Shamanism in Siberia
Some Ceremonies I. The Chukchee
Chukchee ceremonials have as the only object of their performance the material welfare of the community, and incantations are the main substance of their rites.
The Reindeer Chukchee’s only regular ceremonials are those connected with the herd; these they call ‘sacrifices’ or ‘genuine sacrifices ‘. ‘Strictly speaking,’ says Bogoras, ‘every slaughtering of reindeer is a sacrifice and is performed according to certain rules. After the animal is stabbed the Chukchee watch carefully to see on whieh side it falls. To fall on the wounded side is a less favourable omen than to fall on the other; and to fall backwards is still worse, and forebodes misfortune.'
Besides reindeer, dogs are also slaughtered, and sometimes substitute sacrifices are offered, of reindeer made of willow-leaves or even of snow. Most sacrifices are offered to the good spirits. Evil spirits are also sacrificed to, but the offerings to these are made at midnight, in darkness, and are never spoken of.
The most regular sacrifices are the Autumn Slaughtering, Winter Slaughtering, the Ceremonial of Antlers, the Sacrifice to the New Moon, the Sacrifice to the Fire, the Sacrifice for Luck in Hunting,” and a ceremonial connected with the killing of wild reindeer bucks. Besides these seasonal ceremonials there is also a Thanksgiving Ceremonial, which each family must perform once or twice a year, on different occasions.
Bogoras gives a summary account of the ceremonials of the Maritime Chukchee as follows: ‘The cycle of the ceremonials with the Maritime Chukchee opens with two short ceremonials in the beginning of the autumn, which are often joined together. One of them is a commemorative sacrifice to the dead. The other is a sacrifice to the sea, in order to ensure good fortune in subsequent sealing on the sea-ice in winter. [1. Bogoras, The Chukchee, p. 368. 2. Op. cit., pp. 369-70. 3. Op. cit., p. 372. 4. Op. cit., p. 376. 5. Op. cit., p. 377. 6. Op. cit., p. 378. 7. Op. cit., p. 379. 8. Op. cit., p. 381.]
‘Late in the autumn, or rather in the beginning of the winter, the chief ceremonial of the year is performed. It is consecrated to Keretkim, or is made a thanksgiving ceremonial to the spirits of sea-mammals killed since the fall. Early in spring there follows the ceremonial of boats, which are made ready for the approaching season. In the middle of summer the ceremonial of heads is performed. This is for thanksgiving to the spirits of sea-animals killed since early in the spring.
‘These four ceremonials are performed with varying similarity by both the Maritime Chukchee and the Asiatic Eskimo. To these must be added some slight ceremonials effected while moving from the winter lodging to the summer tent.
‘Most of the Maritime Chukchee offer sacrifice also in midwinter to the star Pehittin, and perform in the middle of spring a ceremonial analogous to the ceremonial of antlers of the reindeer. breeders, which is called by the same name, Kilvei. The sacrifice to the whale is performed, in addition, each time after a whale has been killed or has drifted ashore.
‘Bloody and bloodless sacrifices are offered during these ceremonials. The Maritime Chukchee, of course, can slaughter only dogs for their bloody sacrifices. In comparison with the Koryak, however, they are merciful to their dogs and kill them in no very great numbers. In this, as in other respects, they occupy a middle ground between the American Eskimo, who do not sacrifice dogs, and the Koryak, who often kill almost all the animals of their single team.'
