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Mircea Eliade - Shamanic bridges

Identifier

002927

Type of spiritual experience

Background

"Sakai is one of the tribes in Indonesia who live in the interior of Riau, Sumatra. Sakai is a Minangkabau descent who migrated to the edge of Gasib River, upstream of Rokan River, Riau hinterland in the 14th century. As with Kampar, Kuantan, and Indragiri people, Sakai is a community of Pagaruyung who migrated to the Riau mainland centuries ago. Most of the Sakai community living as a farmer."

 

A description of the experience

Mircea Eliade – Shamanism Archaic techniques of ecstasy

Among the Sakai such influences become still more marked.  They believe that the soul leaves the body through the back of the head and sets off westward.  The dead man attempts to enter the sky through the same gate by which the souls of Malays go in, but failing starts over the bridge, Menteg, across a cauldron of boiling water (this idea is of Malayan origin).  The bridge is really  a tree trunk stripped of its bark.  The souls of the wicked fall into the caldron.  Yenang seizes them and burns them to dust; then he weighs them; if the souls have become light, he send them to the sky; otherwise he continues burning them to purify them by fire.

Mircea Eliade – Shamanism Archaic techniques of ecstasy

 From Loeb - Sumatra

After death the soul must cross the edge of a razor that extends over a fiery underworld; sinners fall into the flames, the good go up to the sky, where there is a great tree.  There souls remain until the final resurrection.  It is easy to perceive the mixture of archaic themes (the bridge, the Tree of Life as receptacle and nurse of souls) with exotic influences (underworld fire, the idea of a final resurrection).

The Niassans know the Cosmic Tree that gave birth to all things.  To go up to the sky, the dead pass over the bridge; under the bridge is the abyss of the underworld.  A guardian with shield and lance is posted at the entrance to the sky; a cat throws guilty souls into the infernal waters for him…..

The author notes the similarity between this complex of Niassan infernal mythology and the ideas of the Indian Naga peoples.  The comparison could be extended to other aboriginal peoples of India.

The Besisi of the Kuala Langat distrit of Selangan, like those of Bebrang, speak of a fruit island to which the souls of the dead go.  The island is comparable to the Mapic Tree of the Semang.  There, when men reach old age they can become children and begin to grow again.

The source of the experience

Kahuna

Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image