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Observations placeholder

M A Czaplicka - Siberian shamanism - On spirit beings



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

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

 BENEVOLENT supernatural beings are called by the Chukchee vairgit, i. e. 'beings'. The most important are the 'benevolent beings sacrificed to' (taaronyo vairgit), those to whom the people bring sacrifices. They live in twenty-two different 'directions' of the Chukchee compass. The chief of these beings is the one residing in the zenith, which is called 'being-a-crown' (kanoirgin), or 'middle-crown' (ginon-kanon). Mid-day, the Sun, and the Polar Star are often identified with the 'middle-crown '. ……. Sacrifices are made to them only on special occasions, and are often mingled with those offered to the kelet ('evil spirits') of the earth.'

The sun, moon, stars, and constellations are also known as vairgit; but the sun is a special vairgin, represented as a man clad in a bright garment, driving dogs or reindeer. …

Among the stars, the pole-star is the principal vairgin, and is most often referred to as unpener,  the pole-stuck star', a name, .which, Mr. Bogoras asserts, is universal throughout Asia.

There are several other vairgit beneficent to man, which Bogoras supposes to be merely vague and impersonal names of qualities.

'They represent a very loose and indefinite personification of the creative principle of the world, and are similar to Vakanda or Great Manitou of the Indians,' he says.

………Besides these 'Beings', the Reindeer Chukchee have also a 'Reindeer-Being' (Qoren-vairgin), who watches over the herds; and the Maritime people have their 'Beings of the Sea' (Anqa-vairgit), of whom the most important are Keretkun and his wife, sometimes called Cinei-new.

 'They live on the sea-bottom or in the open sea, where they have a large floating house. They are larger than men, have black faces, and head-bands of peculiar form, and are clad in long white garments made of walrus-gut adorned with many small tassels.'

Another sea-spirit is the 'Mother of the Walrus', living at the bottom of the sea, and armed with two tusks like a walrus. Besides her, there is still another sea-spirit like a walrus, which is believed to work harm to people, crawling into their houses at night. These walrus-beings do not receive regular sacrifices, and sometimes assist the Shaman in the capacity of kelet. Keretkun, however, is the recipient of sacrifices at the autumn ceremonials. The Asiatic Eskimo have sea-deities similar to those of the Maritime Chukchee.

The Chukchee classify the winds also as 'Beings', whose names are mentioned in incantations, the local prevailing wind being always regarded in a given locality as the chief of these 'Beings'.

Other spirits, which are neither kelet nor vairgit, also exist; e. g. the spirits of intoxicating mushrooms, which form a 'Separate Tribe' (yanra-varat).

The source of the experience

Siberian shamanism

Concepts, symbols and science items

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Inherited genes
Singing spells