The ceremonial dedicated to Keretkun, the sea-god, is especially important among the Maritime Chukchee. When the seal-gut overcoats for the family (which are said to be similar to those worn by Keretkun and his family), the ceremonial head-dresses and the incantation-paddle, on which there are pictorial representations of prayers, are ready, a net is suspended overhead, and various images of birds and small paddles are hung from it. On each side of the hearth is placed a reindeer-skin, the two skins representing the inner rooms of the house. Keretkun, who is represented by a small wooden image, enters the house and is placed on a lamp, which is put either on one of the skins or in a sleeping-room. Here he remains until the end of the ceremony. A fire is made before him and kept burning throughout the three days of the ceremonial. Among those people, like the Asiatic Eskimo, who have no wood, a second lamp is kept burning before that on which Keretkun is placed. Puddings made of various roots mixed with oil and liver are sacrificed to the god. On the first day the household enjoys the festival alone, singing and dancing and beating the drum. [1. Op. cit., pp. 385-6. and 2. Op. cit., pp. 892-401.]
‘The second day belongs to the guests and particularly to the shamans, who have to show, in turn, their skill in drumming and singing.' It is on this day that, in many villages, the so-called ‘exchanging of presents’ takes place. Usually, the guests assemble at the entrance of the sleeping-room, bringing various household articles, which they thrust under the partition, loudly demanding what they wish in exchange. The mistress takes whatever is offered and must give in exchange whatever is demanded.
In some cases the exchange is made between relatives only, and especially between those who are partners in the marriages called by Bogoras ‘group-marriage’. A man will send his wife to one of his marriage-partners to ask for certain articles, and afterwards the donor sends his wife to ask for an equivalent.
Another variety of ceremonial exchange, which also forms a part of the second day’s ceremonies, is what is called by Bogoras the ‘trading-dance’. It takes place between the members of a ‘compound marriage’, beginning with a dance in which a male member of the group has one of the women for his partner. ‘Frequently the man looks on only, while the woman dances before him. He must provide a reindeer-skin, however, to spread on the ground under her feet while she is dancing. While the dance is being Performed the other dancers remain quiet, and look on together with the other spectators. After the dance, the man must give some present to the woman; and the following night they sleep together, leaving their respective mates to arrange matters between themselves. On the next day the husband of the woman and the wife of the man perform a similar dance, in which the man gives an equivalent of the present of the day before, and each newly mated couple sleeps together for another night. Such dances are arranged chiefly among cousins or other relatives, who, among the Chukchee, frequently assume the bond of compound marriage. Conversely, a new bond of compound marriage may be concluded through a trading-dance.’ [1 Ibid. and 2 A special meaning of ‘trade’ in the U.S.A. is the exchange of commodities in business; trading=bartering, swapping’.]
The third day of the Keretkun ceremonial is the women’s day. This time it is they who act as drummers and dancers. ‘A new detail is that of a night-watch, which must be kept for the sake of Keretkun, who is supposed to stay in the house all the time, This watch is kept by an old man or woman’, who is often a shaman, invited specially for this purpose.
The shaman sits on a stool made of a whale’s vertebra, and ‘sings and beats the drum in a subdued key, in order not to awaken the supernatural guest’. The keeper of the watch on the last night must be a woman.
On the evening of the last day a reindeer is cooked, and the meat distributed among the guests, who carry their shares home with them on departing.
Finally, the image of Keretkun is burned over his lamp. Then all the refuse of the sacrificed reindeer is gathered up and cast into the sea, to symbolize the returning to the sea of all game killed since the last ceremonial. This same symbolic act is performed at almost all of the Maritime ceremonials.
II. The Koryak
The Koryak offer sacrifices to their Supreme Being to secure prosperity for the future. At these sacrifices, some blood from the wounds of the victim, dog or reindeer, are sprinkled on the ground as an offering to the kala, with the words: ‘This blood is for thee, kala!' Thus we see that bloody sacrifices among these people are offered to malevolent as well as to benevolent beings.
Besides occasional sacrifices, the Koryak have several sacrificial ceremonies which are regular or seasonal, and all connected with the cult of the animals on -which their livelihood depends. Thus the Maritime Koryak worship sea-animals, and the Reindeer
[1. Differing that is, from the custom of the Reindeer Chukchee, whose procedure at the autumn ceremonial and the ‘thanksgiving’ is in most other respects similar to that described here.
