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Common steps and sub-activities

Wearing metal clothing or jewellery

Shashkoff in Shamanism in Siberia  enumerated the following items as indispensable to the shaman's dress all over Siberia - the coat, the mask, the cap, and the copper or iron plate on the breast. “The Samoyed tadibey substitute for the mask a handkerchief tied over the eyes, so that they can penetrate into the spirit-world by their inner sight. This use of a handkerchief is also mentioned by Wierbicki, who says that the shamans of northern Altai wear one round the forehead to keep the hair out of the eyes”.

These four accessories-the coat, the mask, the cap, and the iron plate-are used by the Neo-Siberians only, since among Palaeo-Siberians the dress is much less complicated.

Gmelin in Reise durch Sibirien describing the Tungus shaman's costume, says that over the usual shamanistic garment an apron, adorned with iron, is also worn; his stockings, likewise remarkable, are made of skin  ornamented with iron. Among the Gilyak and the Olchi it is the shaman's girdle which is of the greatest significance; among the Buryat, the horse-staves, &c. Iron and copper objects seem to be especially associated with the Neo-Siberians.

Sieroszewski, The Yakut,

Among the Yakut even the blacksmith who undertakes the ornamentation of the costume, must have inherited the right, If the blacksmith who makes a shamanistic ornament has not a sufficient number of ancestors, if he is not surrounded on all sides by the noise of hammering and the glow of fire, then birds with crooked claws and beaks will tear his heart in pieces.

For this reason the blacksmith's vocation comes next in importance to the shaman's. In modern times it is practically impossible among the Yakut for the shaman's coat to be made, since there is now no class of hereditary blacksmiths.

A Point Barrow Eskimo, 1887-8 – Schrenck

One night when I was sitting in a tent in the village of Yrri, they brought in two shamans' drums and other accessories, and at my request they allowed me to be present at the preparation for the ceremony.

First of all the drum was heated by the fire, to make the hide taut, so that the sound might be more sonorous. The drum was made of the skin of a goat or reindeer, and whilst it was being prepared the shaman made ready. He took off his outer garment, put on the so-called koska, a short apron, and tied round his head a band of grass, the end of which hung over his shoulders like a tress of hair.

Then he took the shaman's leather girdle, with many iron plates, copper hoops, and other metal pendants, which produce a loud clanking noise during the shamanistic dances. This girdle is called in Olcha dialect yangpa. Its chief pendant is a large copper disk with a small handle ornamented in relief, showing Manchu influence; this circle, called tole, makes the most important sound. There are also many iron links called tasso, and many irregular pieces of iron called kyire, which make a very loud noise; a few rolled iron plates called kongoro, and, finally, some small copper bells without tongues, called kongokto. When the girdle is put on all these objects hang together at the back. This shamanistic girdle is of considerable weight.

Shamanism in Siberia - excerpts from Aboriginal Siberia by M. A. CZAPLICKA [1914]

Sieroszewski gives us an account of the meaning of the coat ornamentation, which he heard from in old Yakut. It is as follows:

  • Küngeta (the sun), a round, smooth, shining disk, the size of a small saucer, hanging between. the shoulders, on a short strap of leather which passes through the hole in the middle of the disk.
  • Oibon-Künga (hole-in-the-ice sun), a disk of the same shape and size as the first, but with a larger hole in the middle. it hangs above or below the first plate on a long leather strap
  • Kondei kyhan, rolls of tin about the size of a thumb, but longer, banging at the back on the metal rings or loops.
  • Chilliryt kyhan, flat plates as long as fingers, banging in great numbers at the back, above the waist.
  • .Hobo, copper bells without tongues, suspended below the collar; like a crow's egg in size and shape and having on the tipper part a drawing of a fish's head. They are tied to the leather straps or to the metal loops.
  • Biirgüne, two round flat disks, similar to those which adorn the woman's cap, tuskata, but without any design on them; they are tied like an epaulet on the shaman's shoulders.
  • Oiogos timiria, two plates about the breadth of four fingers and a little shorter, fastened on both sides of the body.
  • Tabytaua, two long plates two fingers broad, which are fastened to both sleeves.
  • Ämägyat, abagyta ämätiat (in many places called emchet), a copper plate as long as the first finger and half as wide as the palm of the hand. It is covered either with a drawing of a man, 'with feet, bands, head, nose, mouth, eyes, and ears', or with an engraving in relief on a copper medallion, having a man's figure in the middle.
  • Balyk-timir (the fish), a plate a metre long, two fingers wide, made in the form of a fish with head, fins, tail, and scales. It bangs on a long leather strap. In some places, like the district of Kolyma, it drags on the ground to entice the secondary spirits, which run after it and try to catch it.
  •  Choran, small hollow copper balls, fastened to the ends of long leather straps reaching to the heels and banging like a fringe from the lower edge of the coat. This fringe is called bytyrys (the weed).

The coat is plain in front, and fastens on the breast with leather straps, and under the chin with a buckle in the form of a colt's tongue (kulun tyl kurduk). On the front of the coat are sewn figures of animals, birds, fishes; various disks; images of the sun, moon, and stars; and also some iron representations of the human skeleton and bowels… A good shaman's dress requires about 35 to 40 pounds of iron