living people of his camp adhered to the water filling the black hole, and realizes that these people will soon die. Finishing the ritual, the shaman calms and releases the helping spirits.

They say that today there are no strong shamans left. Young people are trying to organize shamanic societies, to arrange something like congresses (in particular, in the capital of Tyva - Kyzyl), but too much has already been lost. It may take a long time for this layer of culture to be revived in a natural way. After all, a person himself creates myths and changes them, adapting to the level of his consciousness.

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