2. Jochelson, The Koryak, p. 93. ‘Otherwise the kala might intercept the sacrifice and prevent its reaching the Supreme Being’ (ibid.).]
Koryak their herd. This is illustrated by the following list of festivals:
2. The putting away of the skin-boat for the winter.
3. Launching the skin-boat.
4. Wearing of masks.
Reindeer Koryak: 
1. Ceremony on the return of the herd from summer pastures.
2. The fawn-festival.
Ceremonies common to both: 
3. Practices in connexion with fox-hunting.
Jochelson’s description of the wolf-festival is here quoted as being typical of the ritual practices common to both Reindeer and Maritime Koryak:
‘After having killed a wolf, the Maritime Koryak take off its skin, together with the head, just as they proceed with the bear; then they place near the hearth a pointed stick, and tie an arrow, called ilhun or elgoi, to it, or drive an arrow into the ground at its butt end. One of the men puts on the wolf-skin and walks around the hearth, while another member of the family beats the drum. The wolf-festival is called elhogicnin, i. e. ‘wolf-stick festival’.
‘The meaning of this ceremony is obscure. I have been unable to get any explanation from the Koryak with reference to it. “Our forefathers did this way”, is all they say. I have found no direct indications of the existence of totemism among the Koryak; but the wearing of the skin of the wolf and of the bear during these festivals may be compared to certain features of totemistic festivals, in which some members of the family or clan represent the totem by putting on its skin.
‘The wolf-festival differs from the bear-festival in the absence of the equipment for the home journey.’ The reason is this, that the bear is sent home with much ceremony, to secure successful bear-hunting in the future, bear’s meat being considered a delicacy, while the festival serves at the same time to protect the people from the wrath of the slain animal and its relatives. The wolf, on the other band, does not serve as food, but is only a danger to the traveller in the desert. He is dangerous, not in his visible, animal state-for the northern wolves, as a rule, are afraid of men -but in his invisible, anthropomorphic form. According to the Koryak conception, the wolf is a rich reindeer-owner and the powerful master of the tundra . . . [and] avenges [himself] particularly on those that hunt [wolves].’ The Reindeer Koryak, who have special reason to fear the wolf on account of their berds, regard this animal as a powerful shaman and an evil spirit.
[1. Jochelson, op. cit., p. 65.
2. Op. cit., pp. 86-7.
3. Op. cit., pp. 88-90.
4 op. Cit., pp. 89-90.
5. The essential part of the whale-festival is based on the conception that the whale killed has come on a visit to the village; . . . that it will return to the sea to repeat its visit the following year’; and that, if hospitably received, it will bring its relatives with it when it comes again. Hence it is symbolically equipped with grass travelling bags filled with puddings for its return to the sea. (Op. cit., pp. 66, 74, 76′.) A similar procedure is followed at the bear festival. (Op. cit., p. 89.)]
‘After having killed a wolf, the Reindeer Koryak slaughter a reindeer, cut off its head, and put its body, together with that of the killed wolf, on a platform raised on posts. The reindeer-head is placed so as to face eastward. It is a sacrifice to The-One-on-High, who is thus asked not to permit the wolf to attack the herd. Special food is prepared in the evening, and the wolf is fed. The night is spent without sleep, in beating the drum, and dancing to entertain the wolf, lest his relatives come and take revenge. Beating the drum and addressing themselves to the wolf, the people say, “Be well!” (Nimeleu gatvanvota!), and addressing The-One-on-High, they say, “Be good, do not make the wolf bad!”‘
III. The Ainu
Although the bear-festival is common to all the Palaeo-Siberians and is celebrated also by some of the Neo-Siberians, it has reached its highest development among the Ainu. We give here a short description of the principal features of this festival, following Kharuzin’s account.
Towards the end of winter the Ainu catch a bear-cub and bring it into the village, where it is reared and fed by a woman. When it is sufficiently grown to break out of its wooden cage, which usually happens some time in September or October, this marks the time for the holding of the festival. Before the ceremonies, apologies are made to the spirits for the capture and detention of the bear, assurances are given that the treatment of the bear has been marked with the greatest tenderness, and it is explained that, as they cannot feed the animal any longer, they are obliged to kill it. The person entrusted with the conduct of the festival invites all relations and friends, usually practically the whole village. Before the ceremonies are begun, libations are made to the family hearth-fire by the host and all his guests. Sacrifices are made to the spirit-‘owner’ of the dwelling in a corner of the house sacred to him.
The woman who has reared the bear weeps to show her sorrow at its approaching fate. The company approach the cage of the bear, libations are made, and some wine is given to the animal in a special cup. The women and girls dance round the cage, clapping their hands and singing. Then the foster-mother of the bear, and women who have reared other bears for former festivals, perform a dance of their own before the cage, with tears in their eyes, stretching out their hands towards the animal, and uttering endearing words. After some other ritual observances, the bear is taken out of its cage, a cord is fastened round its neck, and a stick is thrust down its throat by the united force of several people, so that the animal is choked to death.
With much solemnity the body is laid out, -and surrounded with various embellishments, which are more numerous and elaborate if the animal is a female. Food and drink are offered to the spirit of the victim, and then follow much feasting and merriment, which is intended to render the bear spirit joyous and gay. The body is flayed and disembowelled, and the head cut off, the blood being collected in a pot and drunk by the men only among the guests. The liver is also consumed, and of this each woman and girl present receives a small portion. The rest of the meal is preserved for the next day’s feast, and all the guests of both sexes partake of this.
[1. Op. cit., p. 89.
2. N. Kharuzin, Ethnography, 1905, vol. iv, pp. 371-2. For a more detailed description see B. Pilsudski’s Niedzwiedzie Swieto u Ainow (in Sphinx, Warsaw, 1905).]
IV. The Turkic Tribes
(1) The Yakut
There are among the Yakut two kinds of sacrificial ceremonies -bloody and bloodless. The former is that made to abassylars, the latter to aïy and ichchi; so that if one does not know beforehand
[1. Sieroszewski (12 Lat w Kraju Yakatów, p. 389) says that to only one aïy, Bay-Baynay, the god of hunting are bloody sacrifices offered.]
whether the sacrifice is being offered to black or to white spirits, this can be ascertained from the nature of the ceremony. Although bloody sacrifices are not made to Urun-Aïy-Toyon, yet it is customary to dedicate certain animals to him, i. e. such animals are not to be used for work, and mares so dedicated are not to be milked. Formerly it was the custom to dedicate in this manner all mares which had foals: they were let loose to wander on the steppes.
There are some aïy, which although they have this name, yet are of the class of abassy. Sacrifices of the choicest meat and drink are made to them through the fire. The offerings to abassylars have the character of a compromise or bargain. The evil spirit wishes to have the kut (one of the souls) of a man, and the shaman gives instead the kut of an animal.
There are two tribal festivals of the Yakut: a spring festival, aïy-ysyakh, and an autumn festival, abassy-ysyakh. As the name shows, the first is celebrated for the good spirits in general, and for Urun-Aïy-Toyon in particular. After the sacrifice, which is followed by certain sports or games, a dramatic representation of the struggle between spring and winter is given. One man, called the aïy-uola, is dressed in white and mounted on a white horse to represent the spring, while another, abassy-uola, represents winter by being dressed in black or reddish garments and mounted on a horse of corresponding colour.
The abassy-ysgakh is held in autumn, and in the open air like the first festival, but at night. It is dedicated to the black spirits, and especially to Ulu-Toyon. While the first festival is conducted by the clan-father, the second is under the direction of nine shamans and nine shamanesses.
(2) The Altaians
Sacrifice to Bai-Yulgen. The description of this ceremony, as given by Mikhailowski, is compiled from the works of the missionary Wierbicki and the well-known linguist and traveller, Radloff. The ceremony lasts for two or three days, or rather, evenings, the first evening being occupied by the preparatory ritual. A spot is chosen in a thicket of birch-trees in a meadow, and there the kam (shaman) erects a decorative yurta. In this is planted a young birch, crowned with a flag, and having its lower branches lopped off, and nine notches cut in its trunk to represent steps (tapty). The yurta is surrounded by a penfold, and by the entramce to this is set a birch-stick with a noose of horsehair. A holder of the head (Bash-tutkan-kiski) of the sacrificial horse is chosen from among those present. The kam flourishes a birch-twig over the horse to indicate that its soul is being driven to Bai-Yulgen’s abode, whither the soul of the Bash-tutkan accompanies it. He then collects spirits in his tambourine, calling each one by name, and answering for each as it arrives: ‘I also am here, Kam!’ As he speaks he makes motions with his tambourine as if taking the spirits into it. When he has secured his assistants, the kam goes out of the yurta, mounts upon a scarecrow made to resemble a goose, and flapping his arms as if they were wings, chants loudly and slowly:’
Beneath the white sky,
Above the white cloud,
Beneath the blue sky,
Above the blue cloud,
Skyward ascend, O bird!
[1. Troshchanski, The Evolution of the Black Faith, 1902,p. 103.
2. Op. cit., pp. 105-6.
Sieroszewaski (op. cit., p. 388) calls the highest good spirit, or god, Art-Toyon-Aga (Uyun-Artoyen), which literally means ‘Master-Father-Sovereign’. He lives in the ninth heaven, and is great and powerful, but indifferent towards human affairs. The spring ysyakh is primarily in his honour, says Sieroszewski, while Urun-Aïy-Toyon, ‘White-Master-Creator’, is next to him in dignity.
4 Mikhailowski, Shamanism, pp. 63-7.]
The goose replies (through the shaman himself, of course) in a series of quacks-‘Ungaigak, ungaigak, kaigaigak gak, kaigai gak.’ The kam, still on his feathered steed, pursues the pura (soul) of the sacrificial horse, neighing in imitation of the unwilling victim, until, with the help of the spectators, he drives it into the penfold to the stick with the horsehair noose, the guardian of the pura. After violent efforts, to the accompaniment of neighings and other noises produced by the shaman to imitate the struggles of the pura, the latter frees itself and runs away. It is at last recaptured, and fumigated with juniper by the shaman, who has now dismounted from his goose. Then the real sacrificial horse is brought and blessed by the kam, who thereafter kills it by opening the aorta. The bones and skin form the actual sacrifice. The flesh is consumed by those present at the ceremony, the choicest portion falling to the kam.
[1. Op. cit., p. 63.]
‘The most important part of the performance takes place oil the second day after sunset; it is then that the kam must display all his power and all his dramatic art. A whole religious drama is performed, descriptive of the kam’s pilgrimage to Bai-Yulgen in heaven. A fire burns in the yurta, the shaman feeds the lords of the tambourine, i.e. the spirits personifying the shamanistic power of his family, with the meat of the offering and sings:
Accept this, O Kaira Khan!
Master of the tambourine with six horns,
Draw near with the sound of the bell!
When I cry ‘Chokk’! make obeisance!
When I cry ‘Mé’! accept this!
The ‘owner’ of the fire, representing the power of the family of the master of the yurta, who has organized the festival, is addressed in a similar invocation. Then the kam takes a cup and makes noises with his lips to imitate the sounds of drinking made by an assemblage of invisible guests. He distributes morsels of meat to the company, who devour them as representatives of the unseen spirits. Nine garments, on a rope decked with ribbons, the offering of the host to Yulgen, are fumigated with juniper by the shaman, who sings:
Gifts that no horse can carry
Alás! Alás! Alás!
