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Observations placeholder

Sternberg - The Gilyak Siberian shaman



Type of Spiritual Experience


Number of hallucinations: 1


There are people who use deliberate dehydration to induce a spiritual experience, but the Siberian Shamans did not deliberately induce dehydration, but through the illnesses that accompanied their initiation into shamanism often became dehydrated and through this obtained spiritual experiences

A description of the experience

Sternberg - The Gilyak

[Sternberg] was told by a Gilyak shaman that before he had entered on his vocation he had been very ill for two months, during which time he was unconscious, lying quite motionless.

Sometimes, he said, he almost regained consciousness, but sank again into a swoon before recovering his senses. 'I should have died', he explained, 'if I had not become a shaman.'

During these months of trial he became 'as dry', he said, 'as a dry stick.'

In the night he heard himself singing shaman's songs. Once there appeared to him a bird-spirit, and, standing at some distance from it, a man, who spoke to him in these words: 'Make yourself a drum and all that pertains to a shaman. Beat the drum and sing songs. If you are an ordinary man, nothing will come of it; but if you are to be a shaman, you will be no ordinary one.'

When he came to himself he found that he was being held by head and feet close to the fire by his friends, who told him that they had thought him already dead, carried off by the evil spirits (kekhn). Forthwith he demanded a drum, and began to beat it and sing.

He felt half dead, half intoxicated. Then for the first time he saw his spirit-protectors, kekhn and kenchkh. The former told him, 'If you see any one ill, cure him. Do not trust kenchkh. He has a man's face, but his body is a bird's. Trust us only

The source of the experience

Siberian shamanism

Concepts, symbols and science items


Spirit helper


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Nutritional deprivation