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Vitebsky, Piers - visit from a dying man

Identifier

010072

Type of spiritual experience

A description of the experience

Piers Vitebsky
REINDEER PEOPLE

Then she started to talk about the recent loss of her beloved brother. As his illness became graver, he had been airlifted to the hospital in Sangar.

'But,' she said, 'just before his death, he came to me in the village.'

'You mean in a dream?' I asked.

'No, in waking life [nayavu].'

This seemed odd. It would have taken him days or weeks to get a flight.

'You mean he actually came?' I asked, still failing to understand.

Lidia did not answer, but continued, 'But I didn't see him. He knocked, and I ran to open the door. I called out, but he'd already gone down the steps and left. I ran to the window and couldn't see him, so I ran to the other window - again he wasn't there. And then I thought, But he's flat on his back in hospital in Sangar, how could he come to me? He really wanted me be there in Sangar. I wanted to get there but I had no money and there was no plane.'

So the sick, dying man had yearned to see his sister so much that he had come to her in spirit! I could not see her face clearly in the pale summer night, but felt a clumsy urge to fill the silence.

'You didn't see him, but I'm sure he saw you,' I said, responding as best I could.

'Yes, I'm sure [naverno],'she murmured.

'He wanted to warn her in advance,' explained Gosha.

'He came to say farewell,' she confirmed. It was Lidia who would later explain what I now understand whenever I see someone set out on a journey, the Eveny avoidance of the finality of saying goodbye.

Just as the messages of Lidia's dreams about animals and knives reinforced each other, so her brother's death had been preceded by many signs, all conveying the same message.

'A year before he died,' she said, 'he was lying down on the couch after lunch alone. And as he lay there, a woman came into the room. She was dressed all in white, with long white hair.'

'And she stroked his hair,' added Gosha. Lidia and Gosha often speak with one voice, but here again was a hint of how private dreams and omens can become public property. Other people, too, probably knew this story and could recount it like a script.

'She stroked him,' said Lidia. 'But when he got up, there was no one there.'

'He woke with a start, in a panic,' Gosha went on. 'Even in his sleep, he had a feeling of panic.' So the script extended to the man's supposed inner state, perhaps reproducing the way her brother had described it himself.

'He realized she'd come to him in a dream,' Lidia explained.

'He wasn't asleep, but he wasn't awake either. He tried to look, but couldn't see her face.'

'Later, when he was lying ill, she came to him again' continued Gosha. 'The door opened, that's how she came in. He could even hear the sound of her footsteps as she walked.'

‘Just like a real, living woman' Lidia added.

‘Who do you think it was?' I asked.

'I think it was a sign' Lidia answered, 'a ghost.'

‘”She's come from the next world,'" Gosha added, quoting the sick man's words, '"she's come from heaven to fetch me!'"

The source of the experience

Siberian shamanism

Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image

Activities

Observation contributed by: Monica Van Rossem