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Observations placeholder

Mircea Eliade - On horses



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Mircea Eliade – Shamanism Archaic techniques of ecstasy

 ‘their heads bound with a white kerchief, their faces daubed with black, astride a wooden horse, and grasping a wooden sword and their bauble’, the two pages ‘make their wooden horses curvet and shake their rattles with maddening frenzy’ as soon as the machi goes into trance. We may compare the Buryat shaman’s ‘horse’ and the Muria dances on a wooden horse.  During the Machi’s trance other riders fight the demons and expel evil spirits.  When the machi has returned to her senses, she describes her journey to the sky, and announces that the Sky father has granted all the wishes of the community From Father Housse – Une Epopee indienne................

Among the Garo the ‘horse’ forms part of the harvest ritual.  The body of the horse is made from banana stems, its head and hoofs from bamboo.  The head is mounted on a stick, held so that it reaches the height of the chest.  With shuffling steps the man performs a wild dance while, facing him, the priest dances, pretending to beckon the horse.
V Elwin has recorded a similar ritual among the Muria or Bastar.  In his sanctuary at Semurgaon the great Gond god Lingo Pen has several wooden horses.  At the time of the god’s festival these ‘horses’ are carried by mediums and used both to induce ecstatic trance and for divination.
At Metawand I watched for several hours the antics of a medium who was carrying on his shoulders the wooden horse of his clan god and at Bandopol a medium carrying an imaginary horse on his shoulders ‘ambled, caracoled, pranced and plunged’ for two miles before my slow moving car as we made our way into the jungle for the Marka Pandum.  ‘The god rides upon him’ they told me ‘and he cannot stop dancing for days at a time’.
At a wedding in Malakot, I saw a medium riding on a characteristic hobby horse, and again in the Dhurwa country to the south, I saw a man dancing astride a similar wooden hobby horse.  In both cases the rider would fall into trance if anything went wrong with the proceedings and would be able to diagnose the supernatural cause of trouble

Sources Biren Bonnerjea – Materials for the Study of Garo Ethnology; and Verrier Elwin – The Hobby Horse and Ecstatic dance

The source of the experience

Shaman unspecified

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps