Observations placeholder

M A Czaplicka - Siberian shamanism - The young shaman Enchu

Identifier

003187

Type of Spiritual Experience

Background

'Going to the underworld' occasionally implies a meeting with disembodied souls

A description of the experience

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

The kams (shamans) of the Turkic tribes of the Altai have preserved with great strictness the ancient shamanistic ceremonial forms.

Potanin gives a curious description of the performance of a young shaman, Enchu, who lived by the River Talda, about six versts from Anguday. Four stages, each marked by a different posture of the shaman, characterized his performance: in the first, he was sitting and facing the fire; second, standing, with his back to the fire; third, a sort of interlude, during which the shaman rested from his labour, supporting himself with his elbow on the drum, which he balanced on its rim, while he related what he had learned in his intercourse with the spirits; and fourth, a final shamanizing, with his back to the fire, and facing the place where the drum usually hangs.

Enchu declared afterwards that he had no recollection of what happened while he was shamanizing with his back turned to the fire. While he was in that position he had been whirling about madly in circles on one spot, and without any considerable movement of his feet; crouching down on his haunches, and rising again to a standing posture, without interrupting the rotating movement. As he alternately bent and straightened his body from the hips, backwards and forwards and from side to side, with lively movements or jerks, the manyak (metal pendants) fastened to his coat danced and dangled furiously in ill directions, describing shining circles in the air.

At the same time the shaman kept beating his drum, holding it in various positions so that it gave out different sounds. From time to time Enchu held the drum high above his head in a horizontal position and beat upon it from below. The natives of Anguday explained to Potanin that when the shaman held the drum in that way, he was collecting spirits in it. At times he would talk and laugh with some one apparently near by, but invisible to others, showing in this manner that he was in the company of spirits.

At one time Enchu fell to singing more, quietly and evenly, simultaneously imitating on his drum the hoof-beats of a horse. This was to indicate that the shaman, with his accompanying spirits, was departing to the underworld of Erlik, the god of darkness.

The source of the experience

Siberian shamanism

Concepts, symbols and science items

Symbols

Horse
Underworld

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps

Commonsteps

References