During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, healing was the main function of Siberian shamans. They healed many different diseases, such as sterility, protracted childbirth, heart pain, dystrophy, cough, skin diseases, stomach pains, diseases of the throat and eyes, pains in the limbs, and madness. During epidemics they also attempted to cure smallpox and measles, which required much effort.A single principle was fundamental to shamanic medical treatment: a shaman acted on behalf of spirits and deities, supreme entities more powerful than humans. Disease was associated with spirits'activities.Therefore, shamans had to perform 1) banishment of an evil spirit--the source of disease--from the body of the sick individual, and 2) the return of the soul stolen by evil spirits.
To achieve these goals various ritual objects and methods were used.
complicated and efficient form of healing practice by Siberian shamans
included kamlaniye, a shamanic seance that usually continued for
several days. Irrespective of the cause of the disease, the structure
of the ritual used by most Siberian peoples (Sel'kups, Yakuts, Evenks,
Nenets, Khants, Mansis, Nganasans, and Dolgans) was similar. The shaman
summoned his or her helper spirits using the drum, baton, shaman's
post, shaman's chum, sacred place, and many other ritual objects.
Furthermore, the shaman put spirits inside himself (by swallowing and
deep yawning) and treated them to fat, blood ofan animal (such as
reindeer, dog, or ringed seal), and tobacco. Then the shaman told the
victim's fortune on behalf of the spirits and threw the baton in order
to learn the cause of the disease. Alternatively, the shaman sent
helper spirits into the body of the sick person for the same purpose,
and then the means of "healing" was selected. The spirits were
dismissed and a thanksgiving sacrifice was made. During the ritual, the
spirit that was to blame for the misfortune was revealed, and the
decision was reached as to whom kamlaniye should address: spirits of
the upper, the lower, or the middle world.
An important part of
shamanic ritual was the preparation of the sacred place, drum, shaman's
costume, special curative clothes, and ritual objects. Wooden images
that symbolized incarnations of disease spirits were used in curative
practices by the Sel'kups, Evenks, andthe Dolgans. The ......
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