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Observations placeholder

Keith Howard - The Tuvan shaman Alexander Tavakay heals a child



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Shamanism, music and the soul – Keith Howard

The Cukc musician Slava Egrovic Kemlil (b. 1963), in a recording made in Cerskij above the Arctic circle near the mouth of the Kolyma river in 1992, juxtaposes the imitation of dogs, ravens, and reindeer with a suggestion of entering trance through a rasped rapid in-out breathing.

He accompanies himself on a frame drum, playing rapidly for the animals and slower and more regularly when trance is sought. Kemlil attempts to recreate a shaman's ritual heard in his youth, before singing about his prized animal:

My beloved reindeer has great antlers
and when he arrives behind the hill
one sees his antlers before seeing him.
When he comes down the hill, full of strength and beauty,
I admire him, I love him very much, I yoke him to the sledge ...
and praise my reindeer.

Second, on a very different recording, the Tuvan shaman Alexander Tavakay is heard to call his animal helpers to heal a child, imitating a cuckoo to calm the child, a raven to scare evil away, and an owl to calm cattle. Tavakay considers his songs to be sacred, and his basic percussion battery - rattles, rings, metal strips and bells attached to the back of his costume - to frighten any evil spirits that threaten his patient. As he beats his large frame drum, the dungur, the spirits congregate in it, only to be sent away to the other world. The ritual procedure is used to treat specific illnesses, but many of these are seen to have their root in psychological problems related to deceased relatives.

The source of the experience

Siberian shamanism

Concepts, symbols and science items




Science Items

Activities and commonsteps


Music therapy