Gifts that no man can lift
Alás! Alás! Alás!
Garments with triple collar-
Turn them thrice before thine eyes,
Let them be a cover for the steed,
Alás! Alás! Alás!
Prince Yulgen full of gladness!
Alás! Alás! Alás!
The kam next invokes many spirits, primary and secondary, having first donned his shaman’s garment, and fumigated his tambourine, which he strikes to summon the spirits, answering for each, as it arrives, ‘Here am I, kam!’ Merkyut, the Bird of Heaven, is invoked as follows:
Birds of Heaven, the five Merkyuts!
Ye with mighty talons of brass,
Of copper is the moon’s claw,
And of ice its beak;
Mightily flap the spreading wings,
Like to a fan is the long tail.
The left wing veils the moon
And the right obscures the sun,
Thou, mother of nine eagles,
Turning not aside, thou fliest over Yaik,
Over Edil thou weariest not!
Draw nigh with song!
Lightly draw nigh to my right eye,
Of my right shoulder make thou thy resting-place
[1. Op. cit., p. 64.]
The answering cry of the bird comes from the lips of the shaman: ‘Kagak, kak, kak! Kain, here I come!’ The kam seems to bend beneath the weight of the huge bird. His tambourine sounds louder and louder, and he staggers under the burden of the vast number of spirit-protectors collected in it. Having walked several times round the birch placed in the yurta, the shaman kneels at the door and asks the porter-spirit for a guide. His request granted, he comes out to the middle of the yurta, and with convulsive movements of the upper part of his body and inarticulate mutterings, beats violently upon the tambourine. Now he purifies the host, hostess, their children, and relatives by embracing them in such a way that the tambourine with the spirits collected in it touches the breast and the drum-stick the back of each. This is done after he has scraped from the back of the host with the drum-stick all that is unclean, for the back is the seat of the soul. Thus all are liberated from the malign influence of the wicked Erlik. Then the people return to their places and the shaman ‘drives all potential misfortunes out of doors’, and, beating his tambourine close to the ear of his host, drives into him the spirit and power of his ancestors that he may understand the prophecies of the shaman. In pantomime he invests each member of the family with breastplates and hats, and then falls into an ecstasy. He beats his tambourine furiously, rushes about as if possessed, and, after mounting the first step cut in the birch-trunk, runs round the fire and the birch, imitating the sound of thunder. Next he mounts a bench covered with a horse-cloth, which represents the pitra, and cries: 
One step have I ascended,
One zone I have attained.
To the topmost tapty [the birch steps] I have mounted.
I have risen to the full moon.
2. Op. cit, p. 65.]
Hurrying on the Bash-tutkan, the kam passes from one zone of heaven to another. The goose once more takes the place of the wearied pura, affording temporary relief to the Bash-tutkan, who relates his woes vicariously by means of the shaman. In the third zone a halt is made, the shaman prophesies impending misfortunes, and declares what sacrifices are to be offered by the district. If he foretells rainy weather he sings:
Kara Shurlu of the six rods
Drips on the low ground,
No hoofed beast can protect itself,
No creature with claws can uphold itself.
Similar prophecies may be made in other regions of the sky.
When the Bash-tutkan is rested the journey is continued, progress being indicated by mounting one step higher on the birch for every new zone attained. Variety is given to the performance by the introduction of various episodes. ‘In the sixth sphere of heaven takes place the last episodical scene, and this has a comic tinge. The shaman sends his servant Kuruldak to track and catch a hare that has hidden itself. For a time the chase is unsuccessful, now personages are introduced, and one of them, Kereldei, mocks Kuruldak, who, however, at last succeeds in catching the hare.'
Previously, in the fifth heaven, the kam has interviewed Yayuchi (‘Supreme-Creator’), and learned many secrets of the future, some of which he communicates aloud. In the sixth heaven he makes obeisance to the moon, and in the seventh to the sun, for these heavens are the abodes of these luminaries. Only a few shamans are powerful enough to mount beyond the ninth heaven. Having reached the highest zone attainable by his powers, the kam drops his tambourine, and beating gently with the drum-stick, makes a humble petition to Yulgen:
Lord, to whom three stairways lead,
Bai-Yulgen, possessor of three flocks,
The blue vault which has appeared,
The blue sky that shows itself,
The blue cloud that whirls along,
The blue sky so hard to reach,
Land a year’s journey distant from water,
Father Yulgen thrice exalted,
Shunned by the edge of the moon’s axe,
Thou who usest the hoof of the horse
O Yulgen, thou hast created all men
Who are stirring round about us.
Thou, Yulgen, hast bestowed all cattle upon us,
Let us not fall into sorrow!
Grant that we may withstand the evil one!
Let us not behold Kermes [the evil spirit that attends man],
Deliver us not into his hands!
Thou who a thousand thousand times
The starry shy hast turned,
Condemn me not for sin!
[1. Op. cit., p. 65
2. Op. cit., p. 66.]
‘From Yulgen the shaman learns whether the sacrifice is accepted or not, and receives the most authentic information concerning the wealth and the character of the coming harvest; he also finds out what sacrifices are expected by the deity. On such an occasion the shaman designates the neighbour who is bound to furnish a sacrifice, and even describes the colour and appearance of the animal. After his conversation with Yulgen, the ecstasy of the shaman reaches its highest point, and he falls down completely exhausted. Then the Bash-tutkan goes up to him, and takes the tambourine and drum-stick out of his bands. After a short time, during which quiet reigns in the yurta, the shaman seems to awake, rubs his eyes, stretches himself, wrings out the perspiration from his shirt, and salutes all those present as if after a long absence.'
This sometimes concludes the festival, but more often, especially among the wealthy, a third day is spent in feasting and libations to the gods
V. The Mongolic Tribes
Sacrifices among the Mongols are either: (a) regular or public (tailgan), or (b) occasional or private (kirik).
Banzaroff says that Georgi, as long ago as the latter part of the eighteenth century, observed three regular sacrificial ceremonies among the Mongols: the spring, summer, and autumn festivals. Banzaroffs traces the origin of these festivals to a period long antedating the Christian era. The festival which has been best described in recent times is that called urus-sara (‘the month of sara’), which is intended to celebrate and symbolize the renewing of all things. When the earth is green again, the flocks increase, and milk is abundant, the Kalmuk make sacrifice of all these gifts in the form of kumys, herbs, and horses. The sacrificial horses are tied to a rope, which is stretched between two poles. A man on horseback, accompanied by another riding a colt, passes along the row of victims, pours over them kumys, and fastens to their manes pieces of pink cloth. Then the sacrifice is offered.
3. Banzaroff, The Black Faith, p. 38.]
The autumn festival of the Mongols, like the urus-sara, is very ancient. Banzaroff finds mention of it in writers of pre-Christian times, and in the Middle Ages it is referred to by Marco Polo, who says it was celebrated on August 28th. This ceremony is known as sagan-sara (‘white month’), and the Mongols used to date their New Year from the time of its celebration. The majority of these people nowadays celebrate the beginning of the year in winter, but they, like the few who adhere to the old date, still call the New Year and the festival which is held then sagan-sara.
An English traveller of the middle of the nineteenth century, who witnessed the celebration of the spring festival in the valley of Ichurish in the Altai, describes it as follows:
‘In the spring the Kalmucks offer up sacrifices to their deity; the rich give horses, those who are poor sacrifice sheep or goats. I was present at one of the ceremonies. A ram was led up by the owner, who wished for a large increase to his herds and flocks. It was handed to an assistant of the priest, who killed it in the usual manner. His superior stood near, looking to the east, and began chanting a prayer, and beating on his large tambourine to rouse up his god, and then made his request for multitudes of sheep and cattle. The ram was being flayed; and when the operation was completed, the skin was put on a pole, raised above the, framework, and placed with its head to the east. The tambourine thundered forth its sound, and the performer continued his wild chant. The flesh was cooked in a large cauldron, and the tribe held a great festival.'
Speaking only of the greater Buryat ceremonials, Khangaloff mentions about thirty such, and says that these are by no means all, and that years of further investigation would be necessary to render it possible to give a complete list.
[1. Op. cit., p. 39.
2. Op. cit., pp. 39-40.
3. T. W. Atkinson, Oriental and Western Siberia, 1858, pp. 382-3.
4. New Materials respecting Shamanism among the Buryat, 1890, p. 97.]
Among the Balagansk Buryat every male child must offer certain sacrifices to the western khats to ensure their protection while the children are still in infancy as well as during their future adult life. These sacrifices, viz. (i) morto-ulan-khurgan, (ii) erkhindkhi-ulan-khurgan, (iii) Charga-tekhe, (iv) yaman-khonin-khoer, must, without fail, be offered by all boys, but upon girls they are not obligatory. Besides these sacrifices there are others which are made on behalf of all young children, irrespective of their sex, to certain zayans and zayanesses, termed ukhan-khata. These are called ukhan-budla, oshkin-budla. We shall quote here Khangaloff’s description of the ceremony ukhan-budla:
‘Some time after having a child born to him, a Buryat, either fit the instance of a shaman or on his own initiative, will make preparation for the performance of the ceremony called ukhan-budla. A shaman is invited to perform the ceremony. When the shaman appears, water is brought from a spring, or sometimes from a lake or river. Before drawing the water, some copper coins are dropped into the place from which it is taken. A bundle of coarse grass of the steppes, another of rushes, and nine silken threads are prepared. When everything is ready, the shaman makes libation to the zayans and zayanesses, pronouncing the following words:
The boys, like the rushes,
The maids, like mushrooms;
From the grass of the steppe
They have made a scourge;
With the water of the spring
They have made budla (ablution);
With the nine silken threads
They have made a scourge.
After this the water is poured into a pot and heated. Then they put into the pot the grass also, and a broom is made of the rushes. The child is placed in a shallow vessel surrounded by nine stones, and the shaman says: “The black stone is the door, the tawny stone is the courtyard.” He then takes the broom, dips it into the water, and striking the child lightly with it, tells him tells him that he must not cry, but grow quickly. Now nine knots are made in the nine threads, and they are placed around the child’s neck. The water is spilled on the floor of the yurta, and the broom is placed over the door to prevent the entrance of evil spirits. Thus ends the ukhan-budla.'
As a rule Buryat ceremonies are performed by the shamans; but some of the minor ones, such, for instance, as the ‘feeding’ of the ongons, are conducted by the master of the house. Women’s ongons are made and fed by women. Frequently animals are dedicated to ongons, either for some shorter or longer period or for life. Such an animal must not be used for any heavy, work, and no married woman must touch it. The Mongols call this custom setertey, which denotes both the dedication and the taboo.
Another case of the dedication of animals is that which is some times practised with regard to a horse whose master has died. The animal -is taboo, and must not be used for heavy work. Under
ordinary circumstances, when a Buryat dies, his horse is either killed or set loose to wander at large upon the steppes.
[1. Op. cit., p. 91.
2. Shashkoff, Shamanism in Siberia, p. 58.
3. Graelin, Reise durch Sibirien, 1751-2, iii. 33.]
Shamanism in Siberia
excerpts from Aboriginal Siberia
by M. A. Czaplicka
Ethnological Map of Siberia
Scanned at sacred-texts.com, April 2000. Reformated August 2003. J.B. Hare, redactor. This text is in the public domain. These files may be used for any non-commercial purpose, provided this notice of attribution is left intact.